Rose Cowan packed a lifetime of vacations into a scant eight days last month.
The Puyallup woman surfed on the Australian coast, partied with singer Olivia Newton-John, learned to sail, lost her voice at a U2 concert and climbed to the top of the 440-foot-tall Sydney Harbour Bridge. She was showered with gifts, ate gourmet meals and had the first massage and spa treatment in her life.
The experience was all courtesy of talk show queen Oprah Winfrey.
“Oh my gosh, it was amazing, it was outstanding, beyond words,” Cowan said. “You can’t believe all the things we were able to do in such a short time... That’s the Oprah magic.”
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Cowan was among 150 specially selected viewers and 150 of their friends at the taping of Winfrey’s 25th season premiere on Sept. 13. It was then that Winfrey announced she would treat the entire audience to an Australian vacation.
Show producers, who’d been talking with Cowan about how Winfrey inspired her to lose 150 pounds, had invited the Puyallup resident to attend the taping. Cowan brought her niece Paula Lucero of Puyallup to the show, which meant she was also invited on the trip.
The two women will relive their journey when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” devotes four programs this week to “Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure.” The shows air Tuesday through Friday, according to Winfrey’s website, www.oprah.com.
Cowan plans to record the Australia shows and watch them over and over again.
Part of the adventure was the mystery of not knowing exactly what they’d be doing when they arrived in Australia on Dec. 7.
“They’d tell us what time to be downstairs. We’d say, ‘What are we wearing?’ They’d say dress like you’re going to a baseball game,” Cowan said. Except for the day they went surfing, she added, “We never knew where we’d be. We’d only find out when we showed up. I ended up at the U2 concert in a short lace dress.”
Winfrey’s staff set up the trip activities and arranged for all the guests’ meals, lodging, recreation gear and transportation. The vacationers only had to pay for souvenirs or personal incidentals, Cowan said.
“I heard the trip value was between $30,000 and $50,000. ... We’d go to dinner and it was an eight-course dinner with each course being phenomenal.”
Cowan’s group spent one day at Newton-John’s resort, Gaia Retreat and Spa in Byron Bay. The singer did yoga, tai chi and meditation with the travelers, and threw them an elaborate barbecue.
Cowan has a photo of herself sitting next to the Australian icon on a sofa. Both women are grinning.
“She is a breast cancer survivor and her soul is so beautiful. She did not see herself as some big star. She kicked off her shoes and danced with us.”
Near the end of the trip, all the Oprah adventurers met in Sydney for the rock concerts, the bridge climb and tapings of Winfrey’s shows at the Sydney Opera House with Aussie entertainers ranging from Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban to Hugh Jackman,
They boarded a fleet of sailboats and learned how to sail as Winfrey sailed with actor Russell Crowe. Together, the vessels paraded through Sydney Harbor flying sails that said “Oprah, the Farewell Season.”
Winfrey, however, didn’t limit herself to stars. She spent plenty of time visiting with the travelers, on and off camera. The only disappointment with the trip was that Cowan couldn’t bring her daughters, 15-year-old Madison and 17-year-old Morgan, and other loved ones on the trip. She’s encouraging people to read her journal about the experience at www.rosecowan.com.
Debby Abe: 253-597-8694 firstname.lastname@example.org