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Up and down Nitties still on top in PGA

ON TOP: James Nitties shares a four-way lead entering the third round of the New Zealand PGA. Picture: Getty ImagesJAMES Nitties was left tolamentwhat could have been despitesharing a four-way lead entering the third round of the New Zealand PGA Championships at theRemuera Golf Club in Auckland.
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The Charlestown professional followed his opening round 65 with a 68 on Friday to be at 11-under alongside Josh Geary (68, 65), Scott Arnold (68, 65) and Brett Rankin (66,67).

“I shot four-under par but it felt like even par,” Nitties said. “The par fives are playing really short andthere are a few birdies out there.”

Starting on the 10thhole,Nitties made the most of the par fives to pick up shots at the 16thand 18thholes andturn in 33.He opened hisback nine with the first of four birdies, but bogeys at the 3rdand 9thproved costly.

Nitties’frustration was compounded by the superb form of playing partner Geary, whose seven-under featured six birdies in eight holes on theirfront nine.

“Playing with Josh, he had seven putts for the first nine holes so he was holing everything and not so much for anyone else,”Nitties said.

Geary could not have been happier with his short game.

“I holed three bombs from 30 odd feet and a chip in too,” he said. “It was one of those days where the hole looked as big as a bucket and they kept going in.”

Aaron Townsend is three strokes back in a tie for 10that eight under. He backed up his opening67 with a 69 on Saturday in a round that was spoiled bya double bogey at the par-four sixth.

Jake Higginbottom is in a tie for 41stat three under after shooting even par on Friday.

Callan O’Reilly (72, 70) and Leigh McKechnie (73, 69) missed the three-under cut by a stroke.Jamie Hook (73, 75) finished well back at four over.

Negative gearing hurting National Party seats more

A REPORT published by the Australian Institute (April, 2015) shows National Party seats are worse off in terms of benefits to investors from negative gearing.
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The paper focused its attention on the geographic distribution of negative gearing by federal electorates.

The analysis shows that taxable income and the proportion of people undertaking negative gearing are correlated.

As the income increases so does the number of people negative gearing.

Taxable income and net rental loss are also correlated, as income rises the amount deducted because of negative gearing also rises.

The paper demonstrated that the benefit of negative gearing was concentrated on high income earners with 50 per cent of the benefit gong to the top 20 per cent of households by income, with middle income households only receiving about 40 per cent of the benefit.

Interesting also, when they looked at the spread by political party electorates, Liberal party seats on average were likely to get the largest benefit, secondly by Labor seats, but significantly behind are National party seats.

This is not surprising when you have a closer look at the average taxable income of the electorates, the Mallee unfortunately has the lowest taxable income in the country with the average income sitting on just $25,629.

The paper also looked into those electorates that benefit the least from negative gearing and the Mallee is placed in the bottom 20 of electorates with a net rental loss for investors of $5,712.

It was also interesting to note that National Party electorates are over represented in the bottom 20 with more than 50 per cent of National Party electorates in the bottom 20.

The largest beneficiaries of negative gearing are represented by government ministers, including the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and other senior ministers.

The findings of this report therefore support my earlier letter to the editor whereby I supported the Labor announcement on savings ($32 billion) that can be made through the introduction proposed negative gearing policy, which can then be used to offset Labors funding requirements for education and hospitals.

Lydia Senior,

ALP Federal Candidate Mallee

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Chicken manure spading study delves deep to target catchment area

SEEP TRIAL: Stuart Pope’s property was involved in a chicken manure spading trial targeting seep catchment areas.
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CHICKEN manure spading on Stuart Pope’s Karoonda property targeted non-wetting sand,a catchment area for seeps,and showed positive results.

Mr Pope firstnoticed seeps developing almost a decade ago and said they haddegradedarable cropping land.

“Our main issue has been deep, non-wetting sand.We’ve done a bit of clay spreading, delving and even tried growing millet one year on the non-wetting sand and haven’t had much success with anything,” he said.

The land for the trial was spaded with different rates of chicken manure and the subsequent barley yield, quality and germination exceeded expectations.

Trials consultant Chris McDonough said there was sparse germinationand roots struggled to establishdeep into the control areas.

“The control areas were reaping1-1.5 tonnes ahectare last year. Where we spaded withoutchicken manure was 2-2.5t/ha. Where we spaded with 5-6t/ha of chicken manure it went up to 3-3.5 t/ha. It was quite remarkable,” Mr McDonough said.

“Mallee sands are oftencompacted between 20 centimetresand 40cm so roots can’t break through them.We’re breaking that compaction and because chicken manure is very high in nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur and trace elements you’re mixing nutritious organic matterthrough the top 40cm, and that ischanging the fertility of the soil.”

Mr McDonough said the moisture-holding capacity was much better in the spaded chicken manure soil than the control area, which means the sand is less likely to contribute to seep recharge.

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Mauritius by scooter: The best way to travel

Saturday afternoon races are held in the Mauritian capital Port Louis at a track owned by the oldest horse-racing club in the southern hemisphere. I’d set my sights on riding there astride my own trusty steed.
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“One helmet or two?” asks Kavi when he arrives at reception. Outside, the rental scooter’s fairings gleam in the bright sunlight.

The west coast road south of Grand Baie swings past palm-treed public beaches, fish shops and Indian Ocean views in the direction of Madagascar – more than 1000 kilometres away – then veers inland through sugar cane plantations to meet Port Louis’ congested outskirts.

In the centre of this post-colonial seaside city are concrete buildings on cobbled streets, dilapidated wooden cottages on asphalt roads, slave-built stone structures, hennaed beards and the occasional sari, hole-in-the-wall roti joints, enormous tropical trees and serene pockets of green.

Scooters, more than motorbikes, have a manoeuvrability suited to busy city traffic. And, with an open-face helmet, I miss nothing of the sights, sounds, smells, sun and moderate exhaust smog.

The laminated map from Kavi has limited city detail so I ask a local for directions to the racecourse and arrive in just “trois tours”. Three turns. The island speaks Mauritian Creole, French and English but favours the first two.

At Champ de Mars, the racetrack now celebrating more than “200 years of passion”, I leave the scooter on the street having been warned about getting hemmed in at the bike parking lawn. Trackside, other riders keep helmets on for convenience and, in the midday heat, I snack on dahl puri and watch horses race and people gamble.

My lunch destination is just a few kilometres away and the police conveniently pull me over just when I need directional advice. As Kavi had predicted, they want to check my helmet, rego papers and driver’s licence as part of a crackdown on poorly maintained bikes.

“Super and unleaded are the same here,” Kavi had also explained. Both words refer to unleaded, for which it’s cheaper to pay cash. He had advised taking roundabouts at less than 40km/h to avoid the negative attention of police and had been very relaxed about when I should drop back the bike.

It was much cooler at Eureka, a sugar plantation homestead built in a moist mountain shadow in 1830.

“Is it fast to Quatre Borne from here?” I ask Minta, the woman who has led the house tour. Mauritius is only 61 kilometres from top to bottom and just over 2000 square kilometres in area, but a road system built across a young volcanic island with some well populated pockets means travel times can be hard to predict. She grins.

“If you’re fast, then it’ll be fast.”

I whizz to the central plateau and then crawl through Quatre Borne behind a colourful bus, with a rear slogan “Catch me if you can”, past temples, mosques, markets and snack shops selling home-made Indian sweets. Mauritius has three other towns and around 130 villages.

Mauritians drive on the left, but otherwise behave quite differently on the road. As always, there’s method in the apparent madness.

Maintaining a steady speed is key, as is watching for obstacles on the other side of the road, so it’s no surprise when oncoming traffic swings across the centre line to miss something on their side.

I own my lane and keep my line, only deviating when I am sure nobody is in my unfamiliarly small personal road space. It turns out no one likes to stop and you are not obliged to for pedestrians, except when they step out.

Later in the week, I explore the island’s lusher, cooler, less peopled south where roads ribbon under massive banyan trees, trimmed like fringes over the bitumen, and curve past historic sugar factories. I visit Black River Gorges National Park, tea plantation Bois Cheri and ride the awesome hairpin bend at Baie du Cap on the way to the island’s most western peninsula of Le Morne.

One morning, on the way to meet Vertical World for canyoning, I get lost far from my destination of Henrietta. As I pull out my map, another scooter stops beside me. The guy rides miles out of his way to get me on the right track but refuses my offer of money for “super”.  TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

See tourism-mauritius.muGETTING THERE

Air Mauritius flies from Sydney and Melbourne (via Perth) to Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolan International Airport. See airmauritius南京夜网.  STAYING THERE

Merville Beach Hotel, Grand Baie, has rooms from $130 a night. See mervillebeach南京夜网. Outrigger Mauritius Beach Resort, Bel Ombre, has rooms from $315 a night. See 梧桐夜网outriggermauritius南京夜网. RIDING THERE

Organise scooter hire the day before you need it; your hotel or host will contact a local provider. Cost is around $35 a day and excess can be up to 10 times that. Previous riding experience is strongly recommended.

Elspeth Callender was a guest of the Mauritian Tourism Promotion Authority.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Float through the wilds of Peru’s Amazon in luxury

Aqua Expeditions’ Aria Amazon cruising the Peruvian Amazon.I am in the river town of Iquitos, north-east Peru, the gateway to the Amazon on the eastern ridges of the Andes mountains. This town, the most inland port in the world, some 5000 kilometres from the river’s mouth in the Atlantic Ocean, feels dilapidated yet buzzing with life. It’s a remote frontier cut off from the world, surrounded entirely by water with the only access by boat or plane.
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We drive through the busy streets jammed with tuk-tuks and motor bikes, past faded mansions built by the rubber barons who made their fortunes here in the late 19th century until the industry collapsed around 1912. The story of Fitzcarraldo springs to mind, a movie by Werner Hertzog filmed on location in the early ’80s about a rubber baron’s obsession with building an opera house in his home town. Sixty per cent of Peru is classified jungle and we are in the heart of it, the greatest remaining wilderness on earth. Its vastness is mind boggling, a silent witness to the immense beauty.

Our group of boat arrivals is transported in a canoe to the middle of the river in the centre of town to a thatched-roofed restaurant Al Frio y Al Fuego for a lunch of catfish ceviche and local seafood. Afterwards we venture into one section of the vast Belen Market for a glimpse of town life at work, past the colourful displays of edible fruits that characterise the river wetlands. There is a cacophony of sounds and all manner of sights and smells; it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it certainly is an exotic market with every type of produce imaginable.

We leave Iquitos and drive north for 90 minutes to Nauta, another river outpost at the source of the Amazon where the Mananon and Ucayali rivers meet. Here we board the Aria Amazon, one of two Aqua Expeditions boats in Peru, cruising the upper reaches of the Amazon year round since 2007. It’s a floating hotel, a generously proportioned 16-berth riverboat that exemplifies low-key luxury.

The downside of our visit in the dry season is that restricted flight times to Iquitos mean we have a six-hour wait before we can board. Settling into our suite, which has floor-to-ceiling windows, the sense of isolation engulfs us as we glide down the river away from the lights of the town into the heart of darkness.

On board, the itineraries vary according to duration of trip and time of year, broken in two seasons – wet (December to May) and dry (June to November). The bird, animal and marine life changes dramatically between the seasons, so any time of year offers terrific and different sightings. During the wet season, the rivers swell to form an inland sea that becomes the largest flooded forest in the Peruvian Amazon with the cycle of life and bird migrations before the waters start to recede in the dry season.

The rivers are the highways of the Amazon forest and we share the waterways with canoes and rafts to large freight boats that bring essential supplies into these remote parts. On each of our morning and afternoon river safaris, our on-board expert naturalist guides (Luis, George, Roland and Ricardo) share their wealth of knowledge as we break into small groups and explore the rivers and black water creeks in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in small skiffs that skim the surface as every bend reveals more of this wildlife sanctuary. The impenetrable forest pulses with a diverse wildlife, most of it invisible, and we glimpse small village communities that coexist sustainably with the rainforest and drenching rains without electricity.

We see playful pink dolphins, a sloth, iguanas, tiny bats, butterflies, toucans, falcons, kingfishers, egrets, herons, cormorants, tamarin monkeys and scarlet-bellied piranha whose razor sharp teeth can shred a buffalo carcass in seconds. The only thing we don’t see is the elusive anaconda. We spot gigantic Victoria water lilies, up to three metres in diameter that grow in the ponds and lakes behind the riverbanks. Vivid-coloured heliconias hang majestically among the trees and villagers relish the opportunity to sell their handicrafts, mementoes of river life.

An evening safari up one of the creeks has us on the look out for lurking caimans (freshwater crocodile) and our guide drops his hand overboard and pulls up a metre-long specimen, expertly grabbing it behind the neck and swinging it around onto the skiff for us to ogle from a safe distance. An afternoon jungle safari has us walking into the rainforest away from the river with a local villager, sweat pouring with every step under our protective clothing, the air thick with humidity. He forages for plants and insects to reveal the secrets of the rainforest, what plants are used for food and medicine, some tiny brilliantly coloured frogs used in blow pipes, tarantulas, snakes, tiny tree monkeys and iguanas clinging to tree branches. It’s an alien world.

Our time passes quickly, we fall into the natural rhythm of river life, whether it’s from the privacy of our suite with uninterrupted views of the moody skies, to having a massage, a dip in the outdoor jacuzzi or lounging in the bar on the upper deck sipping on a pisco sour or camu camu juice. This is not your typical boat cruise; the emphasis here is on adventuring into the natural environment and exploring its extraordinary beauty, appreciating the fragile ecosystem and stopping to take it all in. A staff of 24 takes care of the guests and, as we plow through the water, we pinch ourselves to be reminded that we are wrapped up in modern luxury in one of the world’s wildest and most remote landscapes. MORE INFORMATION

See 梧桐夜网visitperu南京夜网 . To plan your Peru itinerary contact Epicurious Travel (梧桐夜网epicurioustravel南京夜网419论坛 ).

For details about riverboat itineraries, see 梧桐夜网aquaexpeditions南京夜网 . GETTING THERE

LAN operates flights from Lima to Iquitos twice a day. Times are subject to change. See 梧桐夜网lan南京夜网  .

Visas are not required for Peru. You are issued with an Andean pass on arrival that you keep in your passport for the duration of your stay in Peru. This must be shown when checking into hotels – without it, you are charged an extra tax. STAYING THERE

Aqua Expeditions operates three, four and seven-night Up River and Down River cruises on the Amazon. Cruises start at $4600 per person. Private transfers and single supplements are available. See 梧桐夜网epicurioustravel南京夜网419论坛  , 梧桐夜网aquaexpeditions南京夜网. SEE AND DO

Make time to walk through the vast Belen Market in Iquitos, with an amazing array of exotic jungle produce that stretches across 20 blocks. DINING THERE

Al Frio y Al Fuego, Iquitos. Stop off for a ceviche lunch. See 梧桐夜网alfrioyalfeugo南京夜网

Christine Manfield travelled with the assistance of aquaexpeditions南京夜网.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Why do people travel? The art of reinventing yourself

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy. Photo: iStock The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isahan, Iran.
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The tourism business makes many promises. Your destination will be unspoilt, romantic, filled with adventure and banana pancakes, rich in giant Buddhas and fairytale castles, rife with cheerful locals and bargain-priced leather goods. It will be beautiful one day and perfect the next. Yet, somewhere under tourism’s weighty carapace of snow domes, batik, cocktails and coconut palms, you can still feel the beating heart of what it means to travel, and why we travel at all.

The journey is a fundamental human compulsion. We’re restless, sticky-beaking creatures with a nomad’s need to wander. Gustav von Aschenbach​, the central character in Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice, evokes “This yearning for new and distant scenes, this craving for freedom, release, forgetfulness … an impulse towards flight”. Travel author Jonathan Raban​ suggests a “sense of incompleteness” urges us along the road. “Every journey is a quest of sorts, though few travellers have more than a dim inkling of what it is they’re questing for.”

The journey as quest permeates human cultures and has supplied a chief plot structure in literature for thousands of years. The hero (and, more recently, the heroine) sets out on the road, overcomes dangers and often obtains a talismanic object, then returns home with a sense of fulfilment. The road itself becomes a metaphor for the journey of life, and a symbol of self-discovery and freedom for everyone from ancient Greeks to Hobbits.

The world’s religions talk about the road to salvation and are sympathetic to the idea of travel, despite its nonconformist tendencies. The notion of physical journeying for spiritual benefit is central to Buddhism and Islam, and is frequently practised by Hindus and Christians. The word “holiday” is derived from Christian holy days, and medieval European pilgrimage is arguably the precursor to today’s mass tourism. Medieval tourists set off for Canterbury, Rome or Jerusalem in the hope of spiritual grace. So, too, when we travel, we renounce our lives for a time and set off in search of the spiritual or, at least, regenerative. We visit sites said to be of particular significance and bring back relics in the form of souvenirs.

No surprise, then, that a founder of modern mass tourism, Thomas Cook, was a Baptist minister who thought travel should be morally uplifting. Some of his first tours were to the Holy Land, others to Switzerland, where mountains replaced dead saints during the Romantic era as objects of veneration. Arnold Lunn, the great Victorian tour organiser and rival of Thomas Cook, made it plain: “Men lifted up their eyes to the hills to recover the spiritual values which were clouded by the smoke and grime of the industrial revolution.” The restorative value of nature had been recognised since ancient times. However, the ancient Greeks built temples on hilltops and wellness centres in the countryside.

Although I’m not religious, I find release in journeys and, occasionally, an almost mystic happiness; most recently in Mutawintji National Park in the rocky red Bynguano Ranges near Broken Hill in outback NSW. The still silence of the gorges and their cupped water suggest a kind of magic, and the handprints of Aboriginal people are testament to 8000 years of human presence in this wilderness. In the evening, gum trees are sculptures in orange and the horizon is a dark purple hint of the night to come. As the sun sets, the moon is a cuticle of light in a pale blue sky. In moments such as these, I feel I couldn’t be in a better place.

This is, maybe, what saints and mystics feel when they’re at one with god. In any case, this transcendence of self is a reward of journeying. The great 17th-century Japanese poet Matsuo Basho​ set off on his famous journeys as an antidote to depression and soon found his mood lightened, as he was distracted by the passing scenery and changing seasons. His Narrow Road to the Interior is a deft portrayal of travel as a mechanism to cast off ourselves and our worldly trappings, to feel at one with nature, to wander free. It was a theme revisited by the American Beat Generation, whose writers greatly admired Basho’s poems.

Travel is my flight from responsibility, too; my leaving of myself behind. I can think as I please and go where I wish; living is in the moment. Elizabeth Barrett Browning called travel a “surprising riddance of one’s life” and extolled the “perfect solitude of foreign lands”. Oh yes. I can forget myself – transcend myself – when I’m surrounded by beautiful landscapes, interesting people and exotic otherness. Travel is about finding oneself, yet, paradoxically, about losing oneself, too.

The rewards of travel aren’t just spiritual, however. Another important aim of journeying has long been the acquisition of knowledge, an idea that particularly flowered during the era of the 18th-century Grand Tour, devised as an educational experience for the indolent offspring of European aristocracy. Grand tourists set off with a tutor for upwards of 40 months, not only because of the difficulties of travel but because of the amount of study involved. Travellers were expected to learn a new language, polish their Latin and artistic skills and familiarise themselves with great literature. Many took copious notes on architecture, gardening and the arts with an eye to improving their ancestral homes. The notion of travel as education is still alive and well: no coincidence, surely, that France and Italy, fundamental to the Grand Tour, remain among the world’s most-visited destinations.

My first-ever solo journey was to Greece, propelled by the enthusiasm and pretentions of youth. I plundered its ancient literature, scrambled uphill to every temple, peered at every museum amphora that I imagined would somehow make me a sophisticated European. I was a university student, and it was an intellectual journey. Curiously, it was only decades later that I finally made it to Rome: cradle of European culture, seat of the Pope, lodestar of the European romantic and cultural imagination during the era of the Grand Tour. My response was more emotional. I was almost a physical shock to walk past the Roman remains of the Eternal City. I was surprised at the electric current of thrill, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Much of travel is in the mind and Rome loomed large in my attic of cultural clutter.

But education can come in surprising places and isn’t just about accumulating ruins and cathedrals. A visit to Iran opened my eyes to a bigger world than newspapers were inclined to describe: a world of decorous, educated folk, a long and stately civilisation, an architecture of almost sublime beauty. It shifted my viewpoint. Now I hear about extremist Iran on television, but think only of poetry and roses, sloe-eyed people and the smell of flatbread on coals. I think of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, with its filtered light and aquarium-blue tranquillity. The proper journey is one during which you leave your certainties and acquired beliefs at home, and see everything with skew-whiff eyes and in unusual light. To me, one of the supreme joys of travel is that I’m still discovering exceptions to stereotypes, expectations turned upside down, smug cultural assumptions undermined. Travel isn’t just about new destinations but new eyes, as the cliche has it.

People forget that this shift in understanding works both ways, however. It doesn’t just give the visitor new ways to see the world: it may open the eyes of the host as well. This is something sadly forgotten by loutish tourists in Bali and topless sun-bakers on Mediterranean beaches. Go on a journey and you’re an ambassador – whether willing or not – for the country and culture you represent. When I lived in China in the late 1980s, at a time foreigners were scarce and glamorous, I became acutely aware that, for many Chinese, I was the only Westerner they’d ever encountered. I’ve never quite lost the feeling of my own strangeness to other people. The thrill and terror of living in China was that I represented much more than just myself, and at the same time when that self – and all its cultural certainties accepted since birth – was being turned on its head.

All this philosophising can seem precious. My journeying isn’t an overt decision to sit like Byron on a hillside, to make myself a better person, to feel some spiritual connection with the world, to tap my way to nirvana with a pilgrim’s staff. But I like to think that, over the decades, it has just happened anyway. Surely, I’m more enlightened than if I’d just stayed at home like Proust in his bedroom. Surely, remote places, unnerving differences and uplifting beauty have somehow soothed those parts of my troubled psyche that first urged me onwards. Or have they? Perhaps people who travel are people just perennially dissatisfied with the here and now, scratching an itch that never really gets resolved. Happy are they who just stay at home.

Well, either way, the reward of the true journey is that it makes you think. It challenges your perceptions of the world and your place in it, it educates and invigorates, it might even provide solace to the soul. And in my journeying, I’ve found not Joseph Conrad’s heart of darkness but amazing places and people, pleasant surprises and the universal sympathy that binds us together in our shared humanity. The world enslaves me with its mysterious delights, and the winding road still beckons.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Tuvalu: Visiting one of the world’s tiniest countries

Fualopa motu in Funafuti Conservation Area. Photo: Louise Southerden Tuvaluan girls outside church. Photo: Louise Southerden
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At first it looks as if we’re going to ditch in the satin-blue sea. There is no seabird’s view of jewel-like islands as we approach Funafuti, the main atoll. In fact, there’s no land in sight at all. Just the endless glittering Pacific until, seconds before touchdown, I glimpse whitewater fringing the edge of a coral reef and the mop-heads of coconut palms flanking the unfenced airstrip.

That’s how tiny Tuvalu is. Halfway between Australia and Hawaii, this daisy-chain of nine “islands” (three true islands and six coral atolls) is one of the world’s smallest countries, with a population of  11,000.

It’s also one of the least elevated. If you’ve heard of Tuvalu at all, it’s probably because, along with other low-lying island nations such as neighbouring Kiribati and the Maldives, it’s in danger of being wiped off the map by rising sea levels. Already king tides and storm surges regularly inundate Tuvalu; Cyclone Pam devastated some of its outer islands a year ago and Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga​ has been increasingly vocal about his country’s vulnerability to climate change.

“I’m sick of climate change,” says Lita Afelee, whose husband was Tuvalu’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2006 to 2012.  “You can’t think about it every day. You have to live, work, go to the beach, live your normal life,” she tells me during my stay at their small, solar-powered lodge, Afelita Island Resort.

Others I meet in this devoutly Christian country believe that God will save them from climate catastrophe.

Nevertheless, Tuvalu is doing its bit to mitigate the effects of climate change. It plans to be the first country to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, for instance, and there’s talk of starting up “climate change tours” to showcase climate adaptation projects funded by foreign aid.

I see some of these projects during my week-long stay: new solar panels on the government building, an impressive solar array at the formerly diesel-fuelled power station, coral reef regeneration projects, solar “Love from Taiwan” streetlights, earthmovers replacing sand on the main beaches and mangrove plantations to reduce coastal erosion.

Until these tours get off the ground, however, Tuvalu is the destination that tourism forgot. Just two hours north of tourist-savvy Fiji, it has no tour guides, tour operators or organised activities and isn’t on the cruise-ship circuit.

On the plus side, there are plenty of places to stay (a government-owned hotel and about a dozen family-owned guesthouses and B&Bs on Funafuti’s main island), English is the official language (once part of a British protectorate called the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, Tuvalu has been part of the Commonwealth since it became independent in 1978) and they use Australian dollars – although there are no ATMs or credit card facilities, so you have to take enough cash for your stay.

The people are friendly, too, if a little unsure what to do with strangers. More than once I was asked, “What are you doing here?” By the end of the week I understand why: I see no other tourists, only visiting expats including a couple of helicopter pilots working on tuna boats, a Japanese anthropologist and two Kiwi solar electricians.

All of which adds to Tuvalu’s offbeat charm and takes you back to a time when you could land in a destination without a plan or a guidebook, learn about it from the people you happened to meet and let your days unfold without an  itinerary.

When I arrive, for instance, Tuvalu’s tourism officer, Paufi Afelee (Lita’s daughter), picks me up and takes me on an island tour – on the back of her motorcycle. It’s the perfect introduction to Fongafale, the long, backwards-L-shaped main island, riding palm-lined roads, waving at kids riding in handcarts towed by other motorcycles (it’s too hot to walk anywhere), the wind ruffling our hair (no one wears helmets, everyone rides sedately).

I soon learn that tourism is a follow-the-locals affair and the best way to get your bearings is by chatting with your guesthouse hosts.

My host at Esfam Lodge takes me to church – also on the back of a motorcycle, barefoot – then to Sunday lunch with her extended family where we all sit on bamboo mats eating fish, chicken and coconut dishes with our fingers. Another local shows me around the Tuvalu Marine Training Institute, which trains about 120 cadets a year for life on international cargo ships (thousands of Tuvaluans work abroad as seamen, cooks and marine engineers).

Don’t expect to find anyone to talk to in the middle of the day: that’s hammock time. They all emerge by late afternoon, however, and converge on the airstrip, which becomes a cross between a public park and a sports ground at the cooler end of the day; on hot nights people even sleep there, dragging their mattresses onto the tarmac in search of a breeze.

You know you’re not in Touristan any more when two of the main attractions are the post office and a hole in the ground. To be fair, the special issue stamps on display at Tuvalu Post are works of art, long prized by discerning philatelists (they also make unusual souvenirs).

And the hole, David’s Drill, put Tuvalu on the map in 1896 when researchers from the Royal Society of London, accompanied by Australian professor Edgeworth David, drilled down to 340 metres to test Charles Darwin’s theory of coral atoll formation. (The results were inconclusive, but the theory was supported in the 1950s by drilling to 1300 metres in the Marshall Islands.)

Before my visit, I’d imagined Tuvalu to be an undiscovered Maldives, and it does have natural beauty. You just have to venture off Funafuti’s densely populated and rather polluted main island to find it.

Speeding across the lagoon to the far side of the atoll in an open boat, I watch the bumps on the horizon morph into uninhabited “motu”, tiny castaway islands rising out of gin-clear water, each no bigger than a clump of palm trees. This is Funafuti Conservation Area, a haven for hundreds of black noddies, crested terns, manta rays and nesting sea turtles.

On one island, while I snorkel over colourful coral offshore, my guide, Kaunati, walks up to the soft sand to look for turtle eggs and returns cradling something in his hand: a turtle hatchling with two-heads, dead. He can’t say whether it’s a genetic anomaly or a consequence of pollution, just that he’s never seen such a thing. For me, it’s just one more surprise in a week of them.

The day I leave, there are hugs all around at my guesthouse before I walk to the airport terminal, right next door. Someone ticks my name off a printed passenger list, an air-raid siren sounds to clear the airstrip and, in the absence of an X-ray machine, a young woman in uniform frisks me before boarding. “Have a nice trip,” she says. “Come back?”

Tuvalu won’t be everyone’s cup of coconut water. It’s not the next Fiji or Vanuatu. But for those with time, curiosity and a sense of adventure, it’s the kind of place that makes you feel like a traveller again. And for the rest of us? It’s a healthy reminder of a world that exists outside the tourist universe, for now. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

See timelesstuvalu南京夜网  GETTING THERE

Fiji Airways flies daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Suva, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays from Suva to Tuvalu. There are no same-day connections between Australia and Tuvalu so visitors must overnight in Suva each way. See fijiairways南京夜网. Tourist visas for Tuvalu are issued on arrival. STAYING THERE

On the main island Funafuti atoll, the 16-room government-owned Vaiaku Lagi Hotel has rooms for $126.50 a night and there are about a dozen family-owned guesthouses with rooms from $80 to $120 a night; see esfamlodge南京夜网 or filamona南京夜网. Afelita Island Resort has rooms for $120 a night; see booking南京夜网.

Louise Southerden travelled as a guest of South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

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Driving the ‘American music triangle’: Small towns, juke joints, honky-tonks and dance halls

It’s late morning when we slip across the Mississippi border into Alabama, after a couple of hours lazily cruising through typical Deep South landscape, much of it lined with earthy red fields of fluffy cotton and of tobacco.
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Here and there, the monotony is broken by tiny townships. Some are opulent, some tumbleweed poor, littered with abandoned shops, skeletal clapperboard houses, clapped-out trucks. But all seem proud of their dazzling white church.

Each has a signboard message for passing traffic. “Have you made God smile today?” one inquires. “Like it or not Jesus is coming back,” warns another.

Even our “classic American breakfast”, which includes signature southern dishes such as grits, fried alligator balls and chocolate gravy, is eaten at a typical roadside diner with a religious message of sorts.

“There’s a place for all God’s children…” it reads, “… right next to the potatoes and gravy.”

It all looks, sounds and tastes like something from the old Simon and Garfunkel road-trip song, America, or the Rascal Flatts hit Life is a Highway, which suddenly comes up on local radio station Shoals Country WLAY 103.5.

Within minutes we are in Muscle Shoals, named after the local mussels, and/or the strong American Indians, who navigated the nearby Tennessee River’s thunderous stretch of shallow rapids.

It may be just a dot on the GPS road map, but for more than half a century the town has been a place of pilgrimage for wannabe music makers, who come from all over the world to lay down tracks in one of its four recording studios.

They include Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Willie Nelson, Cher, Simon and Garfunkel, says local guitarist Travis Wammack, who cut his first record at 11, had a big hit at 17 with a song called Scratchy, and at 69 is still recording music.

No wonder local cars carry stickers reading, “Either you rock or you suck”. No wonder that hereabouts the mighty Mississippi has been dubbed “The Singing River”. Or that The Shoals, and its Hall of Fame, have become a magnet for music lovers everywhere.

The Shoals city is just one stop on a magical, 10-day musical tour through the American Deep South, a destination made more accessible in recent years by the non-stop Qantas flight from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth.

At anything up to 17 hours, the flight is currently the world’s longest, but it offers a wide gateway to the southern states of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and “sweet-home” Alabama.

The region is far-flung, full of huggable, genuinely hospitable people; an eclectic, culinary mix from Cajun to Chinese, from po’-boy (poor boy) sandwiches to gumbo and jambalaya; wonderful Gone with the Wind architecture; a fascinating, though sometimes bloody, Civil War and civil rights history. And, of course, its music.

For this, we are reminded everywhere, is the birthplace of blues, jazz, country and western, soul, gospel, Southern gospel, cajun/zydeco and bluegrass. It is “where history made music … then music made history”.

This can be explored by driving the “Americana Music Triangle”, a road trip covering 2400 kilometres, nine musical genres and thousands of stories. It’s an adventure linking New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville “and all the small towns, juke joints, honky-tonks and dance halls in between”.

More pressed for time, perhaps, than the average holiday-maker or music pilgrim, our group of four women and one man (me), travels by 12-seater bus, driven by Jason from South Carolina.

He is a great driver, dancer and source of local info, on subjects ranging from the proper dismemberment of crabs in a Lake Charles restaurant, to the passionate “Roll Tide Roll” chant of fervent University of Alabama football fans.

By the end of the trip he will have learned to “speak Australian”, admitting he’s a (red-haired) “ranger”, responding to cries of “Jaayyyyson” and occasionally “throwing U-ies”.

Appropriately, the first stop on our musical tour, devised by Travel South USA, is self-styled Music City, Nashville, where there is just so much to see, do, eat, listen to and look.

Most of the live action is out on the streets, on Broadway and The Gulch, in honky-tonks such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, Wild Horse Saloon and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn.

But before that, there is a Johnny Cash Museum, a Willie Nelson and Friends Museum and the must-visit Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Like most American “attractions” it is bright, imaginative, proudly patriotic, offering a rich, interactive experience where visitors are “immersed in the history and sounds of country music, its origins and traditions”.

A whole day can be profitably spent watching vintage black-and-white film, admiring the colourful clothes of the crooners, inspecting their outrageously exotic cars, some decorated with guns, and simply playing their music.

Nearby is the historic RCA Studio B, self-styled “home of 1000 hits”, sung by musical giants such as Jim Reeves, Charlie Pride, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley, who was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and died in nearby Memphis.

“Sit down and close your eyes,” says our guide Nita, as we enter the room where “The King” cut one of his most famous hits, Are You Lonesome Tonight?.

In silence, she snaps on a tape. After several false starts, between which Elvis laughs and joshes with the band, the song comes eerily, perfectly, powerfully, to life again. It is surprisingly moving.

A short walk away is the Gothic revival-style Ryman Auditorium. The so-called “soul of Nashville” was built as a tabernacle in the 1890s by a born-again businessman and steamboat captain, Thomas G. Ryman.

Subsequently saved from developers by a feisty widow who went by the gender-neutral name of L.C. Naff, the hall staged concerts, boxing matches and shows by the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini and Mae West.

Its history is described in part by “local” Australian actress Nicole Kidman, whose Nashville-centric husband Keith Urban first headlined a show at the Ryman in 2004.

If the 2400 audiences at the Ryman are slightly, rightly referential, the 4400 country music fans at the Grand Ole Opry (a local corruption of “opera”), where we go that night, are almost riotous.

They scream, chant, jump up and down to pose for selfies, shuttle back and forth for food, wave US and Tennessee flags. As the local guide explains, only the 90-year-old Opry, which is broadcast live on country radio, “makes fans feel like family”.

There is huge applause for Larry Gatlin’s musical “letter to the bad guys”, and for the knockabout geriatrics, Riders in the Sky. “Never take a laxative with a sleeping tablet… though you will sleep like a baby,” a rider warns.

Sounds cheesy? Well, it is, even down to the advertisements for everything from Durango Boots to roadside cafes and licences to fish the Cumberland River for big and small-mouthed bass. But it isgreat fun.

The next day we move on south, across the Alabama border, the music of Mississippi still rocking the bus. To The Shoals, where they are still cleaning up after a recent tornado. Then, onwards, southwards again, to Birmingham.

The city is better known, perhaps, for its fine dining and civil rights history than its music-making. But we are greeted with huge smiles, songs and swaying bodies in the 16th Street Baptist Church, where in 1963 four young girls were killed by a white extremist’s bomb.

Then it’s on to Montgomery, the state capital, again known better, probably, for its architecture, broad highways and prominent role as the capital of the Confederacy, at the start of the American Civil War  in 1861 and during the civil rights movement a century later.

However, the legendary country music singer Hiram King “Hank” Williams is honoured by statue, memorial and a fascinating museum, showcasing his short but productive career, his cars, his guitars and his funeral.

Sadly, Williams – known among other things as “The Hillbilly Shakespeare” – reportedly died in the back seat of his sky-blue Cadillac on the morning of New Year’s Day, 1953.

Even by the standards of lonesome cowboy musicians, his was a tragic life marked by divorce, pain, drugs and alcohol abuse, as well as memorable music.  He was just 29.

And so, after a day stop to explore the colourful history, delicious seafood, the wildlife and gorgeous, delta sunsets, in and about Mobile on the Gulf Coast, we arrive in New Orleans.

Music is as much a part of the daily life of this vibrant city as Mardi Gras, marching bands, monstrous weather and amazingly liberal “drink, dance and walk” licensing laws.

As co-author of the useful French Quarter Drinking Companion ​Elizabeth Pearce says, music is a key ingredient of the authentic Bourbon Street experience. Like the cocktail lists, the choices are long.

New Orleans, she explains, has one of the best live music scenes in the world, and nothing goes with music like booze. And vice versa.

“There’s a real range of musical styles, including ’60s cover bands, rhythm and blues, traditional jazz, indie rock, zydeco and everything in between.

“In most places drinking, talking and the music all co-exist peacefully. So don’t expect your fellow audience members to sit in respectful silence. In New Orleans, listening is an active verb.”

Try Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop for rowdy, singalong piano playing. Napoleon House for non-stop opera and classical music. Cat’s Meow to join in a singalong session. Famous Door to hear ’80s cover bands, Funky 544 for hip-hop. And so on, into the wee small hours and beyond.

But whatever you do, wherever you go, don’t miss out on live jazz at the truly iconic Preservation Hall, an authentic, no-frills, hole-in-the-wall venue where the audience stands or sits on bare benches or, as we did, on the bare floor.

A limited number of tickets, a few for “big shot” seats with better views, are available each night, but most music pilgrims are prepared to queue for one of three nightly gigs by some of the 100 or so master jazz practitioners.

As the brochure states, “on any given night audiences bear joyful witness to the evolution of this venerable and living musical tradition”, that from Nashville through The Shoals to New Orleans helps define the Deep South. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION 


GETTING THERE Non-stop by Qantas from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth and on to Nashville by code-share partner American Airlines.

STAYING THERE The Deep South offers a wide range of hotels, motels and homestays, ranging in price from US $25 to US $500 a night. Included in the  author’s itinerary were two-night stops in  Sheraton Music City in Nashville and Le Meridien in New Orleans.

The writer was a guest of Travel South USA and Qantas

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Potential for two rail lines to be built to future Badgerys Creek airport

Space is being reserved for a future rail line to the new airport. Photo: Ryan Stuart15 minute train from Parramatta to Sydney CBD proposed
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The federal government is leaving room for two rail lines to the proposed airport at Badgerys Creek.

The potential to build both suburban and fast rail from the future airport was revealed at a conference on the construction of a fast train between Sydney CBD, Parramatta and Badgerys Creek held on Friday.

The government has not committed to having the airport connected to a working rail link when it opens its doors to about 5 million passengers a year in 2025.

It has, however, said it would reserve space for a future line by digging a rail tunnel and station cavity into the site as part of earthworks preparation.

Brendan McRandle, the executive director of the western Sydney unit in the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, said space would be left for four rail tunnels – meaning two separate train links – and two stations.

This leaves open the possibility that future governments could both extend the South West Rail Link from Leppington to Badgerys Creek and build a separate direct rail service to other centres – for example, Parramatta.

“In the first part, it’s planning on the Badgerys Creek airport site to have sufficient corridor capacity for four tracks, to allow for a combination of suburban as well as heavy rail,” Mr McRandle said.

“So the airport plan and the EIS [environmental impact statement] that were delivered at the end of last year included a transport corridor that would come in before the airport and it would retain that level of optionality while the government is working through the options to determine the best course of action for both the near-term and long-term transport options for the airport.”

Mr McRandle said room for one station box would be left at a planned business park near the airport, and another where the terminals would be.

The federal and state governments are currently undertaking a joint study exploring options for rail services to the proposed airport at Badgerys Creek and in western Sydney.

Mr McRandle said it included examination of metro, light rail and heavy rail, as well as an extension to the existing transport network.

A report showing the costs, funding and challenges of the different options is expected to be released around the middle of the year.

The fast rail conference coincided with the release of a report outlining four route options for fast rail between Parramatta and the CBD, which could then connect to the Badgerys Creek via either Liverpool or Blacktown.

Commissioned by the Sydney Business Chamber’s western Sydney branch and Parramatta Council, the report found fast rail could reduce the travel time between Sydney and Parramatta to 15 minutes and between Parramatta and Badgerys Creek to 25 minutes.

The report only considered the routes in broad terms and did not examine how much they would cost or who would pay for them.

Infrastructure Minister Paul Fletcher said value capture – a model of financing that aims to use the uplift property owners get when public transport is built near by – had the potential to allow a rail link to Badgerys Creek to be built sooner that it would otherwise have been built.

The government, he said, was considering whether the public sector should be bolder in employing such mechanisms and how public sector organisations could use their own property assets to realise value uplift.

Lucy Turnbull, the inaugural head of the Greater Sydney Commission, drew on her own experience of catching the train from Sydney CBD to Parramatta to caution that ticket pricing would be important in the success of any new train lines.

“The $3.37 train from close to the city centre to Parramatta is really good value, so whatever new service is delivered in the fullness of time, it will have to compete for price, because I’m not sure whether I would pay $20 if there was an alternative,” Ms Turnbull said.

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Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia: How to get to the world’s most remote islands

The Aranui 5 hybrid freighter-cruisers. Photo: Supplied Welcoming party at the Marquesas. Photo: Supplied
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The first outsiders to set eyes on people from the Marquesas – the most remote set of islands in the world – were met by tattooed and war-painted warriors, armed with giant stone and ironwood clubs and slingshots, in outrigger canoes. The visitors were too terrified to leave their ships and venture ashore.

Today, a huge hulk of an equally intimidating Marquesan man, all biceps and rippling muscles under a bold geometry of black tattoos, is part helping, part lifting, me from boat to land with almost heart-stopping delicacy.

“This is my island,” he says in Polynesian-accented French, grinning with a flash of dazzling white teeth. “You are very welcome here.”

So much has changed in the 420 years since the first Spanish explorers refused to anchor at the Marquesas Islands, occupying the far outpost of French Polynesia between Tahiti and Peru. But so much more is still the same.

The islands are still the most isolated land masses on the globe, with their interiors often largely unexplored, matted by dense jungle snaking up the sides of steep volcanic outcrops and plunging into deep crevasses. Their white beaches rarely have anyone on them, and they’re still little known by the outside world except for the evocative paintings of Gauguin and the early writings of explorer Thor Heyerdahl and Moby Dick author Herman Melville.

And they’re still mostly accessed from the sea.

This is part of the enduring success of a shipping firm that’s been operating a freighter service from the Tahitian capital Papeete to the islands for the past 50 years, to deliver food, fuel and other supplies, and which, 30 years ago, decided to carry passengers, too.

Now, the Aranui series of hybrid freighter-cruisers – they introduced Aranui 5 with its maiden voyage late last year – have become renowned across the world as offering a 14-day expedition to what’s considered one of the last true outposts of the world in the company of perhaps its greatest seamen.

It’s a world apart from a regular cruise. There are similarities, naturally. The passenger section of the ship is extremely comfortable with most cabins having balconies, and everyone has access to a couple of bars, a coffee shop in the lounge, a small pool on deck, a gym, spa and the restaurant from which breakfast and the three-course lunches and dinners, all with French bread and wine, are served twice a day.

But the Aranui 5 is much smaller than most cruise ships, carrying a maximum of 250 passengers and 100 crew. That makes it a great deal more intimate and relaxed, with plenty of opportunities for actually getting to know the colourful, mostly Marquesan, crew. It includes a descendant from island royalty, unmistakeable with his face and head a startling canvas of traditional tattoos.

A drink in the bar with the crew, listening to them playing drums and ukuleles and singing, as well as watching some perform stunning time-honoured dances, are all unforgettably rich experiences. It can be even more thrilling to actually join in the dances, or to be whirled around the bar (they are very big men!) in a much more modern version.

Another joy is watching the skill with which they unload the 3000 tonnes of cargo they’ve brought to the islands in the front freighter section of the ship: the post, boxes of frozen food, pallets of cans and fresh provisions, along with the cars, boats, machinery, fridges and even a truck to be delivered. It’s equally fascinating watching them on the wharves weighing the local export bags of copra – the dried coconut from which coconut oil is extracted – loading them on to barges, balancing the small mountains of bags and then heaving them up onto the ship.

Quite apart from the vicarious pleasure of watching people work when you’re on holiday, it means your ship is welcomed into every harbour of the six inhabited islands – Nuku Hiva, Ua Pou, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata and Ua Huka – and by excited locals looking forward to what you’re bringing with you.

“I think people come to us because they want to discover the Marquesas with a local crew and a friendly ambience, and they like being part of a freighter and feeling part of the family,” says Aranui company CPTM CEO Philippe Wong, whose grandfather migrated from China, married a Papeete-born woman and started the freighter business.

“It also means they feel part of the life of the Marquesas. This ship belongs just as much to the Marquesan people as it does to our company. The locals talk of the Aranui as their ‘seventh island’.”

It certainly does feel that way, with so many warm greetings at every stop, as well as fabulously perfumed leis and welcoming dances, smiles and handshakes. Passenger Scotty from New Zealand was entranced. “It’s like arriving at a gig and being part of the band!” he says.

Excursions on the islands, led by the crew guides, are all part of the voyage, and include tours of ceremonial sites, vast missionary churches, villages, markets, museums and historic tikis and petroglyphs (rock carvings), as well as hikes, fishing and horse-riding trips, demonstrations of traditional crafts, visits to local restaurants and offerings of food cooked in the under-earth traditional oven, the umu.

The life of a freighter itself, however, is endlessly fascinating. As well as a way of transporting goods and passengers around the Marquesas, it’s also used by the residents as a ferry between islands, and they sleep in some of the ships’ dorms or under a canvas on one of the decks.

At night, you often see people fishing off the side of the ship, dragging in huge warehou or tuna under the lights of the decks, and then roasting them on a barbecue hung over the rail. They’ll shout out if there are dolphins dancing alongside, massive six-metre-wide manta rays foraging in the water below, or whales breaching nearby.

One evening there’s a Polynesian function, with a magnificent buffet of local foods and specialist dishes, accompanied by an introduction to the crew, dances and music for the guests, who come from all corners of the world, many as repeat voyagers. There are talks by various experts on different facets of the Marquesas and the captain and his officers, as well as the family members who own the Aranui, usually dine informally with everyone else.

Life at sea gradually assumes its own rhythm and arriving at dawn most days to the dramatic cloud-wreathed basalt peaks and emerald green of a fresh new island, or at a different port on the same island, is a highlight.

From the ship, gazing at those vast cliffs and crashing surf over coral in some of the narrow harbour entrances gives you an excellent idea of the natural perils that would have faced the early arrivals at the Marquesas. That’s quite apart from the original hostility of a people who protected themselves by looking as ferocious as possible, with tales of cannibalism – apparently they preferred the taste of Englishmen to the French – human sacrifices and the shrunken skull cult as well as elaborate head-dresses and carved stilts to appear taller, and, not least, those tattoos.

These days, it’d be hard to find a safer, friendlier and more welcoming, place in the world, albeit one with such a dangerous, action-packed and bloodcurdling history.

“Tell me, have you ever dropped a visitor into the sea?” I ask the crewman once safely deposited onto his island. He grins again. “Not yet,” he replies.

Sue Williams travelled as a guest of Aranui Cruises, Air Tahiti Nui and Tahiti TourismeTRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

See 梧桐夜网aranuicruises南京夜网419论坛  ; 梧桐夜网tahiti-tourisme南京夜网  GETTING THERE

Air New Zealand operates frequent flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Auckland, where you pick up a flight with Air Tahiti Nui to Papeete, the Tahitian capital. Flight costs can be included within the Aranui cruise package. Visas are issued on arrival. STAYING THERE

Prices start at $8689 per person twin share for a 17-night package including a 14-day cruise on Aranui 5 in an ocean view stateroom departing Papeete on May 21, July 2, August 13 or September 24, 2016, inclusive of all meals, shore excursions, and wine with lunch and dinner aboard, plus return economy flights with Air Tahiti Nui from Australia, four nights pre/post cruise accommodation at Manava Suite Resort (with continental breakfast) and Tahiti transfers airport/hotel/ship/hotel/airport, all prepayable air, cruise and hotel taxes and a chauffeur driven luxury car transfer to and from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane airports (up to 35 kilometres). To book, contact Ultimate Travel on 1300 485 846. FIVE OTHER FREIGHTER TRIPS

There are around 45,000 freighters plying the major trade routes across the world each year, and some take passengers. Cabins are often available for single legs of the trips, or round-trips. Meals are usually included in the fares and, while facilities will not be as luxurious as regular cruisers, or the purpose-built freighter-cruiser Aranui 5, you’ll usually have a simple cabin with a bed, table and chair, and access to the crew’s lounge. Tickets have to be booked six-12 months in advance.

Sydney to California, US, (four to six passengers): 23 days via Tauranga in New Zealand, San Francisco, Los Angeles. A single costs $4165. The round trip, which continues from Los Angeles to Auckland, Melbourne, then Sydney, will take 49 days and costs $7825 per person. 梧桐夜网freighterexpeditions南京夜网419论坛

Europe round trip from Southampton, UK, (12 passengers): 35 days via Salerno, Piraeus, Izmir, Limassol, Ashdod, Alexandria, Salerno, Savona, Setubal, Bristol, Cork, Wallhamn, Esbjerg and Antwerp back to Southampton. Single from $3600. 梧桐夜网freightertravel.co.nz

Brisbane to Hong Kong (four cabins): 21 days via New Zealand’s Auckland, Port Chalmers, Lyttleton (Christchurch), Napier, Tauranga and then Noumea, Hong Kong. Single, $4725. The round trip, which continues via China and Taiwan to Brisbane, will be an extra 21 days, $6730. 梧桐夜网freighterexpeditions南京夜网419论坛

Kuala Lumpur to China and back (10 passengers): 25 days via Port Kelang to China’s Xiamen, Qingdao, Shanghai, Ningbo, Yantian and Chiwan, and then Vietnam’s Vung Tau. From $4200.  梧桐夜网freightertravel.co.nz

New York to Argentina (two cabins): around 25 days via Baltimore and Savannah in the US, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Santos in Brazil and Buenos Aires. Single $4200. The round trip, which continues to Uruguay’s Montevideo, Brazil’s Rio Grande, Santos, Salvador and Suape, then the Bahamas, Norfolk in West Virginia to New York, takes 56 days, $9450. 梧桐夜网freighterexpeditions南京夜网419论坛

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Traveller letters: Should you travel with bags unlocked?

Bag cut open
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I recently returned from skiing in Park City Utah. It was a great destination on our Perisher Epic pass, and American hospitality at its best. What a let-down to find the zip on my ski bag cut open for inspection, despite carrying a TSA lock. The leaflet insert from TSA said that the bag was opened for inspection, failing which the lock may have been cut off. To bypass these steps and cut the zip open is just culpable destruction of property. I emailed TSA and received what I suspect were text-sensitive auto replies, stating that the bag may have been opened at several steps by airline or ground staff or robotic handlers. Finally, a human suggested leaving all bags unlocked and carrying valuables in hand luggage. This begs the question of theft or contraband in unlocked baggage, which is the opposite message for safety-aware travellers. Having two TSA locks cut off on my last trip to Hawaii, and a bag now cut open, should I follow the TSA advice and travel unlocked?

Howard Pelquest-Hunt, Bowral, NSWLETTER OF THE WEEK

Wanting a very Italian experience, Villa Lenzi in Vicopisano is it. It is 15 kilometres from Pisa in the heart of Tuscany and its hosts Massimo and Jon excel at making you feel at home. Experienced guides, they introduced us to the locals … people, wine and food. We were searching for la dolce vita and we found it. Fantastico

Robbie Wensley, Point Arkwright, QueenslandFeeling gobsmacked

As a Sydneysider, I’m proud of our beautiful city and very conscious of its popularity as a tourist magnet for overseas and interstate visitors. So I looked forward to showcasing the city for my friend who was visiting from Brisbane. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was not possible to obtain, at short notice, a Seniors Opal card for her short stay. Undeterred, I next contacted Destination NSW to inquire about obtaining a City Discovery Card, which in overseas tourist hubs, provides discounted public transport, plus access to museums, art galleries and historical site tours, all at discounted prices. I was gobsmacked to find that no such tourist-friendly card existed for Sydney. I have used these cards regularly when travelling overseas, as they are a convenient and economical way to access the pleasures of a new city, its sights, culture and people.

Susan Lenne, Clovelly, NSW SIM card the way to go

We were very impressed by the Europe SIM card we recently bought from ukprepaidsimcard南京夜网419论坛. The SIM card arrived in the mail a day after we ordered and worked seamlessly in the UK, France, Italy and Spain. Being able to use data on our iPhones without worrying about roaming costs added to the amazing experience of our honeymoon. It also meant a happy husband who could wander off while I went clothes shopping in wonderful Milan, with me knowing that our credit card was only a phone call away.

Christie Robinson, Sydney.Watch the notes

Regarding the recent letter (Traveller Letters, February 20) about being given counterfeit bank notes from an ATM, the more common scenario is that it was a scam by the taxi driver. When she handed the cash to the taxi driver while examining them he would have switched bank notes to counterfeit and handed the fakes back and demanded a second payment. It’s always wise to use small denominations in South America and closely observe your driver.

Frank Hofmann, Wheelers Hill, VictoriaGreat advice

Regarding road tolls in Europe and charges on return to Australia, there are multiple forums where you can ask questions regarding where you need a Vignette (toll card) in Europe. On the excellent tourism forum, Virtualtourist, you can ask any query about your trip and you will have local residents reply very promptly. We are travelling from Brussels to northern Italy via Germany/Austria in late August and I queried which was the most scenic route. In addition to replies about the route, I also had three replies all advising us to buy a Vignette in a service station in Germany just before we crossed the border to Austria to avoid tolls by the Austrian police who patrol the area.

Sonia Borean, Stafford Heights, QueenslandThird parties

A warning about obtaining credits or changing flight details when buying tickets through third parties. In my case, we used Webjet and had to change a domestic flight at the airport. The only option was to buy a fare from the airline direct and seek credit at a later stage from Webjet. Twelve months later, the credit amount has still not been used. It’s hard to think how Webjet could make the process any more difficult. My advice, buy tickets direct from the airline where practical – it’s not worth saving a few pennies.

Gary Thomas, Griffith, ACT Meals hard to recognise

I have been travelling regularly on the Qantas, Sydney-LA- New York route over the past five years and must strongly disagree with Ute Junker when she states that “the good news for those of us flying economy is that meals are slowly improving” (Traveller, February 27-28). On my most recent trip, each of the main meals consisted of a hot dish of homogenous consistency and a dessert that should have had a warning because of its high sugar content. In the past, we had also a salad, bread roll, crackers and cheese. Not this time. The hot breakfast was apparently scrambled eggs but it was difficult to recognise. The service on Qantas has remained excellent, but I would hope that with a turnaround in its profits, passengers in economy could expect better meals.

Manuela Epstein, Pyrmont, NSW


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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

The ultimate Western Australia road trip

The Gap and Natural Bridge, smashed by the rumbustious Southern Ocean, in Torndirrup National Park near Albany. Photo: Auscape/UIGAs a lifetime cyclist I have an innate distrust of cars, but on this road trip in Western Australia’s south-west, driving through a landscape of coastal plains and softly contoured farmlands, along empty roads, I’m experiencing a rare harmony between man and four-wheeled beast.
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As I round a bend deep in the sun-blushed forest, between Denmark and Pemberton, and the car reverberates to the ethereal strains of Florence and the Machine, I’m close to euphoria.

Around every corner and along each straight are trees, like mobs of teenagers that never stopped growing, yet like elders possessing age-old wisdom. In these southern forests are karris standing 60 metres tall and red tingles that have survived 400 years of climate change.

If I hadn’t stood, an hour ago, inside a living tree-trunk at the Valley of the Giants or wobbled along the adjacent Tree-Top walk, angling like an oversized Meccano set above the canopy, this natural architecture might have passed me by. However, having learnt that the Noogar Aboriginals, inhabitants of these forests for 38,000 years, believe these trees are imbued with their ancestral spirits, every soaring trunk appears animated and characterful.

I begin my journey by flying from Perth to Albany, spending two days around the former whaling town, Western Australia’s first European settlement, founded in 1826.

Albany’s a likeable town with much to see nearby, from coastal features like the Gap and Natural Bridge, smashed by the rumbustious Southern Ocean, in Torndirrup National Park, to 7500-year-old fish-traps at Oyster Harbour to the historic whaling station, in Discovery Bay.

Yet, it is Albany’s role, as the departure point for 41,000 Australians and Kiwis heading to the First World War, that most defines its heritage. In November 2014, the National Anzac Centre opened, overlooking King George Sound from which the naval convoys left, to commemorate that fact.

The museum is no glorification of war but a touching evocation of its reality, achieved by interactive displays and the opportunity to track one individual’s involvement.

I follow South Australian Aboriginal, Private Gordon Naley, of the 16th battalion. It’s a poignant journey that takes me to Gallipoli, onto Naley’s convalescence from typhoid, in London, his redeployment to the Western Front, in 1916, imprisonment in Germany, his marriage to an English woman and his death, at 44, from war-related sickness.

On my second morning, I drive inland to Porongurup​ National Park, where fragmented granite tors reach for the clouds. As a wet mist swaddles the forested slopes, I follow a two-kilometre trail up to Castle Rock, where the Granite Skywalk wraps around the peaks and a ladder leads to the summit. With mist swirling below, I can picture these bluffs surrounded by ocean, as they were 55 million years ago.

In more recent times, winemakers have discovered that the Porongurup foothills provide a mineral-packed terroir producing intensely flavoured pinot noir and riesling. Among the vignerons are Eugene Harma, from Hiawatha country in Michigan, and Rob Diletti, whose family comes from Lucca in Tuscany.

Diletti, of Castle Rock vineyard, was named James Halliday’s Winemaker of the Year in 2015. His Reserve Riesling, produced from hand-picked grapes, is a snip at $30 a bottle.

While the wines are impressive, the Porongurups cannot yet compete with the Margaret River region, where I spend the latter part of my five-day trip. With so many wineries to choose from, I confine myself to visiting two of its pioneering labels, Vasse Felix and Leeuwin Estate, returning each night to Cape Lodge, the apotheosis of the area’s accommodation.

At both vineyards I take “Ultimate Winery Tours”, meeting winemakers, viewing art exhibitions, tasting “flights” of wine and indulging in long lunches at award-winning on-site restaurants.

An afternoon trekking part of the 125-kilometre coastal track, with Cape to Cape Explorer Tours, helps undo the damage to my waistline while reminding that beaches, rockpools, cliffs and the turquoise Indian Ocean make this the continent’s most scenic wine region.

However, with Swedish chef Michael Elfwing performing culinary sorcery at Cape Lodge’s restaurant and a final morning visit to the Margaret River Farmers’ Market, gluttony inevitably triumphs.

After five days driving from Albany to Perth, I’ve not only achieved a contented, meditative state behind the wheel of a car, but also been able to see the region’s food (and wine) for the trees. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION


australiassouthwest南京夜网  GETTING THERE

Virgin Australia flies to Albany daily via Perth, see virginaustralia南京夜网419论坛. TOURING THERE:

National Anzac Centre, 1347 Forts Road, Mount Clarence, opens daily 9am-4pm (except Christmas Day), adults $24, children $10; see Nationalanzaccentre南京夜网419论坛.

Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk, Walpole, opens 9am-5pm daily, adults $19, children $9.50; see valleyofthegiants南京夜网419论坛.

Ultimate Winery Tours cost $249 at Leeuwin Estate and $185 at Vasse Felix; see ultimatewineryexperiences南京夜网419论坛.

Cape Lodge has two-night packages from $645 a couple, including accommodation, breakfast and six-course tasting menu; see capelodge南京夜网419论坛.

Daniel Scott was a guest of Tourism WA and Australia’s South-West.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

Three Capes Track: Tasmania’s new big hike

Three Capes Track at Cape Pillar and the Blade. Photo: Stu GibsonOn Hurricane Heath there’s barely a hint of breeze. A white-bellied sea eagle cruises overhead, looming as large as a glider, and the sound of the Southern Ocean rises over the cliffs, but otherwise the day is as still as a painting.
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As the name suggests, this piece of Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula can be a ferocious place, but today it might easily be a natural metaphor for the Three Capes Track that I’m hiking. In this most wild of places has come this most mild of walks.

Opened two days before last Christmas, the Three Capes Track is a hike like no other in Australia, featuring built-in interpretation and huts that are borderline hiker resorts. The 46-kilometre track is wide and smooth, with long sheets of boardwalk. If there are difficulties here, you have to manufacture them.

If it’s a cruisy walk, it’s truly a cruisy beginning, with the track starting with a boat trip across Port Arthur. It’s no straight ferry shuttle, but a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys tour in itself, journeying along the cliffs of the bay and peninsula for more than an hour.

As we nose into sea caves, with dolerite columns steepling overhead, it’s a glance at what we won’t see from up high on foot – the base of Australia’s highest sea cliffs, ringed with a necklace of kelp.

The walking begins at Denmans Cove, a rare sandy beach amid the drama of the cliffs. That this is a hike with a difference is apparent immediately as the track curls away from the beach. More than $25 million has been spent on construction of the walk’s first two stages, and it’s a virtual bush footpath, with a surface that’s almost wrinkle-free and often wide enough to walk two abreast.

Beside the track, just a few minutes from Denmans Cove, is a bench with a convict leg-iron attached, peering through a break in the bush to the Port Arthur penitentiary. It’s the first of 36 “encounters” along the track, marked by whimsically shaped benches and artistic installations. An accompanying handbook tells a tale of the Tasman Peninsula’s human and natural history at each stop.

The first day of hiking is short – just four kilometres to Surveyors hut, which materialises from the bush like a wooden palace. Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service has taken the New Zealand model of hiking huts and surpassed it. The three huts along the Three Capes Track are by far the plushest and most stylish hiking huts in Australia.

Hikers stay in individual rooms with either four or eight beds, with memory-foam mattresses. There are board games, a library of reference books, USB phone chargers, yoga mats and canvas deck chairs. The kitchens contain gas stoves and saucepans.

See also: The Aussie route that will test your limits

With no need to carry tents, stoves, mats or cooking pots, you can reduce the weight you carry, or simply create room in your pack for the likes of wine and, in the case of Hobart couple Shannon and Emma, frozen steak for a gourmet dinner.

I’m met on the steps of the hut by host ranger William, who shows me around and then to my room. With this welcome, I’m half expecting someone to arrive to turn down my sleeping bag.

It’s on the second day that the track really gets into its stride. From Surveyors, it winds through open woodland to low Arthurs Peak and the first taste of walking life atop the cliffs.

Behind me, a cruise ship sits at anchor off Port Arthur, looking incongruously large in the narrow bay. Rain showers hover offshore, but rarely strike land, and Crescent Beach rises in high dunes across the bay.

But the finest of the views are south along the peninsula, where headlands and cliffs stand queued in formation. It’s a glimpse of my next two days – a stretch of coast as wild and spectacular as any in the country.

Beyond here, the views will only get better, even if the place names become more troublesome. Past Arthurs Peak, the trail descends through a heath-covered valley and up the line of Tornado Ridge. Tornado Flat is not far beyond and, early the next morning, as I set out for Cape Pillar, I will pass through Hurricane Heath.

See also: Islands at the end of the world

These names were bestowed on the land by the Tasmanian climbers who cut the first trails to Cape Pillar in the 1960s, clearly in conditions less benign than these ones.

As I walk through Hurricane Heath, I’m about an hour into the track’s longest day of 17 kilometres, but in some regards, it’s also one of the easiest days.

From the hut at Munro, with its deck that seems as long as airstrip, the track makes an out-and-back journey to Cape Pillar, the peninsula’s southern tip. Hikers can leave their backpacks at Munro, walking almost load-free to Cape Pillar. In the cool of morning I carry just my rain jacket, water, snacks and camera.

It’s a day of contrasts: predominantly boardwalk for the first hour, then hard against the cliff edge to Cape Pillar. The forest along the first section out of the hut feels alive in the early morning, with wallabies and lizards pushing through the undergrowth, and a choir of birdsong greeting the day.

Past the forest, the most conspicuous feature on Hurricane Heath is the track itself. The boardwalk, complete with safety railing for much of its length, curls across its slopes like a yellow brick road of sorts. It looks so prominent and incongruous that, among a few walkers this day, it’s quickly christened the Great Wall of China.

The greatest wall here, however, is the cliffs, and the last section of walking to Cape Pillar is the most spectacular and exposed of all – an exhilarating, humbling section high above ocean, rock and the white dots of occasional yachts.

At Cape Pillar, Tasmania makes a dramatic exit into the Southern Ocean. A ramp of rock rises so sharply from the cape it’s been named the Blade. Balanced near the Blade’s tip is a single rock, like a cube of wombat scat, that is the track’s literal full stop.

“It is worthwhile to travel 16,000  miles to see such a scene as this,” Irish convict William Smith O’Brien wrote on sighting Cape Pillar in the 1840s. It’s also worthwhile just hiking the 20 kilometres it’s taken me to stand here, because it’s a scene that’s already become the Three Capes’ signature moment.

Tasman Island sits anchored below, and Antarctica is another 2500 kilometres away, feeling distant and impossible on a warm day like this one. The barking of fur seals rises up from rock platforms around Tasman Island.

See also: Visit Antarctica without leaving Australia

Hikers creep to the Blade’s edge, peering down at the ocean 330 metres below, and return ashen-faced.

To the west lies the spiny tip of Cape Raoul, the third of the track’s “three capes”. Under the original planning, the third stage of the track – to be built now that the second stage has opened – would extend to Cape Raoul and beyond, turning the Three Capes Track into a six-day, 65-kilometre walk.

Funding issues have placed that extension in doubt. It may only ever be a track of two capes.

If that shortfall has drawn some criticism, so has the price tag. At $495 a person, hiking the Three Capes Track costs almost $300 more than the Overland Track, leading to claims of elitism – silvertail hikers only – and the exclusion of traditional bushwalkers.

Parks and Wildlife Service figures, however, show that around 600 people a year hiked on the old tracks south of Cape Hauy before the creation of the Three Capes Track, while more than 1300 hiked the Three Capes Track in the first month of its opening. Build it and they have come.

There’s also surprising diversity in the people with whom I share the track, ranging from a honeymooning couple, to a family of five, 20-something friends, 60-something friends, and a mother and adult daughter taking time out together.

On Cape Pillar we gather as a crowd for the first time, reluctant to leave this most spectacular of views. But finally I return to Munro, gather up my backpack and continue on to the hut at Retakunna. From here, the final day begins with the track’s meanest climb, onto the slopes of Mt Fortescue.

On Mt Fortescue’s northern side, past its summit, the track descends through a fairytale section of rainforest. Ferns tower overhead like natural umbrellas, and the moss on the logs and forest floor is sponge-thick. I’m reminded of forests along the mountain ranges of the Queensland-NSW border, give or take 10 degrees.

As quickly as the rainforest appears, it is gone again, and I’m transported back from fantasy to the Tasman Peninsula. Cliffs tumble away beside my feet, large boulders balancing at their edge in defiance of gravity. Cape Hauy rises ahead, and the sea is frighteningly far below. But still there’s barely a breeze, let alone a hurricane. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION


梧桐夜网discovertasmania南京夜网419论坛   GETTING THERE

Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly between Sydney and Melbourne and Hobart.   HIKING THERE

The Three Capes Track begins at Port Arthur and can be hiked year-round. Walker numbers are limited to 48 a day. Track bookings can be made at threecapestrack南京夜网419论坛/booking.html.

Andrew Bain travelled courtesy of Tourism Tasmania.FIVE OTHER TASMANIAN HIKESOVERLAND TRACK

Tasmania’s signature trail, threading between the most spectacular of its high mountains between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. WALLS OF JERUSALEM

Less hyped, but no less spectacular, than the nearby Cradle Mountain area. Walk in past Trapper’s Hut and spend a couple of days exploring the Walls from the camp at Wild Dog Creek. FRENCHMANS CAP

The great white sharp of Tasmania’s southwest, once infamous for its mud, but now rerouted so the only challenge is the final, heady climb. TARN SHELF

Hike across the top of Mt Field National Park to this “shelf” of mountain lakes. Autumn brings one of the finest natural colour displays in Australia. SOUTH COAST TRACK

Wild and remote hike along Tasmania’s southernmost coast. Fly into Melaleuca and hike back out.

For all hikes, see 梧桐夜网parks.tas.gov419论坛.

See also: Six of the best Tasmanian day walks See also: Twenty reasons to visit Hobart

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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