International Travel

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Hilarious sign shaming litterbugs goes viral

<p>Granville Harbour Community Coast Care in Tasmania has taken the internet by storm after sharing its hilarious new sign that was put up within the area, in an effort to reduce the number of people dumping their rubbish on the ground.</p> <p>The sign poses the question “Why are you littering?” and provides hilarious multiple-choice options that allude to the characteristics of someone who leaves their rubbish behind.</p> <p>The tongue-in-cheek options suggest the person dumping their rubbish is a “jerk”, highlights their disrespect for “natural areas” and suggests their “mummy still cleans up” for them – as well as an “all of the above option”.</p> <p><img style="width: 374.585px; height: 500px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="/media/7822475/1-anti-litter-embed.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/327e950e9773473ab17b8081f84eeb3d" /></p> <p>The sign has started hilarious discussions on social media form Reddit with various viewers providing their input into the growing rubbish-dumping epidemic.</p> <p>“We need to change cultural attitudes regarding littering, Japan doesn't have a littering problem,” one commenter suggested. “We also need to stop the crap being produced in the first place or make biodegradable packaging mandatory.”</p> <p>Many social media users shared their own personal experiences and disgust with coming across litter within a natural public space.</p> <p>A user shared, “I was sitting at a popular chair yesterday in front of a water view. I picked up 216 cigarette butts. Went back today to find another 8 new ones. A sign like this is needed.”</p> <p>Many people praised the sign and the eye-catching, funny way it has been presented to encourage people to take a second to think about their environmentally harmful actions.</p> <p>“Awesome sign,” one person wrote.</p> <p>While another exclaimed, “WOW these signs should be rolled out across the country.”</p> <p>What are your thoughts on this anti-litter sign? Let us know in the comments.</p>

International Travel

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Can you spot the bizarre item on this in-flight menu?

<p>British Airways has shocked a passenger aboard a flight with a bizarre warning.</p> <p>Michael L. Brown was perusing over the in-flight menu when he noticed an unconventional message written in fine print.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">You've got to be kidding me. From the British Airways in-flight menu from London to Chicago. <a href="https://t.co/lfecoXAllk">pic.twitter.com/lfecoXAllk</a></p> — Dr. Michael L. Brown (@DrMichaelLBrown) <a href="https://twitter.com/DrMichaelLBrown/status/1071727461510103041?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <p>It’s common for meals to come with words of caution, whether it be allergens or raw food. But one thing that many don’t come across is a warning for bullet fragments.</p> <p>The menu featured a dish called “Home Counties venison stew” and the text written below said: “Due to the nature of the product, there is a very small risk of bullet fragments that could be found in this meal.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 408px; height: 307px;" src="/media/7822453/capture.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/411f90063e2d4fc09855a97c4b51dbda" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Photo: <a href="https://twitter.com/DrMichaelLBrown">Twitter @DrMichaelLBrown</a></em></p> <p>Speaking to <em><a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/">The Sun</a></em>, Mr Brown said, “I travelled first class from Mumbai to Heathrow, and this item definitely wasn’t on the menu.</p> <p>“On my second flight from Heathrow to Chicago I noticed this item on the menu.”</p> <p>When Mr Brown raised his concerns with staff members, they were surprised and amused by the warning.</p> <p>“The two flight attendants I spoke with had never seen or noticed this before but got a good laugh out of it,” he said.</p> <p>“One joked with me that this warning could be so all Americans on board couldn’t sue them. I told them he could well be right.”</p> <p>But despite Mr Brown’s surprise, many users on Twitter claimed that the warning is fairly common.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">If we buy wild rabbit from Argentina here in Germany you´ll find everytime the information, that there is a small risk of bullet fragments.</p> — Darius Tremel (@Musicmaker2011) <a href="https://twitter.com/Musicmaker2011/status/1073145855895592960?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 13, 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">Venison is deer. Maybe they source their deer from local butcher shops/hunters? We live in MS. My husband is a military man of 15 years from Ok. That’s not weird to me 🤷🏻‍♀️</p> — Sis Latta (@cryslatta) <a href="https://twitter.com/cryslatta/status/1071774460942913536?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">Pretty normal if you’ve ever hunted birds, although it’s not bullets, it’s shotgun beads 😁</p> — Randy Turnbow (@BigRedCurlyGuy) <a href="https://twitter.com/BigRedCurlyGuy/status/1071889826977218560?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 9, 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en"> <p dir="ltr">Usually phrased as buckshot on menus here in the UK and certainly not unusual to see it called out. However, it is a note-worthy inclusion for an in-flight menu, I certainly can't recall it on <a href="https://twitter.com/British_Airways?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@British_Airways</a> before.</p> — Benn Glazier (@bennglazier) <a href="https://twitter.com/bennglazier/status/1072836775880601600?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 12, 2018</a></blockquote> <p>“These warnings are there as a precaution, and are common practice,” a spokesperson for British Airways told<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://au.lifestyle.yahoo.com/can-spot-bizarre-item-flight-menu-030319516.html" target="_blank"><em>Yahoo Lifestyle</em></a>.</p> <p>“We source the best British ingredients for our inflight menu and this is no exception.”</p>

International Travel

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This country now has the world’s most powerful passport

<p>Last year, Singapore was the most powerful passport in world. However, it is now tied in second place with Germany after the United Arab Emirates climbed the ladder this year to be the world’s most powerful passport, as reported by the <span><em><a href="https://www.nzherald.co.nz/travel/news/article.cfm?c_id=7&amp;objectid=12170816">New Zealand Herald</a></em></span>.</p> <p>The Middle Eastern state added four new countries to its easy entry destinations, bringing their total to 167 countries.</p> <p>New Zealand travellers are 6<sup>th</sup> on the list and can enjoy visa-free travel to 112 countries and obtain automatic entry visas in 50 countries upon arrival.</p> <p>Australia’s passport is in 7<sup>th</sup> place beside Malaysia, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia and Latvia.</p> <p>Australians are free to travel to 109 countries visa-free and get automatic entry visas on arrival from 52 nations.</p> <p>Holders of Iceland and Maltese passports can enter 162 countries without a prearranged visa.</p> <p>The reason that the United Arab Emirates has surprised many people is due to the fact that last year the nation wasn’t even listed in the top 10 on the travel list.</p> <p>Dubai’s leader welcomed the news through a tweet stating, “Congratulations to the UAE and it’s people and big thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation’s teams.”</p> <p>The least powerful passports include Iraq and Afghanistan which grant visa-free access to only 32 and 29 countries.</p> <p><strong>Passport power ranks:</strong></p> <ol> <li>United Arab Emirates</li> <li>Singapore, Germany</li> <li>Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Luxembourg, France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Norway, South Korea and USA</li> <li>Belgium, Austria, Japan, Greece, Portugal, Switzerland, Ireland and Canada and United Kingdom</li> <li>Czech Republic and Hungary</li> <li>Malta, Iceland, New Zealand</li> <li>Malaysia, Slovenia, Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Latvia and Australia</li> <li>Estonia</li> <li>Romania and Bulgaria</li> <li>Cyprus and Liechtenstein</li> </ol> <p> </p>

International Travel

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First class passenger's touching act of kindness on flight for mother with sick daughter

<p>A travelling mum has shared the touching act of kindness she received from a stranger on her flight.</p> <p>Kelsey Zwick was travelling from Orlando to Philadelphia in the US with her 11-month-old daughter, Lucy, so her baby could receive treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.</p> <p>Sharing the inspiring story on Facebook, Kelsey said she had boarded the American Airlines flight with her daughter when a flight attendant approached them and said a first class passenger wanted to switch seats.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FKelseyAbbottMcArthur%2Fposts%2F10113814031412134%3A0&amp;width=500" width="500" height="708" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe></p> <p>“To the man in 2D. Today you were travelling from Orlando to Philly,” she wrote.</p> <p>“I don’t know you, but I imagine you saw us somewhere. I was pushing a stroller, had a diaper bag on my arm and also lugging an oxygen machine for my daughter. We had smiles on our faces as we were headed to see her ‘friends’ at CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia).</p> <p>“We pre-boarded the plane, got cosy in our window seat and made jokes to those around us about having to sit by my yelling-but-happy baby. The flight attendant came over and told me you were waiting to switch seats. You were giving up your comfortable, first class seat to us.”</p> <p>Kelsey said the generous act brought her to tears and she “can’t wait to tell Lucy someday”.</p> <p>Explaining how much she was touched, Kelsey wrote: “Not able to hold back tears, I cried my way up the aisle while my daughter Lucy laughed!”</p> <p>Unable to sufficiently thank the good Samaritan properly as they passed each other in the aisle, Kelsey shared the story on Facebook with the hope of tracking him down.</p> <p>Her post quickly went viral and left many teary-eyed.</p> <p>One reader of the selfless gesture wrote: “To have been seen by this man and for him to extend himself in such a quiet, but significant way absolutely tugs every single one of my heart strings.”</p> <p>Another added: “Oh wow. That brought tears to my eyes knowing there ARE good people in the world.”</p> <p>Although Kelsey has not been able to track down the generous man, she has promised to pass on the kindness she received.</p> <p>“It reminded me how much good there is in this world.</p> <p>“In the meantime … we will pay it forward. AA588 passenger in seat 2D, we truly feel inspired by your generosity.”</p> <p>Have you ever received a random act of kindness? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

International Travel

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Why the Kimberley region is an icon of the outback

<p><em>Travel writer David McGonigal shares his insider tips for exploring the stunning WA Kimberley region.</em></p> <p>Few Australian towns have developed more in recent decades than Broome. However, just 10 minutes outside town little has changed in 50,000 years.</p> <p>The colours of the Kimberley are a constant. They are a brilliant pallet of red soil and blue sky, golden beaches and aquamarine sea. So are the strong characters that inhabit this harsh and largely empty landscape. I wrote after my first visit 30 years ago: “It’s a truly beautiful part of the country that in many ways epitomises the image of Australia that Australians like to present to the world.”</p> <p>That hasn’t changed and is more important than ever as the rest of Australia becomes more urbanised. The Kimberley’s main travel season is April to September, when the days are warm and the skies are clear.</p> <p><strong>Kimberley towns</strong><br />Kununurra began in the 1960s as the centre of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme. There’s a <u><a href="http://www.visitkununurra.com/">wide range</a></u> of accommodation options and many charter flights over the Bungle Bungles and Argyle Diamond Mine. These days it is a modern town with full facilities.</p> <p><u><a href="http://www.experiencewyndham.com.au/">Wyndham</a></u> was born as the port for the Halls Creek gold rush in 1886. It is a sleepy town of 800 people on Cambridge Gulf and the view from Five Rivers Lookout is spectacular. </p> <p><u><a href="http://www.hallscreektourism.com.au/">Halls Creek</a></u> is the northern end of the Canning Stock Route and the Tanami Track and an entry point for Wolfe Creek Crater and the Bungle Bungle Range. The nearby ruins of Old Halls Creek date back to the first discovery of gold in WA in 1885 when 15,000 optimists were living here. </p> <p>As its name suggests, Fitzroy Crossing came about from people waiting for the flooded Fitzroy River to drop so it was safe to travel across the causeway. Of course, the inevitable delay required a drink and that gave rise to the 1897 Crossing Inn. Geikie Gorge is close by, but this is also a good base to explore Mimbi Caves as well as Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge.</p> <p><u><a href="http://www.derbytourism.com.au/">Derby</a></u>, established in 1883, is the Kimberley’s oldest town and remains an important administrative centre with a population of 4,500. The famed hollow boab prison tree stands about 7km from town. Derby has the Kimberley’s main Royal Flying Doctor Service base.</p> <p><u><a href="http://www.visitbroome.com.au/">Broome</a></u> is one of Australia’s most important tourist towns. Originally a pearling community it now has a wide range of hotels and resorts and tourist operators. Expect to see expensive jewellery such as pearls and Argyle diamonds on display in the shops. You can still ride a camel along Cable Beach and Sun Pictures outdoor picture gardens is always packed on Saturday nights.</p> <p><strong>Travel by road</strong><br />Trans-Kimberley options are either the Great Northern Highway or the Gibb River Road, or ideally both. The highway comes into Broome from the south along Eighty Mile Beach then passes through Derby, Fitzroy Crossing, Halls Creek, Wyndham and Kununurra before becoming the Victoria Highway to Katherine and Darwin. It’s just over 1000km from Broome to Kununurra. The renowned 700km back-country journey along the Gibb River Road begins outside Derby to the south west and ends near Wyndham. The main side trip is up to Kalumburu and/or Mitchell Falls.</p> <p>The dirt road up the Dampier Peninsula from Broome passes by the Aboriginal communities of Beagle Bay (don’t miss seeing the pearl-shell altar in the church), Middle Lagoon and Lombadina before arriving at Cape Leveque and One Arm Point. Sunset at Cape Leveque turns the blood-red ridge behind the white sandy beach to crimson. The Aboriginal-owned resort of <a href="http://www.kooljaman.com.au/">Kooljaman</a> offers five levels of accommodation and a camp ground.</p> <p>Purnululu National Park is the site of the wonderful orange-and-black banded beehive domes of the Bungle Bungle Range. It is only open between April and December and the rough 53km access road can be negotiated only by 4WD vehicles and single-axles off-road trailers. There are no shops in the park but there are scenic flight options.</p> <p>The Gibb River Road heads north from Derby past <a href="http://www.mowanjumarts.com/">Mowanjum Art and Cultural Centre</a> and the old Derby Leprosarium on the way to the turnoff to Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek. Like Geikie Gorge these cut through the ancient coral reef of the Napier Range.</p> <p>The whole Gibb River Road is a grand outback experience and the swimming holes, stations (some offer accommodation) and camping sites along the way provide an unforgettable experience. The road has improved a lot in recent years and opens in April or May when the rivers have dropped and Main Roads has graded it to repair the ravages of the Wet.</p> <p>Around midway along the road there’s the turnoff to Kalumburu and the Mitchell Plateau. The 270km road to Kalumburu is only slightly worse than the Gibb River Road – the track out to Mitchell Falls is <em>considerably</em> worse.</p> <p>For National Parks information go to the <u><a href="https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/">official website</a></u>.</p> <p><strong>Aboriginal tourism</strong><br />Since the late, renowned Sam Lowell OAM began taking tours in 1981 the Kimberley has been a great place to discover the unique perspective of the original Australians. That can be done in many ways including staying at the multi-award-winning <a href="http://www.kooljaman.com.au/">Kooljaman</a>.</p> <p>At Geikie Gorge, the <a href="http://www.darngku.com.au/">Darngku Heritage Cruises</a> provides a special insight into Aboriginal heritage and visits places not accessible to the regular visitor. To explore the opportunities <u><a href="http://www.kimberleydreamtimeadventures.com.au/">Kimberley Dreamtime Adventure Tours</a></u> offers several tours out of Broome.</p> <p>Of course, there are also opportunities to buy Aboriginal art in the area where it was created. There are many galleries throughout the Kimberley. Just ask the local tourist offices.</p> <p><strong>Exploration by air</strong><br />The distances in the Kimberley are vast and the population sparse so air travel is a logical option. Two sights are best seen from an aerial perspective: Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater and Bungle Bungle.</p> <p>The WA government set up the <u><a href="http://www.westernaustralia.com/en/Attraction/Kimberley_Aerial_Highway/56b2690cd5f1565045dac438">Kimberley Aerial Highway</a></u> linking charter flights to ground operator tours.</p> <p>Several cattle stations across the Kimberley welcome fly-in visitors. For remote coastal luxury there’s <u><a href="http://www.farawaybay.com.au/">Faraway Bay</a></u> where you have to fly in because any other access is impractical. The resort takes pride in its cuisine and the setting is superb.</p> <p>The Kimberley overall offers grand settings and a sense of space that is unique. No matter how you travel, time in this special part of Australia reveals much of what makes Australia special.</p> <p>For general information visit <u><a href="http://www.westernaustralia.com/">www.westernaustralia.com</a></u></p> <p>Have you visited the Kimberley region? Join the conversation below.</p> <p><em>Written by David McGonigal. Republished with permission of <span><strong><a href="https://www.wyza.com.au/articles/travel/why-the-kimberley-region-is-an-icon-of-the-outback.aspx">Wyza.com.au.</a></strong></span> </em></p>

International Travel

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See Australia: Visiting the Yorke Peninsula

<p>An abandoned mining town might seem like an unlikely place for a back-to-nature holiday, but a combination of an unbeatable location in the middle of a national park that harbours some of South Australia’s best coastal scenery, along with fantastic heritage accommodation, makes Inneston an ideal base to explore the beautiful Yorke Peninsula in South Australia’s deep south.</p> <p>A remarkably intact gypsum mining village that was once home to 200 people but abandoned in the 1970s, Inneston has seven historic buildings, including the former manager’s lodge, post office and gatehouse, that are now self-contained accommodation. There’s a heritage walk around the village that attracts a few day-trippers, but late in the afternoon or early in the morning, chances are the only signs of life you’ll see are the resident emus prowling the deserted streets.</p> <p>Spend your days exploring the surrounding national park, which has a number of good coastal walking trails, including the two-hour return walk to Royston Head – highlights include panoramic coastal views of offshore reefs and islands and Dolphin Beach, where you can swim in water so clear it’s almost invisible.</p> <p>There are more than 40 shipwrecks in the coastal waters – the most famous is The Ethel, which ran aground in 1904 during a storm, and you can still see traces of the half-buried three-masted iron barque at Ethel Beach – but there are also a number of much more modern relics lying forgotten on various bays and beaches. Where there are wrecks, there are lighthouses – there are three in the park – and the one at West Cape is stunning. Built of stainless steel, it gleams by day but is at its most impressive just before dusk when the setting sun paints it gold.</p> <p>On a map the Yorke Peninsula looks a bit like a boot, with Innes National Park on the toe, and the</p> <p>fishing village of Edithburgh at the heel. In between is a coast-hugging drive east to Troubridge Point along the sole of the foot that makes for a fabulous daytrip, past beautiful deserted beaches, gleaming salt flats, cliff-top lookouts and the towering Troubridge Hill lighthouse made from red clay bricks. Dangle a fishing line from the jetty at Edithburgh – once one of the busiest ports in the country when windjammers and ketches loaded up with cargo bound for England jostled for space at the wharf – or cool off with a swim in the sea-water swimming pool.</p> <p><strong>WHERE IS IT?</strong></p> <p>Innes National Park is on the southern tip of the Yorke Peninsula, approximately 300km west of Adelaide.</p> <p><strong>WHY GO?</strong></p> <p>Scenery.</p> <p><strong>WHEN TO GO?</strong></p> <p>Temperatures are moderate most of the year. Summer is usually much drier than the winter months, although winter is a great time for salmon fishing.</p> <p><strong>HOW LONG?</strong></p> <p>2–5 days (minimum 2-night stay in lodges).</p> <p><em>This is an edited extract from </em>Australia’s Best Nature Escapes<em> by Lee Atkinson published by Hardie Grant Books [39.99] and is available in stores nationally.</em></p> <p><em>Photographer: © Lee Atkinson </em></p> <p><img style="width: 250px !important; height: 300px !important;" src="/media/7822217/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/d253436738eb4bf18dd1036c78be3910" /></p>

International Travel

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Forbidden City facts you should know

<p>You can’t prove you have been to China until you have your photo taken outside the Forbidden City. </p> <p>Or so my tour guide tells me. </p> <p>The towering red walls with the gigantic painting of Chairman Mao are one of the most well-known buildings on the planet. </p> <p>But how much do you actually know about the Forbidden City?</p> <p>Here’s a few facts you should know before you go. </p> <p><strong>It’s huge</strong></p> <p>The Forbidden City is the world’s largest imperial palace. It covers 720,000 square metres, has more than 90 palace quarters and courtyards, 980 buildings and more than 8728 rooms. </p> <p><strong>Check the details</strong></p> <p>The more important the building – the more animals or dragons you will see on the roof ridges. </p> <p>All but one of the gates in the Forbidden City is decorated with a nine-by-nine array of gilded door-studs. Nine implies supremacy and eternity in Chinese culture. The odd one out? The East gate. </p> <p><strong>A home for emperors</strong></p> <p>The Forbidden City was home to 24 Chinese emperors. Construction began with Emperor Yongle, of the Ming Dynasty in 1406. More than 1 million laborers worked to complete the complex which was finished in 1420. Fourteen Ming dynasty rulers held power here until the Manchus took possession in 1644. The Manchus then left the building and moved the capital to Shenyang for a few months.</p> <p>The Qing Dynasty returned power to Beijing and the Forbidden City, and 10 Qing emperors ruled from here until the last in 1912, when the Republic of China was created. </p> <p><strong>A home for his mistresses</strong></p> <p>At the back of the Forbidden City you will find the homes of the concubines. Only the empress was allowed to spend a full night with the emperor. The other mistresses were given just two hours. </p> <p><strong>Useful huge pots </strong></p> <p>Huge metal pots can be seen scattered around the Forbidden City. These were kept full with water and were used to put out fires. </p> <p><strong>The nine-dragon screen</strong></p> <p>The nine-dragon screen was nearly an eight-dragon screen. Erected in 1771 the screen is 3.5 metres tall and 29.4 metres long. It has made from 270 multi-coloured glass tiles. Nine clawed dragons can be seen on a blue and green background. But the third dragon from the left is a different colour to all the others. According to the legend the dragon was not ready when the screen was meant to be unveiled. The emperor had told the craftsmen they would be beheaded if it was not ready in time. A carpenter made a wooden dragon and glued it into place. No one lost their heads. </p> <p><strong>Jade Hill </strong></p> <p>Jade Hill, found in the Hall of Happy Longevity, is the largest piece of carved jade in China. Made from a single six-tonne boulder it stands at 2.24 metres high and is almost a metre wide. It took 1000 people and 1000 horses three years to haul the boulder from Xinjiang Province and more than a year to carve. </p> <p>It depicts the story of the “Days of Harnessing Floods” or the taming of the Yellow River flood waters by Yu the Great in the 21st century BC.</p> <p><strong>Powerful women</strong></p> <p>Ruthless and brilliant, Empress Dowager Cici effectively ruled China from the Forbidden City. She was born November 29, 1835 and died November 15, 1908. Cici was the consort of the Xianfeng emperor (1850–61), mother of the Tongzhi emperor (1861–75) and adoptive mother of the Guangxu emperor (1875–1908). </p> <p>Cici was one of Xianfeng’s lowest concubines, but she bore his only son. When the emperor died, power transferred to the six-year-old boy. State business was put in the hands of a regency council of eight elder officials. However, Cici and Xianfeng’s former senior consort, Ci’an, orchestrated a coup with Gong Qinwang (Prince Gong), the former emperor’s brother. The regency was transferred to Cici and Ci’an. Gong became the prince counsellor. </p> <p>The regency was terminated in 1873 when the Tongzhi came of age. He died two years later. </p> <p>Cici then arranged to adopt her three-year-old nephew, Zaitian (Ci’an’s son), and have him named the new heir. Ci’an and Cici acted as regents until Ci’an’s death in 1881. Cici then became the sole holder of the office. </p> <p>If you are going to the Forbidden City, we highly recommend reading more about this fascinating woman. </p> <p><strong>You can’t see it all</strong></p> <p>Up to 40 per cent of the Forbidden City is off-limits to the public. </p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/forbidden-city-facts-you-should-know-before-you-go/">MyDiscoveries</a></span>. </em></p>

International Travel

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What’s not to love about America’s music cities

<p>Are your vagabond shoes longing to stray? Are your boots scooting? Or have you opted instead for a blue suede variety?</p> <p>Regardless of how they are currently clad, traipsing the music trail in the States is a leap your feet should definitely make once in their lifetime.</p> <p>Step into cities such as Nashville and New Orleans, where the twang of country guitar or sweet serenade of saxophones will be the soundtrack to your holiday. Music will become the perfect tool for prying open decades of fascinating and turbulent history, hitting the nail on the head when it comes to capturing the heart and soul of a region.</p> <p>Those feet of yours will soon be tapping along.</p> <p><strong>All that Jazz – New Orleans</strong></p> <p>Legend has it that jazz was born in New Orleans’ Congo Square, emerging from west African slave rhythms. Congo Square is now dedicated to top-dog trumpeter, Louis Armstrong. On the banks of the Mississippi, the brassy, sultry vibes of New Orleans seduce jazz novices and know-it-alls alike. Bourbon Street is probably the best-known hub of NOLA’s distinctly gritty jazz sound, but for more authentic flavours, stop in at Frenchmen Street and Royal Street.</p> <p><strong>Two types of music: Country and western – Nashville</strong></p> <p>Dolly Parton’s big break, at the tender age of 10, was her first encore at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, where she encountered Johnny Cash. Somewhat of a country music institution, the Opry used to be a radio broadcast hosted at the Ryman Auditorium. It is now a weekly live concert, earning Nashville its fame as the “Music City”.</p> <p>You can still experience the southern country charm, rhinestones and all, at the Ryman Auditorium and other honky-tonk hotspots such as The District. Stop in at the Country Music Hall of Fame.</p> <p><strong>It’s got to be – New York</strong></p> <p>Unique New York is made thus by its diversity. Nowhere else in America is there a broader spectrum of genres in so concentrated a space as in this famously arty city. Disco and punk began on its streets. Hip-hop arose from 1970s block parties in Harlem and the Bronx. From musicals on Broadway to jazz bands in clubs, New York is a great host to concerts and shows. Everyone who is anyone plays at the renowned venues of Carnegie Hall, Madison Square Garden, the Apollo Theatre and the Lincoln Centre. On a side note (pun intended), you can hear the dulcet tones of a conch shell played by staff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection of musical instruments.</p> <p><strong>Smells like teen spirit – Seattle</strong></p> <p>In the 1990s, grunge crashed on to the music scene out of Seattle. Far from sleepy, this seaside town boasts associations with Pearl Jam and Nirvana, who cut their first demo in a studio on Seattle’s Leary Way. The Washington city was also called home by Jimi Hendrix. At the interactive Museum of Pop Culture, you can trawl through the Hendrix gallery. Worthwhile venues include Moore Theatre and Comet Tavern.</p> <p><strong>The land of the delta blues – Memphis</strong></p> <p>Memphis is all about the rock ‘n’ roll. It is said that Sun Studios accidentally recorded the first rock ‘n’ roll song in 1951 when equipment distorted the sound of Ike Turner’s Rocket 88. Visit Sun Studios, Stax Museum, Gibson Guitar Factory and the legendary B.B. King’s Restaurant and Blues Club on Beale Street.</p> <p>Alongside B.B. King, Memphis’ most famous patron is a different King altogether. You can visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland mansion, where he lived his final years, for a tour. </p> <p><em>Written by Sophie Cullen. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/what-s-not-to-love-about-america-s-music-cities/">MyDiscoveries</a></span>. </em></p>

International Travel

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The trip of a lifetime: Saying farewell to The Ghan

<p><em>As The Ghan nears Adelaide, Justine Tyerman finds herself reluctant to disembark and rejoin the real world. Here is the final of a four-part series about her 2979km four-day, three-night expedition on the famous transcontinental train Darwin to Adelaide.</em></p> <p>I was awake before dawn to witness sunrise over the magnificent Flinders Ranges that stretch 430km. Edward John Eyre, who explored the ranges in the 1830s was convinced he would discover land suitable for farming there or even an inland sea but finding mainly barren land, he named many sites to reflect his disappointment: Mt Deception and Mt Hopeless.</p> <p>On the other side of the train, the blue waters of the beautiful Spencer Gulf sparkled in the sun, and as we neared Adelaide, there were golden wheat fields, green pastures, tall haystacks and rolling hills, such a contrast to the landscape we had traversed over the preceding days.</p> <p>The massive turbines of the Snowdon Wind Farm on the ridges of the Barunga and Hummocks Ranges are a dramatic sight. With blades up to 53m in length weighing 10 tonnes each, they are expected to generate enough energy to power 230,000 homes, about 40 percent of South Australia’s annual electricity needs.</p> <p>Before breakfast my hospitality attendant Aaron, who had looked after me so well, took me on a tour of The Ghan, beyond the carriages, lounge and restaurant that were our part of the train.</p> <p>With 285 passengers spread over 38 carriages, it’s a busy schedule for the 49 staff on board. Their care and attention to detail is impeccable.</p> <p>I met our chefs Russel and Terry busy preparing breakfast in their long narrow kitchen and complimented them on the splendid cuisine they consistently produced.</p> <p>Aaron walked me through the noisy power van to the three Platinum Class carriages, the equivalent of first class. The cabins are more spacious than Gold Class with double beds, larger bathrooms and separate showers. Guests have access to two lounges, a dining room and alcoves with coffee machines. The décor is contemporary rather than traditional and ‘trainly’ like our Queen Adelaide Restaurant. The facilities are certainly luxurious offering more privacy and dining options but I preferred our more relaxed Gold Service part of the train.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7822154/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/692b6cdd303d4bfc949305d1fbc9478d" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Platinum Service cabin with the bed made up.</em></p> <p>Our last meal was a leisurely brunch before arriving in Adelaide late morning. The blackcurrant and apple juice was lovely and refreshing along with the wild berry, mint and natural yoghurt sprinkled with toasted almonds and hazelnut crumble.</p> <p>The delectable gammon steak, eggs, slow roasted tomatoes and rosti was over-ambitious but I just had to try it.</p> <p>On the way back to my cabin, there was a kerfuffle in the passageway – too many people coming and going at one time so the train manager Bruce Smith asked if he could use my cabin as a passing bay.</p> <p>“No problem,” I said. “I’ve been hoping to meet you anyway. I just want to say the service, care and attention I’ve experienced on The Ghan has been outstanding, impeccable, faultless.”</p> <p>He beamed and asked if he could detect a touch of Kiwi – and then it was all on for the next 15 minutes – politics, sport, the economy, jokes at the expense of Kiwis, jokes at the expense of Aussies.</p> <p>Aged 66, he’s been associated with trains for 50 years, originally as an electrician on the maintenance of The Ghan and for 24 years, working on the trains themselves.</p> <p>Bruce then launched into story telling mode:</p> <p>First of all, he talked about all the Aussie strawberries being dumped because of needles being found inside a few of them.</p> <p>Then he went on to tell me about how all the Aussie farmers were banding together to send hay to their drought-stricken colleagues in South Australia.</p> <p>“But they had to send it all back,” he said with a tragic look on his face.</p> <p>“They found a needle in a hay-stack,” he said.</p> <p>I dissolved in fits of laughter. I just love the Aussie wit.</p> <p>As we trundled towards Adelaide, I spent some quiet time in my cabin, reading about the history of this magnificent train which is due to celebrate its 90<sup>th</sup> birthday in 2019.</p> <p>Originally known as the ‘Afghan Express’, The Ghan was named for the pioneering cameleers who blazed a permanent trail into the Red Centre of Australia more than 150 years ago. Many cameleers were migrants from an area now known as Pakistan. However, according to outback lore in the 1800s, these men were believed to come from the mysterious outpost of Afghanistan and were considered Afghans - 'Ghans'.</p> <p>The original Ghan line followed the route of explorer John MacDouall Stuart. Construction began on the Port Augusta to Alice Springs line in 1877 but it was not until Sunday 4 August, 1929, that an excited crowd gathered at the Adelaide Railway Station to farewell the first Ghan train. This train carried supplies and over 100 passengers bound for the remote town of Stuart, now known as Alice Springs. The train arrived two days later, on 6 August.</p> <p>Back then, the train was steam hauled and had to contend with extreme conditions including flash flooding and intense heat. The old Ghan ran on a light, narrow-gauge track well to the east of the track it travels today. As well as termite damage, the track was subject to fire and flood. Flash flooding, when the normally dry river beds overflowed onto the low-lying desert, frequently washed away the track completely. Legend has it the Old Ghan was once stranded for two weeks in the Outback and the engine driver shot wild goats to feed the passengers.</p> <p>Diesel locomotives were introduced in 1954 to replace the traditional steam engines, cutting about five hours off the trip between Alice Springs and Adelaide.</p> <p>There are many colourful stories and legends about The Ghan but this one about true Aussie ingenuity really appealed to me. In October 1954, The Ghan broke down in Finke south of Alice Springs with electrical trouble and a blown gasket. The postmaster produced the tongue of an old shoe to repair the gasket and The Ghan went on its way.</p> <p>In 1980, the old Ghan rail track was abandoned in favour of a new standard-gauge rail line built with termite-proof concrete sleepers. The track was laid further to the west to avoid the flooding problems encountered along the old route.</p> <p>In 2001, the first sod was turned on the 1420km extension of the railway line from Alice Springs to Darwin. At its peak, 1500 people worked on the project and the new line was completed in just over 30 months, five months ahead of schedule.</p> <p>The Ghan embarked on its inaugural transcontinental journey on 1 February, 2004. Since then, more than half a million passengers have travelled on The Ghan.</p> <p>Today, the journey covers 2979 kilometres and encounters spectacular and diverse landscapes from the green and gold pastures of the South Australian plains, the rusty reds of the MacDonnell Ranges and the tropical landscape of Darwin.</p> <p>I also read a fascinating book about the cameleers who first arrived in South Australia in 1839. The camels were imported to carry goods for explorers and surveyors venturing inland. Being able to carry up to half a tonne in weight and survive without water for long periods of time, they were ideally suited to the harsh conditions of Australia’s interior. Their broad leathery foot pads protected them from the hot earth and prevented them from sinking into the sand.</p> <p>When they were no longer needed, rather than see their camels shot as ordered under the Camel Destruction Act, 1925, some cameleers released them into the wild where they flourished. Australia’s wild camel population is now estimated to be around one million.</p> <p>The Outback Lounges on The Ghan are named after heroic pioneers who explored the Australian interior.</p> <p>Our lounge was named after Edward John Eyre who lived from 1815 to 1901. Eyre survived a murderous mutiny to complete an expedition from Adelaide across the vast Nullarbor Plain to Albany in Western Australia. He also undertook an unsuccessful attempt to reach the centre of Australia.</p> <p>Another lounge was named after Scotsman John McDouall Stuart who lived from 1815 to 1866 and embarked on several death-defying attempts to cross Australia south to north, finally succeeding in 1862.</p> <p>I could have spent many more hours reading about the fascinating history of The Ghan but it was time to pack up my belongings and get ready to disembark.</p> <p>I also wanted to say goodbye to my delightful Ghan friends and thank the staff who had looked after me so well on the trip - Nick, Aaron, Howard, Sonya, Bidya, Mel and Ceidleigh. Such genuine, warm, talented lovely people who go the extra mile for their passengers.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7822155/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/80364cdeda234390a4e59e6235a053c9" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><br /><em>Justine (far right) and her new friends on The Ghan, solo travellers from all parts of the globe.</em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">They don’t look for easy ways on the Ghan. The ethos is to surprise and delight guests, to go beyond the expected to the unexpected, the exceptional. Morning teas including champagne appeared in the most remote, distant and hard-to-access locations not because they were needed but because the staff wanted to add an extra treat to an already memorable experience.<br />The chefs set up lunches, drinks and dinners in the most challenging off-train places – at the historic Overland Telegraph Station, in an underground opal mine, on a mountain top and beside a huge log fire in the desert against the backdrop of The Ghan.</p> <p>Having experienced the Indian Pacific trip from Perth to Sydney a few months earlier, the two journeys are quite different. There’s a lot of on-train time on the Indian Pacific so it’s extremely relaxing with many hours to read, day-dream, drift, doze, and watch the landscape. There’s on-board entertainment and a wealth of opportunities for socialising on the Indian Pacific because the excursions are shorter and less elaborate, especially on the Perth to Sydney trip. I found the three-night, four-day journey a deeply relaxing interlude in a busy life, an opportunity to recharge my physical and mental batteries.</p> <p>On The Ghan, passengers are off the train on excursions for most of the daylight and some evening hours so the bulk of the long stretches of travel are during the night. The only daytime travelling is the first day from Darwin to Katherine and the last day from around Port Augusta to Adelaide.</p> <p>The excursions I chose were energetic with a good amount of hiking and sight-seeing but there were other coach trips for less active or less mobile passengers including wheelchair access. Just down the hall from me was a spacious cabin especially equipped for disabled passengers.</p> <p>Another difference was the greater spread of ages on The Ghan, from children to teens to elderly and disabled.</p> <p>As we pulled into Adelaide, I had a real sense of loss and didn’t really want to rejoin the real world. The Ghan has a true romance, mystique, elegance, and presence. It got under my skin. I decided the only cure was to start planning another train journey. My Rail Plus adviser recommended the Belmond Grand Hibernian, a trip through the ever-changing panoramas of Ireland's celebrated scenic landscapes.</p> <p><strong><em>FACTBOX:</em></strong></p> <p><em>* The Ghan Expedition is a 2979km four-day, three-night train journey through the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Justine travelled courtesy of international rail specialists Rail Plus and Great Southern Rail.</em></p> <p><em>* Visit <span><a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/australia-by-rail/australias-great-train-journeys/the-ghan-expedition/ghan-expedition-prices-book.htm">Rail Plus </a></span> for more information on The Ghan and <span><a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/</a></span>  for other epic train adventures around the world.</em></p> <p><em>Rail Plus has a dedicated team of experts to advise you on Great Train Journeys all around the world including the <a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/belmond-grand-hibernian/prices-book.htm">Belmond Grand Hibernian in Ireland.</a></em></p> <p><em>The train traverses the sprawling countryside, dramatic coasts and fascinating cities that define this captivating land. With its lush green landscapes, mystical tales of old, fabulous food and a wealth of literary and musical talent, Ireland truly has something for everyone to enjoy. </em></p>

International Travel

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Why you need to visit the Yarra Valley

<p>Melbourne’s Yarra Valley is a gourmet delight. It has everything that you love – wine, chocolate, cheese, beer and strawberries. Whether you go for a week, or a weekend, you will indulge. </p> <p>If you’re wondering where to start, Yarra Valley tourism has put together some great trail maps on its website based around loose themes such as wine, art and family-friendly excursions. </p> <p>Here’s our pick of the top 8 places you should see in the Yarra. But be careful, you may never want to leave. </p> <p><strong><u><a href="http://coombeyarravalley.com.au/">1. Coombe – The Melba Estate</a></u></strong></p> <p>Coombe was once the home of opera singer Dame Nellie Melba and, as you would expect, it’s a home of grandeur and elegance. Coombe is set on seven acres of stunning gardens. The restored motor house and clock tower now house a gourmet restaurant which serves up seasonal estate-grown produce for breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea from Tuesday through to Sunday. Coombe also produces award-winning wines, which you can taste at the cellar door. Make sure you visit the gallery and the cottage garden ‘avenue’ where you will find the oldest swimming pool in Victoria.<br /><strong>Open</strong>: Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 9:30am-5pm, Friday and Saturday 9:30am-3:30pm, open public holidays<br /><strong>Where</strong>: 673-675 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream</p> <p><strong>2. </strong><strong><u><a href="http://www.gatewayestate.com.au/">Yarra Valley Gateway Estate</a></u></strong></p> <p>Who doesn’t love a fresh, hand-picked strawberry? At Yarra Valley gateway estate visitors can grab a basket and head into the indoor strawberry patch. Entry is free and you may pick as little or as much as you like. The strawberries are charged by weight. A normal 250-gram punnet costs around $4. Strawberries can be picked all year round, however, in winter there are times when the patch is closed to allow the plants to recover. Check with the estate ahead of time to ensure it’s open. Yarra Valley Gateway Estate also sells picnic hampers, local produce and fine wine.<br /><strong>Open</strong>: Monday - Friday, 9am-5.30pm, Saturday and Sunday, 9am - 5pm<br /><strong>Where</strong>: 667 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream</p> <p><strong>3. </strong><strong><u><a href="http://coldstreambrewery.com.au/">ColdStream Brewery</a></u></strong></p> <p>Fancy a cold brew? Coldstream Brewery is housed in a former wool store on Maroondah Highway. You’ll know you’ve found it when you see the large shivering man on the roof. According to the owners, the shivering man represents taking the plunge and doing something for yourself. Coldstream microbrewery creates handcrafted beer and cider. The best way to experience it is to taste your way through a paddle at the bar. Afterwards grab a pizza to share and maybe a pint of your favourite beer to linger over.<br /><strong>Open</strong>: Sunday - Thursday, 11am-9pm, Friday and Saturday, 11am - 11pm<br /><strong>Where</strong>: 694 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream</p> <p><strong>4. </strong><strong><u><a href="https://yvd.com.au/">Yarra Valley Dairy </a></u></strong></p> <p>Who doesn’t love cheese? Yarra Valley Dairy is renowned for producing award-winning fresh, soft cheeses made in distinctly Italian and French styles. The dairy farm produces both cow and goat cheeses. The one you must try is the Persian fetta. Of course, it’s only right to have a glass of wine with your cheese. The dairy has cheese and wine tasting, cheese plates, regional produce and coffee and tea. Head to the website and you will find some great recipes for using all the cheese you have bought.</p> <p><strong>Open</strong>: Daily 10.30am-5pm<br /><strong>Where</strong>: 70-80 McMeikans Road, Yering</p> <p><strong>5. </strong><strong><u><a href="https://www.yeringfarmwines.com/a/Yarra_Valley_Vineyard_Cellar_Door_Winery_Accommodation_Wine_Sales">Yering Farm Wines</a></u></strong></p> <p>Fancy sipping a glass of silky aged red in front of an open fire in a rustic woolshed? This is the place for you. Yering Farm wines specialise in limited release, handcrafted, boutique wines. The harvest typically commences with Pinot Noir in the first or second week of March and finishes with Cabernet Sauvignon in early May. This is a working farm. You can often wave to the owners as you come up the driveway and you can expect to see ducks waddling around. The rustic tasting room can be found in a shed. Pull up a stool or lean on the worn wooden bar and sample some of the best wines this region has to offer.</p> <p><strong>Open</strong>: Daily 10am-5pm<br /><strong>Where</strong>: 19-21 St Huberts Road, Yering</p> <p><strong>6. </strong><strong><a href="https://visityarravalley.com.au/tarraWarra-museum-of-art">TarraWarra Museum of Art </a></strong></p> <p>This gallery is the cultural jewel of the Yarra Valley, an award-winning architectural building that sprawls over rolling green hills with commanding regional views. But what is inside is just as wonderful. TarraWarra has seasonally changing exhibitions of modern art. More than 70 temporary themed exhibitions have been presented to date, including the collections of the gallery’s founders, philanthropists Eva Besen AO and Marc Besen AO. <u><a href="http://twma.com.au/exhibitions.%C2%A0">Click here to find out about current exhibitions</a></u>. <br /><strong>Open</strong>: Tuesday to Sunday, 11am-5pm, open 7 days a week from Boxing Day to Australia Day<br /><strong>Where</strong>: <span>313 Healesville-Yarra Glen Road, Tarrawarra</span></p> <p><strong><u><a href="https://visitdandenongranges.com.au/activity/william-ricketts-sanctuary">7. William Ricketts Sanctuary</a></u></strong><br />William Ricketts spent much of his life living with aboriginal communities in central Australia. Ricketts believed that Australians could learn from the Indigenous people and should adopt some of their practices, particularly in regard to the environment. He created this sanctuary as a place for quiet reflection and replenishing the spirit. More than 90 scultpures are distributed through the property, carved into rocks and tree trunks or dotted along paths. You just have to see it to believe it. </p> <p><strong>Open:</strong> Daily 10am-4:30pm</p> <p><strong>Where:</strong> 1402 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Mount Dandenong</p> <p><strong> 8. </strong><strong><u><a href="https://www.yvci.com.au/">Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery</a></u></strong></p> <p>We promised you chocolate and here it is. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery has free entry and free chocolate tastings. It would be impossible to work your way through the thousands of different kinds on offer. Watch as European chocolatiers handcraft the creations on site. If you can drag yourself away from the chocolate, head to the cafe. Grab a seat and admire the view over the expansive lawns, wetlands and sculpture gardens.<br /><strong>Open</strong>: Daily 9am-5pm<br /><strong>Where</strong>: 35 Old Healesville Road, Yarra Glen</p> <p>Have you visited the Yarra Valley before? If so, tell us about your trip in the comments below.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/what-to-do-in-the-yarra-valley-food-wine-chocolate/">My Discoveries.</a> </strong></span></em></p>

International Travel

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Fall in love with incredible India

<p>India can be daunting for travellers. With visas to organise, fear of “Delhi belly” and constant crowds. </p> <p>But it doesn’t have to be difficult.</p> <p>Product Coordinator Louise Shuhin spent one week in India in June on a <em>MyDiscoveries</em> tour.</p> <p>The first step was to organise a visa and Ms Shuhin says it was surprisingly easy. Tourists are allowed a visa for India for up to 60 days.</p> <p>“We applied for our Indian visa online,” Ms Shuhin says.</p> <p>“You will need to include a small photo and upload an image of your passport, but it is a simple and easy process that can be done at home with access to a printer.”</p> <p>The tour offered premium hotels and transport, so all Ms Shuhin had to worry about was soaking up the Indian atmosphere.</p> <p>The Taj Mahal in Agra was the highlight for everyone on the tour, she says. The famous white building was designed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife. He planned to build a black version of the Taj Mahal across the river, a mirror image of the stunning white version we all know, but he died before it could be completed.</p> <p>“The Taj Mahal should be a place that every person visit before they die,” Ms Shuhin says.</p> <p>“As you approach the Taj Mahal you get the feeling that the building is coming towards you and it becomes bigger and bigger.</p> <p>“Once up close you gain an appreciation for Emperor Shah Jahan’s attention to detail – honouring his 22 years of marriage by spending 22 years to complete the mausoleum. You are able to walk up the 22 steps and enter the mausoleum to view Mumtaz Mahal’s grave and pay respects.”</p> <p>The mausoleum is decorated in marble and stunning frescos. Even the gates are a work of love and art. Visitors can also tour the “guest house” and view the foundations of the Back Taj which was intended as Shah Jahan’s Mausoleum.</p> <p>Ms Shuhin’s tour also took her to the Amber Fort in Jaipur. The magnificent fort comprises an extensive palace complex, built from pale yellow and pink sandstone, and white marble.</p> <p>“Once inside we were able to explore the palace, which has key features such as Ganesh Gate, and Mirror Palace displaying the most stunning, fresco and mirror mosaics and coloured glasses,” Ms Shuhin says.</p> <p>Tourists are given the option of taking an elephant ride or a Jeep tour. Ms Shuhin says the Amber Fort was swarming with street vendors selling everything from pens to bags and umbrellas. The tour guide made her feel comfortable to navigate through the crowd and make her way to the fort.</p> <p>Shopping tours offered the chance to learn how precious gems such as ruby and emerald are polished and to learn how marble is crafted, carved and created.</p> <p>India, Ms Shuhin says, is somewhere everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. It’s much less daunting on an organised tour. </p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/my-discoveries-india-tour-review-taj-mahal-a-highlight/">MyDiscoveries</a></span>. </em></p>

International Travel

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6 things you need to see in Beijing

<p>From the moment you step off the plane, Beijing is frantic. You will quickly learn that traffic lights mean nothing, lines move fast, and Beijing is a city of many layers. </p> <p>From the Great Wall to Peking Duck, these are the things you can’t miss in Beijing China. </p> <p><strong>1. The Great Wall of China</strong></p> <p>From Beijing, access to the Great Wall of China is easy. A tour guide will pick you up from your hotel and drive north out of the city. That first glimpse of the wall on the ridge of the mountain is something special. In the spring, the hills are dusted pink with cherry blossoms. </p> <p>The Great Wall is divided into sections marked by watchtowers. Some sections of the wall can be quite steep. Wear sturdy shoes. You can walk easy sections of the wall or choose more challenging routes. Ask your tour guide which section would be best suited for you. We found most tour guides are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. </p> <p>The best time to go is in the early morning so you beat the crowds. It is possible to snap a photo such as the one above before lunchtime, even on popular sections of the wall. Plan your trip well to ensure it doesn’t coincide with China’s public holidays. We also advise touring the Great Wall on a weekday. </p> <p>Many of the “tourist” sections of the wall have access via a chairlift. That way you don’t have to hike up or down the mountain. </p> <p>Some parts of the wall have been restored, others have been left to the ravages of time. </p> <p><strong>2. The Summer Palace</strong></p> <p>Beijing’s Summer Palace is huge. You will need at least half a day to explore here. Take good shoes. </p> <p>The man-made Kunming lake takes up about 75 per cent of the park. You can cross it by boat to save time. The famous Marble Boat is at the northern edge of the lake and the Moon Gate is best seen by boat. </p> <p>The Summer Palace has actually been destroyed twice – in 1860 by the Angle French Allied Forces and in 1900 by the Allied Forces of the Eight Powers. The Qing Dynasty rebuilt the palace in 1912 as one of their final acts. </p> <p>Head to the Court area near the East Palace gate to see the buildings where Empress Dowager Cixi and Emperor Guangxu stayed and conducted government business. The Garden of Virtue and Harmony contains a three-story theatre with a wooden stage. This is where the Beijing Opera would perform for the Empress. </p> <p><strong>3. The Forbidden City </strong></p> <p>Tour guides will tell you that you can’t prove you have been in China until you have had your photo taken outside the Forbidden City. </p> <p>The towering red walls with the gigantic painting of Chairman Mao are one of the most well-known buildings on the planet. </p> <p>The Forbidden City covers 720,000 square metres, has more than 90 palace quarters and courtyards, 980 buildings and more than 8,728 rooms. It has been home to 24 Chinese emperors until 1912, when the Republic of China was created. </p> <p><strong>4. Temple of Heaven</strong></p> <p>China’s Temple of Heaven was a place for the emperors to worship. It was built in 1420, the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Yongle of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Ming Emperor Jiajing enlarged the building in his reign. In 1988 China opened the temple as a public park. </p> <p>A trip here won’t take too long. The temple of heaven has two encircling walls. The most magnificent buildings lie at the south and north ends of the middle axis. This park is also a local hangout. Expect to see dozens of groups of men and families sitting around and playing games. Many also bring their pet birds with them. 5</p> <p><strong>5. The Hutongs</strong></p> <p>Beijing’s alleyways are known as the hutongs. Inside these old laneways you will find hotels, restaurants and homes. If you love photography – you will love the hutongs. Good tour guides can take you to the best hutong restaurants. Many even have dumpling making courses. </p> <p><strong>6. Peking Duck </strong></p> <p>While not technically a place – you can’t go to China without trying Peking Duck. Seek out a Dadong Duck for an experience like no other. You can order crispy skinned duck dishes in English. If you order the set menu, expect fairy floss on a stick for dessert. </p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/6-things-you-need-to-see-in-beijing-china/">My Discoveries</a></span>. </em></p>

International Travel

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The 5 things you need to do when visiting Morocco

<p>From the twisting, bustling alleyways of the Medina to the fresh sweet taste of mint tea, Morocco is a wonderful assault on the senses. These are the five things you must do in this incredible country. </p> <p><strong>1. Shopping</strong></p> <p>If you love delicate glass tea sets, intricately-woven carpets and expertly-made leather handbags, you will love shopping in Morocco.</p> <p>Sharpen your bargaining skills and head to the markets for the most authentic experience. The Souk Market in Marrakech is the one most often featured in films. Wander through the vast twisting alleys and you will find anything your heart desires from spices and perfumes to leather goods and souvenirs. Be prepared. This is a wonderful assault on the senses. Take good shoes, a bottle of water and a secure bag.</p> <p>Many Morocco tours also take some time to visit a tannery. Here you can see exactly how leather goods are made. To counter what may be an overpowering smell, the owners hand out sprigs of mint. Hold one to your nose as you listen to the workers detail the process of tanning a hide and turning it into luxury goods.</p> <p>Make sure you also seek out a carpet-maker, particularly in Fez. Colourful threads hang from the walls and the intricate Moroccan carpets are woven on-site.</p> <p>Moroccan argan oil is world-famous for making hair shine and heal. The best place to buy it is in Marrakesh. Speak with your tour operator to make sure the oil you find is authentic.</p> <p><strong>2. Ancient ruins</strong></p> <p>The empire of Rome once stretched all the way to Morocco. The best-preserved example of the ancient Roman ruins can be found at Volubilis, between Rabat and Fez.</p> <p>Volubilis was founded in the 3rd Century BC and was once the capital of the kingdom of Mauretania. The Romans saw this isolated city as a strategic outpost for their empire. It grew into a vast city under their occupation from the 1st century AD. Volubilis lies on a fertile plain surrounded by wheat fields. The city’s wealth came from olive production. Grand residences were decorated with beautiful mosaic tiles, marble and bronze. It once had terraced gardens and a triumphal arch. The 42-hectare site is UNESCO-listed.</p> <p>“It is one of the richest sites of this period in North Africa, not only for its ruins but also for the great wealth of its epigraphic evidence,” UNESCO says.</p> <p>Local tribes overtook the city in 285AD. Rome never re-took it.</p> <p><strong>3. Food</strong></p> <p>Moroccan food is influenced by Berber, Jewish, Arab and French cultures. The result? It is delicious.</p> <p>Morocco’s most famous dish, couscous, is made from small steamed balls of crushed duram wheat semolina. The word couscous is derived from the Arabic word Kaskasa which means “to pound small”. In Morocco, the dish is often called seksu or kesksu. It’s served with chicken, lamb or mutton and vegetables cooked in a spicy broth or stew.</p> <p>When in Morocco, you need to try the sweet version, called Stouff – steamed couscous served with almonds, cinnamon and sugar.</p> <p>Tagine is another must-try Moroccan dish. Tagine is served everywhere, from roadside stalls to fancy restaurants. This delicious meat stew is slow-cooked inside a cone-shaped clay pot.</p> <p>Khobz, a crusty bread baked in communal wood-fired ovens is another delicious Moroccan staple. You can buy it fresh from street vendors all over Morocco.</p> <p>The one Moroccan staple you can expect to have every day is mint tea. Simple, fresh leaves steeped in water and served in glass teacups. It’s a ritual you will take home with you. No more mint teabags. Fresh is the way to go.</p> <p><strong>4. Fez</strong></p> <p>Fez is Morocco’s oldest imperial city. Less crowded than Marrakesh, Fez is known as a centre for traditional art and artisans. Fez’s old town, or Medina, is UNESCO World Heritage listed. It’s a maze of narrow streets, bustling souks and shopfronts selling traditional food and crafts.</p> <p>Fez is home to the world’s oldest university – the University of Al Quaraouiyine, founded in 859. The mosque and university are off-limits to tourists. But you can visit the public library, also one of the oldest in the world.</p> <p>If you love Moroccan tiles, head to Medersa Bou Inania. This building was once a theological college. It is the only religious building in Fez open to non-Muslims. Inside you will find breathtaking mosaics, fine lattice screens and incredible stucco-work.</p> <p>Gardeners should check out Jnan Sbil Gardens, just outside the Medina walls. Sultan Moulay Hassan donated the gardens to the people in the 19th century. Wander along the pathways and breathe in the scent of citrus and eucalyptus.</p> <p><strong>5. Hammam scrubs</strong></p> <p>Just as you need to do Turkish baths in Turkey, in Morocco, you need to do a hamman scrub.</p> <p>The traditional bathhouse is quite the experience. The first step is to steam and soak. Guests split off by gender, remove their clothes and head to the steam rooms. Take some water from the buckets inside the room and pour it over your head. Or soak in wonderful pools like the one above. </p> <p>Next comes the scrub. The masseuse will scrub every inch of your body, delighting in the removal of dead skin cells. Once you’ve been scrubbed, head back to the steam room to relax. Our top tip – make sure you pay to have your own scrubbing mat, otherwise, they will recycle. </p> <p>You will never view a massage in the same way again.</p> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/5-things-you-must-do-in-morocco/">My Discoveries</a></span>. </em></p>

International Travel

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Why you need to go to Switzerland

<p>Wendy Fernandes is a regular visitor to Switzerland. She has been to the European nation at least two or three times a year for the past 12 years.</p> <p>“I go primarily to visit family, but I also love the country because you feel so safe travelling there, everything is clean and well organised, and it’s breathtakingly beautiful,” Wendy says.</p> <p>Switzerland is a small nation, at 41,277 square kilometres it would fit in New South Wales 10 times. But don’t be fooled by its size. It is incredibly diverse.</p> <p>“Visiting Switzerland is like experiencing three European countries in one as the German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking areas all have their own unique ambience,” Wendy says.</p> <p>Lucerne is one of Wendy’s favourite cities. This compact city sits on the shores of Lake Lucerne and is known for its medieval architecture. It’s here you will find the lion monument carved into a rock and the Swiss Transport Museum.</p> <p>“The lake is beautiful with picture box wooden pedestrian bridges crossing it,” Wendy says. “You can do boat trips on the lake, it has a pedestrian-only central shopping street and lots of cafes and restaurants.”</p> <p>In Zurich, you’ll find an attractive old town mingled with modern shopping streets. Daily guided walks (in English) leave from the train station in the centre of town.</p> <p>Zermatt is in the French-speaking part of the country and is home to the dramatic Matterhorn mountain.</p> <p>“It’s a year-round resort and thanks to the glacier one can ski for 8 months,” Wendy says.</p> <p>“In the summer there are wonderful walks to suit all abilities with guides available for the more challenging hikes. The town centre is full of places to stay and eat and has a vibrant atmosphere.”</p> <p>If you’re going to Zermatt, Wendy says you should walk across the Charles Kuonen bridge. At 494m it is the longest in the world.</p> <p>What you will really love, Wendy says, is the trains. Swiss trains are known for their efficiency and for the stunning scenery of the countryside they pass through. The Glacier Express is perhaps the most famous Swiss train. It connects Zermatt and St Moritz in the centre of the Swiss Alps and glass roofs offer jaw-dropping views of the mountains.</p> <p>The Chocolate train links Montreux and Broc-Chocolat and the Golden Pass train runs from Luzern to Interlaken and Montreux.</p> <p>“Travelling is easy and public transport operates 352 days a year, runs like clockwork and covers the whole country,” Wendy says.</p> <p>“When buying a ticket at the station they will give you a print out of times/platform numbers and any changes required.</p> <p>“You can buy various train/boat/bus passes such as the Swiss Travel Pass for 3, 4, 8 or 15 days. If you are visiting for longer the Half Fare card on the trains is valid for 30 days.”</p> <p>If you are travelling by car and using the motorways you need to buy and display a Vignette for CHF 40.</p> <p>Australians travelling to Switzerland will appreciate the excellent coffee. Swiss food is wholesome, always homemade and nourishing.</p> <p>“Try Fondue (bread cubes dipped in hot cheese), Alpermagronen (a bake of cheese and potatoes served with apple puree), Bircher muesli (a breakfast dish of oats soaked overnight and then mixed with forest fruits, yogurt and cream), Raclette ( a type of cheese heated to melting point and then dripped over potatoes and pickles) and Rosti which is almost the national dish being potatoes thinly grated and then pan-fried in butter until crisp and golden,” Wendy says.</p> <p>“Wash any of the above down with white wine (which the Swiss keep to themselves) or fresh apple juice.”</p> <p>What more could you ask for? No wonder she keeps coming back.</p> <p>Here are Wendy’s quick tips for Switzerland must-sees:</p> <ul> <li>The large lakes – Geneva, Constance, Lucern, Zurich, Neuchatel and Lugano to name but a few.</li> <li>Mountains – Matterhorn, Pilatus, Rigi or Jungfrau.</li> <li>Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen.</li> <li>Interlaken for chocolate-box views, walks and mountain flowers.</li> <li>Parade of the cows dressed in flowers as they are brought down from the Alpine Pastures in October.</li> <li>Fireworks and bonfire display to mark Swiss National Day on August 1.</li> <li>Sunday is still a day of rest in Switzerland. Shops are closed, and no one hangs out washing or mows their lawn. Trains, boats and buses run as usual.</li> </ul> <p><em>Written by Alison Godfrey. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.mydiscoveries.com.au/stories/switzerland-travel-activities/">My Discoveries</a></span>. </em></p>

International Travel

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The Ghan: A day of surprises in Australia’s outback

<p><em>Justine Tyerman continues her series about The Ghan Expedition, a 2979km four-day, three-night train journey through the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. On Day 3 she explores Coober Pedy’s surreal landscapes, opal mines, underground dwellings and one of the world’s most unique golf courses . . .</em></p> <p>I awoke to a dazzling dawn of gilt-edged clouds and red earth glowing in the early morning sun. There was very little vegetation and the horizon was dead flat, like the Nullarbor Plain that mesmerised me on my Indian Pacific journey earlier in the year.</p> <p>During the night, we crossed the waterless Hugh and Finke rivers. The Finke is believed to be the oldest river system in the world dating back 300 million years. I would love to have seen it in the daylight, or better still been able to jump off the train to watch the grand silver Ghan traverse the bridge over the red, rippled sand of the dry riverbed as shown on many postcards.</p> <p>At mealtimes on the train, a recklessness possessed me as if there was no tomorrow. Usually such a disciplined and abstemious breakfaster, I decided to have lashings of French toast made with nuts and fruit, the best I’ve ever tasted.</p> <p>Soon after, we arrived at Manguri a remote siding literally in the middle of nowhere. This was our disembarkation point where eight coaches were lined up to take passengers on a variety of Coober Pedy excursions.  </p> <p>Our driver Mike was an outstanding guide who filled our 42km drive on a rough, corrugated, unsealed road with a brilliant, informative commentary about all aspects of the area.</p> <p>Halfway between Alice and Adelaide, Coober Pedy’s economy is based on the opal industry and tourism. The population is about 1900 of which 700 are aboriginal. There are 45 different nationalities all of whom live in harmony.</p> <p>The region is the opal capital of the world producing about 70 percent of the global production of this beautiful precious stone. Opals were discovered here in 1915 by a young lad named Willie Hutchison, aged 14, who wandered off from the campsite alone against the strict instructions of his father, a prospector. Willie came back with a sugar bag full of opals and also found water so he was quickly forgiven.</p> <p>Mike pointed south east towards the 23,677 square kilometre-Anna Creek Station, the world's largest working cattle station, 140km from Coober Pedy. And south west towards Maralinga where Britain carried out nuclear bomb tests in the 1960s, and the Woomera Prohibited Area, a 122,000 sq kilometre site declared a prohibited area in 1947. Its remoteness made it an ideal location for rocket research and testing electronic warfare. Important space technology was tested at Woomera that contributed to the 1969 moon landing.</p> <p>“And all around us, there are kangaroos, snakes, goannas, lizards, emus and brumbies,” Mike said with a sweep of his arm. But they were all hiding that day.</p> <p>The landscape was dotted with piles of earth called mullock heaps and bent-over towers above mine shafts where prospectors were excavating in search of opals. There are 2 million mullocks in the Coober Pedy area, with shafts up to 60-70 metres deep so you definitely don’t want to venture off the beaten track here.</p> <p>The towers, known as ‘blowers’, operate like giant vacuum cleaners to suck the earth up the shaft to the surface. They really should be called suckers not blowers.</p> <p>We also saw a number of ‘black lighting rigs’ where miners search tailings using ultra-violet light. When lit up with a black light, opals glow or fluoresce.</p> <p>Our first stop was a viewing point above the Breakaways, a breath-taking, surreal landscape where a series of colourful flat-topped hills or ‘mesa’ appear to have broken free and drifted away from the main plateau of the Stuart Ranges.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 335.1593625498008px;" src="/media/7821877/2.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/ffb90522482949f7b910cc72afee98c7" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span>The breath-taking, surreal Breakaways. </span></em></p> <p>The colours - white, cream, pale pink, orange, mossy green, red, ochre, brown and black – were astonishing, especially when the sun emerged briefly from behind the clouds. The temperature was comparatively cool here after the heat of Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs.</p> <p>The Breakaways are located in the 15,000-hectare Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park which belongs to the indigenous Antakirinja people who have inhabited the area, known to them as ‘Umoona’ meaning ‘long life’, for thousands of years.</p> <p>Submerged under an icy inland sea 100-120 million years ago, the region is rich in dinosaur fossils from plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs.  </p> <p>“There’s also rumours of large oil deposits underground here but this is a conservation park so that’s where the oil will stay - underground,” said Mike.</p> <p>The Ghan staff went to great efforts to set up morning tea at the lookout – just in case passengers were hungry or thirsty.</p> <p>Mike had to drag me away from the Breakaways that day, I was so hypnotised by the other-worldly landscape, but the promise of a close-up view finally got me back on the bus. We drove a short distance to rock formations known as ‘Salt and Pepper’ due to their distinctive colours, or ‘Two Dogs Sitting Down’ to the aboriginal people. Nearby was a peaked hill, known as ‘Wati’ (man), the owner of the dogs, and ‘Sleeping Camel’, a site of great significance to Antakirinja.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7821879/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f9fe68a5f5f74b8a88f8b3903883b92b" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>‘Salt and Pepper’ or ‘Two Dogs Sitting Down’.</em></p> <p>Our next stop was the ‘Dog Fence’ built in the 1880s to protect sheep against dingo attacks. Stretching over 5300km through South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales, it’s the longest fence in the world. Costing about $10 million a year to maintain, the fence has saved farmers many more millions in stock losses.</p> <p>The surrounding terrain is called the ‘Moon Plains’ because of their striking resemblance to a lunar landscape. The earth was littered with gypsum which sparkled in the sun.</p> <p>At lunchtime, Mike deposited us at the entranceway to an underground restaurant in an opal mine, our first taste of Coober Pedy’s famous subterranean lifestyle. Before dining, we had an entertaining drilling and fuse-lighting demonstration by an old-timer named George, aged 76.</p> <p>“The average age of an underground miner these days is around 65 so we are an increasingly-rare breed,” he said.</p> <p>After a delicious lunch served at long tables set up in a series of underground tunnels, we visited the Umoona Opal Mine with guide Jacquie who explained the various types of opal from dark to light, and the way they are mounted. A solid piece of opal can be mounted as is, while thinner pieces, called triplets or doublets, are cemented together on a glass backing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7821880/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/514286bdf1aa48248808d95afd7deb10" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>An opal seam in the wall of the mine.</em></p> <p>Opals are valued according to brilliance, darkness, pattern, colour and shape – the more colour, the higher the value. The black crystal opal is the most rare and valuable.</p> <p>Jacquie also explained the history behind the intriguing name of Coober Pedy, and the reason for the underground dwellings.</p> <p>When opals were found here in 1915, miners came in their droves, many living underground to escape the intense heat and cold. Intrigued by this strange practice, the aboriginal people described the unusual living conditions as ‘kupa piti’ meaning ‘white man in a hole’. The name stuck and the settlement became known as Coober Pedy.</p> <p>One of the hottest places in Australia, summer temperatures often reach 45 degrees Celsius with ground temperatures as high as 65 degrees. In the winter, temperatures can plunge to zero. Underground, the temperatures are around 21-24 degrees year-round meaning no heating and cooling are required which allows for very economical living.</p> <p>Seventy percent of Coober Pedy’s population of 1900 live underground in dwellings dug into hillsides. The houses have normal-looking frontages with wet areas usually located near the entrance due to plumbing requirements but the bulk of the living quarters are underground. Each room has at least one airshaft. In the early days, the dwellings were dug out by hand but now modern drilling machinery is used. The house we toured with Jacquie was really spacious and quite luxurious.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7821881/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/0afe6e7898f0490389e7fdf32ac34b8c" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A modern underground house in Coober Pedy. </em></p> <p>If home-owners need extra space, they just tunnel out an extra room or two. No wall, floor or ceiling materials are needed, and there are minimal windows. The sandstone surfaces are painted with a sealer to combat dust and the end product is a warm rose-maroon colour with a swirly marble effect.</p> <p>“One of the great bonuses of building your house underground in Coober Pedy is that you might find enough opals to finance your construction project,” Jacquie said. There’s little risk of collapse because the gypsum in the rock makes it very strong.</p> <p>In days gone by, explosives used to be so commonplace in Coober Pedy, miners bought them from the local store along with their bread and milk. The drive-in theatre had a sign that read:  ‘The use of explosives are not permitted in the theatre.’ But there was always some wise-crack who let off dynamite on New Year’s Eve, Jacquie said.</p> <p>Later Mike took us on a tour of the town, passing the school with 300 students, 30 teachers and the only swimming pool and library in town, the drive-in theatre, shooting range, race course, power station and a 20-bed hospital where specialists fly in once a month. Pregnant women go to Port Augusta to give birth.</p> <p>We also visited the town’s 18-hole golf course. Officially one of the top 10 most unique golf courses in the world, it’s totally grassless and the ‘greens’ are oiled earth. There’s artificial green turf on which to tee off but otherwise the entire course is dirt and sand. The locals certainly have a sense of humour. A large sign reads: ‘Keep off the grass.’</p> <p>When it’s too hot to play during the day, night golf with illuminated courses and fluorescent balls is a popular option.</p> <p>The course is the only one in the world with reciprocal rights to play at St Andrews but there’s a catch – golfers are only allowed to play there in December-January, mid-winter in Scotland.</p> <p>With an annual rainfall of around 100ml a year, water is a precious resource in Coober Pedy. Water used to be trucked in but since 1967, the town has had the benefit of an artesian water source and a desalinisation plant.</p> <p>The town is self-sufficient in electricity with wind turbines, solar power and diesel back-up.</p> <p>Despite the heat, this harsh arid region has been the location of a number of major movies including Mad Max III, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ground Zero and Pitch Black.</p> <p>Our last stop before heading back to The Ghan was the exquisite St Elijah’s Serbian Orthodox Church built underground in 1993. Guide Peter showed us around his ornately-decorated church tunnelled deep into a hillside.</p> <p>In the 1990s, the Serbian community numbered around 150 but there were other Orthodox people of different nationalities as well, many of whom used to travel to Adelaide for weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies. So they decided to build their own church.</p> <p>The main body of the rectangular building was tunnelled using a square machine but for the ceiling, a rounded machine was used to create the beautiful cinquefoil arch, a striking feature of the church. Decorated with icons from around Australia, New Zealand and Serbia, the stained glass windows and carvings are stunning.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 333.3333333333333px; height: 500px;" src="/media/7821882/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/8789b1f0b53e4d678c6731d335d377f8" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The stained glass windows and carvings at St Elijah’s Serbian Orthodox Church church are stunning.</em></p> <p>Despite the bumpy ride back ‘home’, a few passengers nodded off on the bus.</p> <p>As we neared the train, Mike took us to the opposite side from where passengers usually embark and disembark for a rare photo opportunity of the full-length Ghan in the desert, without hundreds of people in the way. A magnificent sight, one that will stay with me forever.</p> <p>In the distance, I noticed a fire near the train. I drew it to Mike’s attention but he just winked. The fire in question turned out to be a sunset bonfire with canapés and drinks against a backdrop of the lantern-lit Ghan, our home for the last three days. Such a delightful surprise for passengers on our last night, and a perfect way to farewell The Ghan.</p> <p>Standing around the fire in the dusty clothes we’d worn all day made for a wonderfully informal occasion where everyone chatted about the highlights of their Ghan experience. As I looked around at the animated faces of people who had been strangers a few short days ago, I had a deep sense of happiness and joie de vivre.</p> <p>Lanterns on railway sleepers lit the way back to my carriage where Aaron was waiting patiently in the chilly evening to tick his list and count heads.</p> <p>I had a wonderful time over dinner with three other women who had by now become my good friends. We toasted the merits of solo travel and decided there was no better way to meet like-minded people.</p> <p>Our last dinner was superb – prawn and pork dumplings with sesame seed salad and orange caviar followed by tender lamb back strap with a dessert of chocolate and peanut butter delice with macadamia toffee brittle and berry sorbet.</p> <p>Later in the evening, restaurant manager Nick joined us in the bar and recited a beautiful poem he had written about The Ghan. It brought tears to my eyes.</p> <p>As I settled to sleep, rocked by the familiar motion of the train, the thought of disembarking in Adelaide the next day brought a lump to my throat...</p> <p><em>To be continued . . .</em></p> <p><em>FACTBOX:</em></p> <p><em>* The Ghan Expedition is a 2979km four-day, three-night train journey through the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>*Justine travelled courtesy of international rail specialists Rail Plus and Great Southern Rail.</em></p> <p><em>* Visit <a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/australia-by-rail/australias-great-train-journeys/the-ghan-expedition/ghan-expedition-prices-book.htm"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Rail Plus</strong></span></a> for more information on The Ghan and <span><a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/</a> </span>for other epic train adventures around the world.</em></p> <p><em>*A veteran of many rail journeys organised through Rail Plus, I’ve also travelled on the Indian Pacific (see my series of four stories <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/domestic-travel/what-it-s-like-travelling-across-australia-on-board-the-indian-pacific"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>here</strong></span></a>); and the <a href="https://www.oversixty.co.nz/travel/domestic-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>TranzAlpine</strong></span></a></em><em><a href="https://www.oversixty.co.nz/travel/domestic-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine">.</a> </em></p> <p><em>*Rail Plus has a dedicated team of experts to advise you on Great Train Journeys all around the world including the <a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/the-blue-train/prices-book.htm"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Blue Train</strong></span></a> in South </em><span><em>Africa</em></span><em> that runs between Cape Town's monolithic Table Mountain and the jacaranda-lined streets of Pretoria. </em></p>

International Travel

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See Australia: The bucket-list worthy walking track

<p>The Murray River Walk is a four-day guided walk that combines hiking and houseboating along a 40-kilometre stretch of the Murray River between Renmark in South Australia and the Victorian border. While you’re wandering along river banks, across flood plains and through forests of red gums, a houseboat named Desire motors upriver to meet you with chilled wine and canapés at the end of each day. It’s a luxurious way to walk the walk, with hot showers, a top-deck spa and water views at every turn, including the five double bedrooms and two bathrooms, spacious lounge and dining area.</p> <p>The food is a highlight, a showcase of local produce and native ingredients – Murray River scallops, kangaroo, yabbies, Riverland beef and lamb, quandong desserts and salads of samphire and native greens foraged during the day, as well as platters of emu pâté, olives, cheeses, chutneys, nuts and sundried fruits. Evening meals are presented degustation-style, with matched Riverland wines.</p> <p>Walking is easy, more of a stroll than a trek along mostly level ground, covering between 10 and 15 kilometres each day. There are frequent stops as your guides show you the scars on trees where canoes, shields, woomeras and coolamons were cut from the bark by the Erawirung people, point out middens and cutting tools scattered in the undergrowth and the charcoal remains of ancient cooking hearths. There are plenty of stories of the paddle-steamer days, too, when hundreds of boats and barges plied the river, ferrying wool and supplies to the stations and ports along the waterway, with rusting relics and half-submerged wrecks. You’ll also learn how irrigation and water management has changed the landscape along one of our most highly regulated rivers with its system of dams, locks and weirs</p> <p>The route meanders across two historic properties, Calperum and Bunyip Reach stations; the Murray River Walk has exclusive access, so you won’t see any other walkers. You will see plenty of kangaroos, skinks and, if you’re lucky, a shy echidna or two. Pelicans are constant companions, as are elegant egrets and slightly goofy spoonbills perched in treetops, cormorants and darters drying their wings on half-drowned branches and whistling kites riding the thermals. Ducks patrol the shallows and emus flounce across the floodplains, feathered skirts fluttering.</p> <p>You’ll spend almost as much time on the river as you do on land, exploring anabranches and backwaters in an aluminium cruiser, negotiating locks and stickybeaking at historic customs houses and old shearing sheds, including a barbecue lunch and beer stop at Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery on the last day. As far as walking holidays go, it’s pretty cruisy.</p> <p><strong>WHERE IS IT?</strong></p> <p>The walk begins and ends in Renmark, 256km east of Adelaide, around a 3-hour drive east of Adelaide.</p> <p><strong>WHY GO?</strong></p> <p>Cruising and gourmet food.</p> <p><strong>WHEN TO GO?</strong></p> <p>Walking season is May to the end of September.</p> <p><strong>HOW LONG?</strong></p> <p>4 days.</p> <p><em>This is an edited extract from </em>Australia’s Best Nature Escapes <em>by Lee Atkinson published by Hardie Grant Books [39.99] and is available in stores nationally.</em></p> <p><em>Photographer: © Lee Atkinson</em></p> <p><em><img style="width: 250px !important; height: 300px !important;" src="/media/7821835/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/411059142cf548be950fc4f94d8782c4" /></em></p>

International Travel

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Guess what's the biggest germ culprit at the airport?

<p>You’re all packed for your overseas holiday and you’re doing a last-minute check before catching a taxi to the airport. Passport? Check. Travel insurance? Check. Hand sanitiser? Wait, what?</p> <p><strong>Just one more thing to remember</strong></p> <p>As if packing for a holiday is not stressful enough, now you have to make sure you don’t forget the hand sanitiser when you’re heading to the airport for your overseas trip.</p> <p>Here’s why.</p> <p>According to a new study published in the <span><em><a href="https://bmcinfectdis.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/s12879-018-3150-5">BMC Infectious Diseases</a></em></span> journal by experts from the University of Nottingham in the UK and the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, the biggest culprit for spreading germs in airports is the plastic tray where you place your personal items as you pass through security checks.</p> <p>Yes, you read that right.</p> <p>Your phone, wallet, keys, laptop, jacket and various other accoutrements have to share a snug, germ-filled receptacle.</p> <p>The team came to this conclusion after swabbing different surfaces at Helsinki-Vantaa airport in Helsinki, Finland, during the winter of 2016.</p> <p>The most common virus detected in the study was the rhinovirus, the cause of the common cold.</p> <p>There were also traces of the Influenza A virus.</p> <p>Other germ-filled culprits include shop payment terminals, staircase rails, passport checking counters, children’s play areas and even in the air.</p> <p>One of the study’s authors advises that “people can help minimise contagion by hygienic hand washing and coughing into a handkerchief, tissue or sleeve at all times but especially in public places.”</p> <p>Or you can keep a travel-size bottle of hand sanitiser handy and clean your hands every time you touch common surfaces.</p> <p>Just remember, if you’re bringing a bottle in your carry-on luggage, make sure you adhere to the rules on liquids and gels – the maximum size for each container is 100ml.</p> <p><em>Written by Siti Rohani. This article first appeared in <span><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/healthsmart/conditions/flu/guess-whats-biggest-germ-culprit-airport">Reader’s Digest</a></span>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <span><a href="https://www.isubscribe.com.au/Readers-Digest-Magazine-Subscription.cfm">here’s our best subscription offer</a></span>.</em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

International Travel

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Discovering Australia: Visit the world’s largest river red gum forest

<p>Barmah National Park, together with parks on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, protects the largest river red gum forest in the world.</p> <p>Call into the Barmah Forest Heritage Centre in Nathalia before you visit to glean all sorts of interesting things, such as that it wasn’t just woodcutting and riverboating that were the lifeblood of these riverside towns last century – apparently leech collecting for medicinal bloodletting was once big business, too. The hardy harvesters would walk through the swamps collecting the bloodsuckers on their legs for the princely sum of one shilling per pound – a hard way to make a living!</p> <p>You can camp anywhere you like along much of the 112-kilometre river front in this national park, but the free campground at Barmah Lakes has toilets and tables and lots of room to move. It’s a great place to launch a kayak and explore the river, although be careful: the current is stronger than it looks. It’s also a good spot to fish, particularly for the famed Murray cod. You will need a New South Wales fishing licence to fish the Murray River, even though you are technically on the</p> <p>Victorian side of the border. Also worth your while is the two-hour cruise along the narrowest and fastest flowing section of the Murray through the wetlands – home to almost 900 species of wildlife – and red gum forests. Cruises depart from the Barmah Lakes picnic area.</p> <p>For more river cruising, take a drive to nearby Echuca (40 kilometres west of the campground), the self-proclaimed paddle steamer capital of the country. During the river port’s boom days in the 1880s, when the Murray River was the only way to transport goods from the remote inland settlements to the coastal ports, hundreds of paddle steamers loaded and unloaded their cargo at the historic wharf. Echuca still has the world’s largest collection of working paddle steamers, some more than a century old, including the PS Adelaide built in 1886 and the PS Pevensey, made famous in the 1980s TV series <em>All the Rivers Run</em>. A river cruise is the most popular thing to do in town and there are several cruise options – head down to the wharf to check sailing times. Before you go, drop into the Echuca Historical Society Museum to see the old river charts that the riverboat captains used to navigate the river. They’re hand drawn on long linen scrolls; sometimes all the captains had to go on was a picture of a tree on a bend. The museum is in the old police lock-up and has a huge collection of old photos and memorabilia from the riverboat era.</p> <p><strong>Where is it?</strong></p> <p>Barmah National Park lies along the Murray River between the towns of Barmah and Strathmerton, about 225km north of Melbourne.</p> <p><strong>Why go?</strong></p> <p>Camping and scenery</p> <p><strong>When to go?</strong></p> <p>Relatively mild, the Barmah forests are a good year-round destination, although winter is generally wetter than summer. The park sometimes floods after heavy rain, so check current conditions on the national parks website (see below) before travelling.</p> <p><strong>How long?</strong></p> <p>2-3 days</p> <p><em>This is an edited extract from </em>Australia’s Best Nature Escapes<em> by</em><em> Lee Atkinson published by Hardie Grant Books [39.99] and is available in stores nationally.</em></p> <p><em>Photographer: © Lee Atkinson </em></p> <p><img style="width: 250px !important; height: 300px !important;" src="/media/7821757/australias-best-nature-escapes-cvr.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f93accc9ea374a19945367220d612101" /></p>

International Travel

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Travelling on The Ghan: Confronting my fear of snakes in Australia’s Red Centre

<p><em>Justine Tyerman continues her series about The Ghan Expedition, a 2979km four-day, three-night train journey through the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. On Day 2, she wears long pants and socks and shoes, not sandals and definitely not jandals, on a hot day in Alice Springs.</em></p> <p>After narrowly missing the spectacle of an Aussie bushfire by showering at precisely the wrong moment on my first evening on The Ghan, I slept with my venetian blinds open for the entire four-day, three-night trip for fear of missing another dramatic sight. I was rewarded with beautiful moonlit scenes of vast deserts, dry riverbeds, distant ranges and silvery light flickering behind gum trees.</p> <p>My hospitality attendant Aaron knocked on our cabin doors early on Day 2 to make sure we were up, breakfasted and ready for our day in and around Alice Springs, Australia’s most famous Outback town.</p> <p>Dawn was magical as the bright light of the huge desert sun gradually illuminated Australia’s ‘Red Centre’ and the land began to glow. I loved watching the dark shadow of the train flickering across the terracotta terrain. It’s moments like these I wish I had a drone to view The Ghan tracking across the landscape from above. The area was dead flat like the Nullarbor Plain, but with trees.</p> <p>Breakfast in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant was a feast beginning with tropical juice and a choice of cereals, muesli, yoghurt, barramundi benedict, a full breakfast with everything - bacon, sausages, baked beans, tomatoes, spinach and eggs every way you could think of . . . or white chocolate and lychee pancakes.</p> <p>“I’ll diet next week,” I promised myself as I tucked into the pancakes.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 375px; height: 500px;" src="/media/7821700/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/76ef54f2335f4bc7866b1b70525c1d79" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>White chocolate and lychee pancakes for breakfast.</em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">I offered one to the farmers from South Australia I was sharing a table with but they were already having trouble getting through a full breakfast and barramundi benedict.</p> <p>At every meal, I added to my general knowledge about Australia. This salt-of-the-earth couple were producing special merino wool with a low itch-factor. Amazing!</p> <p>After breakfast, Aaron came to check on my kit for the day. We had been advised to wear long pants, socks and covered-in footwear but I hadn’t really given much thought to the reasoning behind it.</p> <p>“It’s for snake protection,” Aaron said cheerfully.</p> <p>Noticing the look of horror on my face, he added: “This IS the Northern Territory and this IS snake season.”</p> <p>I toyed with the idea of opting for the bus trip to the School of the Air, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Base and the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame instead of a day hiking in snake country but Aaron eyed me and hinted that would be ‘wussy’.</p> <p>“Just stamp your feet as you walk, stay in the middle of the bunch, and you’ll be fine,” he said.</p> <p>So I ‘womaned-up’, put on extra-thick socks and long-pants, faced my worst fears and had a brilliant day hiking.</p> <p>It was forecast to be a mere 32 degrees so the day was not too scorching hot.</p> <p>Disembarking at Alice Springs, we were greeted by an impressive bronze statue of an Afghan cameleer.</p> <p>The plaque told us that work on the planned railway from Adelaide to Darwin began in 1878 assisted by hardy Afghans and their camels that ferried passengers, food, supplies and freight to Alice Springs. When the railway reached Alice in 1929, the train became known as The Afghan Express and later The Ghan.</p> <p>The township of Alice Springs began life in 1871 as a repeater station along the Overland Telegraph Line. Alice is just 200km south of the geographical centre of Australia - halfway between Darwin and Adelaide, literally the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia. The economy is based on tourism, farming, gas and mining.</p> <p>Called ‘Mpwante’ by the indigenous Arrernte people, the area has been inhabited by them for around 40,000 years. The population is 28,000 of whom 20 percent are aboriginal.</p> <p>Our coach driver Andrew was an excellent guide with extensive knowledge of the region, especially the flora and fauna, from his days as a nurseryman.</p> <p>Our first stop was a historical site at the foot of Mt Gillen - a memorial to John Flynn (1880-1951), a Presbyterian minister whose vision was to construct ‘a mantle of safety over the Outback’. Flynn founded the Australian Inland Mission to bring medical, social and religious services to isolated Outback communities. In 1928, he set up the first flying doctor base in Cloncurry, Queensland, and soon after, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world's first air ambulance, was born.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 329.0909090909091px;" src="/media/7821702/1.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/6b433b8350b94ca4bb7264141399581e" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A memorial to Rev John Flynn who set up the first flying doctor base in Cloncurry, Queensland in 1928. Soon after, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the world's first air ambulance, was born.</em></p> <p>Andrew then led us on a nature walk, talking about points of interest such as the parallel MacDonnell Ranges formed 350 million years ago.</p> <p>He said deliberate controlled burning in the cooler months dated back to ancient times - it triggers the germination of species called fire weeds such as wattles or acacia. Buffel grass was introduced in 1961 as stock food but is now a pest, strangling other grasses.<br /><br />We came across a corkwood tree over 300 years old. Protected from extreme temperatures and bushfires by its thick bark, the Arrernte people make a paste from the ash of the burnt bark to heal wounds and even relieve teething pain.</p> <p>We stood beneath a beautiful 200-year-old ghost gum with a pure white trunk and branches. It survives in such arid conditions because of its far-reaching roots that extend sideways as far as the leaf canopy, seeking underground water.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7821703/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/bee3553f5d244aedb796a239c3618017" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A ghost gum at sunset at the Alice Springs Overland Telegraph Station.</em></p> <p>As I gazed skyward at the giant tree, Andrew casually said he spotted four snakes at the base of the tree yesterday.</p> <p>Seeing the look on my face, Lisa, who accompanied us from The Ghan, said:</p> <p>“Don’t worry Justine. Aussie snakes are scaredy-cats. They hide from people, not like South African snakes which are aggressive and come after you.”</p> <p>‘Note to self – do NOT go to South Africa.’</p> <p>The next part of the expedition took us up to the Cassia Hill Lookout with stunning views of the Alice Valley, Heavitree Range and Simpson’s Gap. The arid, rocky terrain looked very snaky to me so I stayed with the group and stamped all the way to the top of the hill, much to the amusement of a chap from Brisbane who said he had a king brown living under a rock in his garden.</p> <p>“Yes, it’s venomous,” he replied to my obvious question, “but it’s been there for years and doesn’t bother me.”</p> <p>“Really?” I replied, incredulous.</p> <p>“Yep. They’re also known as mulga snakes – there are large stands of mulga around these parts.”</p> <p>Gulp!</p> <p>An Aussie couple piped up saying they found a highly poisonous brown snake in bag of garden bark the other day, and chopped its head off with a spade.</p> <p>I made it to the top of the hill safely and was so fascinated by the geology of the area, I forgot all about snakes. The ancient rust-stained ranges surrounding us were the sandy bottom of an inland sea about 900 million years ago. Over time, enormous pressure from within the earth slowly raised the sea floor causing the water to drain away.</p> <p>The schist rock we were standing on was 1600 million years old, one of the oldest rock formations in Australia.</p> <p>The last of our hikes was to the spectacular Simpson’s Gap, a deep gash in the mountain range 60 million years in the making. Known to the Arrernte people as ‘Rungutjirpa’, the gap is the mythological home of their giant goanna ancestors and the site of several Dreaming trails.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 500px;" src="/media/7821704/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/cf0ec7d82ecf4a1a80feed754f3c5caf" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Simpsons Gap from the top of Cassia Hill.</em></p> <p>The first Europeans to explore the gap were the surveyors for the Overland Telegraph Line who came upon the area while searching for a route north from Alice Springs. It was named Simpsons Gap after A. A. Simpson, President of the South Australian branch of the Royal Geographical Society.  The Simpson Desert was also named in his honour.</p> <p>As we hiked along a path beside a dry riverbed, the rock walls began to close in on us until the canyon narrowed to a cleft just a few metres wide. The track came to an end at a deep pool which, in years gone by, fed into Roe Creek, the dry riverbed of which we had just walked alongside. The craggy red rock faces soaring high above us on both sides glowed in the reflected light of the pool, and from some angles, overlapped and intersected, casting deep shadows.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 375px; height: 500px;" src="/media/7821705/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b66037c4563c4c1f801c7d9bd2e6f389" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Justine at the pool at Simpsons Gap. Note the long pants, covered-in shoes and long-sleeved shirt on a hot day - snake protection!</em></p> <p>It was deliciously cool in the shade so I lingered there a while, absorbing the spell-binding atmosphere and tranquillity of the place. As my fingers traced the crevices of the ancient rocks, I wondered what stories they could tell after 60 million years. I felt a deep sense of reverence for ‘Rungutjirpa’.</p> <p>I took my time heading back to the bus, hoping to see signs of the colony of black-footed rock wallabies that inhabit a rocky outcrop below a cliff face. Only about half a metre tall and well-camouflaged, they’re hard to spot but after a while, I fancied I saw something hopping. I claimed it as a wallaby sighting anyway.</p> <p> A pair of statuesque rock pinnacles stood nearby as if guarding the colony. They looked like huge man-made sculptures, hewn from the rock.</p> <p>An information board about the 240km Larapinta Trail, one of Australia’s newest and most popular trails, took my eye. I’d love to spend more time exploring this magnificent landscape, and now I’ve (almost) overcome my snake phobia, it’s entirely possible. Looking back on the day, I saw little scenery at first because I was so conscious of scanning the terrain and watching my footing but after a while I relaxed and forgot all about my fears.</p> <p>We had a late lunch at the Alice Springs Desert Park where passengers who did not want to hike watched a free-flight bird show, met resident dingoes, visited desert animals of the night at the nocturnal house and learned about the flora, fauna and geology of the area.</p> <p>After freshening up back at The Ghan, coaches transferred us to the historic Alice Springs Telegraph Station for dinner under a canopy of stars, entertained by a trio playing popular hits, country and western and trained-themed songs.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="/media/7821707/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/340e42d11148435ea29ce3a95e3d92ab" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The historic Alice Springs Overland Telegraph Station, our venue for dinner under the stars.</em></p> <p>Our brilliant chefs from The Ghan prepared an absolutely delicious feast starting with chicken and leak pie entrée with a bush chutney and paw paw salad, followed by a main course of succulent beef tenderloins, jacket potatoes, salads and roast vegetables, and desserts of pavlova, chocolate brownies and cheeses and dried fruits.</p> <p>The wines, as always on The Ghan and her sister train, the Indian Pacific, were sensational but the Wolf Blass Pinot Sparkling Chardonnay had an extra effervescence that night.</p> <p>After two days of mixing and mingling, I was surrounded by familiar faces, and the sense of joie de vivre and bonhomie was infectious. People were dancing, singing, riding the resident camels, watching a blacksmith at work and exploring the beautiful stone buildings of the historic telegraph station.</p> <p>Sylvia from Barcelona, one of my new friends, had taken the opportunity to fly to Uluru for the day, an optional extra offered on The Ghan. She was ecstatic about the experience, something I’ll hopefully do on my next trip to Australia.</p> <p>Later in the evening, as the stars began to twinkle in the clearest sky in years, an astronomer named Dan gave us a guided tour of the night sky. Armed with a powerful laser beam, he pointed out the Southern Cross, Milky Way, Saturn, Pluto, Neptune, Mars, Venus and many of the constellations. Peppered with inimitable Aussie humour, it was informative and highly entertaining.</p> <p>Before the night was over, I strolled around the station and learned about the obstacles faced by pioneer Sir Charles Todd and his team in constructing the Overland Telegraph Line that linked Australia to the world.</p> <p>The 2900km line extended from Port Augusta in South Australia, to Palmerston (now Darwin) in the Northern Territory, along a route closely following that of explorer John McDouall Stuart. Construction of the line with its 36,000 poles began in 1871 and was completed in just 23 months, opening in August 1872. It linked with an underwater cable network to London, meaning that communications that had once taken 120 days to arrive by ship now took only 48 hours.</p> <p>The Alice Springs Telegraph Station was established in 1871 and was one of 12 along the line. The station operated 24 hours a day and was basically self-sufficient, relying on provisions arriving from the south only once a year. Sheep, goats, cattle and their own vegetable garden ensured adequate food and the blacksmith made much of their equipment.</p> <p>The station ceased operation in 1932 when it was replaced by more modern facilities in town. Since its closure, the station has been used as an education centre for part-aboriginal children from 1932-42; wartime army base during World War 2; and an aboriginal reserve from 1945-1963.</p> <p>The barracks, post and telegraph office, Morse code machines, station master’s residence and kitchen, and outbuildings such as the harness, buggy shed, battery room, and shoeing yard were fascinating.</p> <p>I enjoyed reading about the camel trains that carted supplies from the railhead at Oodnadatta to Alice Springs before the railway was completed in 1929. The trip took two weeks, each camel carrying 250kg. Caravans of 50 camels were a regular occurrence delivering supplies to the station. What an awesome sight that would have been.</p> <p>There’s still a registered, operational post office at the station and all mail posted in the original red postbox is stamped with the Alice Springs Telegraph Station Commemorative Franking Stamp.</p> <p>Back on The Ghan, my brain and senses were so over-stimulated by the events and sights of the day, I expected to have trouble getting to sleep that night but the rocking motion of the train lulled me to slumber-land in no time. No doubt the chocolate fudge on my pillow from Aaron helped too. We had another early start the following day for our Coober Pedy excursions so I needed the rest.</p> <p>To be continued . . </p> <p><em>FACTBOX:</em></p> <p><em>* The Ghan Expedition is a 2979km four-day, three-night train journey through the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia from Darwin to Adelaide.</em></p> <p><em>Justine travelled courtesy of international rail specialists Rail Plus and Great Southern Rail.</em></p> <p><em>* Visit <a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/australia-by-rail/australias-great-train-journeys/the-ghan-expedition/ghan-expedition-prices-book.htm">Rail Plus</a> for more information on The Ghan and <span><a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/</a></span>  for other epic train adventures around the world.</em></p> <p><em>*A veteran of many rail journeys organised through Rail Plus, I’ve also travelled on the Indian Pacific (see my series of four stories here); and the <a href="https://www.oversixty.co.nz/travel/domestic-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine">TranzAlpine</a>.<span></span></em></p> <p><em>Rail Plus has a dedicated team of experts to advise you on Great Train Journeys all around the world including the <a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/great-train-journeys/belmond-andean-explorer-peru/prices-info.htm">Belmond Andean Explorer</a> in Peru </em><em>another epic train journey that’s on my to-do list. The trip traverses some of the most magnificent scenery in the world - from Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire; crossing the highest plains of the Andes; to the reflective beauty of Lake Titicaca; the vast Colca Canyon and the city centre of Arequipa, a UNESCO World Heritage site. </em></p>

International Travel

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When Harry met Harry

<p>It was a case of “When Harry Met Harry” when Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s visit to New Zealand kicked off with an adorable exchange yesterday.  </p> <p>In the crowd, waiting for a glimpse of the royal couple who were visiting Pukeahu National War Memorial in Wellington to lay wreaths, was a ginger-haired seven-year-old holding up a sign painted in bright green, which read, “Hi Harry, I'm Harry.”</p> <p>There was more than a passing resemblance as the Duke of Sussex stopped to greet young Harry who was sporting a vibrant blue bow tie at the front of the reported 5000-strong crowd gathered behind barricades. According to the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6325731/Best-dressed-man-moment-Prince-Harry-meets-seven-year-old-bow-tie-wearing-doppelganger.html" target="_blank">Daily Mail</a>, the Prince went as far as to say that the boy was the “best dressed man here".</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" width="698" height="573" scrolling="no" id="molvideoplayer" title="MailOnline Embed Player" src="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/embed/video/1791640.html"></iframe></p> <p>The little Harry told the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/prince-harry-meets-mini-me-harry" target="_blank">Otago Daily Times</a>  that the Prince noted they had the same colour hair and praised his bow tie.</p> <p>“He said, ‘I like your bow tie and you're a redhead too.’ He asked if I painted the sign and how old I was,” he said.</p> <p>Nicola Smith, Harry’s mum, said that the 34-year-old royal was “really chatty to us and spent time speaking to us,” and that her love of the Royals had “rubbed off” on her son.</p> <p>When asked by the publication if it had been worth the journey to Wellington from the Kapiti Coast for a chance to see the royals, the little Harry was unequivocal, saying "Yup, definitely.”</p>

International Travel