CAMPER’S NICE TRY

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

OUT­DOOR types who have had their share of one-sided strug­gles with tent pegs and gas stoves that won’t light can take heart from a re­cent con­fes­sion from for­mer rugby league great and out­door en­thu­si­ast Andrew Et­ting­shausen.

De­par­ture Lounge’s col­league Barry Oliver caught up with ET at a launch of Cole­man’s latest out­doors ac­ces­sories on Syd­ney Har­bour’s Rodd Is­land.

The guest of hon­our re­called the day he was try­ing to im­press his wife-to-be on her first camp­ing trip. The tent went up with­out prob­lems, and a happy ET de­parted for a game of ten­nis with his beloved. When the wind picked up, he was un­con­cerned, hav­ing faith in his hand­i­work, un­til he re­turned to find their home for the night in a tree. That wasn’t the end of it: when the tent was back on land, it started to leak dur­ing a down­pour. The footy leg­end knew when he was beaten: the cou­ple spent the night in their car.

Th­ese days, ET is a dab hand at keep­ing fe­males happy in the great out­doors: he has four daugh­ters and claims he has con­vinced them that camp­ing is bet­ter than stay­ing at five-star ho­tels.

LOUNGE is eas­ily be­fud­dled when it comes to com­bi­na­tions of tricky out­doorsy things like tent pegs and sleep­ing bags but is not as dis­mis­sive of fresh air as satirist and travel writer-at-large P. J. O’Rourke who once ob­served that if the out­doors is so swell, why aren’t the home­less more fond of it. Oh dear.

O’Rourke has also writ­ten, ‘‘ Per­son­ally, I be­lieve a rock­ing ham­mock, a good ci­gar, and a tall gin-and-tonic is the way to save the planet.’’ So Lounge guesses there’s no point ask­ing him for do­na­tions to save Tas­ma­nia’s Egg Is­lands. Inside the latest is­sue of the global jus­tice mag­a­zineNew In­ter­na­tion­al­ist is a flyer from the Tas­ma­nian Land Con­ser­vancy ask­ing for funds to pur­chase the bulk of private land on th­ese two is­lands in the es­tu­ary of the Huon River, 30 min­utes south of Ho­bart.

Two-thirds of the pur­chase price has been pledged from the fed­eral Gov­ern­ment’s na­tional re­serve sys­tem pro­gram but an ad­di­tional $200,000 is re­quired. The is­lands cover 430ha, of which 279ha is al­ready a con­ser­va­tion area, pub­lic re­serve and un­al­lo­cated crown land. If the re­main­ing wet­lands and grass­lands were set aside as a pro­tected con­ser­va­tion re­serve, en­dan­gered and vul­ner­a­ble species and their habi­tats would be man­aged. Ac­cord­ing to pro­fes­sor Richard Kings­ford of the Univer­sity of NSW’s school of bi­o­log­i­cal, earth and en­vi­ron­ment sci­ences, Aus­tralasian bit­terns would be among the chief ben­e­fi­cia­ries.

Th­ese shy birds, with ‘‘ a tal­ent for cam­ou­flage and a loud, boom­ing call’’ are thought to have been the ori­gin of the Abo­rig­i­nal leg­end of the bun­yip. Do­na­tions to Tas­ma­nian Land Con­ser­vancy, PO Box 2112, Lower Sandy Bay, 7005.

IT’S not all that usual for five-star ho­tels to get be­hind wor­thy causes but Lang­ham Ho­tel Melbourne is do­nat­ing a por­tion of the tar­iff for its new Who’s Been Sleep­ing in My Bed pack­age to the Olivia New­ton-John Can­cer Cen­tre Ap­peal. The deal, from $330 for two un­til De­cem­ber 30, has a host of in­clu­sions, in­clud­ing break­fast, park­ing, late check­out and three toy bears, all of whom would sleep much bet­ter in a Lang­ham Bliss­ful Bed than the furry crea­tures of Goldilocks fame.

One guest a pack­age has a chance to win a Lang­ham sig­na­ture bed, in­clud­ing all bed­ding, val­ued at $4900. Quick, some­one alert the Et­ting­shausen girls. 1800 041 107; re­stres@lang­hamho­tels.com.

AN owner of a small hol­i­day cot­tage in the NSW Blue Moun­tains, west of Syd­ney, has come up with a neat so­lu­tion for small ac­com­mo­da­tion op­er­a­tors around Aus­tralia. Karen West has set up a book­ing site, www.can­cel­la­tions.com.au, that lists prop­er­ties of all sizes. West’s ini­tia­tive is in re­sponse to the re­stric­tions of the main­stream last-minute ac­com­mo­da­tion sites, which do not list es­tab­lish­ments with fewer than four rooms. Lounge fired up a Blue Moun­tains search and found 20 op­tions, with cot­tages from as lit­tle as $110 a night. The site is easy to nav­i­gate, with pic­tures of each list­ing; it’s free for ‘‘ small ac­com­mo­da­tion play­ers’’ to join, with no other fees.

‘‘ I AM mad as hell and I’m not go­ing to take it any more. Dagnab­bit, gimme that mouse . . .’’ That’s Travel & In­dul­gence’s hap­pily ec­cen­tric Hong Kong-based sleuth, Vi­jay Vergh­ese of Smart Travel Asia speak­ing. He’s try­ing to mo­ti­vate us to click on to his web­site and vote for our travel favourites. As he so elo­quently puts it, ‘‘ You’ve been X-rayed half to death at air­ports, sam­pled divine spas where they scrubbed your skin un­til your ap­pen­dix showed, and pulled your hair out at ‘ cen­trally lo­cated’ ho­tels parked on dis­tant eight-lane ex­press­ways.’’

Enough, al­ready. There are cat­e­gories such as: best air­line, cabin ser­vice, busi­ness ho­tel, re­sort, spa ho­tel, con­fer­ence ho­tel, air­port, bud­get air­line and des­ti­na­tion. Sounds very ther­a­peu­tic to Lounge , who would dearly love to vote for the worst. www.smarttrav­elasia.com.

LOUNGE has had a long love af­fair with In­dia but rarely has to ex­plain her­self to scep­tics any more. The cries from naysay­ers of too germ-laden have turned to queries about which con­verted palace-ho­tel has the finest spa. Re­cent Aus­tralian Bureau of Sta­tis­tics data shows de­par­tures from down un­der have in­creased four-fold since 1997. Baby boomers are the big­gest fans, claims Lin­coln Har­ris of In­dia Un­bound. He has been lead­ing groups there for the past six years and says about 80 per cent of his clients are aged 50-65.

Har­ris reck­ons that ma­ture groups ‘‘ know how to re­lax when the time comes, to en­joy a view or a sun­set, to soak it up, and not just un­think­ingly move on to the next sight or ac­tiv­ity’’. Lounge is keen to see if the Taj Mahal makes the list of the new seven won­ders of the world, to be an­nounced in Lis­bon on July 7. It’s one of 20 con­tenders, in­clud­ing the Syd­ney Opera House. www.in­di­aun­bound.com.au. www.new7won­ders.com.

LOUNGE loves: Mir­vac’s Quay Grand Suites at Syd­ney’s Cir­cu­lar Quay pops a list of sight­see­ing tips un­der guests’ doors each day. www.mir­va­cho­tels.com.au.

Vibe Ho­tels has re­leased an­other ti­tle in its two-disc CD se­ries of groovy tunes (cool vibes, sup­poses Lounge, judg­ing from the line-up: Fat­boy Slim, Jamiro­quai, Black Eyed Peas, and al­most 30 more). For $29.95 from mu­sic stores or free to guests who book a win­ter stay un­til Au­gust 30 (from $139) at a Vibe ho­tel in Syd­ney or Melbourne or on the Gold Coast. www.vibeho­tels.com.au.

LOUNGE loathes: Why are Aus­tralian pass­port hold­ers is­sued with a new num­ber for each re­newal? The old and mouldy, like Lounge, may well take 10 years to re­mem­ber their lengthy pass­port num­bers, only to then have to mem­o­rise a new one.

Driv­ers’ li­cence num­bers don’t change; why should pass­ports?

DEALS OF THE WEEK

WHAT’S in store for the just-sold QE2? A preg­nant pause for mums (and dads) in wait­ing. Save on Euro­pean ho­tels as the north­ern sum­mer hots up. Tai­lor-made travel in In­dia, from river raft­ing to camel sa­faris. All th­ese newsy snip­pets, bar­gain specials and more are fea­tured in Travel&In­dul­gence ’ s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily at www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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