CAMPER’S NICE TRY
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; email@example.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.