A breath of best air

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Destination Afloat - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

TAK­ING the cure, they used to call it, in the heady days be­fore well­ness spas. It meant to bathe in health-giv­ing springs, par­tic­u­larly in places such as New Zealand, the first coun­try to op­er­ate a min­istry of tourism. Its de­part­ment of tourist and health re­sorts was es­tab­lished in Ro­torua in 1901 and within its pro­mo­tional spiel was the claim that min­eral wa­ters were so mirac­u­lous that ‘‘crip­ples throw away their crutches . . . the gouty man re­gains his health’’.

Old-fash­ioned feel­good hol­i­days also meant head­ing for the hills, where higher al­ti­tude promised air as crisp as crack­ers and big views to lift one’s spir­its. In the Blue Moun­tains, west of Syd­ney, they once sold in­vig­o­rat­ing air in cans, so in times of wheezy need back down on the plains you could tear the seal, gulp greed­ily and per­haps thump your oxy­genated chest like a chimp.

Mean­while, an en­tre­pre­neur in China has started spruik­ing canned fresh air ‘‘with at­mo­spheric flavours’’ in­clud­ing ‘‘pris­tine Ti­bet’’ and sales of pol­lu­tion masks are boom­ing as Bei­jing hos­pi­tals report a sharp rise in res­pi­ra­tory-re­lated ad­mis­sions; last month, vis­i­bil­ity in the cap­i­tal dropped to record lows.

In all of this smoggy hor­ror, there is surely a new mar­ket­ing pitch for cruise com­pa­nies — all that briny sea air is good for us. What could be more health-giv­ing and happy-mak­ing than to be on the deck of an ocean liner, lean­ing on the rails, breath­ing deeply. Most cruise ships have a wrap­around prom­e­nade deck so walk­ers and jog­gers can get plenty of unim­peded ex­er­cise. Un­for­tu­nately, some such cir­cuits wind through the smok­ing zones in the recre­ation ar­eas, which makes for a less healthy pas­sage.

My strat­egy is al­ways to prom­e­nade in the early evening, when the smok­ers and the fun­sters are in their cab­ins get­ting ready for din­ner and the crew are stack­ing sun loungers. The sting is gone from the sun and the hori­zon is of­ten blushed pink. Many pas­sen­gers in the know do like­wise, although the cans they hold to toast the sun­set may not nec­es­sar­ily be full of fresh air.

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