The lure of the un­know­able

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KURO­SAWA

HAV­ING had my fill of stay­ca­tion (De­par­ture Lounge, Jan­uary 24-25), now I dis­cover there is a new made-up non­sense known as a runcation. It is a va­ca­tion dur­ing which you run and run, which clearly is not of the re­stand-re­lax­ation va­ri­ety so, quite frankly, why bother.

I am far more pleased at the prospect of in­vent­ing places, which is what The New York Times has just done, cre­at­ing an in­ter­net sen­sa­tion by mis­tak­enly run­ning a piece about the small cen­tral Asian na­tion of Kryzbek­istan in­stead of Kyr­gyzs­tan. An apol­ogy was swiftly pub­lished. The Twit­terati went wild: “Gut­ted! I have al­ways wanted to go to Kryzbek­istan!”

Jan Mor­ris caused havoc with her 1985 novel Last Let­ters from Hav. So per­sua­sively did she write of this in­trigu­ingly com­pli­cated but made-up place that travel agents were be­rated by an­gry cus­tomers who did not be­lieve there were no di­rect flights, let alone five-star ho­tels.

Ever since read­ing Tintin tales, I’ve been in­trigued by Bor­duria and would have loved to ven­ture there and per­haps to its pesky neigh­bour Syl­davia. I so wanted th­ese Balkan coun­tries to be real and to learn Bor­durian, if only to swear at a cer­tain pompous pri­mary school teacher in (surely) the one lan­guage she couldn’t un­der­stand.

I’m in­trigued, too, by comic strip char­ac­ter Dil­bert’s muddy El­bo­nia; all of JRR Tolkien’s mag­i­cal lands; cre­ations such as Loompa Land and Lil­liput and, of course, the par­ody places of Phaic Tan, Molva­nia and San Sombrero from the ter­ri­bly funny trio of Rob Sitch, Tom Gleis­ner and Santo Ci­lauro.

The Shangri-la of James Hil­ton’s 1933 novel Lost Hori­zon? Yes, it does ex­ist, not only in prop­er­ties of the fives­tar ho­tel chain of that name but in the north­west of China’s moun­tain­ous Yun­nan prov­ince. The city’s name is purely strate­gic, aimed at lur­ing tourists; prior to 2002, it was known as Zhong­dian in Chi­nese and Gyalthang in Ti­betan, but maybe such ex­pe­di­ency was a curse as much of the his­toric old town was burnt down a year ago.

Then there are names that tran­scend place to be­come syn­ony­mous with de­sign and life­style. Provence is one; the Hamp­tons is an­other. We are re­build­ing a beach cottage in the lat­ter style on the NSW cen­tral coast. Our trades­men know their Adiron­dack chairs from their Ba­li­nese daybeds and have en­tered into the spirit of things, even though we are rather a dis­tance from Long Is­land.

Is there an ar­chi­tect in the ham­let of East Hamp­ton, I won­der, who at this minute is designing a home for a client in the Kill­care or Woy Woy style? My quest for a Hamp­tons kitchen has led me to a lo­cal sup­plier who’s so en­thu­si­as­tic she as­sures me the com­pany has just the thing. Here it is! The Pon­derosa!

Serves me right. Blow me down, Lit­tle Joe Cartwright, now I am on the run.

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