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Jury decides fate of accused murderer Justin Stein

<p>The jury has handed down their verdict to Justin Stein after a lengthy trial into the murder of schoolgirl Charlise Mutten. </p> <p>Stein, Mutten's stepfather, was found guilty of murdering the nine-year-old and disposing of her body in barrel in the Blue Mountains. </p> <p>Charlise's body was found near the Colo River, northwest of Sydney on January 18th 2022, with gunshot wounds to her face and lower back.</p> <p>The jury deliberated for almost two weeks before delivering its verdict on Wednesday morning, following a four-week trial.</p> <p>Throughout the trial, Stein admitted to disposing of Charlise's body after her death in January 2022, but maintained that the young girl's mother, Kallista Mutten, had been the one to murder the child. </p> <p>Kallista denied having any involvement in her daughter's death and broke down in tears when faced with the accusation in court.</p> <p>As she dismissed the jurors, Justice Helen Wilson thanked them for their service.</p> <p>She said "quite a lot of people" had told her at the beginning of the proceedings that they did not feel they could listen to evidence about the death of a child.</p> <div data-component="EmphasisedText"> <p>"It's not an easy thing to hear evidence about something as distressing as the violent death of, particularly, a child," she said.</p> </div> <p>"That's upsetting, I think, for most people. It's also difficult to sit in judgement on a fellow member of the community."</p> <p>"In being willing to do both those things, you've played a very important role in our criminal justice system."</p> <p>Stein will now face a sentence hearing on August 23rd, where is he faced with life in prison for the murder charge. </p> <p><em>Image credits: 9News / NSW Police</em></p>

Legal

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Justin Timberlake arrested

<p>Justin Timberlake, the acclaimed singer and actor, has spent the night behind bars on charges of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York's Long Island. The incident took place in the upscale seaside village of Sag Harbor, a well-known summer retreat for the affluent.</p> <p>Timberlake, 43, was reportedly driving a BMW around 12:30am when he failed to stop at a stop sign and veered out of his lane. An officer pulled him over and noticed signs of intoxication. According to the court documents, the officer observed that Timberlake had bloodshot and glassy eyes, smelled strongly of alcohol, had slowed speech and was unsteady on his feet. He performed poorly on all standard field sobriety tests administered at the scene.</p> <p>Despite Timberlake's assertion that he had only consumed one martini and was following friends home, he was arrested and taken to a police station in East Hampton. There, he refused a breath test. The court documents list his occupation as "professional" and noted that he is "self-employed".</p> <p>According to a report from <a href="https://pagesix.com/2024/06/18/entertainment/justin-timberlake-dwi-refused-breathalyzer-cop-didnt-recognize/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">the New York Post</a>, the arresting officer was so young he did not recognise the world-famous singer, even after Timberlake told him his name. “He didn’t recognise him or his name,” an insider claimed, with a second source adding, “Justin said under his breath, ‘This is going to ruin the tour.’ The policeman replied, ‘What tour?’ Justin said, ‘The world tour.’”</p> <p>After spending the night in custody, Timberlake was formally charged and released later on Tuesday morning (Wednesday AEST). He faces one count of DWI and is scheduled to appear in court on July 26, according to the Suffolk County district attorney's office. Timberlake's lawyer and representatives have not yet commented on the incident.</p> <p>Timberlake's journey to fame began as a Disney Mouseketeer, where he shared the stage with future pop stars like Britney Spears. He gained widespread recognition as a member of the boy band NSYNC before launching a successful solo career in 2002. Timberlake has since won 10 Grammy Awards and four Primetime Emmy Awards. His acting credits include acclaimed performances in movies such as <em>The Social Network</em> and <em>Friends With Benefits</em>.</p> <p>Sag Harbor, located about 160km from New York City, is a part of the Hamptons, a popular destination for wealthy visitors during the summer. The village is known for its picturesque views and luxurious lifestyle, attracting celebrities and high-profile individuals.</p> <p>This incident marks a rare brush with the law for Timberlake, who has largely maintained a positive public image throughout his career. As the legal process unfolds, more details are likely to emerge, shedding light on the circumstances of his arrest and the potential consequences he may face.</p> <p><em>Images: Sag County Police | Today show</em></p>

Legal

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"A true legend": Jane Fonda pegs award at director's head

<p>Film icon Jane Fonda is known to entertain the masses, and her cheeky antics at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival saw her do just that.</p> <p>While hosting Palme d’Or Awards on May 27, Fonda, 85, called up director Justine Triet who had won the award for <em>Anatomy of the Fall</em>, but it was Fonda’s deliverance of said award that had viewers in stitches.</p> <p>The 85-year-old tried to get Triet's attention, but after multiple attempts of calling out to her, Fonda decided to throw the scroll at the director’s back.</p> <p>When the scroll hit Triet on the back of the head and fell to the floor, she didn’t appear to notice.</p> <p><em>The Book Club</em> star’s unconventional passing of the award sent Twitter users into a frenzy, with many praising her, calling her a “queen” with an “excellent shot.”</p> <p>"A true legend." one person wrote.</p> <p>"This just made my day! 😂😂😂" another said.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">favorite cannes moment is officially jane fonda throwing the palme d'or certificate at justine triet because she forgot to take it <a href="https://t.co/6tv8TEj8zw">pic.twitter.com/6tv8TEj8zw</a></p> <p>— flo ¨̮ (@astralbarnes) <a href="https://twitter.com/astralbarnes/status/1662568221931601920?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 27, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>Fonda hit the red carpet dazzled in black sequins. Her black gown was faired with a chain necklace and matching earrings.</p> <p>The beloved actress has been documenting her Cannes weekend via Instagram, sharing photos of herself with Hollywood greats Eva Longoria and Kate Winslet, as well as a snippet of her accommodation.</p> <p>Fonda’s attendance comes five months into her remission after <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/health/caring/jane-fonda-reassures-fans-after-cancer-diagnosis" target="_blank" rel="noopener">announcing her non-Hodgkin's lymphoma diagnosis</a> in September 2022.</p> <p>She revealed the happy news on her Instagram, titling it "BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER!!!"</p> <p>”Last week I was told by my oncologist that my cancer is in remission and I can discontinue chemo," she wrote. "I am feeling so blessed, so fortunate."</p> <p><em>Image credit: Getty</em></p>

TV

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“I like looking in the mirror”: Justine Bateman on ageing in the public eye

<p>Justine Bateman has gotten candid while discussing the reality of ageing in the public eye, and her experience with negative opinion on her surgery-free complexion. </p> <p>The actress turned director - and sister of actor Jason Bateman - was chatting to <em>60 Minutes</em> when she confessed she didn’t know anyone was that interested in her looks until she happened to be googling herself for her book and encountered a popular autofill suggestion. </p> <p>“I needed to google something, and I googled my name Justine Bateman, and an autocomplete came up which said ‘looks old’,” she explained, before adding that it’d taken her aback. </p> <p>After browsing the pictures that the search provided - those Justine believed the internet considered “evidence” - she couldn’t see what it was that they were talking about. Her face was a natural face, not an ‘old’ one. </p> <p>And Justine had one very clear message for anyone who had any different to say - to her, or to anyone else embracing the ageing process - when she said, “I just don’t give a sh*t. I think I look rad, I think my face represents who I am, and I like it.”</p> <p>That isn’t to say Justine has never considered what cosmetic intervention may do for her, with the 57-year-old admitting that she has wondered how she might look - though she’s never followed up on it, too happy with how she’s evolving to risk losing any part of herself. </p> <p>“You can certainly look in the mirror and you can go ‘oh, well, if I just had like a lower face lift, I would get rid of this skin that catches the light, and then I could have that operation where you go in to the eyelid - or you know - take some of the skin out, and this that’s hanging over now over the eyelid, you can get that removed’. Sure, you can do all of that,” she explained. </p> <p>“But even then I would just be like ‘okay, so now I look like this’, and then I would erase … I feel like I would erase not only all my authority that I have now, but also I like feeling that I’m a different person now, than I was when I was 20.</p> <p>“I like looking in the mirror and seeing that evidence.”</p> <p>Many took the opportunity to thank Justine for her words, and her stance during the interview, with some even opening up about their own experiences while commenting on her social media. </p> <p>“It was a powerful share. Ageing in a culture of anti-aging isn’t particularly easy, but it’s heartening to hear from other women who recognise that our worth is not determined by our appearance,” said one. “We’re objectified in our teens and twenties, only to be discarded by society by the time we reach our forties for the ‘crime’ of ageing. Aka staying alive. It’s patriarchal BS and we deserve better. Thank you for your voice.”</p> <p>“Thank you Justine. I just wish your interview segments were longer,” wrote another. “I appreciate you so much for speaking out about this issue and know you will be helping so many women navigate all of the distractions. So much oppressive ageism [is] wrapped up in teaching women to hate and fix their ageing bodies.”</p> <p>“Those lines, wrinkles and grey hairs are details to a rich and storied existence,” someone else declared, “wear them like badges of honour.”</p> <p>And as Justine herself put it, “forget about your face! That is what I’m saying. Get rid of the fear that your face being wrinkled is going to ruin a bunch of opportunities for you.”</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram, Getty, Vimeo, 60 Minutes</em></p>

Beauty & Style

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New messages between Charlise Mutten’s mum and Justin Stein emerge

<p dir="ltr">Messages sent by the mother of Charlise Mutten about her fiancé have emerged as investigations continue into the young girl’s death.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kallista Mutten messaged a friend through Facebook, telling them how she had fallen in love with Justin Stein and that he treated her “so good”.</p> <p dir="ltr">“He’s amazing and treats me so good,” she told her friend, according to<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/before-her-daughter-was-allegedly-murdered-kallista-mutten-was-getting-life-on-track-20220121-p59q85.html" target="_blank"><em>The Sydney Morning Herald</em></a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">“He’s completely loyal and I have no worries, I know his heart is with me.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The couple met while Ms Mutten was serving a three-year sentence in prison for causing a car crash that killed her passenger in 2017. She was high on ice at the time of the crash.</p> <p dir="ltr">After exchanging letters for the final two years of her sentence, the pair were engaged shortly after her release. They had plans to move to North Queensland and start their lives together, with Ms Mutten recently getting her driver’s licence after a long suspension.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ms Mutten also shared her excitement over her daughter coming to visit her at her fiancé’s family property in the NSW Blue Mountains for Christmas.</p> <p dir="ltr">“My daughter comes on the 21st, so I’m looking forward to that,” she wrote on December 5, as reported by the<span> </span><em>Herald</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">One month later, Charlise’s remains were found inside a barrel in bushland by the Colo River, with police alleging that Mr Stein has murdered her at his family’s property.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mr Stein has been remanded in Silverwater Prison, while Ms Mutten remains in hospital. Police are yet to have a chance to speak to her but are keen to do so to aid their investigation.</p> <p dir="ltr">The<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10433165/Charlise-Muttens-mother-sent-friends-Facebook-messages-doting-fiance-alleged-murder.html" target="_blank"><em>Daily Mail</em></a><span> </span>reported that Ms Mutten stayed at Sydney Clinic last November - which has treated Andrew O’Keefe, AFL player Ben Cousins, and reality TV star Suzi Taylor - and was housed in the clinic’s substance abuse unit.</p> <p dir="ltr">A fellow patient told the publication that Ms Mutten was visited by Mr Stein during her stay at the clinic, describing her as “over the top” and “very attention seeking”.</p> <p dir="ltr">The patient said Ms Mutten spoke about her upcoming wedding to Mr Stein in 2022 and claimed that she and Mr Stein “had sex in the back of the ute” after one of his visits.</p> <p dir="ltr">Though Sydney Clinic holds three-step group therapy sessions for patients, Ms Mutten’s fellow patients said she seemed uninterested in participating, according to the<span> </span><em>Daily Mail</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Ms Mutten was convicted in November 2017 of dangerous driving occasioning death and driving with an illicit substance in her system, serving over two years in prison for the incident that killed her 53-year-old friend and passenger Karen ‘Kaz’ Bunch.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: The Daily Mail</em></p>

News

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Billionaire Justin Hemmes makes tidy profit on Pittwater retreat

<p dir="ltr">Billionaire restaurateur Justin Hemmes has<span> </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.realestate.com.au/news/hotelier-justin-hemmes-sells-his-morning-bay-pittwater-retreat-for-55m/?rsf=syn:news:nca:news:spa:strap" target="_blank">sold</a><span> </span>a slice of his assets for a tidy price, after selling his Sydney waterfront retreat for $5.5 million this week.</p> <p dir="ltr">Set in Pittwater, Hemmes first bought the four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in 2016 for just $2.75 million from its creator, acclaimed theatre production designer and architect Laurence Eastwood.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eastwood built the bushland waterfront house with a vast floating roof, post-and-beam design, and large stainless steel gutters that feed into a 50,000-litre tank, earning himself a number of awards.</p> <p dir="ltr">The house features wide decks at the front and rear of the living area, taking full advantage of the surrounding bush and water views.</p> <p dir="ltr"><a rel="noopener" href="https://monavale.ljhooker.com.au/house-in-newport-nsw-2106-au-2kcsf6k?search=%2fsearch%2fproperty-sold%2fpage-1#.YblzFL1ByUk" target="_blank">LJ Hooker Mona Vale</a><span> </span>agent Lachlan Elder handled the sale off-market, with Hemmes instructing him to “sell it to people who will give it more love”.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the sale of the Pittwater home, it seems that Hemmes is spending more of his time expanding his reach in Narooma, having spent an estimated $30 million in the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I love Narooma with a deep passion,” he said recently.</p> <p dir="ltr">He expects Narooma will one day be a strong competitor against Noosa as a getaway paradise.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Images: @justinhemmes (Instagram), LJ Hooker Mona Vale</em></p>

Real Estate

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Sneak peek inside Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel's mega mansion up for sale

<p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Star couple Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.dirt.com/gallery/entertainers/musicians/justin-timberlake-house-hollywood-hills-1203428497/justintimb-erlakehouse_hh14/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">have listed</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> their swanky Hollywood Hills home for sale with the eye-watering price tag of $USD 35 million ($AUD 48 million).</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Timberlake first bought the sprawling Los Angeles property from actress Helen Hunt 20 years ago, dropping $USD 8.3 million at the time.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Since then, Biel and Timberlake have undertaken a complete renovation of the 10.2-acre property, with LA designer Estee Stanley designing the new rustic-modern interiors.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Inside, the home includes nine bedrooms and eleven bathrooms, as well as four fireplaces, a master bedroom with its own dressing room and bathroom, a gym, and an indoor cinema.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">An outdoor living area wraps around the outside of the house, offering views of the San Fernando Valley skyline.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The 13,500-square-feet home initially sat on a 3-acre lot, until the pop star acquired a vacant 7-acre lot behind the main residence for extra privacy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The expanded grounds include a sweeping lawn, an 85-foot swimming pool and plunge pool, a lighted sports court, a vegetable garden, and a guesthouse.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Timberlake and Biel own several other properties across New York City, Nashville, and Montana.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Justin Paul Huchel and Drew Fenton of Hilton &amp; Hyland are the listing agents for the property, with the </span><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.hiltonhyland.com/property/3100-torreyson-pl-los-angeles-ca-90046/" target="_blank"><span style="font-weight: 400;">listing</span></a><span style="font-weight: 400;"> describing the home as a “one of a kind stately residence”.</span></p> <p><em><span style="font-weight: 400;">Images: @jessicabiel / Instagram, Hilton &amp; Hyland</span></em></p>

Real Estate

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No more Justin Bieber: New rules for Marty Sheargold's return

<p>Marty Sheargold is back after quitting from his gig on<span> </span><em>Kate, Tim and Marty</em><span> </span>last year.</p> <p>Sheargold claimed he no longer found the show “challenging” and went on to become a full-time stand-up community along with setting up his own podcast.</p> <p>He said the podcast set up eventually “couldn’t work out how to make any money out of it.”</p> <p>The radio star returned to his radio star gig not too long after, this time with his own breakfast show on Triple M Melbourne.</p> <p>Four months in, Marty told <em>news.com.au</em>: “I’m really enjoying coming to work and that hasn’t always been the way, but it certainly is now,”</p> <p>“If you can’t get up and about for this kind of opportunity then you shouldn’t be looking for it in the first place.”</p> <p>Marty now hosts<span> </span><em>The Marty Sheargold Show</em><span> </span>by himself, but often has supporting co-hosts to provide banter and good entertainment for fans.</p> <p>“I love that idea of getting the whole team in the studio and that always takes time for people to find their own rhythm naturally, and I think that’s happening now which is great. And it’s great having young people around because you can vicariously live through their lives and still go to bed early,” Marty said.</p> <p>“We’re having genuine fun and I think that’s the most important thing in a team. Content will always look after itself but if you’ve got a great energy and attitude within the group then it’s just a joy to be a part of,” he added.</p> <p>Marty also admitted he loves his new audience at Triple M now.</p> <p>“I don’t have to talk about Justin Bieber anymore, which is good,” he revealed.</p> <p>He also made it clear he will never speak about reality programs on his show as its “lazy”.</p> <p>“When you look at the clock of these (breakfast radio) shows and you give someone from<span> </span><em>MAFS</em><span> </span>half an hour of your show, that’s because<span> </span><em>you</em><span> </span>don’t want to do half and hour of your show,” he said.</p> <p>“It’s awful radio and it should be outlawed. And as a listener you shouldn’t put up with it, you should find somebody that’s not doing that, because it’s patronising to treat the audience that way. Who could give a f**k about a bloke from<span> </span><em>MAFS</em>?”</p> <p>Marty revealed he has rejected a number of offers to appear on reality shows.</p> <p>“All of those reality ones I’ve said no to,” he told news.com.au.</p> <p>“They even wanted me to go and do the<span> </span><em>Dirty Dancing</em><span> </span>show in the US (Channel 7’s<span> </span><em>Real Dirty Dancing</em>). I’m like, ‘You don’t know me at all. Why would you ask me to do that?’ I was quite insulted.</p> <p>“I couldn’t think of anything worse and I made the right decision, it was an awful show.”</p> <p>Marty admitted he turned down a chance to feature on<span> </span><em>I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here</em>, saying: “It feels like end of career stuff, that stuff. It doesn’t feel like building a career.</p> <p>“You’re either starting or ending, it shouldn’t be in the middle of your career.”</p>

Music

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Shift work with Justine Tyerman

<p><em><strong>Justine Tyerman can’t wait to return to her unpaid job with two ‘bosses’ who scream at her . . .</strong></em></p> <p>Mid-60s is rather late in life for a couple to start doing shift work but we took to it like proverbial ducks to a millpond.</p> <p>The job description was extremely off-putting but we accepted the challenge with great gusto and enthusiasm. It involved up to 10-hour shifts cleaning up vomit and poo, being splattered with food, saturated with water, frequently screeched at and occasionally scratched.</p> <p>There were also regular wrestling matches involving the application and removal of sanitary items and clothing. Other tasks included daily food preparation for finicky eaters, house cleaning, endless loads of washing, ironing and folding, shopping, sewing, pushing heavy loads up and downhill, singing, dancing, playing and counselling and companionship services.</p> <p>The two youngest ‘bosses’ were the most demanding – regardless of the time of day or night, they wanted their needs met... immediately. If not, they would scream at the top of their lungs until their wishes were granted.</p> <p>One would expect such difficult work to be well-rewarded financially but we were not paid a cent. However, we were overjoyed to provide our services, free of charge, and keen to be engaged again by the same ‘employers’... as soon as possible.</p> <p>As you will have no doubt guessed, the ‘work’ involved helping to care for our grandchildren, Isabel, a newborn, and Francesca aged one year.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7840366/2-justine-and-newborn-granddaughter-isabel.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b12bf1ba6f8844b09b1938cd719270cb" /><br /><em>Justine and newborn granddaughter Isabel.</em></p> <p>The pandemic has kept us apart from our Sydney-based daughters, sons-in-law and their babies for the past year, so except for a visit at the birth of Francesca before the outbreak of Covid-19, we have not had the opportunity to practise our grandparenting skills. We weren’t even sure if Francesca would accept us, or if we were up to the task of doing 10-hour shifts with a toddler when our elder daughter returned to work after a year’s maternity leave. Nor did we have any idea how we’d cope with night shifts if our younger daughter and husband needed help with an unsettled newborn in the small hours of the morning.</p> <p>However, all our fears were completely groundless. Isabel slept well at night and boisterous Francesca loved us from the moment we started playing noisy hide and seek games, doing animal impersonations and singing Wiggles’ songs.</p> <p>She was an exceedingly cheerful and sunny-natured child until it came time to change her nappies or clothes. Then she turned into a feisty wrestler who had perfected the art of the corkscrew. It was a two-man job, one occupying her windmill hands, the other executing a lightning-fast nappy change and getting her into easy-on/off clothes. Gone were any naive ideas of dressing her in the pretty smocked outfits with many buttons I’d made for her mother.</p> <p>Mealtimes were quite a mission. She was a determined self-feeder which resulted in a monumental mess on the floor, herself and any well-meaning grandparent who attempted to streamline the process with a spoon. The trough-like silicone bibs from my young friend, Gisborne-born Emily Spear’s <span><a href="https://www.petiteeats.co.nz/collections/dinnerware">Petite Eats</a></span> range were a godsend, catching at least 50 percent of the food that was dropped.</p> <p>We were able to help with Francesca’s gradual transition to daycare, taking her for increasing time periods over a period of weeks. Being a sociable, adventurous wee soul, she adapted to the stimulating environment with great glee.</p> <p>In the afternoons when we collected her, she would spy us at the door and her little face would light up like sunshine. She’d wave vigorously and come toddling towards us. Talk about heart-melting!</p> <p>She was often tired and played-out by then so we took her for long shady walks in the pushchair until it was time for dinner, bath, stories and bed. By which time her mum or dad were home to take over.</p> <p>Our time with Isabel was radically different. She was such a tiny, wee bundle compared to her robust cousin.</p> <p>To begin with, she obligingly just slept and fed but after a couple of weeks, she ‘woke up’ and began to yell loudly and feed ravenously. She was not the easiest baby to settle, especially late in the day, but she seemed to like my over-the-shoulder burping technique and the rhythmical rocking of the pram.</p> <p>We went for long walks along the Bondi Beach promenade two or three times a day with Isabel in the pram or front pack. It was very therapeutic to get out of the house and into the fresh air when she was fractious.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7840350/1-justine-and-chris-pushing-granddaughter-isabel-in-her-pram-at-bondi-beach.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f88f2737d14745b4b897b10439bea6e6" /><br /><em>Justine and Chris pushing granddaughter Isabel in her pram at Bondi Beach.</em></p> <p>I found myself gazing at her as she slept, marvelling afresh at the miracle of new life. In the time we were there, she changed from being a sleepy newborn still curled up in a foetal position, to being a lively, alert little human being, kicking vigorously, stretching her little limbs, exercising her healthy lungs and experimenting with a wide range of quizzical facial expressions.</p> <p>The new parents, in their sleep-deprived state, were so appreciative of our help with meals, housework and shopping, and our daughter also welcomed her mum’s companionship and advice during the long hours of breastfeeding.</p> <p>Being able to support them through this momentous, life-changing time brought us closer than ever. It was such a privilege to watch them discover the joys (and trials) of parenthood that no one can really prepare you for.</p> <p>None of this would have been possible without laying the groundwork in advance. Well before we left home, we organised two key components — independent accommodation and transport. Our daughters live in small apartments about 10 minutes’ drive away from each other but now they both have babies, there’s no spare room for guests. Ideally, we wanted to find our own place midway between the two. I knew the cost of a hotel or holiday rental for an extended period over summer in Sydney would be prohibitive so I resorted to my favourite accommodation site, <span><a href="https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes">Love Home Swap.</a></span> I’ve been a member of this international home swap club for over 10 years and during that time, we’ve stayed in some wonderful private homes all around the world – Santorini, the Swiss Alps, Paris, London, Piha, Wanaka... You pay a membership fee (see footnote below) and then stay free, absolutely free.</p> <p>I searched for properties available in the Edgecliff-Bondi area, sent out a few messages and within hours, I had a positive response from a couple who live near Bondi Beach. We arranged a points swap which meant home-owners David and Imy were not locked in to a simultaneous swap with us with but could use the points or credits to stay in the home of any Love Home Swap member, anywhere, any time. Their scope is mainly limited to Australia at present due to COVID-19 but as soon as border restrictions ease, they will have the choice of thousands of homes in hundreds of countries all around the world.</p> <p><img style="width: 374.8782862706914px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7840351/3-chris-cooking-dinner-in-the-well-equipped-kitchen-at-david-and-imys-apartment.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/3ac892bf7df744ed965492930cb49f92" /><br /><em>Chris cooking dinner in the well-equipped kitchen at David and Imy's apartment.</em><br /> <br />David and Imy’s compact two-bedroom, two-bathroom, open-plan apartment worked incredibly well for us. Located on the top floor of a three-storey building in a great neighbourhood with excellent cafes, restaurants, seafood, bakery and fruit shops nearby, the apartment was absolutely immaculate, and equipped with high-quality appliances and everything we needed. Above all, it provided a quiet, tranquil haven for us to escape to at the end of a busy day with the little ones. We enjoyed many a relaxed glass of wine or beer on the balcony overlooking the rugged coastline on the famous Bondi to Coogee walkway, a great track for an early morning or evening run or walk.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7840352/5-sunset-from-the-balcony-of-david-and-imys-love-home-swap-apartment-near-bondi-beach.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/46c9f67f3cf94ced9e52970fad53c717" /><br /><em>Sunset from the balcony of David and Imy's Love Home Swap apartment near Bondi Beach.</em></p> <p>Having independent accommodation also allowed our daughters and sons-in-law to have their own space, privacy and time to be together as a family.</p> <p>We met David and Imy before they headed off on a road trip in New South Wales. They left an impressive 40-page guide to the apartment covering everything from security and access to neighbourhood shopping, dining and recreation - the most comprehensive compendium I’ve ever seen. They also left us some superb local wines to sample which was a lovely hospitable touch.</p> <p>Having a secure covered carpark under the apartment building was another huge plus as parking can be a major problem around Bondi... which brings me to my next key component: securing our own means of transport so we were not dependent on family members. We organised a <span><a href="https://www.jucy.com/au/en/cars/">JUCY Rentals</a></span> vehicle before we left home which turned out to be absolutely indispensable. JUCY provides an excellent pick-up/drop-off service at Sydney Airport which was very convenient. Our zippy Toyota Corolla hatchback did umpteen trips to the supermarket, delivered supplies and home-cooked meals to three households, and transported our elder granddaughter to and from daycare in the secure, back-facing car seat that JUCY fitted for us. The vehicle was big enough to accommodate the pushchair and other toddler paraphernalia for trips to the beach and playground but small enough to squeeze into tight parking spaces. Having our own wheels literally enabled us to be in two places as once – one with Isabel and the other with Francesca. We would often swap shifts in the middle of the day to make sure we saw both grandchildren every day.</p> <p><img style="width: 374.8782862706914px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7840353/8-our-zippy-jucy-hatch-back-was-indispensable.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/ea017fe08a2e4a5aa026040fd34cc26a" /><br /><em>Our zippy JUCY hatch-back was indispensable.</em></p> <p>After six weeks, we said a tearful farewell and reluctantly returned to New Zealand to enter our compulsory two-week managed isolation period. We spent 14 days in a standard hotel room at The Grand Millennium in Auckland under the ever-watchful eyes of defence force, police and security personnel. We had great plans to do Pilates and yoga together but the room was so small only one of us could exercise at a time. We were comfortable, well-fed, thoroughly Covid-tested and kept safe from infection but two weeks in a room with windows that did not open and just 30 minutes of fresh air and sunshine a day was challenging to say the least.</p> <p>However, it was worth every minute for the joy and fulfilment we discovered as grandparents. It’s given new purpose and meaning in our lives. I just can’t wait to go back to shift work in Sydney. <br /><br /></p> <p><strong><u>Factbox:</u></strong></p> <ul> <li>In preparation for the time when we can again travel freely, check out thousands of <a href="https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes">Love Home Swap</a> properties all around the world.</li> <li>There is a two-week free trial and then you choose from one of three membership tiers starting at around $NZ20/$AUS18 a month.</li> <li>Have a look-see at what’s available in <a href="https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes/newzealand">New Zealand, </a><a href="https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes/Australia">Australia</a> and the <a href="https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes/Australia"></a><a href="https://www.lovehomeswap.com/homes/cook-islands">Cook Islands</a>.</li> <li>Rent a car or campervan from <a href="https://www.jucy.com/au/en">JUCY Rentals</a> who have been providing reliable and budget-friendly rentals in Australia for over 11 years.</li> </ul>

Domestic Travel

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The golf widow

<div><em>Homestead Bay on Lake Wakatipu.</em></div> <p>I’ve never understood my husband’s obsession with golf. Hitting a little white ball around acres of perfectly-manicured grass on gently undulating terrain is not my definition of exhilarating exercise . . . but he loves it despite the frustrations that seem to accompany the game.<br />So while Chris and his mate chased little white balls around the immaculate golf course at Jack’s Point near Queenstown, I set off to explore far more rugged terrain on my ebike, totally happy to be a golf widow for a day. I had scintillating companions — the Remarkables and Lake Wakatipu — which dominate the landscape.<br /><br />I’ve always felt a strong affinity for the Remarkables dating back to my childhood days when we spent holidays at our little crib in Arrowtown. I regarded the sawtooth pinnacles of the Remarkables as mystical, my ‘maunga tapu’ (sacred mountain).They are especially dazzling in winter when white snow accentuates the jagged jet black rocks near the summit.<br /><br />One summer, as a dewy-eyed teenager, I climbed the mountain with a friend and camped up there for the night. The mist came swirling in with cold, damp fingers at about 3am which was eerie and far from romantic — but the sunrise was magical.<br /><br />The mountains towered over me as I skirted the golf course and cycled along a stunning lakeside track with Wakatipu sparkling in the sunshine. The weather was glorious and I had the day to myself so I meandered along any track that caught my eye. With a 100-kilometre battery range, I knew I would not run out of power on my Wisper Wayfarer. I cycled through the multi-million dollar property development at the far reaches of Jack’s Point, marvelling at the sprawling mansions under construction and the magnificent views the occupants would enjoy.</p> <p>Late in the day, I discovered Homestead Bay, a perfect spot to park our Maui motorhome overnight. With the snow on the Remarkables turning pink in the sunset and the lapping waters of Lake Wakatipu just a few metres away, it was an idyllic place to stay. The views were even better than the fancy mansions at Jack’s Point.<br /><br />But without knowing for sure whether freedom camping was permitted there, Chris decided it was safer to park in his golf mate’s driveway rather than risk a hefty fine. That’s another great thing about motorhoming. You can invite yourself to stay with friends without imposing on their space. He lives right on the edge of the golf course with a great elevated view of the lake and the mountains.<br /><br />Sticking with the golf theme, next day we cycled around the five-star Millbrook Resort set on 650 acres near Arrowtown. Chris wanted to check out the resort’s world-renowned golf course for future reference while I was keen to see what had become of the rolling farmlands and pretty little stream that I remembered in my youth.<br /><br />I had always known there was once a mill on the site but learning the full story was fascinating. In the 1860s, at the height of the Central Otago gold rush, French brothers John and Peter Butel from Normandy established a 450-acre wheat farm near Arrowtown to feed hungry goldminers. It was known as Mill Farm. The Butel brothers helped create Arrowtown’s first water race which can still be seen around the resort today. Originally built as a service to miners, it became the main water supply for the emerging township. Peter Butel was the first in the district to install electricity, running a generator off the water wheel he used for the mill.</p> <p><img style="width: 300.78125px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839353/5-the-mill-stream-babbles-its-way-through-millbrook-resort.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/08d90a01049942c1aa11ce11c146d776" /><br /><em>The mill stream babbles its way through Millbrook Resort.</em></p> <p>In the early 1900s, Millbrook became a camp for the Wakatipu Mounted Rifles and during WW1 it was converted to a hospital for injured Kiwi soldiers returning from Europe. After World War II the land reverted to farming.<br />Four decades later, the Ishii family came up with a plan to establish a lifestyle and golf resort of international standing on the land, and in 1993 Millbrook Resort opened to the public.<br /><br />In 2014 Millbrook purchased the neighbouring farm and in 2018 work began on a new nine-hole golf course which will see the complex grow from a 27-hole to a 36-hole golf course.<br /><br />Nowadays, Millbrook is a five-star resort with luxurious accommodation, four onsite restaurants, a soon-to-be 36-hole championship golf course, day spa, health and fitness centre and conference venue.<br /><br />While Chris was drooling over the prospect of playing 36 holes of golf, I was more interested in the rustic remains of the old farm machinery, the restored mill wheel and buildings and the stately avenue of trees still standing after 150 years. It’s a peaceful, picturesque place surrounded by spectacular mountains. The old mill stream babbles its way through the property, feeding tranquil lakes and ponds that reflect the beauty of the landscape.</p> <p><em><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839354/1-i-cycled-along-a-stunning-lakeside-track-with-wakatipu-sparkling-in-the-sunshine.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/fcc7d5669edc426e8963929017bce464" /><br /><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839354/1-i-cycled-along-a-stunning-lakeside-track-with-wakatipu-sparkling-in-the-sunshine.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/fcc7d5669edc426e8963929017bce464" />I cycled along a stunning lakeside track with Wakatipu sparkling in the sunshine. Photos by Justine Tyerman</em></p> <p>We sat in the sunshine and had coffee at the Hole In One Cafe before heading to our next destination. That was the closest Chris got to playing golf that day. Two days of golf widowhood would have been one too many on an ebike holiday.<br /><br /><em>To be continued...</em></p> <div><span>Read <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=2fFzQ1wtyiodwskIBQ4JVvViBc68KsIaXL7JozY1KCD6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fheading-for-paradise" target="_blank">part 1</a>, <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=BBsJo-eUsUQYSrWM2VT2uxp14hUBYiAkph4kEzYecoD6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fturning-greener-with-the-years" target="_blank">part 2</a>, <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=iBcmRS80gDFdRO80aBdHytOmh-n8EZJl54oaf9flot36lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fin-the-company-of-giants" target="_blank">part 3</a>, <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=AdZ5KLNAxMnSOVg9b6YxTitSqNh5QRX_JRdfbp5QSYD6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fside-tracked-with-justine-tyerman" target="_blank">part 4</a>,  <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=sot8tH660q6Wk4pBtTPTdbhItB3lA7lYLqq94tU-6Uj6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2ffreewheeling-with-justine-tyerman" target="_blank">part 5</a> of Justine’s Central Otago road trip here.</span></div> <div></div> <div><em>Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=bLkS9zYVJYJv3cQdm0_X1ZQB_1o4x1s2ikYto_9uL2n6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fRRP8C71RRPFmwDJT8y37E%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com" target="_blank">thl</a> in a <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=6W8lckCI1tg0XRjV7mnS7Jf_p7XphCrKPnhc3WsW1cD6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2frbTkC81VVQFjEoKS1P9YD%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com" target="_blank">Maui 4-berth Cascade motorhome,</a> and rode a <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=iwo5gWMw0OwkyXR-zqiLaN1D_KuAQgmwEtBzG_Z0sHj6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fQUVkC91WW0FmDGpT3BLtX%3fdomain%3dwisperbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Wisper Wayfarer ebike</a> courtesy of <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=o2YxOLzo4dxmUUl80mMJJFkRJoJmjv8dl7kyMtP8lhD6lEC3C7LYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fMa6oC0YKKGC2p1LUWBkIy%3fdomain%3delectricbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Electric Bikes NZ</a></em></div>

International Travel

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Freewheeling with Justine Tyerman

<p><em>Arrowtown’s historic Police Camp Cottage in autumn. Picture by Mike Langford</em></p> <p>With visions of sipping a Peregrine rosé at the end of the 20km trail from Arrowtown to the Gibbston Valley, we set off early on our Wisper Wayfarer ebikes while a skiff of frost was still on the ground. We never seemed to tire of ebiking, regardless of the weather.</p> <p>The cycle and walking track runs alongside the tranquil, willow-lined Arrow River made famous by the gold rushes of the 1860s. It crosses the river several times using a variety of clever methods including an ingenious underbridge below the road bridge at Whitechapel to keep riders safe from the busy highway.</p> <p>A highlight was riding over the graceful 80-metre Edgar Suspension Bridge, high above the Arrow River where it plunges into a deep gorge before joining the mighty turquoise Kawarau River. An impressive engineering feat, the structure is so light on the landscape, it’s almost invisible. It’s named after a distant relative of mine so I felt proud to be riding over it.</p> <p><img style="width: 300.78125px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839145/1-justine-and-chris-on-the-frankton-to-kelvin-heights-track-around-lake-wakatipu-copy.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/031588eabbc440799fb7430082d85f75" /><br /><em>A highlight was riding over the beautiful 80-metre Edgar Bridge named after a distant relative of mine.</em></p> <p>Another thrill was crossing the historic 1880 Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, a landmark which used to herald the much-anticipated announcement from our parents that we were nearing Arrowtown after a four-five hour car trip from Dunedin. After its replacement in 1963 with a new bridge, the old one became the exclusive domain of bikers, hikers and A.J. Hackett’s Kawarau River bungy, the world’s first ever bungy jump.</p> <p>We stopped, as we always do, to watch a steady stream of thrill seekers plunge off the bridge head first, feet first, in pairs or alone, screaming their heads off. We shook our heads in disbelief, and continued on our way along the breath-taking Gibbston Valley on a track right on the edge of the canyon. That was thrilling enough for us.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839142/3-the-bungy-jump-platform-at-the-historic-kawarau-bridge-on-the-arrowtown-to-gibbston-valley-track.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/addf7eb38aec425aabfc6c72d531491b" /><br /><em>The bungy jump platform at the historic Kawarau Bridge on the Arrowtown to Gibbston Valley track.</em></p> <p>As luck would have it, Peregrine Winery was closed for a wedding but with a plethora of other wineries in the valley to choose from, we found a delectable rosé at Chard Farm instead.</p> <p>After a night at the excellent Arrowtown Camping ground where we were again surrounded by Maui look-alikes (Kiwis were out in force supporting the tourism industry!), we cycled up the gorge towards the old gold mining ghost town of Macetown, as we often do whenever we visit my childhood holiday place. In the summer tart gooseberries, sweet raspberries and pastel-coloured lupins grow wild and dusty on the side of the track but in the winter, hoar frost transforms the skeletal plants to silvery works of filigree. Whatever the season the play of light on the tussocked hills and the dark shadows cast by the high mountain ranges and deep gorges is spell-binding.</p> <p>On the way back, we visited the Police Camp Cottage in the Arrow River, possibly the most photographed structure in Arrowtown. Inside the cottage, there’s excellent information about the history of the building. It was built in 1863 and is Arrowtown's oldest surviving timber building. It was constructed from pit-sawn red beech and had hand-cut shakes on the roof. Originally in Cardigan Street, it was moved to its present site in 1991.</p> <p>When gold was discovered in 1862 in the Arrow and Shotover Rivers by Jack Tewa, miners descended on Arrowtown in their droves. They were an unruly lot so law enforcement and the building of a jail and the cottage quickly followed. Its exact purpose is not known but bars on the windows suggest it might have been used as a gold deposit office that held the gold securely before it was transported by armed escort to Dunedin.</p> <p>Also inside the cottage, there’s a wealth of information about rare plants and protected wildlife such as the kea and cryptic skink, efforts to control wilding pines and protect native birds, lizards and insects against predators like stoats, ferrets, cats and rats.</p> <p>The entire Wakatipu Basin is a network of immaculately-maintained hiking and biking trails so next day, we were spoilt for choice. </p> <p>After queueing up with the locals for hearty filled rolls from the Arrowtown Bakery, we rode along the Kawarau River, sparkling like phosphorus at the foot of the Remarkables, terrain that was new to us despite holidaying in the area for decades. We crossed the Shotover River on another iconic landmark, the Lower Shotover Bridge, now open only to foot and pedal traffic . . . and probably horses. Tall poplars, magnificent in autumn but gaunt in winter, stood sentinel at the entrance to the bridge.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839143/4-justine-taking-a-break-in-the-gibbston-valley-overlooking-the-kawarau-river.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/49f6ca95ed0b4665b89055bc3e4cece9" /><img style="width: 300.78125px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839143/4-justine-taking-a-break-in-the-gibbston-valley-overlooking-the-kawarau-river.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/49f6ca95ed0b4665b89055bc3e4cece9" /><br /><em>Justine taking a break in the Gibbston Valley overlooking the Kawarau River.</em></p> <p>We whizzed along the shingle riverbed and over the historic Kawarau Falls Bridge which has been superseded by a smart new two-lane structure.</p> <p><img style="width: 300.78125px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839146/1-justine-and-chris-on-the-frankton-to-kelvin-heights-track-around-lake-wakatipu.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/bf3c91f0bc0f4169ab93fe038d24dd51" /><br /><em>Justine and Chris on the Frankton to Kelvin Heights track around Lake Wakatipu.</em></p> <p>The track skirts the edge of Lake Wakatipu in front of the Hilton Hotel at Frankton and passes below million-dollar mansions interspersed with quaint Kiwi cribs. We lunched by the lake at Kelvin Heights. Angry storm clouds amassing down the lake looked ominous, so we high-tailed it back to Arrowtown on our zippy e-bikes arriving at our cosy Maui motorhome just before the heavens opened.</p> <p>To be continued...</p> <p>Read <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=0GMIbnN87DsjMFAs_RntUvaijjyLSXDBhcbZZtsBrYAAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fheading-for-paradise">part 1</a>, <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=bjiUdwydiTZ4jgDPbudNlZIFwb4Pg9C4-0piecnz1T4AKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fturning-greener-with-the-years">part 2</a>, <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=G_WyeMHKC2MrVIogTpUti2dfBXXWyFZwiBNTkl3u3wwAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fin-the-company-of-giants">part 3</a>, and <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=1Yof2WyTpVF-KYh4zlyCMGD1WNVR44HEcHeU60koW2gAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.oversixty.com.au%2ftravel%2finternational-travel%2fside-tracked-with-justine-tyerman">part 4</a> of Justine’s Central Otago road trip here.</p> <p><em>Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=AxB4ieU8dbDlo-KSg6mfo2TS0ohvK_yu3Y_Ms9OprbgAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2f0NZvC71RRPFAjrRi8EI5K%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com">thl</a> in a <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=rH__qBmu8aq4Meyz4q2EX23I1hOnFnekHAcKFtIGKPgAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fSZ3uC81VVQF68mku1wRMn%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com">Maui 4-berth Cascade motorhome,</a> and rode a <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=RJ-XB2tGxAqzF0-xb_RAw9i5dZyJtxQEWsOaB25D_hQAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fhPV0C91WW0FkVJOf3kUTe%3fdomain%3dwisperbikes.co.nz%2f">Wisper Wayfarer ebike</a> courtesy of <a href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=2Hxqx-1UtuJkw8bO_hX6hH94XbuW1HR20NwwJgKtuXsAKJWdDZvYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fy0IvC0YKKGCG0nyUWUHfG%3fdomain%3delectricbikes.co.nz%2f">Electric Bikes NZ</a></em></p>

International Travel

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Side-tracked with Justine Tyerman

<p>The handful of Kiwis on the road from Glenorchy to Queenstown got a bonus the day we left Paradise – there were two of everything: mountains upright in their usual position and upside down in the Lake Wakatipu looking-glass. Reality and reflection were hard to tell apart.</p> <p>The historic TSS Earnslaw was steaming towards Queenstown against a stunning backdrop of the Remarkables after a fresh fall of snow.</p> <p>Arrowtown, my childhood holiday home, was our next destination for... but we got side-tracked along the way as often happens when you have the freedom and flexibility of travelling by motorhome.</p> <p>About 5km from Arrowtown, I shrieked ‘Pull over here!’ which my obliging husband was able to do safely at short notice, only because this usually busy tourist road was deserted.</p> <p>We simply could not by-pass Lake Hayes, the world-famous mirror lake where we used to swim and picnic as kids in the summer. We drove down to the water’s edge and debated whether we had time to cycle around the lake on the superb new trail before the weather was forecast to crack up late in the afternoon.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839073/wyus57w0.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/58cc0af220ca436e903204b86c8412cd" /><br /><em>Lake Hayes in autumn regalia. Photo by Destination Queenstown</em></p> <p>With our powerful Wisper Wayfarer ebikes aboard, we were confident that if the weather misbehaved or we miscalculated the distance, we’d be able to get back home fast.         </p> <p>We set off in full winter ski gear with a hint of snow in the air. The 8km grade 2 uppy-downy loop track was a bit like a roller coaster ride climbing high above the lake on the far side and then descending steeply so I made great use of the power-assist and throttle on my Wayfarer. The hills were no trouble at all, such a novelty for a cyclist like me for whom the word ‘pushbike’ has, in the past, had a literal meaning - whenever I encountered anything other than flat terrain, I became a pusher.</p> <p>The trail around the lake was breathtakingly scenic even though the mirror effect was more like crumpled taffeta rather than satin. Coronet Peak, resplendent in pure white, stood regally on one side of the lake and the iconic Double Cone of the Remarkables Range on the other.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7839044/justine2-edit.png" alt="Our Maui Cascade motorhome on the shores of Lake Hayes. Photo by Justine Tyerman" data-udi="umb://media/8ea30167c7194d98a16555fe32547a27" /><br /><em>Our Maui Cascade motorhome on the shores of Lake Hayes. Photo by Justine Tyerman</em></p> <p>There were many information boards along the way explaining the preciousness of the wetlands, the many native water birds who nest there such as the endangered crested grebe, Project Gold that aims to re-establish kowhai trees which once flourished in Central Otago, and the sculpting of the landscape by massive glaciers in the last Ice Age. </p> <p>We stopped for lunch at the highest point of the trail and looked across the lake at the multi-million-dollar houses that have sprung up along shore in recent years. Discovering a lovely freedom camping spot on the edge of the lake, we decided to park there for the night instead of continuing on to the Arrowtown Holiday Park.</p> <p>Ah, the joys of travelling in a fully self-contained Maui motorhome with the convenience of having a kitchen, fridge, freezer, bathroom, bedroom, lounge and dining room at our disposal. The ability to stop wherever and whenever the spirit willed gave us a delicious sense of freedom.</p> <p>By early evening, snowflakes began to drift down from a slate grey sky and the temperatures plummeted. We pulled the thermal blinds, turned on the heating and enjoyed hot showers followed by tummy-warming gluhwein as we prepared dinner.</p> <p>Showering in a confined space is quite an art and requires a high degree of organisation, ensuring one has everything needed before enclosing oneself in a cubicle about a quarter the size of a regular shower. The gas-heated hot water cylinder allows for two 3-minute hot showers, or longer when you are plugged into mains power at a camping ground.</p> <p>Overnight, we were so snug we had to open a skylight... even in the snow.</p> <p>To be continued...</p> <p>Read <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/heading-for-paradise" target="_blank">part 1</a>, <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/turning-greener-with-the-years" target="_blank">part 2</a> and <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/in-the-company-of-giants" target="_blank">part 3</a> of Justine’s Central Otago road trip here.</p> <p><em>*Māori originally named the lake Te Whaka-ata a Haki-te-kura after an ancestress called Haki-te-kura whose image is said to be reflected in the lake.</em></p> <p><em>*Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of <a rel="noopener" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=7BtkdCC0m6zkzxkMbzBp_u-wDIiN0dqP5C4--uPeeORQEIbDN5PYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fJhhmC1WLLJHWzgHLuGio%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com" target="_blank">thl</a> in a <a rel="noopener" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=Qkj6NLpKp2tlANmS7flVVwRI3QQ1--ikfep03D2Q2yJQEIbDN5PYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fxoYeC2xMMKiylrC1Psne%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com" target="_blank">Maui 4-berth Cascade motorhome,</a> and rode a <a rel="noopener" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=EREOstBETVaXmFP1mVnBaKL_EfzEYOF92sK3gvj8QSNQEIbDN5PYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2f7HYRC3QNNLSNA3T2mkmn%3fdomain%3dwisperbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Wisper Wayfarer ebike</a> courtesy of <a rel="noopener" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=el2BMJzFCzOsVE0F-1QDqIDJkkAkbT1z4nc0mxuNGHZQEIbDN5PYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fGgjoC4QOOMSk0PCWQMn4%3fdomain%3delectricbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Electric Bikes NZ.</a></em></p>

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In the company of giants

<p>The remote, beautiful land at the head of Lake Wakatipu richly deserves to be called Paradise but I discovered, with some disappointment, that it is so-named not for the heavenly scenery but for the eponymous duck!</p> <p>Despite its remoteness, the magnetism of Paradise has been a magnet for adventurous travellers since the 1880s when hundreds used to sail up Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown by steamer. Disembarking at Glenorchy, they would travel by dray and coach to Paradise Homestead where owner Granny Aitken used to feed 120 for lunch and host as many as 28 overnight guests.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838796/2-justine-and-her-brand-new-wisper-wayfarer-ebike-en-route-to-the-greenstone-valley.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/a814bbc3eee141b49bd22148347db7ed" /><br /><em>Justine and her brand new Wisper Wayfarer ebike en route to the Greenstone Valley. Picture by Justine Tyerman</em></p> <p>The spectacular landscape has also attracted the attention of film-makers from all over the world. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Mission Impossible, X-men and Vertical Limit were all filmed amid the region’s breath-taking mountains, rivers, lakes and forests.</p> <p>The dramatic terrain was sculpted by glaciers in the last Ice Age. The deeply-weathered silver schist face of Mt Earnslaw, the tallest mountain in the area at 2,830m, dominates the landscape, while wedge-shaped Mt Alfred, 1,365m sits right in the centre of the valley, dividing the Dart and Rees rivers. Surrounding the valley are the magnificent Richardson and Humboldt ranges... and many mountains named after Greek gods.</p> <p>Over the next few days, Chris and I spent much time in the company of these mighty snow-capped giants and became familiar with their many faces – sparkling silver after a frost, rosy pink with the sunrise, glowing gold at sunset or veiled in diaphanous mist just before dawn.</p> <p>We explored the region on our brand new Wisper Wayfarer ebikes courtesy of Electric Bikes NZ. It was such a novelty for me to be able to cycle effortlessly uphill and keep up with my super-fit husband.</p> <p><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838797/4.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/593e68b9701e45968c792c651b059aae" /><br /><em>Let me in - it's cold out here! Justine is keen to warm up at the end of a long day's cycling. Picture by Chris Tyerman</em></p> <p>We headed for Kinloch and rode along the shores of Lake Wakatipu to the Greenstone Valley. Lake Wakatipu is seldom like a mirror but that day, the whole lake was glassy calm.</p> <p>The only traffic we encountered on the back country road was a 4WD vehicle and a young mum out for a walk with her baby and dog.</p> <p>The undulating gravel road took us through beech forests and across clear mountain streams. I was busy congratulating myself for managing to stay dry while fording the streams but the last one was deeper than the rest and I panicked and stopped half way across. Hubby heroically came to the rescue so we both ended up getting wet. Fortunately, it was a mild day and we dried out fast in the sunshine.</p> <p>We also paid a visit to Paradise Trust Lodge to see the rebuild of the property after fire destroyed the historic homestead in 2013, a few months after we had stayed there on our first-ever cycle trip with Matt and Kate Belcher’s Revolution Tours.</p> <p>The lodge has been painstakingly rebuilt retaining three stone chimneys as a memorial to the original homestead.</p> <p>We cycled a loop track through the forest, past rustic cottages with outside baths and saunas to a vantage point high above the Dart River as it carves its way from deep within the Main Divide. Here in Paradise, we were literally in the presence of the gods, surrounded by mountains named Chaos, Poseidon, Nox, Cosmos, Minos, Pluto and Cosmos.</p> <p>Thanks to our zippy Wispers, we covered a huge distance in no time.</p> <p>While in Glenorchy, we were delighted to hear that Ngai Tahu Tourism-operated Dart River Adventures are due to reopen in December so their powerful Hamilton jetboats will once again be thundering up the river and deep into the heart of the Mount Aspiring National Park and the southern reaches of the Main Divide. Encircled by the magnificent mountain peaks of the Southern Alps, gleaming glaciers, frozen waterfalls and hanging valleys, the park’s outstanding natural beauty has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. It’s an outstanding experience - I’ve done it twice and would do it again in a heartbeat.</p> <p>There’s a lake-edge DoC (Department of Conservation) camping site at Kinloch so we parked our Maui motorhome there for the night, keen to linger in this exquisite, remote and tranquil part of Aotearoa. Nearby Kinloch Lodge serves superb cuisine if you feel like dining out. The historic lodge, a mecca for travellers since 1868, retains its authentic, old-world charm... and it has an outside hot tub. Bliss at the end of a long day cycling.</p> <p><a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/heading-for-paradise">Read story #1 here.</a></p> <p><a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/turning-greener-with-the-years">And story #2 here.</a></p> <p><em>To be continued.</em></p> <p><em>Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of <span class="gmail-msohyperlink"><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=-xHEHhRYAVw9CNAFNuTivSsD7VqzBFs6UUwpjSJ6L0sHdb_veYfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fCf4DCWLVV3CwNTK6ntP%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com" target="_blank">thl</a></span> in a <span class="gmail-msohyperlink"><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=Rr0taEuzZcVbO2f5WlI1D_SoDcA4oIeWlgg1HMTh9NQHdb_veYfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2f99a6CXLWW8C7kIkVRdv%3fdomain%3dmaui-rentals.com" target="_blank">Maui 4-berth Cascade motorhome,</a></span> and rode a <span class="gmail-msohyperlink"><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=ZLTL3hhOHzowCF2AeJcWywwC2Zc9WNGVxDK1KMtqClkHdb_veYfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fezm9CYW883HojIMAGFW%3fdomain%3dwisperbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Wisper Wayfarer ebike</a></span> courtesy of </em><span class="gmail-msohyperlink"><span><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=2qwV6bEr40LVS92yaaSA_-v9XJCxHJEEtlrbuC_DYGQHdb_veYfYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fprotect-au.mimecast.com%2fs%2fWNUBCZY117CnXfPtHR2%3fdomain%3delectricbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank"><em>Electric Bikes NZ</em></a></span></span></p>

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Turning greener with the years

<div>A few years ago, when we stayed at Mrs Woolly’s Camping Ground at Glenorchy, we were fascinated by the construction of the multi-million-dollar Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat under way next door. Turning greener with the years, I’ve been keen to check it out ever since. We finally got to stay there on our recent South Island ebiking and motorhome road-trip.</div> <div></div> <div>Opened in March 2018, the story behind the camp is visionary and inspirational. It’s the brainchild of US philanthropists Debbi and Paul Brainerd who fell in love with the Glenorchy region 20 years earlier after tramping the Routeburn and Hollyford Tracks. Designed according to the Living Building Challenge (LBC), the most rigorous sustainability standards in the world, the camp is committed to “offering a unique opportunity to experience living in harmony with nature”. The seven categories of the LBC are represented as the petals of a flower – Place, Health and Happiness, Energy, Water, Materials, Beauty and Equity – and involve such factors as supplying their own water and energy, having a healthy interrelationship with nature, supporting a just and equitable world, celebrating design that uplifts the human spirit, using materials that are safe for all species, creating spaces that optimise health and wellbeing . . . all concepts close to my heart, especially the energy and water efficiency aspects.</div> <div></div> <div></div> <div><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838654/2-early-morning-surrounded-by-snow-capped-mountains-at-camp-glenorchy-eco-retreat.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/525df7e39e2f49f78556dedbc7becc20" /></div> <div><em>Early morning, surrounded by snow-capped mountains at Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat. Picture by Justine Tyerman</em></div> <div></div> <div></div> <div>New Zealand's only net positive energy accommodation, clever technology allows the camp to generate more energy than it uses – in fact it generates 105 percent of the energy it uses each year.</div> <div><br />Facilities include smart bunkhouses and eco cabins, powered RV/motorhome sites, and shared spaces for guests in the Homestead with a fabulously well-equipped open kitchen, dining room, sunroom, lounge, conference rooms and an outside campfire.</div> <div><br />Eye-catching artworks are a feature of the camp. An entire wall in the Humboldt Room, named after the magnificent mountain range it looks onto, is made of driftwood by international landscape artist Jeffrey Bale.</div> <div><br />I loved the use of recycled materials from the demolition of local woolsheds, stockyards, a grain warehouse and buildings damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes.</div> <div><br />There are state-of-the-art bathroom facilities with fabulous fully-tiled showers and 100 percent odourless composting toilets that save a whopping 300,000 litres of water per year. Purified rainwater supplies the showers and solar power is the energy source.</div> <div></div> <div></div> <div><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838657/3.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c65f986fae3c4c4395da1e7a560c2e01" /></div> <div><em>The Homestead building at Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat. Picture by Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat</em></div> <div><br />Photos in the Homestead tell the story of the camp’s construction. There’s also historical information about the Head of the Lake for guests to read. Maori began arriving in Aotearoa about 750 years ago and named the South Island Te Wai Pounamu, the ‘Waters of Greenstone’. The region is rich in pounamu, a stone highly treasured by Maori who carved it into adzes, chisels, knives, hooks, clubs and ornaments.<br /><br />European settlement in the area began in 1861 when William Rees established a sheep station there. Then came the gold rush of 1862, sawmilling of beech and totara, scheelite mining and tourism. Travellers in the 1880s came up the lake by steamship had a choice of three hotels. A road link from Queenstown was opened in 1962 and finally sealed in 1997.<br /><br />All profits from Camp Glenorchy go to the Glenorchy Community Trust, directed by leaders of the local community “to support initiatives that enhance the liveability and vibrancy of Glenorchy”.<br /><br />The retreat has recently been named in TIME magazine's list of the World's 100 Greatest Places. It’s seriously impressive, especially for those, like me, into sustainability.<br /><br />In the evening, we had our first night ride on our Wisper Wayfarer ebikes – just a couple of minutes to the Glenorchy Hotel where we enjoyed a hearty dinner by a roaring open fire. The place was packed with locals and visitors watching a rugby match. Such a warm, friendly environment.</div> <div></div> <div></div> <div><img style="width: 500px; height: 300.78125px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7838658/4-the-communal-kitchen-at-camp-glenorchy-eco-retreat.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/8085163b3f9d4c23aa5d289ca10d1f36" /></div> <div><em>The communal kitchen at Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat. Picture by Camp Glenorchy Eco Retreat</em></div> <div><br />As we cycled back to the camp, the dark night sky was studded with stars. Glenorchy’s isolation makes it one of New Zealand’s best star-gazing locations, especially on clear winter nights.</div> <div><br />Our motorhome was surrounded by Maui look-a-likes when we arrived home. New Zealanders had certainly heeded the call to explore their own backyard and were out in force. It was a frosty evening but we were cosy in no time, thanks to the efficient heating system.<br /><br />We lit the gas, boiled water for hot water bottles, left the heating on low and piled on an extra duvet, thinking we would freeze . . . but after five minutes the hotties and the extra duvet got the biff, we turned the heating off, opened a skylight and slept soundly.<br /><br />Talking of sleep, the bedding arrangement in the 4-berth Cascade was ingenious. At the push of a button, a queen-size bed appeared from the ceiling while another below was able to be made up from the squabs in the rear lounge. The upper bed recessed into the ceiling when not in use. Such clever use of space.<br /><br />We awoke to a perfect day. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, the view from our bedroom window was breath-taking. We couldn’t wait to jump on our ebikes and explore more of this place called Paradise . . .<br /><br /><em>To be continued.</em><br /><span> </span></div> <div><em>Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=tWPA3DSjp88h92_m_yOej0Tyw3e6LI4rEYpaeNNn58pcBoKUAILYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.maui-rentals.com%2fnz%2fen%3futm_medium%3dreferral%26utm_source%3djustine-tyerman" target="_blank">thl</a> in a <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=T67CO7HaB4Hy8m49Jc0LTYu_fAqurQYwHDvzQwTYtjhcBoKUAILYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.maui-rentals.com%2fnz%2fen%2fmotorhome-hire%2f4-berth-campervan-cascade%3futm_medium%3dreferral%26utm_source%3djustine-tyerman" target="_blank">Maui 4-berth Cascade motorhome,</a> and rode a <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=D4fFGghFbcshDq0SojkHUYYtEIErEO2QmPI-NhfBaw9cBoKUAILYCA..&amp;URL=https%3a%2f%2fwisperbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Wisper Wayfarer ebike</a> courtesy of <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://email.directgroup.com.au/owa/redir.aspx?C=SoAD83WgCmviEe9KsPsHJwa1cyBdBdVIeFrgwi6WIeBcBoKUAILYCA..&amp;URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.electricbikes.co.nz%2f" target="_blank">Electric Bikes NZ</a></em></div>

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Justin Trudeau’s 21-second pause after Donald Trump question

<p>Justin Trudeau paused for 21 seconds when asked Tuesday about Donald Trump’s use of tear gas against protesters to make way for a photo opportunity.</p> <p>During a press conference at Rideau Cottage, the Canadian Prime Minister was asked for comments on the US President’s call for military action against protesters demonstrating police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.</p> <p>Trudeau, who is usually quick in answering questions, paused and made several false starts before giving his response.</p> <p>“We all watch in horror and consternation at what is going on in the United States,” he said.</p> <p>“It is a time to pull people together… but it is a time to listen. It is a time to learn, when injustices continue despite progress over years and decades.”</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">‘We all watch in horror and consternation what's going on in the United States,’ said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, reacting to U.S. federal police removing protesters from outside the White House. Follow our live updates here: <a href="https://t.co/8f7EFQVqWs">https://t.co/8f7EFQVqWs</a> <a href="https://t.co/gwuibxOa3o">pic.twitter.com/gwuibxOa3o</a></p> — Reuters (@Reuters) <a href="https://twitter.com/Reuters/status/1267902555176292353?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 2, 2020</a></blockquote> <p>Trudeau went on to talk about the need to fight racism in Canada.</p> <p>“It is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we, too, have our challenges – that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as a lived reality every single day,” he said.</p> <p>On Monday, police forcibly removed several thousands of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square across the White House ahead of Trump’s visit to St John’s Episcopal Church.</p> <p>In his speech in the Rose Garden, Trump declared he would be a “law and order president” as tear gas guns were fired in the background.</p> <p>He said if state governors refuse to deploy the National Guard to “dominate the streets”, he would call on the military to “quickly solve the problem for them”.</p> <p>Protests have taken place across the US after 46-year-old Floyd died in custody on May 25, when officers responded to a call from a grocery store claiming he had used a forged $20 bill.</p> <p>A video shows police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, pinning him down for more than eight minutes, while three other officers watched as Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe.</p>

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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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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.com.au/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.com.au/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.com.au/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 <span><a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/domestic-travel/what-it-s-like-travelling-across-australia-on-board-the-indian-pacific">here</a></span>); and the <span><a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine">TranzAlpine</a></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 <span><a href="https://www.railplus.com.au/great-train-journeys/belmond-grand-hibernian/prices-book.htm">Belmond Grand Hibernian</a></span> in Ireland.</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>

Domestic 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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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.com.au/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.com.au/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.com.au/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.com.au/travel/international-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>TranzAlpine</strong></span></a></em><em>. </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.com.au/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>

Domestic 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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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 per cent 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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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: “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 a 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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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 spellbinding 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="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/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.com.au/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.com.au/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.com.au/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">here</a>); and the <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine">TranzAlpine</a></em><em>.</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.com.au/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>

Domestic Travel

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Under the spell of The Ghan

<p><em>Justine Tyerman boards The Ghan, the famous transcontinental train, from Darwin to Adelaide. Here is the first of a four-part series about her journey.</em></p> <p>The sleek silver Ghan, with the twin bright red diesel-electric locomotives throbbing at her prow, was a magnificent sight at Darwin’s Berrimah Railway Station as coaches and taxis arrived with 285 excited passengers ready to embark on our great train adventure from Darwin to Adelaide. We were about to travel through the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia, a 2979km journey spread over four days and three nights.</p> <p>The sheer size, length and spectacle of the 903m, 38-carriage, 1700 tonne train set my heart pounding. I instantly fell under the spell of this iconic train originally named the Afghan Express after the 19th century Afghan cameleers who helped blaze a trail through the country’s remote interior.</p> <p>Although construction began in 1878, it wasn't until 2004 that the last section of the railway track from Alice Springs to Darwin was finally completed. The locomotives and the carriages all proudly bear the emblem of an Afghan riding a camel.</p> <p>My Gold Service cabin with ensuite bathroom was mid-ships so the walk with my small wheelie case was manageable in the tropical heat but those at the extremities of the train were shuttled in style.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 375px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821396/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/7c7198d49e814601b592acf4840077e3" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>My ensuite bathroom with lovely Appelles bath and body products.</em></p> <p>My hospitality attendant Aaron greeted me with a beaming smile and soon after appeared in my cabin to chat about what excursions I wanted to do during the days ahead.</p> <p>“All of them,” I said, unable to choose from the fabulous selection available each day. Having done the excursions, Aaron helped me come to a decision in no time.</p> <p>Train manager Bruce then welcomed us all aboard via the in-cabin radio which also broadcast an excellent commentary and a series of stories about the places, events and people along the route.</p> <p>Restaurant manager Nick popped by to discuss my preferred dining times in the Queen Adelaide Restaurant. The cuisine on The Ghan and her sister The Indian Pacific, a trip I completed in June, is as legendary as the history of these great train journeys. Not to mention the beverages …</p> <p>A glass of champagne mysteriously found its way into my hand as the massive train slid so smoothly from the station, I was only aware we were moving by watching the people waving on the platform slowly disappear from view. A toast to The Ghan seemed a fitting way to celebrate the departure of such a majestic train on another epic journey across the continent. The Ghan has a presence, history and grandeur like no other and to be finally embarking on the trip sent bubbles of excitement through my veins. They matched the effervescence in my glass.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 333.3333333333333px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821395/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/bfe4305a9cd6419fa6045699e220b978" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>A toast to The Ghan seems a fitting way to celebrate the departure of such a majestic train on our epic journey across the continent.</em></p> <p>“This is the life,” I thought as I settled into my super-comfortable cabin and watched the Northern Territory countryside flicker by. Tall termite mounds like cylindrical chimneys scattered the bushy terrain which had been recently scorched in a controlled burn-off. The ant-like insects build amazingly clever dwellings for themselves with a central vent for air-conditioning. They devour an enormous quality of matter and return all the nutrients to the earth. The structures are aligned north-south to catch the sun. You learn all sorts of fascinating things by listening to the commentary on The Ghan.</p> <p>Soon after, we crossed the broad Elizabeth River and it was lunchtime.</p> <p>I dined in the ornate Queen Adelaide Restaurant on tropical chicken salad with fresh mango, flat beans, red onion, bamboo shoots, macadamia, lotus root, coriander and mesclun with lime pepper dressing, followed by a divine mango parfait with wild berry salsa. White tablecloths, fine china, waiters, wine … and that was just a light lunch.</p> <p>Travelling solo, Nick seated me with a variety of different people at every meal. On this occasion I lunched with three highly-entertaining Australian widows, one of whom knew a family from my hometown of Gisborne, New Zealand. Such a coincidence.</p> <p>As we chatted, we travelled through sparsely-vegetated hilly terrain cut by dry river beds, and rocky outcrops as though it had rained massive boulders.</p> <p>Unlike the Indian Pacific where there were hours of on-train time to daydream and relax, the daily excursions on The Ghan Expedition took up the bulk of the daytime hours. Early afternoon, we arrived at the Northern Territory town of Katherine to be met by coaches waiting to take us on a variety of excursions. Following Aaron’s advice, I chose a cruise and hike in two of the 13 gorges on the Katherine River in the 292,000-hectare Nitmiluk National Park.</p> <p>We boarded barges and cruised slowly up a spectacular steep-sided, rocky sandstone gorge carved by the Katherine River over millions of years. The commentary of our skipper-guide Sam added wonderful layers of meaning and history to the experience.</p> <p>Nitmiluk means ‘cicada country’ to the indigenous Jawoyn people, she said.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="/nothing.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/9a899824b5844b6381ffc5b4cb074710" /><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821397/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/9a899824b5844b6381ffc5b4cb074710" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Cruising the Katherine River in the spectacular Nitmiluk Gorge. </em></p> <p>“Listen and you’ll hear the buzzing sound, especially in the evening,” Sam explained.</p> <p>She also pointed out huge gashes in the rocks on both sides of the river indicating fault lines, and trees like the paperbark with uses such as cooking foil and the larruk with anti-inflammatory and insect repellent properties.</p> <p>The white sandy beaches alongside the river looked like idyllic spots for picnics and swims until Sam drew our attention to the signs: “Crocodile nesting area – do not enter.”</p> <p>They’re mainly freshwater crocs here, not the monster ‘salties’ I’d seen in Darwin, but you still wouldn’t want to get anywhere near them. Thereafter I imagined I saw many crocodiles submerged in the river, but they were “probably rockodiles” according to Sam.</p> <p>The kayakers we passed on the river must have been incredibly brave or foolhardy – I couldn’t decide which.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height: 281.25px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821398/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/050daa96945643b9a174632cd393abda" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Kayakers on the Katherine River near a croc nesting beach.</em></p> <p>Turning my attention upwards while keeping my arms well clear of the water, I was transfixed by the staggering height of the sheer cliffs on either side of our barge, reaching 60 to 100m high, depending on the depth of the river. The Katherine rises up to 9-10 metres during times of flood – the extreme sideways lean of the trees are an indication of the strength of the current.</p> <p>Today the river was so low we had to hike between the two gorges, boarding another barge on the other side.</p> <p>Between the gorges, Sam pointed out aboriginal paintings etched in the rock walls high above us, still intact after thousands of years. Some indigenous art in the region dates back 40,000 years, the oldest known art forms on the planet.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 333.3333333333333px; height: 500px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821399/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/65609f519a0f409b9cdcff88e5259132" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Aboriginal paintings etched in the rock walls are still intact after thousands of years.</em></p> <p>As we neared a deep pool in the upper reaches of the second gorge, Sam told us a Dreamtime story of the Jawoyn people.</p> <p>“According to legend, Bolung, the rainbow serpent, carved the gorge in his own image then laid to rest in the 40m deep pool right below us.</p> <p>“There’s a whirlpool here and Jawoyn people won’t swim, fish or drink water from the pool for fear of a flood or other calamity.</p> <p>“The serpent is one of few common threads in aboriginal culture. Indigenous people in the Flinders Ranges area have a similar story.”</p> <p>Sam also explained the kinship system of the aboriginal people whereby a skin name is handed down by your mother meaning those of the same name cannot marry. The penalties for breaking the rules are severe – a spear to the back of the legs.</p> <p>We passed by an impressive towering rock known as Jedda Rock after the 1955 Australian-made movie of the same name, the first feature film to star aboriginal actors.</p> <p>The rocks in the Katherine Gorge are around 1.6 billion years old, Sam explained.</p> <p>As we neared the end of the cruise, I spotted a large cage on the water’s edge.</p> <p>“It’s a croc trap,” said Sam just in case we had forgotten we were in crocodile country.</p> <p>Jay, a cheery Jawoyn lad with a huge smile shouted “Boh boh” to us as he tethered the barge to the jetty and we disembarked.</p> <p>The Jawoyn don’t say “Goodbye”, they say “Boh boh – See ya later”.</p> <p>A huge plume of smoke threatened to obliterate the sunset as we bused back to the train. A controlled burn was taking place somewhere in the distance, turning the sun into a fiery red ball in the western sky.</p> <p>Later, as I emerged wet and drippy from the shower, I discovered we were actually travelling right through the fire, hot and red and fiery with flames leaping up trees and lots of smoke. It was really dramatic. Travelling through an Aussie bush fire, courtesy of The Ghan.<br /><br />That evening, I just had to try the crocodile sausage entrée with a lemon aspen sauce on the dinner menu. Having been warned by my Aussie mates that croc was bland, I found it surprisingly tasty.</p> <p>Sticking with exotic, I had an excellent chickpea saffron dahl served with pickled okra and basmati rice as a main course, and yummy ginger and macadamia nut pudding with caramel sauce and coconut ice-cream for dessert.</p> <p>As I snuggled into my comfy bed ­ beautifully-made by Aaron with crisp white linen ­ in the air-conditioned comfort of my cosy cabin, I looked back over the photos I’d taken that day.  <br />The grandeur of the Katherine Gorge was quite overwhelming. The deeply-furrowed, weathered old faces of the rocks towering above the river gave me a powerful sense of the ancientness and dignity of the land. Truly one of the Australia’s most stunning natural wonders.</p> <p>FACTBOX:</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 or vice versa</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.com.au/australia-by-rail/australias-great-train-journeys/the-ghan-expedition/ghan-expedition-prices-book.htm">https://www.railplus.com.au/australia-by-rail/australias-great-train-journeys/the-ghan-expedition/ghan-expedition-prices-book.htm</a> for more information on The Ghan and <a href="https://www.railplus.com.au/great-train-journeys/">https://www.railplus.com.au/great-train-journeys/</a> 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 <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>four stories</strong></span></a>); and the <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/a-day-on-the-tranzalpine"><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>TranzAlpine</strong></span></a></em><em>.</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 Deccan Odyssey between Mumbai and New Delhi in India <a href="https://www.railplus.com.au/great-train-journeys/deccan-odyssey/prices-info.htm">https://www.railplus.com.au/great-train-journeys/deccan-odyssey/prices-info.htm</a> another epic journey I'm dreaming of doing some day. The eight-day, seven-night journey recaptures the pomp and pageantry of India's royal past visiting beaches, sea forts and world heritage cave frescoes of Western India and the Deccan plateau including the city of Goa. </em></p>

Domestic Travel

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A day on the TranzAlpine

<p><em>Justine Tyerman survives a tornado on the TranzAlpine ...  </em></p> <p>The excitement was at fever pitch as the passengers filed into the spacious carriages of the TranzAlpine train and found their seats beside the huge panoramic windows. On the dot of 8.15am on a bright, cloudless, spring morning, the train glided smoothly out of the station.</p> <p>The twin diesel locomotives pulling the 10 or so carriages quickly gathered speed as we whizzed through suburban and industrial Christchurch at the start of our five-hour journey from the Pacific Ocean on the east coast of the South Island to the West Coast town of Greymouth on the Tasman Sea. </p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821376/the-diesel-locomotive-one-of-two-that-pull-the-tranzalpine.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/0b27eb4ddbc4431c8b1b75f7ae69ec34" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The diesel locomotive, one of two, that pull the TranzAlpine.</em></p> <p>Most of the passengers were contented to sit in their comfortable seats watching the ever-changing landscape flicker by but I joined a handful of hardy, puffer-jacket-clad photographers who braved the blustery, dusty and decidedly chilly conditions in the open-air observation car at the rear of the train.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821375/open-air-viewing-carriage.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/8ac591c42fb54b13bfc28f2f49b40f5b" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Justine wearing many layers in the open-air viewing carriage.</em></p> <p>The lack of windows certainly enabled photos to be taken without the impediment of reflective glass but the constant rocking and rolling motion resulted in more than a few blurry shots and random views of my boots and the ceiling. Navigating my way around a forest of selfie sticks without being clonked on the head was another challenge. </p> <p>A veteran of many train trips overseas, this was my first such journey in New Zealand and as one of the few Kiwis onboard, I felt inordinately proud of my own land. </p> <p>The grass on the Canterbury Plains seemed greener than ever and the lambs even more frolicksome. There were squeals of delight as foals, calves, alpacas and fawns came briefly into view looking impossibly cute in paddocks alongside the train. Were they placed there deliberately to enchant the passengers? If so, it worked.</p> <p>Giant irrigation lines, some up to a kilometre long, stood ready to pour water onto the pastures as soon as the summer heat set in.</p> <p>The Main Divide was visible in the distance, a seemingly impenetrable fortress of mountains. We’ve travelled to the West Coast via Arthur’s Pass by road a number of times, but after the rural town of Springfield, the TranzAlpine took a completely different route, leaving me feeling quite disorientated.</p> <p>As the train approached the foothills of the Southern Alps, the stunning aqua-turquoise Waimakariri River came into view to a chorus of ‘wows’ and a frantic scramble for cameras by the overseas passengers.</p> <p>The train climbed high above the Waimakariri, crossing the river on steel girder viaducts so high I felt dizzy looking down into the gorge. There are 15 short tunnels and four viaducts, including the 72-metre-high Staircase Viaduct, as the TranzAlpine ascends the Torlesse Range</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821379/waimakariri-river.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/e34def7056e541e1a4e8389c4a308e79" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Waimakariri River far below as the train crosses a viaduct.</em></p> <p>The landscape changed again as the train wound its way along the broad upland plains of Craigieburn where the braids of the Waimakariri spread across a wide silver shingle river bed. The alps, so distant at the start, were now almost close enough to touch.</p> <p>The black-green forested lower reaches of the mountains were a startling contrast to the snowy white peaks and pinnacles above. Lake Pearson sparkled in the spring sunshine and the golden tussocks, tossed by the breeze as the train sped by, were vibrant and glossy. The summit of Mt Bisner looked as though it had been freshly iced, the snow cover was so deep and smooth.</p> <p>I’d like to have leapt off the train to watch as it crossed the iconic, often-photographed long, low bridge over the glacier-fed Waimakariri, heading towards Arthur’s Pass. It’s such a dramatic sight as it spans the river against the spectacular backdrop of the alps.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821373/arthurs-pass.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/4098f785d5474ae0bcd26a369a4390d1" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Stunning mountain scenery as the train approaches Arthur's Pass.</em></p> <p>The TranzAlpine stops briefly at the village of Arthur’s Pass (740m above sea level), a popular hub for serious climbers, hikers, snow sports enthusiasts and nature-lovers. Last time I visited, it was snowing heavily, and the mountain tops were shrouded in mist but on this occasion, the little settlement was basking in the warm sunshine under a cloudless, blue sky.</p> <p>A handful of fit-looking trampers disembarked at the pass, laden with heavy packs and climbing boots, no doubt heading into the mountainous national park to engage in rugged outdoor activities. I was sorely tempted to join them.</p> <p>The hiking and climbing trails there are epic. There’s also a backcountry ski field nearby, Temple Basin, where I skied in my younger days. The field is largely unchanged today with ungroomed slopes, three rope tows and a cosy lodge.</p> <p>The timely appearance of a couple of kea, New Zealand’s comical alpine parrot, created a frenzy of selfie sticks among the overseas passengers. Little did they know how mischievous these entertaining birds can be. Many a sandwich has been tweaked out of my hand by a sly kea. They’re also particularly partial to the rubber on windscreen wipers and ski racks.</p> <p>The next phase of the trip took us through the 8.5km Otira Tunnel under the Southern Alps, the backbone of the South Island. The tunnel, completed in 1923, was the final stage of the TranzAlpine railway which began in the 1880s. When it opened, it was the longest rail tunnel in the British Empire and one of the longest in the world.</p> <p>The outdoor viewing carriage and café car were closed as a safety precaution as the train slowly descended from the pass at a steep gradient of 1:33. I wish I’d made it to the café beforehand because the tunnel was the only time during the five-hour trip that I could prise my eyes away from the stunning scenery.</p> <p>Emerging from darkness into light, we found ourselves in a different world. The West Coast never fails to intrigue with its misty rainforests and snow-capped mountains. The train travelled alongside the Otira, Taramakau, Arnold and Grey Rivers as we made our way towards the Tasman Sea, trundling through towns with colourful pasts that sprang up overnight in the gold rush of the 1860s, and other settlements associated with timber milling, coal mining, the Cobb and Co stagecoach and the construction of the road, railway and tunnel.</p> <p>As we passed through Otira, population 45, I happened to be taking a rare break from the viewing car, sitting in my luxurious seat listening to the excellent commentary. Former railway-workers’ houses were lined up neatly along the roadside. They were a hardy lot to live and work in a region with five metres of rain a year and only a few hours of sunshine in the winter.</p> <p>I chuckled as I heard about the ingenious way the local policeman dealt with thefts of coal from the railyards at Otira. He devised small explosives, painted them black, hid them among the coal bins at the station, and when a chimney blew up, he went to the house and arrested the culprits, no doubt caught black-handed.</p> <p>That was the only disadvantage of the perfect weather. I missed 95 percent of the commentary because I was outside in the viewing car most of the time.</p> <p>We skirted lovely Lake Brunner, tranquil and sombre under the slate sky, and the village of Moana with its quaint Kiwi baches. The previous summer we had camped there and spotted the rare whio or blue duck in a tributary. The fishing and walking trails are outstanding, well worth a stopover. You can catch the TranzAlpine on to Greymouth or back to Christchurch the next day … or whenever you are ready.</p> <p>The terrain opens out from Lake Brunner and after a sharp left turn at Stillwater, the train travels along the Grey River into Greymouth … just in time for the lunch I missed while ogling the scenery.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821378/the-tranzalpine-at-greymouth-railway-station.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/3479a08c4e88490294860dedbd919226" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The TranzAlpine at Greymouth Railway Station.</em></p> <p>Far from grey, the West Coast’s largest city was bathed in sunshine so after a quick snack and a cool beer at the historic Speight’s Ale House, I strolled along the river bank walkway making mental notes of future hikes and bike trips. I stopped at a beautiful riverside memorial to pay tribute to the coal miners who have lost their lives in a series of disasters in the region: 1896, Brunner mine, 65 dead; 1926, Dobson mine, nine dead; 1967, Strongman mine, 19 dead; 2010, Pike River mine, 29 dead. I vividly remember the Pike River tragedy which is still fresh in the minds of all West Coasters.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="https://oversixtydev.blob.core.windows.net/media/7821377/the-memorial-at-greymouth-to-the-coal-miners-who-lost-their-lives-in-mines-on-the-west-coast.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/b416da7e6e784df5852bb52897a42098" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The memorial at Greymouth to the coal miners who lost their lives in mines on the West Coast.</em></p> <p>A plaque near the train station tells the story of the 1864 goldrush which attracted 29,000 miners to the region and saw three million ounces of gold extracted.</p> <p>The text also reminds New Zealanders:</p> <p><em>“Our gold financed this country’s growth. Westland’s coal fired the furnaces that industrialised New Zealand and our timber helped build the nation.”</em></p> <p>Greymouth is an ideal place to purchase pounamu, also known as New Zealand jade or greenstone. Found in many places on the West Coast, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site known in Maori as <span>Te </span><em>Wahipounamu, the Place of Greenstone, it is t</em>reasured for its spiritual significance, strength, durability and beauty.</p> <p>Most of my fellow passengers headed off to explore the magnificent West Coast glaciers and beaches while I reboarded the TranzAlpine an hour later for what I expected to be a slightly more relaxed return trip seated in my comfy armchair.</p> <p>But the landscape, transformed by the long shadows of late afternoon and a dazzling sunset in the evening, demanded that I return to the viewing car for another blustery episode, dashing from one side to the other to get the best views. But this time I was almost alone, thanks to the near-zero wind chill.</p> <p>And I did find time for a pinot noir with tasty lamb shanks for dinner.</p> <p>My husband, who met me at the station, expressed surprise at my red cheeks, dishevelled appearance, double puffer jackets, gloves and woolly hat, assuming I’d spent the day in the lap of luxury sipping bubbly and dining on fine food while languidly gazing at the scenery through the panoramic windows.</p> <p>“You look like you’ve been in a tornado,” he said.</p> <p>“Yes, nine or 10 hours standing in an outside carriage of a train travelling at around 100km per hour can have that effect,” I replied.</p> <p>“No seats left inside then?” he asked.</p> <p>“Plenty … comfy, warm, luxurious, big panoramic windows, great commentary.”</p> <p>He just shook his head …</p> <p><em>Justine Tyerman travelled courtesy of Rail Plus international rail specialists, and Great Journeys of New Zealand.</em><em> </em></p> <p><strong>FACTBOX:</strong></p> <ul> <ul> <li><em>The TranzAlpine scenic train trip is a daily return service in New Zealand’s South Island between Christchurch on the East Coast and Greymouth on the West Coast, or vice versa, covering a distance of 223 kilometres in just under five hours.</em></li> <li><em>Visit <span><a href="https://www.railplus.co.nz/new-zealand-by-rail/tranzalpine/prices-book.htm">www.railplus.co.nz/new-zealand-by-rail/tranzalpine/prices-book.htm</a></span></em></li> <li><em>for more information on this and other epic train adventures around the world, or phone 09 377 5420</em></li> <li><em>A veteran of many rail journeys organised through Rail Plus, I’ve also travelled on the <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/domestic-travel/what-it-s-like-travelling-across-australia-on-board-the-indian-pacific">Indian Pacific</a>; the <a href="http://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/international-travel/on-the-unesco-world-heritage-bernina-express-from-switzerland-to-italy">Bernina Express</a>, the Golden Pass and Jungfraujoch.</em></li> <li><em>Rail Plus has a </em><span>dedicated</span><em> team of experts to advise you on Great Train Journeys all around the world including the famous Orient Express. </em></li> <li><em>The magnificent <a href="https://www.railplus.com.au/canada-by-rail/independent-packages/snow-train-to-the-rockies/prices-info.htm">Snow Train to the Rockies</a> is next on my list. </em></li> </ul> </ul> <p> </p>

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