Domestic Travel

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Bad news Australia: Christmas Day is going to be a wet one

<p>Summer is officially set to arrive in two weeks, but it seems that we won’t be blessed with sunny days anytime soon, as Australia’s east coast is expected to experience heavy rain fall.</p> <p>December is predicted to be wet and gloomy with the soggy weather leading all the way up until Christmas day.</p> <p>According to The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), there is a 65 per cent chance of rainfall in the month of December with some areas being affected more than others.</p> <p>Speaking to the <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6392191/The-east-coast-smashed-rain-Australia-gears-WET-Christmas.html" target="_blank"><em>Daily Mail</em></a>, senior climatologist at the BOM, Agata Imielska, said that the rain will give drought-stricken farmers something to celebrate as some areas are expected to receive close to 400 millimetres of rain.</p> <p>“It’s a pleasant surprise for areas especially for areas that have been quite dry,” she said.</p> <p>But despite the good news, the BOM doesn’t expect the consecutive rain fall to have an effect on the drought.</p> <p>“It would be nicer to see the signal across the entirety of the state and particularly west of the Great Dividing Range,” said Ms Imielska.</p> <p>“Still better than seeing a dry outlook obviously.”</p> <p>In NSW, the western areas are expected to remain fairly dry as most of the rain is expected to fall throughout the eastern and south-eastern parts of the state.</p> <p>But the rain isn’t going to stop summer in its tracks as residents in NSW have been warned of extremely hot days and nights towards the end of the year.</p> <p>The BOM is predicting a number of heatwaves and increased chances of bushfires despite the wet weather.</p> <p>“Sometimes that rainfall can actually stimulate some growth which can then dry out and actually pose a potential bushfire risk,” said Ms Imielska said.</p> <p>Since January, NSW has been dangerously dry as it has received less than 20 per cent of its expected rain fall, with Australia going through the driest July in 20 years.</p> <p>Speaking to <a rel="noopener" href="http://www.weatherzone.com.au/" target="_blank"><em>Weatherzone</em></a>, Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, the heatwave expert for the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, said that Australia should brace themselves for a very dry and extremely warm summer.</p> <p>“We are heading towards an El Niño summer, so we are more likely to have hotter and more extreme weather,” said Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick.</p> <p>“We should certainly be worried.”</p> <p>El Niño is a phenomenon that occurs during severe droughts and causes extreme temperatures that increases the risk of bushfires and decreases the chance of rain and can last up to two years.</p> <p>Are you looking forward to more wet weather? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

Domestic Travel

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Powerful new photo shows heartbreak of Aussie crisis

<p>A photo posted to social media shows the desperation of Australian farmers who have been affected by the worst drought the country has seen in decades.</p> <p>The photo, which was captured by Rhonda King, shows her 83-year-old father Alf King making a prayer for rain as he kneels in the middle of dry land a little outside of Bingara near the NSW-Queensland border.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Frhonds.king%2Fposts%2F2190611847817453&amp;width=500" width="500" height="508" style="border: none; overflow: hidden;" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" allowtransparency="true" allow="encrypted-media"></iframe></p> <p>The photo was taken as the father and daughter were feeding their cattle on Sunday morning and was posted a couple of days later on Rhonda's Facebook page.</p> <p>It didn’t take long for the photo to gain momentum, as it has already garnered hundreds of comments from well-wishers as they too prayed for Alf and farmers around Australia.</p> <p>“Heartbreaking picture so hard to take after a lifetime of hard work,” said one user.</p> <p>“Bless his soul,” wrote another. “Hope it rains soon.”</p> <p>According to Rhonda, this is the worst drought to have ever hit the area.</p> <p>“Four generations have toiled hard on this land,” she said. “Never seen before, first time without water.”</p> <p>The farm, which has been in the family for four generations, is 2000-acres and Rhonda, who is a farmer and an army veteran, says her father still helps out despite his old age.</p> <p>“There’s just myself and my dad,” she said, speaking to <em><a rel="noopener" href="https://au.news.yahoo.com/powerful-photo-shows-drought-stricken-farmers-desperation-075151076.html" target="_blank">Yahoo7</a>.</em> “He helps me out and he’s almost blind.</p> <p>“If you look at the photo, you’ll see a patch over his eye, so he’s only got a little bit of sight in one eye.”</p> <p>The image comes after the Prime Minister’s announcement to increase the government’s food relief budget, as he hopes that those charities that are responsible for providing food for 710,000 people a month don’t have a cut in funding.</p> <p>Organisations such as Foodbank lost $250,000 a year due to the government wanting funds to be distributed between three providers instead of two, which resulted in them almost cutting their services for those who need it the most.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">[1/3] Yesterday I promised to review the Foodbank decision. I have listened and decided to increase the Food Relief budget by $1.5 million over the next 4.5 years and have asked the Minister to place more focus on relief in drought affected areas.</p> — Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) <a href="https://twitter.com/ScottMorrisonMP/status/1062078060613103616?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">12 November 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">[2/3] This maintains Foodbank’s funding at $750K/yr, with Second Bite and OzHarvest funded as announced last week.</p> — Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) <a href="https://twitter.com/ScottMorrisonMP/status/1062078133900177408?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">12 November 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">[3/3] Important that food relief in drought areas is delivered in a way that does not undercut local businesses. Minister will work with providers to get the right plan in place.</p> — Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) <a href="https://twitter.com/ScottMorrisonMP/status/1062078287705329664?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">12 November 2018</a></blockquote> <p>“I have listened and decided to increase the Food Relief budget by $1.5 million over the next 4.5 years,” said Mr Morrison through his Twitter account. “This maintains Foodbanks funding at $750k/yr, with Second Bite and OzHarvest funded as announced last week.”</p> <p>The food relief budget has now been increased to $6 million. </p>

Domestic Travel

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Sunrise's Nat Barr selling $3.2 million Sydney home

<p style="margin-top: 0cm; background: white;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">Natalie Barr is one of our favourite faces on Australian breakfast television. And while she seems <a style="box-sizing: border-box; transition: all 0.2s ease-in-out 0s;" rel="noopener" href="http://www.oversixty.com.au/entertainment/tv/2017/12/the-controversial-moment-you-missed-on-sunrise/" target="_blank"><strong style="box-sizing: border-box;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #258440;"><span style="box-sizing: border-box;">content to keep up the early mornings</span></span></strong></a> (for the moment at least), the <em style="box-sizing: border-box;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif;">Sunrise</span></em> star looks as though she’s after a bit of a change of scenery.</span></p> <p style="margin-top: 0cm; background: white; box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1rem; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; orphans: 2; widows: 2; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; word-spacing: 0px;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">The 50-year-old presenter and her husband Andrew Thompson are selling their four-bedroom home in the up-market Sydney suburb of Mosman.</span></p> <p style="margin-top: 0cm; background: white; box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1rem; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; orphans: 2; widows: 2; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; word-spacing: 0px;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">The couple purchased the property, which is scheduled to go to auction on December 6, in 2016 for $3.2 million. </span></p> <p style="margin-top: 0cm; background: white;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">With luxurious views of Sydney harbour, incredible outdoor spaces and a range of high-class features you can easily see why the <em style="box-sizing: border-box;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif;">Sunrise</span></em> host decided to move in.</span></p> <p style="margin-top: 0cm; background: white; box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1rem; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; orphans: 2; widows: 2; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; word-spacing: 0px;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">Take a peek at this stunning property in the gallery above.</span></p> <p style="margin-top: 0cm; background: white; box-sizing: border-box; margin-bottom: 1rem; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; orphans: 2; widows: 2; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; word-spacing: 0px;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">What are your thoughts? Could you see yourself living in a house like this? Do you think Natalie is mad to pass it up? Let us know in the comments section.</span></p> <p style="margin: 0cm; margin-bottom: 1rem; background: white; box-sizing: border-box; font-variant-ligatures: normal; font-variant-caps: normal; orphans: 2; widows: 2; -webkit-text-stroke-width: 0px; text-decoration-style: initial; text-decoration-color: initial; word-spacing: 0px;"><em style="box-sizing: border-box;"><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;">Hero image credit: Twitter / MacGregor SHS</span></em><span style="font-family: 'Segoe UI',sans-serif; color: #212529;"></span></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="/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="/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="/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="/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="/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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See Australia: The bucket-list worthy walking track

<p>The Murray River Walk is a four-day guided walk that combines hiking and houseboating along a 40-kilometre stretch of the Murray River between Renmark in South Australia and the Victorian border. While you’re wandering along river banks, across flood plains and through forests of red gums, a houseboat named Desire motors upriver to meet you with chilled wine and canapés at the end of each day. It’s a luxurious way to walk the walk, with hot showers, a top-deck spa and water views at every turn, including the five double bedrooms and two bathrooms, spacious lounge and dining area.</p> <p>The food is a highlight, a showcase of local produce and native ingredients – Murray River scallops, kangaroo, yabbies, Riverland beef and lamb, quandong desserts and salads of samphire and native greens foraged during the day, as well as platters of emu pâté, olives, cheeses, chutneys, nuts and sundried fruits. Evening meals are presented degustation-style, with matched Riverland wines.</p> <p>Walking is easy, more of a stroll than a trek along mostly level ground, covering between 10 and 15 kilometres each day. There are frequent stops as your guides show you the scars on trees where canoes, shields, woomeras and coolamons were cut from the bark by the Erawirung people, point out middens and cutting tools scattered in the undergrowth and the charcoal remains of ancient cooking hearths. There are plenty of stories of the paddle-steamer days, too, when hundreds of boats and barges plied the river, ferrying wool and supplies to the stations and ports along the waterway, with rusting relics and half-submerged wrecks. You’ll also learn how irrigation and water management has changed the landscape along one of our most highly regulated rivers with its system of dams, locks and weirs</p> <p>The route meanders across two historic properties, Calperum and Bunyip Reach stations; the Murray River Walk has exclusive access, so you won’t see any other walkers. You will see plenty of kangaroos, skinks and, if you’re lucky, a shy echidna or two. Pelicans are constant companions, as are elegant egrets and slightly goofy spoonbills perched in treetops, cormorants and darters drying their wings on half-drowned branches and whistling kites riding the thermals. Ducks patrol the shallows and emus flounce across the floodplains, feathered skirts fluttering.</p> <p>You’ll spend almost as much time on the river as you do on land, exploring anabranches and backwaters in an aluminium cruiser, negotiating locks and stickybeaking at historic customs houses and old shearing sheds, including a barbecue lunch and beer stop at Wilkadene Woolshed Brewery on the last day. As far as walking holidays go, it’s pretty cruisy.</p> <p><strong>WHERE IS IT?</strong></p> <p>The walk begins and ends in Renmark, 256km east of Adelaide, around a 3-hour drive east of Adelaide.</p> <p><strong>WHY GO?</strong></p> <p>Cruising and gourmet food.</p> <p><strong>WHEN TO GO?</strong></p> <p>Walking season is May to the end of September.</p> <p><strong>HOW LONG?</strong></p> <p>4 days.</p> <p><em>This is an edited extract from </em>Australia’s Best Nature Escapes <em>by Lee Atkinson published by Hardie Grant Books [39.99] and is available in stores nationally.</em></p> <p><em>Photographer: © Lee Atkinson</em></p> <p><em><img style="width: 250px !important; height: 300px !important;" src="/media/7821835/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/411059142cf548be950fc4f94d8782c4" /></em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Stay indoors: Severe weather warning issued

<p>Health authorities have issued a warning for asthma sufferers as a storm that is set to sweep NSW could cause serious breathing problems.</p> <p>According to Richard Broome from NSW Health, the increased amount of pollen in the atmosphere could aggravate asthma and respiratory conditions as the storms arrive.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Severe?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Severe</a> Thunderstorm Warning for damaging wind has been issued for parts of North West Slopes and Plains, Upper Hunter, lower Mid-North Coast and southern parts of Northern Tablelands. For more details see <a href="https://t.co/U4HiYO6SPi">https://t.co/U4HiYO6SPi</a> <a href="https://t.co/fMejTtmXCK">pic.twitter.com/fMejTtmXCK</a></p> — Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) <a href="https://twitter.com/BOM_NSW/status/1059653956912201729?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">6 November 2018</a></blockquote> <p>“Thunderstorms cause pollen grains to explode and release fine particles, which can be inhaled deeply into the lungs, causing even more people to wheeze and sneeze,” said Dr Broome in a statement.</p> <p>After 3600 people were admitted to hospital in Melbourne due to breathing problems after stormy conditions in 2016, the warning has been issued in the hopes that those who suffer from breathing problems stay on high alert.</p> <p>“Anyone with diagnosed asthma should carry their asthma medication with them at all times during this high-risk period,” said Dr Broome. </p> <p>If you or anyone you know suffers from asthma, please stay indoors during this severe weather. </p>

Domestic Travel

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Virgin Australia's controversial new boarding procedure

<p>After announcing its controversial decision of honouring Australian war veterans on their flights, Virgin Australia has been on the receiving end of heated criticism.</p> <p>Having already been introduced in the United States, Australian military veterans flying with Virgin Australia will be issued with perks such as priority boarding and an in-flight public announcement acknowledging their contribution to the country.</p> <p>“We acknowledge the important contribution veterans have made to keeping our country safe and the role they play in our community,” said John Borghetti, Virgin Australia’s chief executive officer to Brisbane’s <em>Sunday Mail</em>.</p> <p>“Once the veterans have their cards and lapel pins, they will simply need to present them during the boarding process to be given priority boarding and be recognised on board.”</p> <p>The initiative will not be providing discounted airfare for veterans.</p> <p>The decision comes after the federal government introduced a discount card for men and women who have served in the war, alongside a program that helps veterans find jobs so they’re able to get back on their feet.</p> <p>Steven Ciobo, the Defence Industry Minister, said it was “tremendous” the way the airline was acknowledging war veterans.</p> <p>“If we can get though not just airlines, but if we can do this across the board, I think that is part of reinforcing respect in the Australian community for these men and women,” Mr Ciobo told <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.skynews.com.au/" target="_blank"><em>Sky News</em></a>.</p> <p>“I want to congratulate Virgin for, in many respects, being a trailblazer.”</p> <p>But while there was plenty of praise to go around, many weren’t happy with the airline’s decision.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr"><a href="https://twitter.com/VirginAustralia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@VirginAustralia</a> is this true? Because if it is, it's the most appalling idea I've ever heard. Why are you doing this? <a href="https://t.co/oPQcWsJoRc">https://t.co/oPQcWsJoRc</a></p> — Paul Benson (@Pauleration) <a href="https://twitter.com/Pauleration/status/1058981330023632899?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">4 November 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">While these gestures are nice and appreciated (as such) I’m not aware that veterans have asked or lobbied for:<br /><br />A discount card<br />A lapel badge<br />‘Thank you for your service’ <br />Priority boarding<br /><br />We certainly didn’t ask for for 500 Mil to be spent on the AWM <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/veterans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#veterans</a></p> — Ray Martin (@Raymartin55) <a href="https://twitter.com/Raymartin55/status/1058833375627104257?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">3 November 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-conversation="none" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">I don't need Virgin Australia to tell me to respect our veterans. I also respect our first responders and similar who put themselves in the frontline in the service of others every single day. Words mean nothing, practical and emotional support does.</p> — Kleinewurstsemmel (@MitGurke) <a href="https://twitter.com/MitGurke/status/1058978260606808065?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">4 November 2018</a></blockquote> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-cards="hidden" data-lang="en-gb"> <p dir="ltr">Virgin Australia announces US-style plan to honour veterans on every flight<br /><br />Jeez! Do veterans really want this type of peurile Americanised faux recognition of their service?<br />I suspect they are more than this!!<br />Give them a 20% discount!<br />🤢🤢🤢<a href="https://t.co/g9tqV3HwiP">https://t.co/g9tqV3HwiP</a></p> — John H Esq. (@knarfnamduh) <a href="https://twitter.com/knarfnamduh/status/1058937072826769408?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">4 November 2018</a></blockquote> <p>“Correct me if I’m wrong, but surely there are far better, more suitable ways of honouring and thanking our war veterans? This all feels like one big ad for Virgin Australia,” wrote Twitter user, Leo James.</p> <p>Catherine McGregor, a standout veteran, said she “would not dream of walking on to an aircraft ahead of the other passengers as a veteran” and that the initiative was “more nationalist crap".</p> <p>“Can’t imagine too many people I served with doing this either. Spend more on suicide prevention and health support. Faux American bollocks,” she proceeded to write.</p> <p>“Honouring #ausdef veterans if they choose to fly Virgin Australia? Sounds like commercialising Australians service personnel to me. Most I’ve met + know are pretty humble, they don’t want a fuss,” wrote Andrew Heslop.</p> <p>“Are we also going to thank paramedics, nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers – those who also serve society? It elevates one group of people above others,” tweeted Collette Snowdon. “Where does it end? American nonsense. Will not fly @Virgin if this goes ahead.”</p> <p>Appearing on Channel 7, Senators Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch also agreed with the backlash saying the move is a marketing ploy.</p> <p>“I have worked with veterans and I think they would find it embarrassing,” said Hanson.</p> <p>“You now have veterans who are in their 20s. We look after the people who are feeble by putting them on the plane first. I think it is a marketing ploy by Virgin. I don’t think veterans want to use priority boarding.”</p> <p>“Pauline is right. Get that in writing,” said Hinch jokingly, referring to their opposing views. “A lot of veterans don’t want to draw that sort of attention.”</p> <p>What do you think of the move by Virgin Australia? Let us know in the comments below.</p>

Domestic Travel

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Discovering Australia: Visit the world’s largest river red gum forest

<p>Barmah National Park, together with parks on the New South Wales side of the Murray River, protects the largest river red gum forest in the world.</p> <p>Call into the Barmah Forest Heritage Centre in Nathalia before you visit to glean all sorts of interesting things, such as that it wasn’t just woodcutting and riverboating that were the lifeblood of these riverside towns last century – apparently leech collecting for medicinal bloodletting was once big business, too. The hardy harvesters would walk through the swamps collecting the bloodsuckers on their legs for the princely sum of one shilling per pound – a hard way to make a living!</p> <p>You can camp anywhere you like along much of the 112-kilometre river front in this national park, but the free campground at Barmah Lakes has toilets and tables and lots of room to move. It’s a great place to launch a kayak and explore the river, although be careful: the current is stronger than it looks. It’s also a good spot to fish, particularly for the famed Murray cod. You will need a New South Wales fishing licence to fish the Murray River, even though you are technically on the</p> <p>Victorian side of the border. Also worth your while is the two-hour cruise along the narrowest and fastest flowing section of the Murray through the wetlands – home to almost 900 species of wildlife – and red gum forests. Cruises depart from the Barmah Lakes picnic area.</p> <p>For more river cruising, take a drive to nearby Echuca (40 kilometres west of the campground), the self-proclaimed paddle steamer capital of the country. During the river port’s boom days in the 1880s, when the Murray River was the only way to transport goods from the remote inland settlements to the coastal ports, hundreds of paddle steamers loaded and unloaded their cargo at the historic wharf. Echuca still has the world’s largest collection of working paddle steamers, some more than a century old, including the PS Adelaide built in 1886 and the PS Pevensey, made famous in the 1980s TV series <em>All the Rivers Run</em>. A river cruise is the most popular thing to do in town and there are several cruise options – head down to the wharf to check sailing times. Before you go, drop into the Echuca Historical Society Museum to see the old river charts that the riverboat captains used to navigate the river. They’re hand drawn on long linen scrolls; sometimes all the captains had to go on was a picture of a tree on a bend. The museum is in the old police lock-up and has a huge collection of old photos and memorabilia from the riverboat era.</p> <p><strong>Where is it?</strong></p> <p>Barmah National Park lies along the Murray River between the towns of Barmah and Strathmerton, about 225km north of Melbourne.</p> <p><strong>Why go?</strong></p> <p>Camping and scenery</p> <p><strong>When to go?</strong></p> <p>Relatively mild, the Barmah forests are a good year-round destination, although winter is generally wetter than summer. The park sometimes floods after heavy rain, so check current conditions on the national parks website (see below) before travelling.</p> <p><strong>How long?</strong></p> <p>2-3 days</p> <p><em>This is an edited extract from </em>Australia’s Best Nature Escapes<em> by</em><em> Lee Atkinson published by Hardie Grant Books [39.99] and is available in stores nationally.</em></p> <p><em>Photographer: © Lee Atkinson </em></p> <p><img style="width: 250px !important; height: 300px !important;" src="/media/7821757/australias-best-nature-escapes-cvr.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f93accc9ea374a19945367220d612101" /></p>

Domestic Travel

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Weather warning: The first heatwave of summer set to scorch Australia

<p>Experts have warned to take extra care as scorching heat is set to hit Australia on Friday, with the hottest November day in three years predicted.</p> <p>Very high temperatures were already expected but, hot dessert air coming to the south and south-eastern capitals could make for an even more sweltering day, reports <a rel="noopener" href="https://www.news.com.au/technology/environment/hottest-november-day-for-three-years-predicted-as-desert-heat-mass-creeps-towards-four-capitals/news-story/f9a0f2d29e522496fdf5ce159e75d5e4" target="_blank" title="news.com.au"><em>news.com.au</em></a>.</p> <p>“We’re expecting the hottest temperatures since early 2018 between Wednesday and Friday and some of highest maximum November temperatures for up to three years,” Tom Saunders, meteorologist for Sky News Weather, predicted.</p> <p>NSW, Queensland and South Australia could be hit the hardest with inland areas possibly topping 40C. Sydney may experience temperatures of over 38C and Adelaide 36C. It’s a huge leap in average temperatures for November possibly topping an increase of 10C.</p> <p>But the heat is due to ramp up today with a burst of hot air from inland Queensland moving down to southern states. Adelaide is expected to hit predicted 36C, Port Augusta 39C and the heat will top 40C in the Northern Territory. In Melbourne’s CBD it will be a hot one at 33C, but on Friday, NSW will be one of the hardest hit states, with air conditioners no doubt on overload with an expected 37C and in the western suburbs 40C.</p> <p>If temperatures do crack 37C in Sydney, it will make a record for November as the hottest day in three years.</p> <p>The NSW coast including Sydney is expected to experience a low intensity heatwave according to the Bureau of Meteorology, from Thursday through to Saturday.</p> <p>But if you live in Brisbane, Perth or Hobart you’ll be better off with expected temperatures of 29C to the low-30s, the mid-20s, and 24C respectively.</p> <p>Experts have warned to take extra care during the heatwave particularly the elderly, children, and pets.</p> <p>“Heat can kill which is why it’s so important to stay hydrated and look out for the elderly, the young and pets,” Alan Morrison, NSW Ambulance chief superintendent, told <em>news.com.au</em>.</p> <p>The site reports that almost 4500 people were treated by paramedics for dehydration between December 2017 and March 2018, and many more for heat exhaustion.</p> <p>We may also expect bushfire warnings.</p> <p>“Winds will average 40km/h so that could mean severe fire danger in the Mallee and some parts of South Australia, and fires will be fast moving and difficult to control,” said Saunders.</p> <p>But look forward to the weekend with a cool change expected.</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="/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="/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="/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="/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="/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="/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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The surprise cost of Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan’s visit to Australia

<p>Prince Harry and Meghan’s 16-day royal tour will see them visit various parts of Australia including Sydney, Dubbo, Melbourne and Fraser Island.</p> <p>Now, it has been revealed that the royal tour is expected to cost Australian taxpayers a hefty $1 million.</p> <p>Speaking to <a href="https://www.news.com.au"><strong><u>news.com.au</u></strong></a>, a spokesman for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC) said the total cost of the tour was “not yet known but is expected to be consistent with past royal visits”.</p> <p>Prince Charles and Camilla’s trip to Australia for the Commonwealth Games earlier this year,cost taxpayers more than $1 million.</p> <p>The heir to the throne and his wife’s tour included 10 days travelling around Queensland and the Northern Territory.</p> <p>The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will also spend 10 days in Australia, with another six in Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.</p> <p>According to the DPMC spokesman, it is normal for the host nation to cover some of the logistical costs of a visiting royal, including transport and accommodation.</p> <p>“The Australian Government covers some of the costs associated with a royal tour,” he said.</p> <p>“Any expenditure meets official procurement guidelines.”</p> <p>The royals, who will complete 76 official engagements on their tour, are travelling with an entourage made up of 10 members of staff, including private secretaries, personal assistant, hairdresser, a royal communications team and an orderly to carry luggage.</p> <p>When Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall travelled Down Under just six months ago, their entourage was made up of 13 support staff.</p> <p>The Prince of Wales and Camilla’s transportation costs to regional areas including Darwin totalled $314,690.78.</p> <p>Australia also paid for Prince Charles to make a trip to Vanuatu during the tour as well.</p> <p>Prior to the trip, Clarence House also sent a party of four to Australia to scout venues and timetables, which cost $131,000.</p> <p>“The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet paid for 13 staff from Clarence House accompanying Their Royal Highnesses from London,” a spokesperson said in response to a question from Labor’s Jenny McAllister during a senate hearing in May.</p> <p>“Clarence House paid for an additional staff member to accompany Their Royal Highnesses from London. Clarence House also paid for an Australian based member of the travelling party to accompany Their Royal Highnesses while in Australia.”</p> <p>There were also additional costs for domestic travel and security.</p> <p>When Prince William, Duchess Kate and Prince George visited Australia in 2014, their trip cost taxpayers $474,137, not including security and GST.</p> <p>A large expense of their 10-day trip was transportation, which totalled $251,338.</p> <p>Other costs included media liaison ($85,366), domestic travel including meals and accommodation ($73,638), and hospitality and event-related costs ($59,486).</p> <p>What are your thoughts on the cost of Prince Harry and Meghan’s trip to Australia? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

Domestic Travel

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Prince Harry and Meghan’s heartfelt moment as 5-year-old steals the show

<p>Today, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex made a visit to Dubbo as part of their Australian royal tour.</p> <p>Prince Harry and Meghan were greeted by local politicians and school children at Dubbo airport, including one 5-year-old who gave the newlyweds a very special welcome.</p> <p>Young royal fan Luke Vincent managed to wriggle his way past security and cameras to meet the couple face-to-face.</p> <p>After giving Harry a hug, the Buninyong Public school student reached out and touched Harry’s beard.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="/media/7821410/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/bbb7037aea5b4ce2b0089c0c9388b2ba" /></p> <p>Luke, who has Down Syndrome, then gifted Meghan a bouquet of flowers and embraced her as well.</p> <p>The youngster’s school principal, Anne Van Dartel, told <em>7 News</em> that little Luke loves beards.</p> <p>“Luke’s favourite person is Santa Claus … and now it’s Prince Harry,” she said.</p> <p>“Luke waited beautifully today and waited for Prince Harry and Princess Meghan to come to us. And he even brought her flowers.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img style="width: 500px; height:281.25px;" src="/media/7821412/image_.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/2e6053eb217d4aa691d0efe955ca5051" /></p> <p>Ms Van Dartel explained that when Luke first reached out to Harry she was nervous because they had been instructed that there was to be “no touching”.</p> <p>“I was very concerned when he started rubbing Prince Harry’s face and his hair, but Prince Harry was completely gracious and was so polite and realised what was happening and his infatuation with his beard,” she said.</p> <p>“We can only thank him so much for treating Luke with such respect who didn’t understand the situation. The way that Prince Harry and Princess Meghan interacted with him was just delightful.”</p> <p>Ms Van Dartel, who went to Dubbo airport with some of her school students to give the royals a warm welcome, said Luke’s moment with the couple was very special.</p> <p>“He’s often the star of the show at school, and now he’s the star of the show all around the world,” she said.</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="/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="/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="/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="/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="/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>

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Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan touch down in Sydney

<p>The long-awaited moment is finally here as Prince Harry and the Duchess of Sussex have landed in Sydney for their Australian tour.</p> <p>The couple travelled with Australian airline Qantas instead of British Airways as previously predicted. The flight touched down around 7am at Sydney International Airport.</p> <p>Surrounded by security personnel and their entourage, the royals still found the time to give a smile in the direction of fans, media and countless waiting cameras.</p> <p><img style="width: 0px; height: 0px; display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="/media/7821329/capture.jpg" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/c4fe2065a2364f0e899c2adcc19d18cd" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;">Photo credit: <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-10-15/prince-harry-meghan-royal-tour-begins-in-sydney/10376108"><em>ABC News</em></a></p> <p>Their large entourage is said to comprise of 10 staff members, a hairdresser and press secretaries.</p> <p>According to <em><a href="https://www.news.com.au/entertainment/celebrity-life/royals/prince-harry-and-meghan-arrive-in-sydney/news-story/23300d87611204a8c1772635a9ce45ea">news.com.au</a></em>, it is said that Meghan has invited her best friend and stylist, Jessica Mulroney, along with her husband Ben to help her with the styling of her outfits in an “unofficial” capacity.</p> <p>After leaving the airport, the Duke and Duchess made their way down to the Admiralty House in Kirribilli.</p> <p>The tour consists of visiting locations in Australia such as Sydney, Melbourne, Dubbo and Fraser Island, while also visiting other countries that are a part of the Commonwealth, which includes Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.</p> <p>While they are here specifically for the Invictus Games, the royals will also take part in events surrounding mental health, farm visits and public picnics.</p> <p>Their official duties won’t start until tomorrow, giving them one day to wind down.</p> <p>The two will start off by spending time with the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife, Lady Cosgrove, where they will be joined by representatives from the Invictus Games. Afterwards, they plan to visit Taronga Zoo to meet two baby koalas.</p> <p>Heading to Dubbo in NSW on Wednesday, the Duke and Duchess want to “see first-hand the hardships local farmers are facing by visiting local property” and also want to take part in a public picnic.</p> <p>On Friday, eager fans will be able to catch Harry and Meghan at Bondi Beach in Sydney where they will be promoting the awareness of mental health. And afterwards they will be seen climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge with Prime Minister Scott Morrison to raise the Invictus Games flag.</p> <p>They will also be visiting Melbourne and Cockatoo Island before departing for the South Pacific.</p>

Domestic Travel

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The huge change for Qantas passengers

<p>The march towards a completely paper-free life continues with Qantas announcing that it won’t be necessary to print a boarding pass on domestic flights if you have used the check-in option online.</p> <p>You’ll just need your digital copy on your phone which will be scanned at the boarding gate. This will save you time as you prepare for your flight, taking away the need to go to check-in counters for your boarding pass.</p> <p>Angus Kidman, editor-in-chief of comparison site <em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.finder.com.au/" target="_blank" title="Finder.com.au">Finder.com.au</a></em>, was about to board a flight from Melbourne to Sydney this week when he realised that the change had been implemented, according to <em><a rel="noopener" href="https://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/flights/qantas-passengers-no-longer-need-a-paper-boarding-pass-on-domestic-flights/news-story/b96cca0dd49cef29defa03623dda2832" target="_blank">news.com.au</a></em>.</p> <p>“It certainly helps speed up the boarding process, which is good news when you’re on a crowded service,” he said.</p> <p>Reiterating Kidman’s experience, a Qantas spokesman said that the initiative had been implemented to make for a smoother flying experience.</p> <p>“Passengers on domestic flights who have checked in online and have a digital boarding pass will no longer receive a printed boarding slip at the gate,” said the spokesman.</p> <p>“The removal of printed boarding slips at the gate will speed up the boarding process and help us improve our on-time performance.”</p> <p>Kidman said that Qantas had lagged behind other airlines who haven’t required boarding passes for some time, and noted that due to the growth of mobile check-ins, the International Air Transit Association had removed the requirement of printed boarding passes.</p> <p>“Having one less scrap of paper in my wallet is certainly welcome,” he said.</p> <p>Printed boarding passes had already been dropped for international travellers at Australian airports in August.</p> <p>The measure has sped up international flight boarding said Citizenship Minister Alan Tudge in a statement, with almost three-in-four travellers being screened though automatic SmartGates, according to <em><a href="https://over60.monday.com/boards/63889387/pulses/SmartGates" class="router">news.com.au</a></em>.</p> <p>“These increasing volumes mean we are always looking for ways to clear legitimate travellers efficiently and seek out those of interest to law enforcement,” he said.</p> <p>But if you’re travelling domestically with Qantas and have a QFF membership card to board, or have a seat change since boarding, you’ll still need a printed boarding pass.</p> <p>Do you find it easier to use mobile check-in when flying? Let us know in the comments.</p>

Domestic Travel

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Weather warning: "Dangerous" supercell storms brewing

<p>Yesterday, meteorologists issued a warning for severe “storm outbreaks”, known as supercells, which will include drenching rains, hail and fierce winds along the east coast of Australia.</p> <p>The wild weather is expected to move from Rockhampton to Brisbane in Queensland and carry over to New South Wales.</p> <p>“An area of low pressure is moving through south east Australia bringing showers but even before it arrives we already have a storm outbreak across south east Queensland and NSW,” Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Mr Saunders said.</p> <p>However, experts have warned that the recent storms have led to more “organised” storms, called supercells.</p> <p>Supercells are rotating systems that are known for bringing heavier, rain, more damaging winds and larger hail.</p> <p>The BOM describes supercells as thunderstorms that can have the most destructive impact and have a habit of lasting for longer periods of time.</p> <p>The BOM has forecast that up to 35mm of rain could fall on Brisbane today, with a further 60mm expected for the four following days.</p> <p>“On Thursday, the system will head further north and west bringing showers and storms for central Queensland,” said Mr Saunders.</p> <p>In Sydney, up to 20mm of rain could fall up to and over the weekend with occasional sunny spells.</p> <p>Canberra will also be hit with showers, with up to 30mm expected to fall on residents.</p> <p>Australians on the west coast of Australia will also need to prepare for umbrella weather over the next few days.</p> <p>Perth is expected to be hit with showers later today and on the weekend, particularly on Saturday.</p> <p>Melbourne is expected to have relief from the grey skies for the next few days, however, the city could receive up to 20mm of rain on the weekend.</p> <p>Hobart will have similar conditions but see less rain on the weekend.</p> <p>Meteorologists expect Adelaide to see a dry week but there’s a risk of rain falling on the weekend.</p> <p>In Darwin, it is forecast to be sunny and 35C with possible storms on the weekend.</p> <p>Despite the recent wet weather, meteorologists have said that the drought is still far from over.</p> <p>Australia is now on “El Nino alert”, meaning that there is an increased chance of drier conditions around the country. </p>

Domestic Travel

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The weird thing Harry and Meghan can't do on their Aussie tour

<p>On October 16, Prince Harry and Meghan will kickstart their first major royal tour as a couple by arriving in Sydney, Australia.</p> <p>The 16-day tour will see the Duke and Duchess of Sussex complete 76 engagements around Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand.</p> <p>Although the royal newlyweds will happily mingle with fans throughout their travels, there is one bizarre rule that will limit their encounter with a furry friend.</p> <p>After being welcomed into the country by Australia’s Governor-General Peter Cosgrove and his wife Lynne, the couple will meet two koalas that same afternoon.</p> <p>However, due to strict new anti-koala cuddling rules, the royals will be allowed to pet but not cuddle the Aussie animals.</p> <p>Sam Cohen, Harry and Meghan’s private secretary, said: “You can cuddle in Queensland and pet in New South Wales.”</p> <p>The couple will then jet off to Melbourne, Dubbo in NSW and Queensland’s Fraser Island.</p> <p>Harry and Meghan will visit Fiji and Tonga between October 23 and 26 and also spend four days in New Zealand.</p> <p>The royals are looking forward to meeting as many locals as possible during their lengthy trip.</p> <p>“There is a long history of the friendship between the royal family and Australia, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand, and their links with the UK extensive,” Ms Cohen said.</p> <p>“The Duke and Duchess are very much looking forward to experiencing the unique customs and cultures of these four Commonwealth countries and have asked that this tour allows them to meet as many Australians, Fijians, Tongans and New Zealanders as possible.</p> <p>“Together they look forward to building an enduring relationship with the people of the region.”</p> <p>The main reason why Harry and Meghan are heading Down Under is to support the Sydney 2018 Invictus Games, an athletic event for disabled and ill service people.</p> <p>To officially welcome the Olympic-style event, Prince Harry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and athletes will climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge and place the Invictus flag at the top. </p> <p>“The Duke and Duchess are excited to see Sydney fully embrace the Invictus spirit and support the competitors across a range of sports at some of the city’s most iconic venues,” Ms Cohen said.</p> <p><strong>Prince Harry and Meghan’s royal tour itinerary:</strong></p> <p>Tuesday October 16: Sydney, Australia</p> <p>Wednesday October 17: Dubbo, Australia</p> <p>Thursday October 18: Melbourne, Australia</p> <p>Friday October 19: Sydney, Australia</p> <p>Saturday October 20: Sydney, Australia</p> <p>Sunday October 21: Sydney, Australia</p> <p>Monday October 22: Fraser Island, Australia</p> <p>Tuesday October 23: Suva, Fiji</p> <p>Wednesday October 24: Suva, Fiji</p> <p>Thursday October 25: Nadi, Fiji and Nuku’alofa, Tonga</p> <p>Friday October 26: Nuku’alofa, Tonga and Sydney, Australia</p> <p>Saturday October 27: Sydney, Australia</p> <p>Sunday October 28: Wellington, New Zealand</p> <p>Monday October 29: Wellington and Abel Tasman, New Zealand</p> <p>Tuesday October 30: Auckland, New Zealand</p> <p>Wednesday October 31: Rotorua, New Zealand</p>

Domestic Travel

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Wild weather warning: Washout to hit both east and west coasts of Australia

<p>Forecasters are urging Aussies to make the most of the warm weather before conditions change and the east and west coasts are hit with a burst of wild weather.</p> <p>Yesterday, Sky News Weather meteorologist Rob Sharpe warned: “Rain and storm events are on the way for the east and west.”</p> <p>Sydney could be hit with almost half a month’s rain in three days, while northern parts of New South Wales are expected to receive even more.</p> <p>Mr Sharpe predicts that rainfall will be widespread on the east coast and in some inland areas from east of Melbourne all the way up to Brisbane.</p> <p>“As we move into Friday there’s a chance we’ll see a low pressure system developing close to the coast and there could be some powerful winds associated with that,” he said.</p> <p>Sydney could receive 22mm of rain from Thursday until Saturday, a hefty proportion of the 55mm rainfall average of October.</p> <p>Temperatures in Sydney will drop from 23C earlier in the week to around 19C in the lead up to the weekend.</p> <p>Brisbane, Perth and Canberra are also expected to be hit with heavy downpours as the week continues.</p> <p>Canberra could see 8mm of rain on Thursday and temperatures dip to a maximum of 16C.</p> <p>Although Brisbane temperatures are expected to stay around the mid-20s all week, the city is expected to receive around 20mm of rain.</p> <p>The wet conditions will also hit the west coast of Australia, with Perth facing possible sporadic thunderstorms from Tuesday until Thursday.</p> <p>“In the west, we could also have a rain and storm event but a little more in terms of rainfall and a little less in the way of severe thunderstorms,” said Mr Sharpe.</p> <p>Adelaide and Melbourne could see some showers earlier this week give way to sun and patchy clouds.</p> <p>Hobart will see some rain on Tuesday and Wednesday and experience cooler temperatures on Thursday, with a maximum of 14C.</p> <p>In the north of Australia, residents in some areas have been given fire warnings.</p> <p>In the tropical north of Queensland, residents of Irvinebank have been told to leave their homes due to bushfire warnings.</p> <p>There is also a fire weather warning in place for Darwin and Katherine as gusty winds combine with dry and hot temperatures.</p> <p>Will you be hit with the wild weather this week? Let us know in the comments below. </p>

Domestic Travel

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Why you must visit this Australian paradise on the Great Barrier Reef

<p>So, there we were.</p> <p>Forty kilometres from the nearest land, floating over a remote section of the outer Great Barrier Reef.</p> <p>Just me, my young family, and a two-metre shark.</p> <p>A whitetip reef shark, to be exact. But after nearly a week staying on Orpheus Island, I felt a strange sense of calm. Had I become acclimatised to these underwater predators, who prowled underneath the resort marina at night, fed like pets by the staff? Or was my guard simply down, lulled by several days of award-winning food, lazing around the pool and an unlimited, self-replenishing mini bar, included in the price of accommodation?</p> <p>The answer is, probably both.</p> <p>Orpheus has a dual effect on guests. It's deeply relaxing, thanks to five-star facilities and personalised service that somehow manages to be laidback and yet slickly professional at the same time.</p> <p>But also, its location, 80 kilometres northeast of Townsville and surrounded by pristine reefs and protected oceans, means you can't help but encounter nature's raw beauty during your stay.</p> <p>In fact, the nature spotting begins on approach, with an exciting helicopter transfer that zooms you from Townsville across Rattlesnake Island (used by the military for bombing practise), past nearby Fantome Island (a leper colony until 1973) and over coastlines dotted with aquamarine reefs, sea turtles and dugong.</p> <p>Named after an Australian Navy ship that sank in 1863 (which, in turn, was named after the legendary Greek poet, prophet and musician known for his ability to charm), Orpheus Island has been attracting tourists since the 1930s.</p> <p>Jen Truasheim, the resort's gardener, longest resident and shoe-eschewing unofficial historian, says the place has changed a lot since she arrived to "chaos and madness" in 2000.</p> <p>"We had jet skis, we had ski boats, we had 90 guests, we had 50 staff; we had dead turtles out there being carved up by props."</p> <p>The ethos has done a U-turn for the better since the resort's two subsequent owners took over.</p> <p>The latest, Chris Morris (who made his fortune running global share registry Computershare and now has a string of pubs, restaurants, casinos and resorts under the Colonial Leisure Group banner) has worked hard to restore the balance of nature by investing heavily in eco-friendly infrastructure.</p> <p>Since he took over in 2011 the resort boasts a sewage treatment plant, solar hot water and guests are capped at 28. It's now more in keeping with the ethos of the rest of the island, which is predominantly national park.</p> <p>Happily, for us, Morris is a grandfather, so unlike many similar exclusive tropical resorts, children are welcome here. From the moment our helicopter touches down at the far end of the resort's beach the emphasis is on understated luxury. Our bags attended to (each guest is limited to 15kg), we take a short walk over the coconut palm-dotted lawn to the pool, where a glass of bubbly awaits.</p> <p>A solitary cockatoo screeches above, reminding us that this tropical paradise is very much Down Under.</p> <p>Sitting down with the resort manager, we learn of daily activities, such as snorkelling, fishing, kayaking and tours to nearby islands, that are included in the price of accommodation.</p> <p>Then it's time for the executive chef to grill us over our particular culinary likes, dislikes and inevitable quirks (for our fussy four-year-old that's easy: plain rice, noodles and Nutri-Grain, thanks).</p> <p>The food turns out to be a highlight of our stay, with a la carte breakfasts, ethnic themed share plates for lunch (Thai, American, Moroccan) and impressive degustation-style dinners that might include ricotta gnocchi with smoked clams and Moreton Bay Bug with black garlic aioli.</p> <p>After touring our modern suite (where fruits, a cheese platter and another bottle of sparkling wine are waiting for us) I venture past the horizon pool to the beach.</p> <p>Almost immediately I spot something unusual in the water.</p> <p>A couple of fins disturb the surface very close to the shore and, peering gingerly into the water lapping at my feet, I see a baby shark, about 50 centimetres in length cruising obliviously past.</p> <p>Later, the staff, who are well-versed on local flora and fauna, explain that it's a juvenile blacktip reef shark and, if I'd care to wait until dark, I could see plenty more larger specimens underneath the resort jetty.</p> <p>True to their word, that evening we watch transfixed as a staff member drops morsels of fish scraps into the water. Beneath us are about seven sharks, up to two metres long, circling and pouncing on the free dinner provided.</p> <p>The next day we take out one of several tinnies available to guests and try our luck fishing. Hooking up to a buoy that marks the island's giant clam garden we snare a couple of undersized red emperors and throw them back. On the way home, we spot a sea turtle and another cruising shark.</p> <p>Then it's time to go on a larger adventure.</p> <p>We book a tour to nearby Hinchinbrook Island, the largest island national park in the world and about an hour away by boat. (These day tours cost extra, starting at $1307.)</p> <p>Gardener Jen is our guide and, as she recounts stories about local indigenous tribes on the boat crossing I become distracted by a three-metre-long hammerhead shark, the first I've ever seen in the wild, lazily swimming off the starboard bow. It's absolutely thrilling.</p> <p>Then, past the foreboding sheer rock walls and boiling sea of Hinchinbrook's Hillock point, we enter the calmer waters of Zoe Bay, eventually stepping out onto the estuary's small beach.</p> <p>Jen, a botanist by training, enthusiastically identifies the rainforest trees and plants around us: spiky 'lawyer' palms (whose thorns were used by indigenous people for sewing needles), red beech (good for boat-building timber) and quandong trees that bear edible purple-blue fruits.</p> <p>We walk for 20 minutes to Zoe Falls, where Jen pulls out a couple of pesky march flies we'd dispatched earlier and drops them into the clear, fresh, mountain stream-fed pool.</p> <p>Almost before they hit the water there is a threshing bubble and splash and they are snapped up by a school of beautiful gold and black-spotted jungle perch. We spend the rest of the day lazing on the rocks and swimming in the cool, crystal clear water, marvelling at the fish.</p> <p>But no journey to this part of the world would be complete without a close inspection of the Great Barrier Reef.</p> <p>After learning about the perils of crown of thorns starfish and plastic rubbish during a visit to Orpheus Island's marine research station (a remote campus of James Cook University nestled in an adjoining bay to the resort) we take to the boat again and head nearly 40 kilometres northeast to the isolated Walker Reef.</p> <p>Surrounded by ocean and entirely lost in one of the seven wonders of the natural world, it's now that I spot that beautiful, two-metre whitetip shark cruising beneath us.</p> <p>But, instead of fear, I notice the animal evokes another instinct in me: protection.</p> <p><em>Written by Peter Barrett. Republished with permission of <span><a href="https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/destinations/australia/107261718/orpheus-island-great-barrier-reef-an-australian-paradise">Stuff.co.nz</a></span>.</em></p>

Domestic Travel

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Iconic Aussie pubs you cannot afford to miss

<p>It would be un-Australian to not bend your elbow at one of these iconic Aussie pubs if you are passing through. </p> <p><strong>1. The Prairie Hotel, SA</strong></p> <p>Voted Australia’s Number 1 Outback Hotel by <em>Australian Geographic</em> magazine in 2016, the Prairie Hotel in Parachilna draws thousands of visitors each year for its stunning Flinders Ranges location, artisan accommodations and highly unusual menu.</p> <p>While the gourmet bush foods change seasonally, the signature dish, available year-round, is the FMG – feral mixed grill – and basically means if you can kill it, they’ll grill it. Kangaroo, wallaby, emu, goat, camel, rabbit … are expertly complemented by locally sourced native ingredients such as quandongs, native limes and bush tomatoes.</p> <p>For a truly unique Australian pub food experience, what could be more adventurous? </p> <p><strong>2. The Ettamogah Pub, NSW</strong></p> <p>When Australian cartoonist Ken Maynard scratched out his first doodles of the Ettamogah Pub in the late ’50s – an oddly top-heavy construction full of chain-smoking dogs and rural ruffians with a flat-bed truck parked precariously on the roof – he could not have imagined that half a century later four such pubs would exist in the real world.</p> <p>A brick and mortar tribute to his comic strip that ran in the weekly Australasian Post from 1958 until its final issue in 2002, the first Ettamogah Pub opened in 1987 in Albury, NSW, where Maynard was born.</p> <p>This award-winning family-friendly hotel has since been renovated to add a sports bar, cocktail lounge and other distractions such as a jumping castle and rock-climbing wall for the kids.</p> <p>The original red-roofed timber building with its unique slanted walls true to Maynard’s cartoon vision has been preserved as a permanent tourist attraction. </p> <p><strong>3. The Cherry Bar, VIC</strong></p> <p>Any ‘favourite gig joint’ straw poll of local or international rock acts will likely include this hardcore underground bar, the only business located along the aptly named ACDC Lane in Melbourne’s CBD.</p> <p>The tiny 200-capacity live music venue is a standard fixture for touring legends, who like to pop in for a drink or play a set in between huge theatre or arena shows.</p> <p>Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose loved the place so much, he once whiled away six hours there; Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher famously tried to buy it during a 2002 tour down under; and when Lady Gaga wanted to host her 4th of July party there in 2012 she was turned away because The Cherry refused to bump an existing booking for local band Jackson Firebird.</p> <p>Now that’s rock ‘n’ roll.</p> <p><strong>4. The Daly Waters Pub, NT</strong></p> <p>Looking for an Aussie outback pub dripping with character?</p> <p>The Daly Waters Pub, around 600km south of Darwin along the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs, claims to have “witnessed murders, shoot-outs in the main street, cattle stampeding through town and the odd drunken brawls”.</p> <p>It’s also haunted by the ghost of a woman named Sarah who was murdered by her husband.</p> <p>Oh, and female visitors are invited to ‘leave their mark’ by removing their bra and hanging it from the ceiling, a tradition that began in the early ’80s over a lost bet and continues to this day.</p> <p>It’s not limited to just ladies’ undergarments. Literally anything can be left pinned to any available surface.</p> <p>Half the fun of a Daly Waters Pub stopover (besides the swimming pool and the superb ‘beef ‘n’ barra’ dining option) is to browse through the memorabilia of thousands of previous visitors.</p> <p>What will you choose to leave behind?  </p> <p><em>Written by Greg Barton. This article first appeared in <span><a href="http://www.readersdigest.com.au/travel/destinations/iconic-aussie-pubs-you-cannot-afford-miss">Reader’s Digest</a></span>. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, <span><a href="http://readersdigest.innovations.com.au/c/readersdigestsubscribe?utm_source=readersdigest&amp;utm_campaign=RDSUB&amp;utm_medium=display&amp;keycode=WRA85S">here’s our best subscription offer</a></span>.</em></p> <p><img style="width: 100px !important; height: 100px !important;" src="/media/7820640/1.png" alt="" data-udi="umb://media/f30947086c8e47b89cb076eb5bb9b3e2" /></p>

Domestic Travel