It's been a week of mixed blessings in travel, as Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield discovers
Flight Centre reports that its most expensive single cruise booking in 2022 cost $333,400. The longest hotel booking was for 1092 days (checking out in 2025). Its agents booked 31,319 rental cars and booked 14,909 babies on to flights (with their carers, of course). Flight Centre global managing director Andrew Stark says: “We began 2022 still in the clutches of domestic and overseas travel restrictions, so it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come.”
I’m just heading to Bali, conscious that foot and mouth disease is active there — just as COVID still is here. It seems to me that quite a bit of COVID in Perth is being caught at weddings, while bird flu in Britain is being caught at hen parties.
I’m just back from Buenos Aires, where my great friend Sandra Rodriguez says she will come much earlier than expected to pick us up to go to the international airport for the flight home.
I look at her questioningly . . .
“Because of the protests,” she says, holding her arms wide, shrugging.
“What protests?” I ask, without thinking.
“I don’t know, but there will be protests,” says local Sandra.
Of course. What was I thinking? It’s Buenos Aires.
And, sure enough, as we set off the next day, there are protests — including a huge wedge of people 10 blocks long.
“What is the protest about?” I ask.
Sandra shrugs again. “Pay? Conditions? Probably these. Always these. I don’t know.”
There are few hotter places than hotel rooms in really cold places. And that is certainly true in my room in Los Acerbos hotel in Ushuaia, Argentina . . . the end of the world. It’s cold outside, but the hot-water radiators in the room make it unbearably hot. I turn the knob anticlockwise as far as it will go, but the radiator continues to pump out heat. I open the windows wide, allowing the cool night air to collide with the tropical interior, pull the curtains and go to sleep.
I’m woken at 3am by drumming — a lot of drums, a lot of people, approaching the hotel and then standing outside my room. It’s deafening. I’ve just been writing about the Yamana (or Yagan) tribal people here, for our story on page six, and must admit that, for a moment, it is unnerving.
I dress and go to reception. Police officers from the Argentinian National Gendarmerie are outside. The night manager tells me it is a hotel workers’ protest and the police have spoken with them and allowed them 45 minutes to protest, before they move on to another hotel.
“What are they protesting about?”
The night manager shrugs. “Pay? Conditions?”
In the UK, about 1000 airport Border Force staff at Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Cardiff plan to striking from December 23 to 26 and again from December 28 to 31 over pay, pensions and jobs. Nearly two million passengers on more than 10,000 flights are expected to arrive at the airports between December 23 and 31. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, says: “Like so many workers, our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. They are desperate.”
On Thursday, it was announced that security officers had called off a planned strike at Brisbane and Gold Coast airports on December 19.
Coral Expeditions has announced a new voyage calling at Macquarie Island, halfway between Tasmania and Antarctica. Coral Adventurer sails from New Zealand’s South Island on the 12-night voyage to the World Heritage-listed islands of the Australian and New Zealand subantarctic before returning to Melbourne. The one-off expedition departs on January 31, 2024. coralexpeditions.com
MIND YOUR LANGUAGE
Season three of the Netflix series Emily in Paris starts streaming on December 21 and the experts behind language learning app Busuu reckon a French crash course would have helped Emily (played by Lily Collins) avoid some of the embarrassing situations caused by her limited language skills.
A Busuu spokesperson tells me: “When Emily arrived in Paris, she soon learnt that her lack of French can come across as arrogance and decided to make an effort to master the language.” The team at Busuu has gathered some of the most common phrases that Emily got wrong when she first moved to Paris, to better prepare others visiting France.
Merci — thank you The spokesperson says: “Wherever you travel, learning to say thank you in the native language is the least you can do to show respect to the locals. Merci is not particularly difficult to pronounce, however English speakers like Emily may make the mistake of pronouncing it as mercy when it should be pronounced ‘mairsee’.”
Bonne journee — have a good day “Emily has a habit of mixing English words with French phrases. For example, when she wanted to wish a lady a good day, she said ‘have une bonne journee’ when she should’ve just said ‘bonne journee’.”
HERITAGE & MORE
Twenty-two sites along C.Y. O’Connor’s Golden Pipeline have been included in the State Register of Heritage Places. Also known as the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme, the pipeline covers 566km, taking water from Mundaring Weir to the Eastern Goldfields. When it opened in early 1903, it was the longest overland pipeline in the world.
The 1500km De Grey-Mullewa Stock Route No. 9701 has also been added to the register — the longest place ever listed. It dates back to 1895, has 55 wells and has a significant role in WA’s agricultural history. It runs from the De Grey River at Pardoo, near Port Hedland, to just north of the Mullewa townsite near Geraldton.
A new finger jetty will be built at the Denham boat ramp in Shark Bay, and the Shire of Murray is installing four new floating jetties and better boat trailer parking at Wharf Cove in South Yunderup.
The Bald Head walk trail has been reopened in Torndirrup National Park near Albany after extensive upgrades. There are new boardwalks and steps on the challenging 12.5km, six-hour walk.
And here’s a last thought for forward-planners, combining some of the themes on this page . . . In protest-ridden Peru (where president Pedro Castillo was ousted last week) 25,000 walkers will take the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in 2023. The government limits it to 500 a day. But the Quarry Trail follows a not dissimilar route to the iconic site, doesn’t need a permit and isn’t as crowded.