Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield reports from England's green & pleasant land, and beyond
I left Perth late on Sunday evening on an Emirates flight, had a quick transit in Dubai (quick, as in straight to the next gate, which was already open), and arrive in England mid-morning on Monday. The good thing about my flight, frankly, was avoiding Heathrow airport. It is so nice to arrive in regional England. Passport control is a long row of smart gates which take our Australian passports, with two assistants calling the numbers of vacant gates and keeping it all moving. In fact, although there was a lot of people in the queue, we all kept moving at strolling pace — it literally never stopped moving. With carry-on only, I was out of the airport in minutes, from a 777-300 international flight — but I also noticed the baggage already arriving on the carousel as I passed.
WAKING TO BIRDS
+ It is all nice timing for people who can sleep on planes, and for those who believe there is such a thing as jet lag — which I don’t. A bit of lunch, out and about in the afternoon, an early dinner, bed at nine, sleep like a baby, and I’m up and raring to go at my usual 5.45am rising time.
+ Ah, the doonas of England. I actually measure my 12cm deep doona last night, because I was so intrigued by how thick it was. Light and cosy, I slept in a warm cocoon.
+ Ah, spring in England. It is only when I go into another room, with the window slightly open, that I hear the pleasant cacophony outside. The dawn chorus in England is particular to the place, so often started by the robin, with song thrushes, blackbirds, wood pigeons and all manner of other birds joining in outside my window. But I hadn’t heard it in my bedroom, with its windows shut. Ah, the double glazing of England.
+ Ah, the blossoms of England. Outside my window, a magnolia tree is already in pink blossom, with more blooms ready to burst.
+ The Woodland Trust in England does lots of good work and has lots of top spots, including Cock Robin Wood in Warwickshire. woodlandtrust.org.uk
TRAVEL IN EUROPE
Just before I left a reader asked me about a message she’d received from Smartraveller, advising threats in places of worship in Austria. She wrote: “I know from news that France and the UK have strikes and incidents. Is it safe to travel in Europe? I have a trip in May to visit six countries in Europe as part of a tour. I am feeling worried whether I should cancel it or go ahead.” She is right to consider her own safety, and to ask, of course. Yes, I understand the warnings — but one of the measures I put against such warnings is “is it about me?”. In France, the strikes and protests are about the proposed increase to the retirement age from 62 to 64. (The French don’t take such things lying down, whereas we are more likely to get huffy, then go to the beach.) The streets of Paris might be smelly, but it’s a local issue. The same with the issues in the UK — they are not about us. The issue with places of worship in Austria are not about us as tourists or visitors — but we can get caught up in it, so we might avoid specific places. Such a “measure” is good to keep up your “mental sleeve” as a guide to such matters. Add that to the commitment to “always make my own decisions”, even when travelling in a group, and you have good groundwork. But, yes, I think it is safe to travel in Europe.
I had other correspondence from reader John Stacey whose wife Josie was born in Donnybrook to Italian parents, but when visiting family in Italy in 1998, obtained an Italian passport so she could travel and live for a time in Europe. John writes: “It appears that she lost her Australian citizenship but was never told. We have written to our Federal Member to raise the issue because the immediate impact is that I will have to book to travel to see family in Europe without her as we cannot risk her being excluded upon return to Australia (the country of her birth) or being treated as a ‘tourist’ with a three-month maximum stay. And then deported. You may want to alert readers to this.” There is a petition at change.org.
BIRD IS ‘BACK’
Sitting here listening to the songbirds of England, I’m pleased to announce that the dusky tetraka, a bird feared extinct in Madagascar, has been spotted by scientists for the first time in 24 years. The dusky tetraka is a songbird with a distinctive yellow throat and three of them have been seen in a rainforest in the island’s north-east.
Intrepid Travel has rethought and removed experiences that don’t align with its animal welfare policy. Following the review, the company removed the Pereyas Private Reserve in Adasibe National Park experience on both its 14-day Madagascar Adventure and 24-day Madagascar in Depth tours. A spokesperson explains: “This is due to its enclosed animal living conditions for the sole purpose of travel and entertainment, without clear conservation intentions.”
The Flight Centre Foundation has stepped up its partnership with Australia’s biggest wildlife rescue organisation, WIRES, funding a new wildlife ambulance. This new ambulance takes the WIRES Emergency Response fleet to a total of eight dedicated wildlife ambulances across New South Wales, South-East Queensland and Tasmania. WIRES is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organisation — more than 130,000 orphaned, sick, injured, or displaced native animals were reported to WIRES in 2022. The WIRES Emergency Response Team was out on the road attending to the most critical of these rescues. wires.org.au
+ We’re out and about everywhere, and there are implications here, of course. One tourism specialist representing operators in the Great Southern has identified the need for “raising awareness to drive visitor and tourism numbers in the post-COVID lull”.
+ APT has knocked $3000 per couple off its 11-day Kimberley Coastal Expedition, which is from $11,995 per person. It includes visiting Horizontal Falls, Montgomery Reef and King George Falls. Travel agents and aptouring.com.au
LINING UP NICELY
Reader Gary Tate has just been on his first cruise in three years. He writes: “After waiting for our two-year-old booking, we boarded the Coral Princess at Fremantle for a 10-day cruise up to the stunning Kimberley coast and back to Fremantle. Ports were Exmouth, Broome and Geraldton.” Explaining the picture he sent, Gary adds: “Every morning arranging the deckchairs was perfectly facilitated with the use of a string line. Now that’s attention to detail.”
The World Indigenous Tourism Summit 2023 came to an end in Perth with the announcement that the next would be held in Taiwan in March 2024. The summit brings together friends and allies from diverse parts of the tourism industry. Indigenous people of Taiwan include the Truku, with their weaving and face-tattooing culture, who believe in ancestral spirits and follow gaya, the ancestral rules; and the Hla’alua, with their agricultural traditions and Holy Shell Ritual (Miatungusu), a ritual worshipping the shell god. cip.gov.tw
DAY OF SILENCE
In ancient Hindu tradition, gods and demons fought for control of the universe . . . and the gods emerged victorious. They established a day of stillness, thoughtfulness, and introspection. The tradition of Nyepi was born. On Wednesday (March 22), there was time for peace, reflection and contemplation.
And finally, congratulations to winners at the Australian Tourism Awards. In WA, there was gold in various categories for The Hike Collective, SeaLink, Live Ningaloo, Willie Creek Pearls and Pullman Bunker Bay Resort. Around the country, there was gold for Adelaide Zoo (SA), Bundaberg Rum Distillery Visitor Experience (Qld), Darwin Festival (NT), Geelong Gallery (Vic), Wukalina Walk (Tas) and Mt Hay Retreat (NSW).