Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield took readers on a nice day out, and now he's looking forward to exploring Morocco, here he surveys another week in Travel
IN THE MOMENT
Most of the stories written by me that you read in these pages are written on the phone these days. I write in the present tense, in the moment. There’s no better place to write about the cafes of Paris than when you are sitting in a cafe in Paris. For me, there’s no better place to write about the Faroe Islands than when I’m walking around Torshavn. And I’m writing this sitting in the carpark at 7am at Crown Perth.
A NICE DAY OUT
For on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday last week, we left Crown at 8.30am and returned at 5pm, completing our West Travel Club’s A Nice Day Out.
The coach days, in partnership with Pinnacles Travel Group, gave us a chance to spend time with readers, and to enjoy a tiny slice of WA.
WHERE WE WENT
From Crown, we headed to Toodyay Road, stopping at a reserve in O’Brien Road, then Noble Falls, which is in full bloom and very pretty. Two years ago it was black and bare earth after a fire. Last year it was re-sprouting. This year, it is back. A chemical in smoke prompts germination in the seeds of many WA plants.
HEARING FROM GRADY
Grady Brand was with us to point out wildflowers and interpret the WA landscape . . . to tell the bigger story of this ancient place. Perth Hills is the place to be over the next couple of months, he reckons. Buy an annual pass and visit every national park in the Darling Range.
HEARING FROM MOGENS
Apart from being a splendid writer, Mogens Johansen has been a professional photographer all his career. He says it’s with a tinge of sadness that he accepts the phone has become the go-to camera for travellers. All of my pictures published in these pages this year have been taken on an iPhone 14 Pro.
Two of Mogens’ tips:
+ Touch the screen where you want the focus to be. This can be particularly important for flower photography.
+ Then draw your finger up and down on an iPhone, or left and right on an Android phone, to adjust exposure.
STORIES YOU TELL
We spend time with readers to hear your stories and feedback (being with readers makes us better writers).
One of our guests is a bit off travel at the moment, having had a Virgin Australia domestic flight cancelled at the last moment, meaning she couldn’t join The Ghan train. They had booked her on “the next available flight”, which was three days away, long after the train had left. “And they couldn’t give a damn,” she says.
On Thursday, the ACCC announced an action alleging that for more than 8000 domestic flights due to depart between May and July 2022, Qantas kept selling tickets on its website for an average of more than two weeks (and in some cases for up to 47 days) after the cancellation of the flights.
John Garofol is our driver-guide on the A Nice Day Out coach days, as he was last year. He’s part of the team. albeit for only three days a year. John contributes stories about our history, the landscape and agriculture . . . and this little gem, as we approach the public conveniences in Toodyay, which he reckons are pretty international.
“When you arrive, you’re Russian, when you’re in there European, and when you leave, Finnish.” (I’ll leave you to work out the fine detail of that.) John drives for Pinnacle Travel Group, our partner for the days, which has lots of tours. pinnacletravelgroup.com.au
Several companies comprise Pinnacle Travel Group, including Australian Pinnacle Tours, which runs one-day wildflower tours until October. They are from 8am to about 4.30pm, and the $139 includes lunch.
The tours visit locations around the Perth region where experienced guides expect to find the best wildflowers. They might call at Kings Park, Wireless Park and drive further afield to Gingin and Toodyay. Phone 6270 6060 for more advice, or see australianpinnacletours.com.au
Our Nice Day Out lunch stop was at Djidi Djidi Ridge in Chittering Road, Upper Chittering, with flowers and its good ridge walk.
DAY IN DOHA
As you read this, I am in Doha, the capital of Qatar. After completing the Nice Day Out coach days, I left next week’s editions of Saturday and Sunday Travel and flew out on Friday evening. I like Hamad International Airport for its quietness. One of the first teams appointed when it was being built was a French acoustic design team, which has successfully suppressed cacophony. Being in a quiet airport is very relaxing.
The Federal Government’s stand on Qatar Airways is completely baffling to me. It blocked Qatar’s application for an additional 21 flights to “protect the national interest”. Qantas barely flies international flights out of Perth. Apart from its direct flights to London, and to Rome three times a week in the European summer, it piggybacks on Emirates.
AIMING FOR MOROCCO
After Doha, I fly on to Morocco, which has had a stellar post-COVID restart. Data from the country’s Tourism Observatory shows that about 6.5 million people visited the country in the first half of 2023, compared with three million in the same period last year. I’ll be there all next week, in the moment, writing on the phone.
Filming of Gladiator 2 has been going on in Morocco — more specifically, in the city of Ouarzazate, about 200km south of Marrakech. It is no stranger to the movie industry, which so often needs epic landscapes and easy places to work. Ouarzazate has been used as a location in Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Kundun, Babel and Prison Break. The Gladiator sequel comes 23 years after the original, starring Russell Crowe — which was shot here. Good times to visit Morocco are spring, between mid March and May, and autumn, from September to October. The weather’s warm but pleasant. Summer can be very hot, and winter surprisingly cold.
I’ve timed it just right.