Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield returns from our latest Travel Club tour and looks forward to our Festival of Travel. Here, he reviews another week in travel.
OLI IN FAST LANE
Being away is good. Coming home is good. In Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, driver Oli picks me up in a pre-booked airport transfer car that turns out to be a new black Mercedes. Icelanders drive with a straightforward, no-nonsense assertiveness that can feel a little blunt. This is not a big forelock-tugging, “please and thank you” society. Oli rolls along at 90km/h in 50km/h zones. The airport is 45 minutes drive out of Reykjavik and, once we’ve left the city, Oli eases back to a steady 20km/h-plus over the limit.
The sky around Reykjavik is smudgy with volcanic spew. A volcano is active, which is not unusual, but does bring memories of 2010 and the erupting volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Northerly winds blew its ash over the North Atlantic Ocean and Europe, and 100,000 flights were cancelled, affecting two million people. If there’s one thing jet engine intakes don’t like, it’s abrasive, heavy volcanic ash.
Today’s baby volcano is erupting near Litli-Hrutur, on the Reykjanes Peninsula in south-western Iceland, not far from Reykjavik. Three fissures opened early in July, and began to spew molten lava and plumes of gas. It is in the Fagradalsfjall volcanic area, which erupted in 2021 and 2022, after nearly 800 years. The area had been shaking for days. It is reported that, at first, it was spewing out 50 cubic metres of lava per second, causing a moss fire in the area. It has drawn visitors and there is a 10km walk (or bike) trail to a viewing spot 1km from the crater.
I’m flying home from Iceland like this … Reykjavik to Dublin with Iceland Air in two hours and five minutes, then direct to Doha (Qatar), and connecting to Perth with Qatar Airways, all on one ticket, with Casey, my faithful suitcase, checked through. It’s a neat route. Don’t ya love geography?
CASEY COMING HOME
I have sailed, with Casey (my faithful suitcase) and 29 of our readers, from Norway to Iceland. We’ll publish the first story of our West Travel Club next Saturday.
I always find the end of a cruise voyage a bit awkward. There’s that night before you disembark when you have to leave your bags outside your cabin (sort-of “we love you, but get off”). Our bags are supposed to be out by 10pm the night before we get off, but Casey is first out, at 5pm. But, don’t be fooled. Despite this, Casey is actually somewhat reluctant to come home.
The reason for Casey’s reluctance is our Festival of Travel on Saturday, August 19. It is all day at the University of Western Australia Club in Matilda Bay, and I hope I see you.
Casey will be there as part of the 20-plus presentations the Travel team is doing, from choosing cruises to photography, and from travel essentials to packing. That’s where Casey comes in, of course. His inside, private parts will be on display, as we give tips and tricks for hot and cold climates and extremes like Antarctica (yes, all in one medium-sized soft Antler case like Casey). Casey, exposed for all to peruse! The indignity! Expect fireworks!
Get your Festival of Travel ticket here.
On the other hand, I am seriously like a hire-horse — my head turned for home, and I can’t wait to get back for the festival. It has been a big undertaking for our little team. I hope you’ll make time to pop in and support us on August 19 (there are prizes).
Tip I love my Apple AirPod earbuds (so much, I have two pairs), but I don’t use them on planes. I reckon one could just too easily slip out and get lost down by my feet in my economy seat. (I’m sure many of us have had the horrible experience of bending down into that dark hole to try to find something.) On planes, I use good, old fashioned, wired, plug-in earbuds.
PS Having (in my case) a black iPhone 14 Pro tethered to a white cable and earbuds isn’t a bad thing in a plane.
EUROPE IN TWO WEEKS
Many of our readers are in Europe, or have been. Some are there for months, but quite a number are “ducking over” for short trips. I’m talking a week in France and a week in Ireland, then home. I’m talking a week in London, a week in Copenhagen, then home.
Our working readers are “fitting in” big holidays into two weeks of leave.
TAKE A TABLET
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Even though I was away on assignment in Iceland, I spotted an email from Martina Bordoni and had to reply. She wrote that, just prior to COVID-19, her family had had flights to Lombok booked with Air Asia via Flight Centre. They were cancelled. “When Air Asia started flying again to/from Perth I went to Flight Centre to rebook but was told they are currently not booking with Air Asia as the airline is being difficult in honouring outstanding credits, and to come back at a later stage,” she wrote. “Every couple of months or so I drop in and still I am being told the same story. I contacted Air Asia directly and they said I would receive a travel credit but then could not issue it to me as my flight was booked via a travel agent. I am not asking for a refund, I’d be happy to make another booking.”
We consistently hear from readers that they don’t get responses from Air Asia.
TROUBLE IN BALI
Christopher and Lydia Metcalf say their family had a “recent horrible experience with Citilink Airlines”. They write the family of four was at Denpasar Bali International Airport on July 21 at 10pm, ready for scheduled flight QG 554 at 1am. They say the flights were booked on July 15 on the Citilink Airline website. Christopher and Lydia say the Citilink airport staff told them the booking was missing/cancelled/still on hold — even though they had a travel itinerary issued by Citilink that said they would just need to provide their IDs for identification before the flight. They say they proved to the Citilink staff payment for the flights had been made, and backed this up with confirmation from the ING Bank emergency assistance agent that full payment had been made on July 15. They were told if they wanted to board the flight (which they had already paid for), they would have to re-book and pay current flight rates, which were almost double the amount they had already paid. They say they had to organise accommodation and pay for another more expensive flight the next day.
Readers often ask if I fly business class everywhere, and I don’t. There’s a reason most seats in a plane are in economy class — and that’s because it’s where most people sit. That’s what most readers experience, and that’s what I experience. I’m an economy guy, but I have renamed it economical class. And we all know, looking around the world, that being economical is a good thing. For people flying in planes, being in economical class is honourable.
(But there are tricks to fly in economy, and I’ll share them at the festival, too.)
WINNER BY A NECK
PS A few weeks ago, we published a cover story giving six exercises to do in three minutes on a flight. I’ve just taken a three-minute break from writing this on my phone on a flight, and I have to tell you they really work.