Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield surveys the world of travel in his weekly roundup
The thought of a backflip (without an ambulance standing by), is too much to bear. And so we continue to “open up” in our weekly Travel pages in The West Australian, The Sunday Times and online, just as planned. Stories Without Borders connect us to people around the world and in the rest of Australia, but are grounded here in WA. (In a good way.)
After a 722-day absence, World Expeditions will become the first Australian company to return to the Himalayan trails (as we signalled on our cover today). The company has been trekking there for almost 50 years. There are then treks in March and April, including the Everest Base Camp Trek in Comfort, the Everest Circuit and the Cho La in Comfort and Everest High Passes in Comfort.
Since restrictions prevented World Expeditions from running its trips there, it has been helping its Nepali staff, distributing food packages and aid. World Expeditions chief executive Sue Badyari says: “There’s virtually no government assistance in many overseas countries including Nepal, and I know how difficult it’s been for many local staff, whose income abruptly ceased when COVID-19 first struck.” World Expeditions’ Lend a Hand Appeal raised more than $40,000 to help its overseas teams. Thanks to the generosity of the travelling community, 600 emergency food packages were delivered to struggling families, and they received payments as an ongoing support.
worldexpeditions.com and 1300 720 000
NOT TESTING TIMES
From February 11, fully vaccinated travellers arriving in England and Scotland will no longer have to take a “day two” PCR test. The travel industry there has been calling for this move for months, to simplify international arrival for overseas visitors.
GREEN TO WHITE
The last time I was in Austria was in summer, catching ski lifts to the high green slopes, to walk “on the flat” in the beautiful Alps. The Green Ring above Lech is something for the future. But at this time of year, the Alps are white and perhaps even more beautiful. And in Bregenzerwald, locals are busy making wooden toboggans and, like others in the area, the wonderful Hotel Gasthof Krone in Hittisau is welcoming visitors. An insider says: “The beds are made, the glasses polished and the wine chilled . . . after more than six months, we are happy to be able to pursue our favourite passion again, hospitality.” For future travel, make a note of the hotel and its chef, Michael Garcia Lopez, who revels in the superb local produce.
LAND OF SWINGS
. . . The area of Bregenzerwald, with its 23 beautiful villages, is located in the Austrian region of Vorarlberg, and such a favourite place for me — not just for its landscape, but for the thinking of the locals. They are engaged with architecture, crafts, design, culinary arts and social planning and trends. There is a refinement of thinking. A creativity. A “touch”. And now Vorarlberg is The Land of Swings. Andreas Baumann, and Andreas and Matthias Bunsen have combined creative joie de vivre and first-class craftsmanship to produce high-quality swings from solid oak planks — so-called “Hutschn”. A Hutschn project insider confides: “The project was created in their free time and was not profit oriented from the beginning. A conscious decision was made against commercial mass production, despite high demand. Swing. Letting go. Being free.” Andreas Bunsen adds: “We’re already talking to other regions and maybe the project will develop into a European swing trail across the Alps.” The first four Hutschn have just been set up in Damuls Faschina, only accessible on foot at an altitude of up to 1850m. The insider says: “The swings are an opportunity to sharpen one’s view of the surroundings again and again through the continuous forward and backward movement and to incorporate impressions gained. To follow the childlike impulse to simply sit on it, push off and swing away, to set one’s own body and the world in motion. A Hutschn is more than a swing, it stands for an attitude towards life.”
. . . Lots of West Australians find that sort of freedom (and attitude) on the water. New Department of Transport studies predict that the number of recreational vessels in WA will rise from the current 100,000 to 140,700 by 2036. While there were 13,100 trailer boats in the South West region in 2020, that is expected to grow by 41 per cent, to more than 18,500, by 2036. Similar growth is expected in the Mid West. Planners are looking at the number of extra boat ramp lanes and moorings that will be required. The department has published a series of regional maritime planning studies as the foundation for a blueprint of recommendations to meet the needs of our boating population.
">Work to replace the finger jetties and improve access at the Port Bouvard Marina boat ramp starts in March.
While the ground shook at Wagin, with a magnitude 4.7 earthquake on Tuesday, the giant ram stood solid. The earthquake originating in the Wheatbelt was felt in some parts of Perth and Wagin Shire president Phillip Blight says it “felt like a truck driving past”. But Bart (the ram sculpture built in 1985, is “still standing in all his glory” Phillip assures. Bart is photographed by thousands of tourists every year.
And finally, Ozzie, thought to be the world’s oldest male gorilla in captivity, has died at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia in the US. The western lowland silverback was 61. Ozzie was found dead by his “heartbroken” care team at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia, on Tuesday morning (US time). Ozzie was one of 13 gorillas at Zoo Atlanta who tested positive for COVID-19, and the only surviving member of the original generation of gorillas who arrived at Zoo Atlanta when its Ford African Rain Forest opened in 1988. Ozzie was famous for being the first gorilla to voluntarily have his blood pressure taken. He put his arm in the sphygmo- manometer to have it done. Zoo Atlanta’s president and chief executive Raymond B. King says: “Ozzie’s life’s contributions are indelible, in the generations of individuals he leaves behind in the gorilla population and in the world’s body of knowledge in the care of his species. Our thoughts are with his care team, who have lost a part of their lives and a part of their hearts.”