Will travel, won’t track
Last words on travel
Although some of the travelogues are by far the most popular pages on this website, I have decided not to record any more of our travels, except maybe for a few snapshots. Our most recent jaunts included a cruise calling in at 8 Asian ports; Western Australia (campervanning) via the Indian Pacific; Simla (India) via the famous narrow-gauge railway; a Mediterranean cruise (this was my sixth visit to the region, from age 14 onwards); Sri Lanka, Dubai and the Gulf region, South America including the unforgettable wonders of Machu Piccu and the Iguaçu Falls; Europe yet again, taking in some cities and zones which we had not seen before, such as Budapest, the Danube, Prague and the Baltic region; and within the last year New York (Oct 2016), ignoring my resolve not to record any more travels by posting a short report on some negative aspects of this otherwise fascinating city; and finally Taiwan (underrated as a tourist destination), Japan at cherry blossom time, south Korea and China, partly by a cruise line (Holland America) which I've vowed never to use again.
In my opinion the Iguaçu Falls is one of the most underrated travel experiences (in good weather!) while the "great" trans-Australia rail journeys - the Ghan and Indian Pacific - are without doubt among the most overrated. You could dismiss the Niagara Falls - a recent (Oct 2014) article in IBT pronounced it one of the four worst tourist destinations in the world, second only to Sydney's fish markets! (However, we did go there on our last trip to the USA, in the off-peak season, and found it to be well worth the visit.) And all you visitors to that magnificent building, the Taj Mahal, be aware that the popular story about its origin is almost certainly false. It was probably a Vedic (Hindu) temple appropriated and modified by the Shah Jahan for his wife's memorial (see numerous online articles, and intending visitors see here.)
List of all 59 countries visited 1974-2017:
|Ports of call - slide show of 10 amazing Mediterranean harbours
||After the rain - slide show of 33 Western Australia wild flower scenes
Australia (all States & Territories), New Zealand (North and South Islands), Fiji (various islands), New Caledonia (various islands), Vanuatu, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China (mainland, Hong Kong & Sanya), Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Philippines, India (central and all corners), Sri Lanka, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Oman, UAE, Greece (including Rhodes), Cyprus, Malta, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, The Netherlands, UK (England, Scotland, Wales), Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Monaco, Switzerland, Austria, Leichtenstein, Germany, Italy, Vatican City, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Russia (western), Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Alaska (spouse only), Jamaica (self only), Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico.
Our main aims in travel have been to soak up the natural beauties of the planet and the marvels of human ingenuity. On the way we have learnt a lot about the people of the world, not least ourselves. My top-ranking travel spot? Probably Iguaçu Falls, on the border of Brazil and Argentina. As for cities, I keep changing my mind. Everything considered, at the moment I'm thinking maybe Venice or Prague, but there are numerous small towns and villages throughout Europe which are just as enchanting. In my fatherland, England, the villages of the Cotswolds, such as Castle Combe and Lower Slaughter, are high on my list. While Australian towns and cities are bright and sunny, none of them is especially attractive, interesting or historic. The best part of Australia is the tropical north Queensland coast. The Outback, including Uluru (Ayer's Rock), has little to capture the imagination, unless you're particularly fond of nothingness and snakes.
Happy wanderers we have been, and will continue to be as long as age shall not weary us! But ......
The real cost of travel
We might have to think twice before going overseas again. The real cost of travel is the huge “carbon footprint” it leaves behind. An inter-continental flight of 10,000 km produces about 3.6 tonnes of CO2 per passenger. That’s a real problem. It represents 20-30% of an average Australian’s annual carbon footprint.
Some final tips:
Western Australia Wild Flowers - We recommend going mid-season (about mid-September), but there's no point in going at all if the preceding winter was dry. Wait for a good wet winter, then book. Late bookings should be OK, unless you're intending to go over on the Indian Pacific, Gold Kangaroo Class, which needs to be reserved well ahead. A dilemma!
Cruises - Try to avoid cruises that visit "tendering" ports and cruises where the principal on-board language is not English. (But don't be unduly deterred by this suggestion if you see a cruise that especially suits your needs.)
River cruises - In our opinion their popularity is not justified, for several reasons including poor value, confinement, noise, slow pace and American tourists! Go to the same places by bus, train or self-drive car and stay there twice as long, in hotels of your own choice.
International flight routes - If you have problems arranging return flights from A to C with a stopover at B, consider the possibility of purchasing a return flight from A to B with one airline and a return flight from B to C with another (probably a different airline alliance). It could save time, money and needless backtracking to the airline's home base.
On complicated jouneys, it pays to avoid using a multistop search engine. Buy each leg on separate tickets and save a packet, it's worth the extra bit of work.
Money and passports - It's very important to keep them safe. Wear a money belt and suitable clothes with secure pockets and use your room safe (most hotels have them now). Take a selection of credit and debit cards from at least two different banks and keep them in different places, but never in a handbag. Travellers' cheques are virtually defunct and I can't see the point of pre-loaded travel cards - good for the banks but no advantage to the customer.
Multi-stop flights, travel agents and insurance - jetabroad.com and skyscanner.com.au are the only travel sites I know of that work really well for multiple stop journeys (this info is now out of date, read on). They both now includes budget airlines such as Jetstar and, after a bit of work, should find you a real bargain. (Since writing this, I now always use the skyscanner multiple agency search, and find that many of the best deals are with Fly365.) You can then take your itinerary and quote to a fair dinkum local agency staffed by real people, such as STA-Travel, who will doubtless match the online fare, as well as giving you valuable advice and more time to pay. Don't bother with Travelworld (in my experience they are totally unhelpful), and never go to Flight Centre first up. Although their staff are competent within the company machine, they are mostly inexperienced and unimaginative, and their policy is invariably to tempt you with the most expensive possible way of doing what you want. Go there with your internet quote and see if they'll beat it. Reject their travel insurance offer and find insurance on the internet, if you don't already have it included in your credit card contract. All up you should be able to save at least 15-30%.
Let me leave you with a single image to ponder. Do you remember that drawn-out desert scene in the movie Lawrence of Arabia after Lawrence turns back to rescue one of his band who has fallen off his camel? Never was there a more soul-engulfing portrayal of the unity of space and time. What Einstein achieved with intellect and equations, David Lean pulled off with the brush of artistic inspiration.
Travel can be like this. As well as dazzling you with unforgettable images, it can change the way you think.
That same movie scene has so much to say, not about the lonely planet, but about the lonely man on an increasingly hostile planet. About survival. Will we stay on our camels, or will we fall off? And if we fall, who will be there to rescue us? There is only the desert and the burning sun.....
......Dabs of Grue......31/12/07....................................HOME