.

November 25, 2013

Struth! Haunted hotel comes back to life

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that after laying abandoned for years because people believed it was haunted, a picturesque old hotel in the mountains 30km south-west of Bogota in Colombia has taken on a new lease of life as a museum.

The once-luxury Hotel del Salto was originally built as a private mansion and converted to a hotel in 1928; it was an immediate hit with honeymooners and others visiting the spectacular nearby Tequendama Falls, but with increasing contamination of the Bogota River interest in the 160m high Falls waned and the hotel closed in the early 1990s.

Despite several proposals for its re-opening the hotel's doors remained locked – many locals believing it to be haunted by the ghosts of revellers who fell off balconies into the river below, and others saying of ghosts of indigenous locals who jumped off the Tequendama Falls to escape incarceration as slaves.
 
The hotel was recently re-opened as the Museum of Biodiversity and Culture to highlight the work being put into the rejuvenation of the Bogota River, alongside the history of the local people.

Struth! No kids please, we're flying

 

 IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says that after Singapore-based low-cost carrier Scoot introduced childfree zones on flights, TripAdvisor asked more than 1,800 Australian flyers if they would pay more for the quiet of an area aboard their aircraft in which children were not allowed.

Almost two thirds (61%) said they would, 21% said they wouldn't, while nearly 8% didn't mind either way.

And the remaining 11% said they thought a child-free zone offensive.

"The introduction of child-free zones on flights provides travellers with a choice," said Andrew Wong, TripAdvisor's regional director for flights. "This might be the start of a trend among the low-cost carriers who make money by selling value-added services."

ScootInSilence is a 41-seat area between Business Class and Economy that was launched by Scoot in August this year, with no under-12s allowed and an additional 4-inch (just over 100mm) pitch – pitch being the distance between seat rows.

Scoot flies between Singapore and Sydney, the Gold Coast and various parts of Asia.

 


Why can't I carry-on my duty free alchohol?

It’s one of the most confusing things about duty-free shopping at overseas airports.

How come some airports will allow duty free alcohol to be purchased and taken aboard, while others not?
"Sorry sir, ..." (photo: SMH)
Of course, there is a long back-story to this, but the quickest explanation is that you may purchase alcohol (or liquids over 100ml) if the vendor is able to deliver it to you after passing through the boarding gate ie: just as you board the aircraft.

This is possible in KUL for example, but not in BKK. Why? No idea, but that’s the rule.

One notorious trap for Aussies is transiting through AKL, where if you are able to leave the fluids on board (ie you are not changing planes, merely going for a walk while they refuel) you can keep it. 

If you are changing planes, then you must pass through the customs screening and the smiling officer will smile a little wider when he tells you to surrender your Johnny Walker Blue Label.

This happened to me with a small hipflask of whiskey. On returning home, I notified the Sydney Duty Free company who sold it to me at the airport without warning and they refunded me when I sent a copy of my receipt and travel itinerary.

A travelling companion, who turned out to be a bit of a hothead, told me instead of surrendering his Johnny Walker, he charged back out of the transit screening area and gave it to the first person he saw heading towards baggage claim.

Then there’s that famous story of the bloke who sculled his vodka rather than give it up. Not only did he miss his flight because he couldn’t walk, he ended up in hospital.

Struth! Arty dingo saves bush birds

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says a dingo is helping to save an endangered Australian bush bird through the sale of her unique "artworks."

Kaya, a five-year-old female at the Oakvale Farm and Fauna World in Port Stephens 2.5hrs north of Sydney, steps in paint and then onto a blank canvas in front of visitors, her resultant colourful paw-prints then sold to support conservation of the bush stone-curlew, a nocturnal ground-dwelling bird in danger of extinction on the Australian east coast.

Oakvale owner, Kent Sansom says Kaya's artistic efforts are a hit with visitors. "Because she didn't get on well with the other dingoes, she lives by herself. But as dingoes are highly intelligent, social animals so we decided to provide her with a fun activity, while also raising funds and awareness for the bush stone-curlew which we breed and release into the Murray River region to boost its populations."
 
The park also has a range of native, exotic and farm animals including emus, kangaroos, koalas, birds, camels, deer, llamas, alpacas, cows, goats, sheep, pigs, donkeys, crocodiles and pythons that visitors can get up-close with. Details 02 4982 6222 or www.oakvalefarm.com.au, including days Kaya displays her painting skills.

For details of Port Stephens' other attractions, www.portstephens.org.au.

 

                                                                      ………………….

IMAGE:

KAYA the artistic dingo with trainer, Lia Reeve-Parker.

 


Guy Fawkes gunpowder plot foiled thanks to tip-off

 

TIP-OFF A BLOW TO GUNPOWDER PLOTTERS

David Ellis

 

EVEN though its over 400 years since Guy (Guido) Fawkes and his mates tried to blow up England's Parliament House in 1605, the Brits still celebrate what's become known as Guy Fawkes Day (or Bonfire Night) every November 5 with great bonfires and letting off of fireworks across the country.

 

Certainly with more fervour than we do here, and even though many of we wrinklies of Anglo-Saxon descent can still remember looking forward to Bonfire Night in our childhoods, with today's tighter fireworks laws, our Night no longer goes off with quite the bang it once did.

 

Guy Fawkes was one of a group of Catholics who'd hoped to blow-up Parliament and everyone inside it during its official Opening by the Protestant King James I on November 5 1605, in protest at James' anti-Catholicism including banishing Catholic priests from Britain.

 

Of the dozen or so members of the so-called Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes was the first caught – discovered guarding a cellar under Parliament's House of Lords the plotters had leased and filled with 36 barrels (2 tonnes) of gunpowder.

 

Although baptised a Protestant, Fawkes had converted in adult life to Catholicism, joining a group that wanted to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne in place of James. He was caught when Parliament House guards raided the cellar in the wee hours of the morning of November 5, after an anonymous note tipped-off a Member of Parliament not to attend the Opening because of the Plot.

 

After extensive torturing, Fawkes revealed the names of several of his co-conspirators. They were quickly rounded-up, and with himself put on trial in January 1606: their resultant fate was to be a gruesome one.

 

The judge ordered they be hanged, drawn and quartered on January 31, which meant each would be tied to two planks and hauled along the ground by horses from the Tower of London where they had been held, to the gallows ironically located in the Old Palace Yard opposite Parliament House – locals gathering in their thousands along the way to hurl stones and rotten fruit at them.

 

At the gallows they would then be individually hanged by the neck – but not until dead: instead the executioner would judge from his victims' kicks how close he was to death, then cut him loose… and with the same knife first slice off his genitals, and then cut out his heart, theatrically holding it to the throng with the exhortation: "Witness this – the heart of a traitor!"

 

For finality the now-deceased would be beheaded, and their body hacked into several parts that would be taken away for public display around the city. Such was "justice" in 17th century England.

 

Guy Fawkes was the last of the three to die that day – but his ending was not as expected: as he was climbing the ladder to the gallows, he suddenly jumped off, turning head-down, and dying instantly from a broken neck as he hit the ground.

 

And another escaped the gallows as well: Francis Tresham died of natural causes in the Tower while awaiting his punishment. Tresham's hatred of the Protestants stemmed from the imprisonment of his father, Sir Thomas who had spent 15 years in gaol or under house arrest for harbouring a Catholic priest, escaping harsher punishment as a Catholic only because he had once been the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and fortuitously still had usefully-placed connections.

 

And interestingly Sir Thomas' devoutness can still be seen today in a building he built in 1593 called the Triangular Lodge near Rushton in Northamptonshire, and which pays homage to the three points of the Holy Trinity… Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

The Lodge is comprised of three levels, each with three walls exactly 33-feet (10m) wide and with three windows in each wall. On top of each wall are three gargoyles surmounted by three pinnacled gables, and in the centre of the building a 3-sided triangular chimney.

 

And a Latin religious text of 33 letters runs around the inside of each of the three walls of the building... which in two corners has small closets believed to be 'priest's holes' for hiding Catholic clergy from the Protestants. The third corner houses the connecting staircase.

 

The British Heritage-listed Triangular Lodge is open April to November.

 

                                                          ………………………..

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

 

[] CAPTURE of Guy Fawkes; contemporary artists depiction.

[] THE Gunpowder conspirators who plotted to blow up England's House of Parliament.

[] CONSPIRATORS are dragged to gallows from Tower of London.

[] BRITAIN's House of Parliament that the Gunpowder Plotters planned to blow-up with King James I inside.

[] PLAQUE in London commemorating tip-off to the Gunpowder Plot.

[] UNIQUE Triangular Lodge designed by devout catholic Sir Thomas Tresham in 1593.

(Images: Wikipedia and British Tourist Authority)  

 

 


November 24, 2013

Anantara Spice Spoons Vietnamese Cuisine Experience

Rolling your own down Mui Ne way

words: Anantara

click image for more details
on Anantara Spice Spoons
Steeped in history, Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the most flavoursome and healthy in the whole of Asia. The style of cooking, which has evolved over many centuries, is an enticing blend of Chinese and Asian spices, flavours and techniques influenced by the ingredients and traditions of classic French cuisine. The result is a mouth-watering wealth of unique dishes that few countries can compare with.

Vietnamese cuisine features a combination of five fundamental taste elements in the overall meal: Sour, bitter, sweet, spicy and salty. Each dish has a distinctive flavour that reflects one or more of these taste elements. Common ingredients include soy sauce, shrimp paste, fish sauce, fresh herbs, rice and fruit and many traditional recipes use ginger, mint, lemongrass, coriander, Vietnamese basil, lime, cinnamon and chilli.

The cuisine of this long and thin country that stretches from Hanoi and the mountains of the north to Ho Chi Minh and the fertile river delta of the south can be roughly divided into three regions. The food of the north, through stir fries and noodle-based soups, shows the heavy influence of Chinese cooking. The mountainous middle region has an abundance of fresh produce enlivened with spicy ingredients, while the tropical south sustains rice paddies, coconut groves and yet more spices.

As in most of Southeast Asia today, there is an historic underlying of Indian cultural presence, most obviously evidenced in the culture of the Cham People and religion of Buddhism. French colonisation of Vietnam, which began in the 16th century and ended in the middle of the 20th century, also had a strong influence on Vietnamese cooking. The cuisine balances all these influences.

Fresh Spring Rolls - Gỏi cuốn
 
When it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, you just have to roll with it. Fresh spring rolls may have started their journey in Vietnam but their popularity has spread globally, filling the world's finger bowls at cocktail parties from New York to Vladivostok. And any wonder! Fresh spring rolls are tightly packed morsels of crunchy delight: Bacon and prawn diced and sliced with crushed peanuts in a bed of herbs wrapped in rice paper and deep fried till golden brown.

Topping it all off comes the sweet peanut source infused with garlic and chilli and brought to life with a splash of lime juice. The beauty of fresh spring rolls is that you can enjoy them standing up, sitting down or rolling around on the floor in fits of ecstasy. They really are that good!




Recipe


30g Pork belly
80g Prawns (shell-on)
500ml Vegetable stock
100g Rice noodles (cooked)
Anantara Mui Ne Sous Chef Hoa
shows us how it's done (R Eime)
1 Egg
20g Peanuts
4g Fresh ginger
4g Lemongrass Shallots
5g Asian basil
5g Mint
5g Coriander
20g Bean sprouts
2g Chives
10ml Fish sauce
5g Rice paper

Dipping Sauce

4g Garlic
10g Fresh chilli
10g Peanut
10g Soya bean paste
10g Soy sauce
10g Sugar
10g Water
1 Lime

Stop and shop in Abu Dhabi



by Ian Mcintosh - Travel Agent Update

Grand Millennium Hotel at Wahda (supplied)
We decided to break our journey to Istanbul and spend a full day in Abu Dhabi for one reason only – to shop. Dubai is our usual stopover but not this time –however Fiona was undeterred. The credit cards were out and ready. If Dubai was the Holy Grail, surely Abu Dhabi had a marble clad answer or two. My research on Booking.Com highlighted the Grand Millennium Hotel at Wahda - right next to Al Wahda Mall, the biggest in town. Established in 2007 it flaunts a good retail mix of high street brands such as Armani Xchange, Gap, Mango, Gant, and Calvin Klein. Plenty of food outlets too – we had a delicious meal from an Indian outlet for next to nothing. We arrived after 14 hours on Etihad quite early in the morning from Melbourne and the cab had us at the hotel by 9.30am. I was quite happy to put our bags into storage and head out – but the reception clerk invited us to enjoy a coffee in the foyer while he worked a little magic.

Sure enough, we were soon heading for the 19th floor via one of a bank of fast lifts. Room 1918 was a good size by today’s standards with a bathroom big enough for two boasting a separate bath and shower. Room colours were muted and all the expected goodies were there – full length mirror, safe, mini bar (no Diet Coke) tea, coffee and two bottles of comp water. An iron and board were a phone call away. As I said we were on the 19th floor with sweeping views over a biscuit coloured city that is obviously ever evolving rapidly judging by the number of cranes poking skyward. We enjoyed excellent Wi Fi, a big desk (international power plugs would have been nice) big flat TV and the king bed was fine. The aircon was a little noisy along with the internet/TV controller box. No complaints about the lighting however - bedside readers get their own spot. So, how was the shopping? Here is the word from a self-confessed shopaholic: “Have to say I was deliciously surprised when I walked into the Al Wahda Mall.

Al Wahda Mall, Abu Dhabi

I was expecting the poor country cousin to Dubai – and it is – but my idea of how it was going to be and the reality didn’t match up. It was superb. We were looking for sneakers for Ian and found every major brand to choose from and good discount sales on for some of the top ones including the Jack Wolfskin trail walkers he settled on. I was looking for a flat pair of neutral coloured brogues to replace the ones in my suitcase that I knew would be trashed during my upcoming Turkey travels. Unbelievably I found EXACTLY what I was looking for in magnificent soft leather in a designer brand that was down from $350 to AUD100. As always these fantastic UAE malls are places of great light, calm, cleanliness and easy to get around. Given that my hotel was virtually next door, it was perfect.

TO CONCLUDE: Very comfy modern hotel looking slightly tired but ideally located near the main Abu Dhabi shopping mall. The European concierge did not have much local knowledge when we asked about a nearby restaurant.

Ian McIntosh is Australia’s Senior Traveller.

November 18, 2013

Tasmania has the spirit



David Ellis

 

WE'VE all heard rollicking yarns of illegal whisky makers and smugglers in Scotland's days of yore, and of the government's Excisemen, or "gaugers" as they were also known, who tracked down and closed these miscreant booze-makers before wide-spread distilling was finally legalised in the UK in 1823.

 

And later of the daring-do across the Atlantic of Eliott Ness and his "Untouchables" who battled the notorious Al Capone during America's 1930's Prohibition, while also tackling other widespread illegal hooch-makers as far afield as the wild "Moonshine Mountains" of Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee…

 

But how many know that Australia's own "whisky isle" – Tasmania – rose through an almost equally-colourful past, to now be winning acclaim for exceptional single malts and other whiskies… and not just here, but world-wide?

 

Tasmania's first European settlers were convicts and their guards sent in 1804 from NSW to what was to become Hobart, followed by others further afield to Macquarie Harbour and soon-notorious Port Arthur.

 

These were some of the worst of convicts who had also committed crimes in NSW soon after arrival from England, whilst also amongst them were Irish political prisoners, as well as boys as young as nine convicted of simply stealing food and clothing.

 

On their release in Tasmania many ex-convicts took up farming, and making home-grown whisky on the side from their grains. By the mid-1820s, sixteen legal distilleries – and plenty of illegal ones as well – were in operation around mainly Hobart, which was not bad for a population of fewer than 50,000 ex-convicts, guards, soldiers, free settlers… and including wives and children.

 

Also as many as 1-in-20 Hobart houses operated as forms of pubs selling home-made whiskies and beers – the latter often laced with legal (in those days) opium. So drunk was a vast proportion of the population for much of the time, that Tasmanian Governor Sir John Franklin's wife, Lady Jane complained that "she would rather have farm grain fed to the pigs, than see it turn men into swine."

 

As a result of such cajoling, Sir John imposed a Prohibition Order banning the distillation of alcohol "for the betterment of the fledgling Tasmanian colony."

 

It simply drove the making of whisky and other spirits underground, until 154 years later Hobart businessman, Bill Lark in 1992 succeeded in having Franklin's 1838 edict repealed and small-scale making of distilled products declared legal once more.

 

As a result Lark Distillery was the first into business, with a-now nine other distilleries in operation in Tasmania today.

 

Amongst them is Hellyers Road near Burnie in the island's north-west, Australia's largest single malt whisky maker that released its first drop in 2006 under the stewardship of General Manager and Distiller, Mark Littler.

 

The company currently enjoys sales of around $2m a year, sells in France that's one of the world's largest consumers of single malt whiskies, is anticipating sales soon in the United States, and has a bottling capacity of 9000 a week.

 

It also attracts 25,000 whisky aficionados annually to its Visitor Centre, where an informative guided distillery "Whisky Walk" takes 40-minutes and costs $16. Participants can also fill their own bottle of "Distillers Choice" single malt at additional cost, wax seal it and get a Personalised Certificate of Authenticity… then adjourn to the Distillery Café for a Whisky Beef Burger or Whisky Flavoured Ice Cream. 

 

The Hellyers Road Distillery is named after Henry Hellyer who was a pioneer into Tasmania's ruggedly wild north-west in 1825, with just a bullock gang and hand-tools carving a road to link Emu Bay – now Burnie – with agricultural lands being opened-up by the-then Van Dieman's Land Company.

 

Although officially Old Surrey Road, the distillery still honours it as Hellyers Road and makes five different Hellyers Road malt whiskies by traditional methods, taking advantage of Tasmania's pure, unpolluted water, its quality barley, abundant peat and the island's cool climate – all vital to quality whisky production.

 

In 2010 it was recognised for producing Australia's best single malt, and last year released its first 10 Year Old Single Malt.

 

It also makes an Original, a Coffee and a Hazelnut Whisky Cream, and a selection of Southern Light Vodkas.

 

And it forecasts sales growth of its single malts alone at 100% a year… now that's the spirit.

 

Where to buy, how to visit: www.hellyersroaddistillery.com.au

 

                                                  ……………………………..

 

PHOTO CAPTIONS:

 

[] TASMANIA'S Hellyer Road Distillery, now Australia's largest maker of single malt

   whiskies and exporting to the world.

[] BARRELS in store prior to filling 9000 bottles a week.

[] GENERAL Manager and Distiller, Mark Littler.

[] SOME of the range of labels.

[] JUST-released first-ever 10 year old with a label paying homage to pioneer road

   builder, Henry Hellyer after whom the distillery is named.

 

(All photos: Hellyer Road Distillery)

 


November 14, 2013

Kolmanskop, Namibia: Diamonds in the Dust



Diamond fever swept through South-West Africa at the turn of last century, transforming the sleepy desert town of Lüderitz briefly into the richest in all of Africa. Roderick Eime, kicks a few pebbles down Bismarck Street in the old German colony.


“It is almost as if Nature, conscious of her injustice to this portion of the African continent had added the diamonds as an afterthought by way of making amends.” - P.A. Wagner, geologist, 1914

On a very ordinary day in April 1908, a black African labourer, Zacharias Lewala, was toiling on the railway line not far from the port town of Lüderitz when something caught his eye. A pebble flashed in the sun just as he had seen in the Kimberley when he’d worked there in his youth. Zacharias knew straight away what he’d found and showed it to his foreman, setting off a frenzied diamond rush that changed forever the fortunes of this desolate part of Africa.

To the casual observer, the sand-blown desert wastes of South West Africa are a worthless, forlorn expanse of land sandwiched between the Namib and the Kalahari deserts and useless for most anything. Even the ancient San bushmen who’ve lived there for thousands for years, call it “the land God made in anger”.

Portuguese sailors like Bartolomeu Dias, on his way to the Cape of Good Hope in the late-15th century, put ashore on scouting missions and, suitably unimpressed, erected crosses to the glory of God along the forsaken so-called Skeleton Coast and left, dubbing it bleakly “The Gates of Hell”. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Europeans really started to take notice of the region and it was the deepwater harbour at today’s Walvis Bay that was the prize.

With missionaries as colonial pathfinders, the Germans won the race to claim these barren shores for their own and in 1883, a tobacco entrepreneur from Bremen, Adolf Lüderitz and his shady agent Vogelsang, bought the area around the anchorage along with all land within a radius of eight kilomentres for £100 in gold coin and 200 rifles. He immodestly named the port, Lüderitz, and the following year encouraged German chancellor Otto von Bismarck to claim it for Germany before the British could, thus creating the colony of Deutsch-Südwestafrika (German South-West Africa).


Despite his great enthusiasm, Lüderitz seemed doomed to fail. After purchasing what amounted to an entire country with guns and gold, all his enterprises failed and in 1886 he disappeared at sea in a flimsy boat not far from the Orange River. Two decades later, a mineral find beyond even his wildest dreams would make these dusty plains one of the richest tracts of land on the planet.

From that moment in 1908 diamonds became the mainstay of the country’s economy which only became known as Namibia after independence in 1990. Like all minerals, their demand waxes and wanes with the world’s economy and specifically with diamonds, that economy is controlled by the world’s largest diamond company, De Beers, founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1888.

In an unlikely twist, Tourism is another economic staple of Namibia contributing around 15% of GDP and employing many thousands of people. Cruise ships of all sizes visit Walvis Bay and passengers set out on excursions into the nearby desert, ferried by everything from 4WDs and station wagons to robust off-road coaches.

My guide in Walvis Bay is Estelle Pretorius, and with a name like that, it’s no surprise to learn that her family hails from next door, South Africa. Many South Africans moved into then South-West Africa after the Germans were ‘asked’ to relinquish control during and after WW1. When she’s not driving tourists out to see the world’s highest sand dune or world’s ugliest plant, the welwitchsia, she raises karakul sheep on the family farm. The pelts of the young Persian-origin breed make an expensive fur called Swakara which is becoming an industry in its own right.

But it’s further south near the original German settlement of Lüderitz where the two economies of diamonds and tourism collide in macabre fashion. Not far from where Zacharias found his fateful pebble, the town of Kolmanskop sprung up to support the local mining community which his find spawned.

At first the diamond rush was a chaotic frenzy with hopefuls often seen scouring the desert on their bellies on a moonlight night when the pretty stones were easier to spot under the milky light. They would return to the bars of Lüderitz, their pockets bulging, and indulge in Bacchanalian frivolities until their newfound riches were extinguished.

But this disorder could not be tolerated by the strict German colonialists and with trademark Teutonic efficiency, licensing was tightened and the little village established itself with a hospital, ballroom, power station, school, Kugel (bowling) alley, theatre and sports hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray station in the southern hemisphere. Fresh meat was available from the butcher, bread at the bakery, furniture from a local workshop, kids played in the public playground and swum in the pool. A short railway line even ran to the port.

Despite these familiar niceties, life in the remote, scorching desert would have been very uncomfortable before air-conditioning. Sand storms frequently raged through the village and water, which needed to be shipped in, was often so scarce that people bathed in soda water from the soft drink plant.

With wars and other interruptions, diamond production had peaked by the early ‘20s was in decline until finally halted at Kolmanskop in 1954 when the operation was moved to more profitable fields near Oranjemund in the far southern corner of the country. Since that day, it was “last one out, turn off the lights” and the tiny German enclave was left to the hungry desert.

Today Kolmanskop is a popular tourist attraction adjacent the Sperrgebiet (forbidden area) which has existed for one hundred years to keep casual fossickers out of the diamond fields. Voyeuristic travellers wander among the derelict houses and buildings, some being slowly restored, while others house museum exhibits and interpretive displays. Photographers have made the location famous and several movies and documentaries have been filmed on the site.

As for old Zacharias, his fate is not recorded, but one can be sure his fortune did not match that of his railway manager, August Stauch, who quietly resigned his mundane job and became one the kaiserlichen (imperial) colony’s richest men almost overnight.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Luderitz is very occasionally visited by smaller cruise ships, but most tourists will arrive by air [Airport: LUD] aboard an Air Namibia 37-seat Embraer regional jet. Other tourists will arrive by coach or self-drive.

STAYING THERE: Nest Hotel, (TripAdvisor 4/5) www.nesthotel.com approx. $140/night

PLAYING THERE: Tours to Kolmanskop can be arranged at Luderitz.

Guided tours take place:

Monday – Saturday 09h30 and 11h00

Sunday and public holidays – 10h00.

Namibia Tourism Official site: www.namibiatourism.com.na

November 11, 2013

Struth! Hats off on historic rail journey

In his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says there's a valley in Wales called Cwm Hetiau, which means The Valley of the Hats.

It's because in Victorian times well-to-do ladies and their gentlemen escorts would take the steam train to the top of Mount Snowdon to enjoy the spectacular views, riding in open-topped carriages and more often than not having sudden strong breezes near the peak of the mountain whisk away the hats of those not taking care to be holding onto them in those open carriages.

Local farmers, miners and other villagers living below in what eventually was to be  officially called Cwm Hetiau (The Valley of the Hats) would boast that their wives and daughters had the best collections of hats in Wales – and that it had never cost them a penny to see their ladies so finely attired for Sunday outings.

FOOTNOTE: IF you've ever wondered at the expression "Mad as a Hatter," it was because in the 18th and 19th centuries mercury was used in the production of felt for making hats. Small traces of this mercury could be slowly absorbed by hat makers, accumulating in their bodies over the years and causing some to develop dementia that was dubbed "Mad Hatter Syndrome" – and eventually applied as "Mad as a Hatter" to anyone showing signs of insanity.

 

                                                                 

PHOTO CAPTION:

 

 

[] HISTORIC open-topped little train in Wales. (Photo: Snowdon Mountain Railway.)