August 24, 2009

STRUTH ! Fit for a tychoon

IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, DAVID ELLIS says that for something totally different you can now hire Rupert Murdoch's 56m (183-feet) superyacht Rosehearty for the holiday of a lifetime.

Whether Rupert has put his boat on the charter market because of tough economic times or just to help defray its running costs we don't know, but Rosehearty comes complete with accommodation for ten guests in five queen-bed staterooms (each with plasma screen TVs,) and if you're the hirer you'll get the Owner's Suite and therefore the opportunity to sleep in Rupert's king-size bed.

There's also a "technogym" with personal instructor, and deep sea diving gear that'll give you a better view of what's under the sea than your snorkelling mask and breathing tube (and again with instructor, of course.)

A chef will prepare the meals you want (just give him an idea in advance of your likes and dislikes,) and there's a bar (with steward) for any necessary liquids to stop the skin cracking under the Caribbean sun (or wherever else you want the yacht delivered to in America, Alaska or the Mediterranean.)

All this will cost you from just $373,500 a week, and hopefully it includes tips for the nine crew who will look after your every need – although if you can afford the charter price we guess the tips aren't going to worry you.


david ellis

IT was 163 years ago next month that a young colonial explorer, John Ainsworth Horrocks died in one of the more bizarre events in our early history.

Horrocks and his brother Eustace had sailed from England in late 1838,  arriving in Adelaide on March 22 1839 – John's twenty-first birthday.

The young adventurer ran into explorer Edward John Eyre in Adelaide, and when he mentioned his desire to "settle on the land," Eyre suggested rich agricultural country he'd discovered about 160kms north of Adelaide.

Leaving his brother in Adelaide, the comfortably-off John took a man servant with him, and in the upper Hutt Valley pegged a claim on which he quickly established a profitable cattle and sheep run.

He also made several forays into the unexplored wilderness further to the north, and finding even more agricultural treasures, soon had eager settlers following in his footsteps; within a few years he'd established a little community around his own property, naming it Penwortham after his birthplace in Lancashire.

Then in July 1846 he set off on his last, ill-fated journey. Included in his party were the artist S.T. Gill to record their travels on canvas, H. Theakstone as 2-I-C, a driver for their carts and drays, a tent keeper, and an Aboriginal goatherd named Jimmy Moorehouse.

They had six horses, twelve goats, a camel named Harry that was the first-ever used in the Colony on an expedition, and supplies that included flour, tea, arrowroot, kegs of water, rice, sago, hard-tack biscuits, medicines, tobacco and one tent for the men, and another for Horrocks.

To supplement their rations they shot emus and kangaroos – including one 1.75m tall that the unfortunate Jimmy Moorehouse was forced to carry five kilometres back to their camp on his shoulders. And when part of a cart axle broke in rough country, one of the drivers walked back to a cattle station they'd passed two days earlier to seek a spare part.

The party hauled their carts and drays through creeks, into bush that often had to be hacked down to make a way, up hills and into valleys, and in September – about six days north of the upper reaches of Spencer Gulf –  came upon a broad lake that Horrocks named after the artist Gill.

Sighting a large bird in scrub, Horrocks decided to shoot it for food and began loading his shotgun. Someone called for Harry the camel to sit so they could access another shot-belt, but when it knelt it lurched to one side – and in a bizarre million-to-one chance part of the saddle struck the hammers of Horrocks' shotgun.

His middle finger was blown off and several pellets smashed into his face, wounding him badly; the driver Kilroy set out for a station over 100kms away where he would ask them to summon a doctor from Penwortham.

With Horrocks alternating between signs of improvement and deterioration the remainder of the party also headed back to Penwortham, remarkably covering up to 40km a day.

They arrived there three weeks later but John Horrocks, still just 28 years of age, died at his home on September 23 1846 and was buried on his property.

And interestingly for inquisitive holidaymakers today, when he'd first started travelling between Adelaide and Penwortham, Horrocks would overnight in the-now wine-rich Clare Valley at a place local tribes called Mundawora (meaning "Two Ponds,") and around which a cattle and sheep station was established 40 years after Horrocks' death.

Today it's owned by John and Gayle Barry who live in the original circa-1880s main house and operate a B&B called Mundawora Mews in the historic stone one-time stables, workers' rooms, dairy and kitchen.

Each of today's cosy four guest suites has either 1- or 2-bedrooms, queen beds, large ensuites, a lounge/kitchenette with wood fire, electric oven with cook-tops, fridge, TV, and dining setting; daily breakfast supplies include cereals, local bacon and fresh Mundawora eggs, bread, juice, milk, home-made jam and tea and coffee.

There's also a complimentary $16 bottle of Jim Barry Watervale Riesling; prices start from $160 per night for two, and guests are free to wander the 50ha property that has sheep, cattle and alpacas, vineyards and abundant bird and wildlife… and the two ponds where John Horrocks regularly camped.

Phone (08) 8842 3762 or visit



[] GILL's painting of explorer John Horrocks leading his camel Harry away  from Mundawora on his last ill-fated journey

[] JOHN and Gayle Barry (and 18 months old Fred) with the painting in a  guest's unit at their Mundawora Mews B&B

[] MUNDAWORA Mews (circa 1880s;) note the interesting "art" piece on the building – silhouette of a utility cut out of galvanised iron

August 17, 2009


david ellis with malcolm andrews

TOMBSTONE Tourists, those who get a kick from prowling cemeteries on their holiday wanderings, find many a treasure in an historic little Sydney suburban cemetery - including the grave of lady who is both virtually unknown, yet at the same time is a key figure in one of the greatest works of English literature.

Eliza Emily Donnithorne was the sole remaining child of a retired East India Company judge, James Donnithorne who moved to Sydney Town in 1836 after losing his wife and two teenage daughters in a cholera epidemic that swept Calcutta four years earlier.

Despite a licentious life in which he fathered several children in adulterous liaisons with Indian women, Donnithorne wanted Eliza to marry into respectable Sydney society.

But the headstrong Eliza rebuffed the well-bred young men invited by her father to Camperdown Lodge, their grand home in Newtown, a small community amid farming fields on the outskirts of Sydney Town.

And instead she fell for a lowly shipping clerk named George Cuthbertson, a worshipper at Newtown's St Stephen's Anglican Church that was attended and patronised by the Donningthornes.

Despite his fury, James Donnithorne could do nothing about the blossoming romance, that included Eliza inviting George to Cambridge Hall when her father made regular business visits to Melbourne – acts that sent neighbour's tongues into overtime.

When he died aged 79 in 1852, James Donnithorne was buried in the cemetery adjacent to St Stephens.

Four years later, Eliza and George decided to marry at Camperdown Lodge, but according to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, "on the morning of the wedding the bride and her maid were already dressed for the ceremony, the wedding breakfast was laid in the long dining-room... the wedding guests assembled, the stage was set, but the chief actor did not keep his appointment".

Gradually the embarrassed guests quietly excused themselves, and the distraught Eliza ordered that the wedding breakfast be left on the tables and the dining room locked.

But she had the front door of the house kept ajar in case Cuthbertson should return, a chain preventing it from blowing wide open and a determined Mastiff deterring would-be intruders.

And, legend has it, Eliza wore her wedding gown until the day she died 30 years later, leaving Camperdown Lodge only to wander its grounds after dark, and speaking only with her two trusted maids, and the rector of St Stephens and her lawyer.

No one knew why George had jilted her, and he was never seen again.

Does much of this sound familiar? If you've read Charles Dickens' famous novel. Great Expectations first published four years after Eliza was jilted, it is.

Because like Eliza Donnithorne, one of Great Expectations' principal characters, Miss Havishman was deserted on the day of her intended nuptials, like Eliza Donnithorne she left her wedding breakfast untouched, and again like Eliza she wore her bridal gown for the rest of her life.

How Dickens heard of Eliza's story is unclear, but it is known that he had numerous widely-read researchers… and one of his sons worked for the East India Company, James Donnithorne's one-time employer.

After her death in 1883 Eliza was buried with her father, and her name added to his gravestone.

Some 80 per cent of headstones at Camperdown Cemetery were fashioned by John Roote Andrews, great-great-great-grandfather of co-author of this feature Malcolm Andrews, and said to have been the first monumental mason to come to Australia of his own volition, rather than as a convict.

He too is buried there, as are explorer and NSW Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell, Isaac Nathan who composed and produced Australia's first opera, and the victims of the Dunbar, a clipper that foundered off Sydney Heads on a stormy night in August 1857 after a voyage from England, taking with her all but one of the 122 people aboard.

Tommy, Mogo and Mandelina, the first Aborigines to be given a Christian funeral also lay there, as do the children of Anthony Hordern, the founder of one of Australia's most famous department stores, and those of Sir Henry Parkes.

Tourists interested in colonial history regularly journey to this last resting place of Eliza Donnithorne and those many other interesting colonial Australians; the cemetery surrounds St Stephen's Church in Church Street, in Sydney's inner-suburban Newtown.

[] ON her death Eliza was buried with her father, and her name added to his headstone in Sydney's Camperdown Cemetery.
[] MEMORIAL in Camperdown Cemetery to the victims of the wreck of the Dunbar.
[] ONLY known lithograph of the Donnithorne's mansion in then-rural Newtown on the outskirts of Sydney Town.

"Hey mum - this is me!"


IN his continuing search for the more weird, whacky and wondrous in the world of travel, DAVID ELLIS if you've ever wondered what its like to be up front actually flying that jet plane – instead of sitting down the back just wishing for the flight to end – you can now do so in Malaysia Airlines' jet simulator.

Just three people at a time go aboard an actual flight simulator at Subang airport, with off-duty pilots and engineers explaining the mysteries of how it's all done.

The 1-hour experience costs RM500 (approx AU$170) per person and after you've chosen a destination to fly to, you'll get a bit of "hands-on flying" under the supervision of real pilots and engineers.

And to prove to your mates that you have "flown a passenger jet" you'll even get a certificate to show them.

August 10, 2009

Wine, water and luxury the perfect mix in New Zealand

Source: Tourism New Zealand

With luxury travel now one of New Zealand's fastest growing tourism sectors it’s no surprise that the well-heeled are seeking out their growing list of luxury travel possibilities.

Luxury travellers have almost tripled their spending in New Zealand in the past decade and, as high-end lodges and tourism experiences notch up international awards and recognition, New Zealand is now firmly fixed on the luxury radar.

For the world-weary, well-travelled superyacht set, New Zealand offers a genuinely refreshing approach that's strongly linked to the landscape and all about creating personal and unique experiences - world-class accommodation, wines, service and transport delivered in an intimate and engaging Kiwi manner.

Drawn firstly to the unspoilt landscape, international visitors are often blown away by the sophisticated infrastructure and services providing all the trappings of a first-class experience topped off with priceless treasures like peace, privacy and safety.

Discerning travellers are continually voting New Zealand their favourite destination. Condé Nast readers recently voted New Zealand their favourite country in the world for the fifth year in a row. And, even in times of economic downturn, those with money to spend are spending it in New Zealand showing they're prepared to go the extra mile for a quality experience.

As a relative newcomer to luxury tourism, New Zealand has had the benefit of hindsight, able to draw from the experience of others and create a world-class product with a truly unique Kiwi flavour. Locally grown fine foods, award winning wines, exclusive accommodation and tailor-made activities all exceed the expectations of the most discerning five-star traveller.

Another element of the New Zealand luxury experience that moves international visitors is the chance to interact with the indigenous culture in an authentic sense. Whether joining a Māori guide to walk in ancient Kauri forests or meeting a contemporary Māori artist in their own studio.

New Zealand's first luxury property is still the best known - the multi-award winning Huka Lodge in Taupo that's hosted heads of state and Hollywood stars, and become world famous for its seclusion, unique environment and luxury experience.

Newer properties like The Farm, at Cape Kidnappers in Hawke's Bay, have quickly earned world class status. The Cape Kidnappers golf course was recently voted top in the world by Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.

At no extra cost is New Zealand's natural asset, the landscape, with mountains, crystal-clear lakes and rivers, wide open spaces and miles of sparkling blue seas.

Luxury yachts and launches provide travellers with an exclusive floating option to explore New Zealand by water, and there are hundreds of islands and secluded moorings within easy reach of the main centres.

As well as the chance to cruise the subtropical waters of the Bay of Islands in the north of New Zealand - where dolphins and whales are a common sight - many vessels, large and small, take passengers on a dramatic journey into Milford Sound in Fiordland National Park where bush-clad peaks rise from the still blue waters, waterfalls cascade hundreds of metres into deep coves, and wildlife abounds.

Escaping the rat race is one of the main reasons luxury travellers come to New Zealand and visitors list the seclusion, easily achieved privacy, restorative health benefits and infectious warmth of the people as key factors.

One of the mistakes visitors commonly make is not allowing enough time to enjoy the New Zealand experience and, despite the ease of travel and accessibility of facilities, people frequently say they wish they could stay longer.

With the chance to walk for days and not see another soul, fly in to a remote fishing spot hours from civilisation, soak in a spa under the stars, entertain in a private lodge with your personal chef, dine on your own freshly caught seafood and escape into anonymity - it's easy to see why.

New Zealand wines taking the world by storm.

As a perfect adjunct to a stay at any of New Zealand’s world famous lodges, enjoying the country’s signature wine style is another experience only available in New Zealand. New Zealand's 10 wine producing regions span 1600kms, almost the entire length of the country's coastline, resulting in a variety that is as wide and varied as the country they grow in.

Winemaking in New Zealand came from humble beginnings. Prohibition and the influence of the British who preferred beer and spirits, meant wine wasn't really appreciated in New Zealand until the arrival of the first Dalmatian migrants at the turn of the twentieth century.
They brought with them knowledge of viticulture and an appreciation of wine, never seen before in New Zealand. Their years of hard toil and expertise have made the industry what is today.

From Pinot noir to Pinot gris, New Zealand wines are winning awards all over the globe, punching well above their weight on the international scene.

Some of the hundreds of New Zealand vineyards are now even growing the rare Viognior white wine grape - a grape which almost became extinct in its native France due to a pesky insect - with splendid results. Because of New Zealand's cooler climate the Viognior grape produces a different taste than its French equivalent, a taste that has made it the new trendy white wine in New Zealand.

As well as producing top class wine, the New Zealand wine industry is also making a commitment to protecting the environment. Grove Mill Winery has become the first winery in the world to achieve carbon zero certification.

The certification involves addressing climate change impacts with the aim of adding no net carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere in the production and distribution of its wines.

This approach has made New Zealand one of the most exciting New World wine-producing countries. Winemakers are applying innovative ideas to traditional winemaking bringing intensity, freshness and complexity to the wine.

Chardonnay is the most widely planted variety but is definitely not a boring standard. New Zealand's distinct Chardonnay is complex and fruit-laden in character, and fruity, herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc is the icon wine of Marlborough. Pinot Noir is the darling of the wine world. It's a difficult and challenging wine to produce and each mouthful speaks of its complexity. Marlborough and Central Otago vie for the title of most notable region currently producing Pinot Noir.

New Zealand leads the international field for producing sparkling wine, and the Montana Brancott winery owns the only Coquard Champagne press in the Southern Hemisphere. New Zealand's sparkling wine surprises many a traditionalist with its unique flavours and aromas. Montana's Lindauer and Cloudy Bay's Pelorus, both from Marlborough, are fine examples.

The gravel soils of the Hawke's Bay region favour robust, stylish and elegant reds, and winemakers' individual blends perfect the final product.

Before you sail on from the glorious waters of New Zealand, you’ll find it hard to resist stowing a few cases of classic Kiwi wine down in the hold. Who could blame you?

August 06, 2009


A World Away

There’s a lot more to Brazil than the beaches of Rio, the sprawl of Sao Paulo or the Amazon jungle writes Robert Manuel after a recent visit to the little known state of Piaui (pronounced Pi-aw-i) in the north east of the country.
Brazil Map - Featuring Piaui and Serra da Capivara National Park
With its varied landscapes from coastal beaches to inland opal mines and semi arid national parks in the centre, it’s an awe-inspiring destination well worth exploring. It’s also a place with a long and unique history, though not one readily embraced by modern day Brazilians. Current Government initiatives are, however, determined to change people’s perceptions and acceptance of Brazil’s fractured culture.

In an effort to promote Piaui and to revive and reinforce the importance of their cultural heritage the Brazilian Government is providing funding, a first since democracy, to promote this historically significant adventure and eco-tourism destination. Phase one is to improve infrastructure such roads, hotels, airports and training, to develop tourism as a major contributor to the state’s economy.

Rock Formations - Serra da Capivara National ParkBeing relatively unknown to foreign tourists don’t be surprised to find that Piaui is non commercial. It’s a unique raw palate that has yet to be discovered and developed. If you can withstand the potholed roads and high temperatures of the parched interior during the dry season you’ll be rewarded by its unique attractions for archaeology, history, nature, environment, sport and eco-tourism.

One of the major highlights was visiting the southern “Serra da Capivara National Park”. My first glimpse of the mysteries surrounding the last Indian tribes is this magical place where spirituality, beauty & nature meet. This archaeological reserve contains relics of prehistoric societies dating back 50,000 years. This continuous inhabitance by local indigenous Indians was, sadly, ended by physical and cultural genocide in 1889

Excluded from colonization due to its remoteness, this 130,000 hectare park was created in the 1970’s to protect the large number of sites containing the prehistoric artefacts and paintings found there. It joined the elite UNESCO list of world heritage sites in 1991.

Rock art throughout the park dates to between 6,000 and 12,000 years ago. Dating even further back - as far as an estimated 50,000 years - are remains of prehistoric animals, living alongside human groups, including sabre-toothed tigers, seven metre high ground sloths and giant armadillos the size of a car.

The Serra da Capivara National Park is located in south eastern Paiui, 530 km south of Teresina. You can fly into Petronila only 350 km away or take a regular bus services from both cities to Sao Raimundo Nonato. You will be able to fly directly into the new Sao Ramundo airport from June 2009.

The Australian representative for travel to Piaui is Globe Travel, The Brazilian Travel Centre located in Melbourne. Contact them for more information about the student exchange, travel agent enquiries or retail packages for the public.

Brazilian Travel Centre
800 Glen Huntly Road
Caulfield South VIC 3162
Phone: 1300 132 636 or +61 (03) 9523 5899

August 03, 2009


david ellis

THERE'S every likelihood you've never heard of Warren Titus.

But for cruise-lovers it is Mr Titus – an ex-US Marine and one-time Hawaii cop – who almost single-handedly changed ocean travel from the pretty ordinary point-to-point sailing it was in the 1950s, to the luxurious and indulgent experience it is today.

Warren Titus breathed salt air from the moment he was born on the little island of Fidalgo in America's Washington State in 1915, and with a love of the sea from as early as he could remember, set his sights on joining the Marines – and surfing.

By his mid-teens he'd taken himself to Hawaii to indulge both passions, and after his discharge at the end of the Pacific War, to stay in Hawaii joined the Honolulu Police.

But the sea still called and he resigned, joined a local shipping company as a clerk, and jumped from there to another shipping firm, Theo H. Davies where he worked his way through the ranks to company President.

He was then tapped by P&O and offered the job of President of their growing organisation in North America.

Like most other passenger shipping companies in those days, P&O simply ran "line services" from one city or country to another, but Warren Titus said why not break these long journeys – such as the UK to Australia and through the Pacific Islands to Hawaii and America – into shorter voyages and market these as "holiday cruises?"

The idea clicked and soon he was giving such grand old liners as Himalaya, Chusan, Orsova, Orcades and Oronsay almost their own personalities as they began carrying fun-loving holidaymakers on short hops, rather than just largely-bored passengers from A to B.

And he started introducing a luxury lifestyle to cruising, quality entertainment programs, interesting dining, and more activities than just deck quoits and bingo.

Again he was tapped, this time in the early 1970s by a consortium of Scandinavian companies impressed with his ideas: they wanted him to create something even beyond how he was now dazzling cruise holiday-goers.

And so Royal Viking Line was formed, with Warren Titus its Founding President.

And he didn't disappoint: Royal Viking offered luxuries and indulgences unknown in the shipping world, with Titus overseeing every detail.

"He defined style and refinement," says Larry Pimentel, now President and CEO of Azamara Club Cruises, and who took over from Warren Titus as President of Seabourn Cruise Line after Titus had retired from Royal Viking and was asked to set up the boutique and even more-seriously luxury Seabourn.

"Warren set the tone, tradition and quality that guests were pampered with at Royal Viking and later Seabourn," says Pimentel. "He was the Louis Vuitton of passenger shipping in his day – Royal Viking was Royal because of Warren's Tiffany touch."

Titus changed cabins into staterooms, gave guests designer toiletries and full-size bathtubs rather than pokey changing-room shower cabinets, introduced single open-seat dining in place of "Early" and "Late" sittings, and changed the attitude of cruise-staff from one of "its just another job," to being proud of their profession.

And he forever exuded a gentlemanly charm and elegance, being described by industry colleagues as "always courtly."

But that didn't put him above picking up the phone to an irate travel agent or unhappy customer if something went seriously wrong. "If it was a really tough one, we'd say 'Let Warren do it,'" one ex-staffer recalls. "And Warren did it, with charm, style and effectiveness."

When Warren Titus eventually retired in 1987, he was immediately asked by Norwegian industrialist Atle Brynstad if he'd head-up an even newer concept Brynstad had in mind: Seabourn Cruise Lines that would sail small 212-passenger super-luxury boutique cruise liners – and later the even more-boutique 110-passenger SeaGoddess I and SeaGoddess II (still sailing today as SeaDream I and SeaDream II.)

It was an offer he couldn't refuse, and Titus stayed with Seabourn until finally retiring for good in 2002 at the age of 87.

The man his wife dubbed "The Ancient Mariner" and gave us cruising as we know it today, took his final Big Cruise To The Sky last month, aged 94.

So next time you're at the bar of your luxury cruise ship, raise your glass and tell whoever's listening that they're there for one reason: Because Warren did it.


[] ROYAL Viking Sky brought the first taste of ultra-luxury cruising to Australia when she visited Sydney in 1973.

[] CUNARD's Sea Goddess I before Seabourn Cruise Lines under Warren Titus acquired her to venture into "luxury yacht cruising"

[] SEA GODDESS as she is today: SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I

[] INSET: Warren Titus – "always courtly"

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