December 20, 2016

Tiger spotting in India


(Now open in August and September)

For many decades the hunting preserve of the Princes of Jaipur and offers a fascinating combination of crumbling monuments, living temples, wild beauty, and your best chance to spot a wild tiger. Set within a high, jagged escarpment, Ranthambhore Fort has towered over the park's forests for nearly a thousand years and has witnessed many a bloody combat -- even the Mughal emperor Akbar fought a battle for supremacy here in the 16th century. Inside the fort, lie a number of ruined palaces, step wells, and a celebrated Ganesha temple visited every year in September by two million pilgrims. But it is the forests, that lie shimmering in the gorges below, scattered with more ancient crumbling monuments that attract the foreign pilgrims, who come during the winter months to catch a glimpse of the mighty Bengal tiger. The Park generally remains closed from July to September however the Rajasthan Forest Department has just issued a decree to reopen Zone 6 to 10 in the months of August and September as well.

Ranthambore is accessible from Jaipur via a 4 hour drive and a 5.5 hour train ride from Delhi. There is a range of accommodation from the very luxurious Aman Resorts, The Oberoi Vanyavilas to the environmentally sensitive Khem Villas.

December 19, 2016

Mandurah and fresh Blue Swimmers – Delicious

It's that time of year when a vast water playground, just an hour's drive from Perth, becomes a frenzy of activity as fishermen – both professional and amateur – come to feast on blue swimmer crabs (sometimes called 'manna' or 'blueys'.

John Newton jumped aboard a crabbing and eco adventure vessel on its first crab hunt of the new season in the Peel-Harvey estuary and its waterways, which are recognised as twice the size of Sydney Harbour.

It was early on a Sunday morning – (well, for me, anyway) - as the 20 year-old Rebecca Sue – a customised pontoon crabbing boat – headed out of the city of Mandurah Harbour on a five-hour 'cruise' during which all on board were guaranteed a crab lunch.

Local professionals nabbed 80 tonnes of blue swimmer crabs last season (1 November to the end of August), with a similar amount caught by the public.

Crabbing master Kevin Mahney was soon pointing out the rules that in this iconic fishery the daily bag limit is 10 blue swimmer crabs per person and the daily boat limit is 20 – a Recreational Fishing from Boat Licence is required when fishing for crabs or getting to a fishing spot with the use of a powered boat.

The minimum size for blue swimmers is 127mm across the carapace (the widest part of the shell) and any undersize crabs must be thrown back in the water as soon as possible. This will give them the chance to grow big enough to breed at least once – helping to keep the fishery sustainable.

Breaking the rules can be a costly business, with the West Australian Department of Fisheries saying that while fines may be issued, if crabbers do the right thing there will be plenty of crabs for the future for everyone to enjoy.

It wasn't long out of the harbour before Kevin, who has a commercial skipper's licence, was baiting the drop nets with chicken wings and fish heads and giving them to people on board to throw them "like a frisbee" into the water which, in many parts, is just above knee-deep.

Rebecca Sue, with its maximum of 20 passengers, heads for Boundary Island – a renowned crabbing spot in shallow waters. And it's not long before the scoop net army is off the boat and scouring for blue swimmers.

Mandurah Cruises runs the crabbing and eco tours every day in season. The cost of $150 per person and $90 for children (aged 4-14), includes a crab and barbecue lunch on board. Wading shoes are provided – even sunscreen.

The award-winning company also operates dolphin and scenic canal cruises.

For more details, go to or book online at:

For information on the region, go to the Mandurah & Peel Tourism Organisation website: or

Where to stay

A touch of B&B class from Bali has come to one of Western Australia's most popular tourist destinations.

It's Bali @ Avalon at Falcon, near the popular seaside resort of Mandurah, just over an hour's drive south of Perth.

A five-minute walk from stunning Avalon beach, the property was bought 18 months ago by Canadian Bob Pond and Queenslander Ray Weier, who have turned part of it into a B&B featuring two Balinese-style villas - Villa Dua (meaning two in Indonesian) and Villa Tiga (three).

The busy duo "inherited" a huge collection of indoor and outdoor Indonesian furniture, including Buddha and other stone statues, before starting the painstaking job of transforming the suburban house they bought into a Balinese hideaway.

All outdoor decking was restored and the swimming pool area and gardens were given a rejuvenated tropical look. Highlight of the garden area is a large wood and rattan cabana complete with day bed, mood music and subtle lighting. A small temple, like those found by the roadside in Bali, is also a feature.

The latest project is a Balinese-style outdoor kitchen with a built-in barbecue, hot plates, microwave and fridge, while hosting small events and weddings are also among future plans.

Open all year round, Bali@Avalon is located 11 kilometres south of Mandurah and the two villas each cost $225 a night, including continental breakfast, and $175 a night with continental breakfast during weekdays. Both villas have tea and coffee facilities, queen-size beds, dedicated indoor and outdoor tables and chairs, safe, fridge and microwave. Glassware, tableware and cutlery are provided, as well as bath and pool towels.

For bookings and more details, contact Bob at: or Ray at:

Also, Bali @ Avalon can be seen at or

Written by John Newton.

Feature supplied by:

Images as supplied.


1 Dancing Dolphins

2 Blue Swimmer

3 Lunch

4 Villa Courtyard

5 Villa Dua

6 Villa Tiga

December 12, 2016

Struth! World's longest rail tunnel now open.

Swiss open longest, deepest rail tunnel

THE world's longest and deepest railway tunnel has officially opened to link Switzerland's north with its south, running an amazing 57km through the Swiss Alps at a depth in places 2.3 kilometres below the tips of the highest mountains above it.

Construction of the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT), which is actually two parallel single-line tunnels, began in 1999 and took seventeen years to complete at a cost the equivalent of 16.5 billion Australian dollars.

And on December 11 it officially went into use with high speed passenger trains flashing through it at speeds of up to an incredible 250kmh on an almost-flat route from Erstfeld in the north to Bodio in the south.

And those trains take just 17 minutes to cover the whopping 57km length, with another tunnel to open in 2020 meaning for a reduction then of over an hour in current rail travel time between the major cities of Zurich, Lugano and Milan.

But the new GBT is not just a time-saver for rail passengers  – Swiss Federal Railways say the tunnel will be used by new freight trains as well, saving an incredible 1-million lorry journeys a year on roads through the Swiss Alps, thus reducing environmental damage enormously.

FOOTNOTE: When the Swiss Federal Railways decided to offer 1,000 free tickets on the first official train through the Tunnel last Sunday, they held a lottery to pick the lucky 1,000 travellers – and over 160,000 locals rushed to buy tickets in the lottery in the hope of getting one of those 1,000 seats.

(David Ellis)



[] TRAINS like this will flash at speeds of up to 250kmh some 2.3km deep in the Swiss Alps with the opening on December 11 of the world's longest and deepest rail tunnel.
    (Swiss Chamber Commerce & Industry)

November 29, 2016

Exploring the colonial heritage buildings of old Rangoon

When the British finally left Burma in 1948, they left behind 124 years of colonial heritage in the form of buildings, landmarks and history.

Many of the fine architectural examples were damaged by bombing in WWII and fell into further disrepair after neglect by the military regime who took control of the country in 1962.

Today these buildings, many more than 100 years old, exist in a mixed state of repair. Some appear to be derelict but are still inhabited by a motley assortment of tenants comprising families and small business operators.

Others are nominally occupied by government agencies or restored for use by more ambitious enterprises such as the immaculate The Strand Hotel.

In the meantime, NGOs like the non-profit, Yangon Heritage Trust aim to "protect and promote Yangon's urban heritage through the development of a cohesive urban plan for the city."

Unknown building off the Strand.

Some buildings seem to be derelict but still sustain life

Eerie cobwebs in an empty elevator shaft

The former Irrawaddy Flotilla Company Building

The former police commissioner's building now being restored as a 229-room luxury hotel

November 14, 2016

Aussie Pubs that are movie stars

Silverton Hotel has featured in many movies.
Photos from the Mad Max shoot near Silverton.
The Daly Waters Hotel is famous for its bra collection.
The legendary Daly Waters Hotel
The ancient tourist truck driven by Crocodile Dundee.

Words and Images by Dallas Sherringham

Virtually every movie made in Outback Australia has had a pub as part of the plot.

The bush abounds with pubs that have enjoyed movie stardom and some continue to be used in movies.

Everything from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to Welcome to Whoop Whoop and Red Dog have had pubs as a central theme for the action.

I recently visited three of the most famous and enjoyed cleansing ale or two along the way.

The first, and most famous of all, was the Silverton Hotel west of Broken Hill. This hotel first became famous because Mad Max was made there.

It can now boast having hosted 200 plus movie crews down through the years. The walls of the pub are covered in snapshots of the stars and the casts and crew at work and relaxing.

There is a Mad Max museum in Silverton and the town now features several renowned artists. The latest movie Mad Max: Fury Road was due to be filmed at Silverton, but unseasonal rains made the landscape too green for the production and it was made in Namibia.

The Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay.

Back in the 1980s, the Crocodile Dundee movie producers chose a hotel at the remote west Queensland town of McKinlay and turned it into the Walkabout Creek Hotel.

All the locals from around the district excitedly turned up to watch Paul Hogan perform in his first major movie role. They soon grew disillusioned with the movie making process as endless short takes were filmed over and over.

The hotel inevitably became a tourist attraction and it was decided to move it lock stock and barrel to the Landsborough Hwy that passes along the eastern side of town.

Today, a continual flow of travelers stops in to have a look at the legendary hotel. Parked out the front is the ancient old truck driven by Crocodile Dundee in the movie. It was donated to the hotel by John "Strop" Cornell who produced the film.

Parked to one side is the Valiant ute driven by John Mellion who played "Wally" in the movie.

An interesting fact is that only the exterior of the hotel was used in making the movie. For the interior shots, a hotel bar was built in a movie studio.

The Northern Territory has many fascinating pubs, but none is better known than the one at Daly Waters.

Daly Waters Hotel sits just off the Stuart Hwy in the centre of the Northern Territory. It has been featured in a number of movies and TV shows and the most recent was Last Cab to Darwin starring Michael Caton..

Both the exterior and interior of the hotel are amazing. The first thing that strikes you is the vast collection of ladies bras hanging from the ceiling. There is also an equally vast collection of guys' undies hanging from the rafters.

It apparently all started with bet years ago and kind of grew…and grew. Now the ceiling and walls are covered with every imaginable kind of clothing, photos, messages and hats.

The exterior of the hotel looks like it is about to fall down and is propped up by a massive bougainvillea. People come from all around the world to see the hotel. In the beer garden I heard American, Asian and Irish accents.

The pub came about because of the nearby airfield which was used by Qantas and other airlines as a refueling stop on flights to London in the 1930s. The Qantas hangar and the well preserved airstrip are still there.

During WWII, it became an air force base, principally used to refuel bombers on their way north.

November 07, 2016

World's shortest ferry ride

No need for a seat on this ferry

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that when it comes to ferry rides, the Canadian city of Toronto takes the cake for having the world's shortest.

Because the distance from Downtown to the city's Toronto Island with its City Centre Airport, is all of 121 metres (that's less than 400 feet) and takes the ferry a mere 90 seconds to complete.

Until July of 2015 when an underground pedestrian tunnel was opened, the ferry was the only means of public transport to the Airport in Lake Ontario, and which sees 2.5 million passenger movements a year on flights to and from 22 centres in Canada and the USA.

Free for passengers and with a small charge for a limited number of cars, the ferry operates every 15 minutes, nineteen hours a day. But with often long queues of waiting passengers during peak periods, it was decided to supplement it last year with the pedestrian tunnel 30 metres underground, and with two moving footways in each direction.

Including descent and ascent by lifts or escalators, and travel on the 240m long footways, that whole tunnel journey takes around six minutes… and overhead the ferry continues to operate unaffected on its unique 121 metre, 90 second journeys.

[] YOU won't get a shorter ferry ride than this – a mere 90 seconds to cover all of 121 metres. (PortsToronto)

November 06, 2016

See the historic wonders of Hội An, Vietnam

by Roderick Eime

In all of Vietnam, the historic city of Hội An is one of the favourite places for Australians.

It might be the exquisite old town centre of this fabled city with its traditional Chinese style shophouses, the great artisan craft shopping or the overwhelming choice of dining options from traditional Vietnamese street food to magnificent fine dining.

Historically, the region began as an international commerce centre as early as the 7th Century when the Cham culture dominated this part of Vietnam. Spices, in particular, were an important trade item.

Over the years, Hội An lost its prominence as a trading port and commerce hub to nearby Danang. Historians believe this might have been because the river became silted up, making entrance of vessels difficult. The result being that Hội An was allowed to retain its historic charm and architecture, leading to its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1999 and is described by the convention as “an exceptionally well-preserved example of a South-East Asian trading port dating from the 15th to the 19th century. Its buildings and its street plan reflect the influences, both indigenous and foreign, that have combined to produce this unique heritage site.”

Hội An’s famous centrepiece is certainly the centuries-old Japanese Bridge, so-called because it lead to the Japanese settlement that once existed in the once divided town, known as Hai Pho in the 16th Century.

Today the bridge is the hub of tourist activity with stalls, shops and street vendors stretching out from both sides. Vehicles are no longer permitted across the bridge, so all traffic jams are of the pedestrian sort.

For astute shoppers, Hội An is best known for quality, hand-crafted leather goods. Clothing, luggage and shoes are the most sought after. Textiles and ceramics also rate highly with discerning buyers.

Ceramics on sale in Hoi An

The Vietnamese take their food and cooking seriously and you can get an authentic insight into the native cuisine with a half or full day class at the Red Bridge Cooking School, run by Aussie ex-pat, Nick Hatton. It’s located just out of town in a delightfully secluded location that can also be reached by river boat.

While visiting the UNESCO World Heritage old town and all its wonders, staying in Hội An presents many options but you’ll be hard pressed to find a more relaxing and culturally appropriate location than the Anantara Hoi An Resort. Ideally positioned on the banks of the Thu Bon River, it's just a short distance to main attractions.

A discreetly low-rise and tasteful resort, the architectural style incorporates the French, Dutch, Chinese and Japanese influences that define the multi-faceted history of Hội An. The 93 suites are roomy with a split level internal design that also allows for an external daybed, perfect for a balmy afternoon snooze. Choose from either garden or river view.

Riverside Anantara Hoi An Resort 

Australian GM, Noel Cameron, exemplifies the congenial hands-on approach that is evident throughout the resort from the exquisite dining options (there are five to choose from) right through to The Spa, where you can luxuriate with a mud wrap, salt scrub or four-hand massage. Noel, however, leaves these specialised tactile treatments to his expert therapists.

Excursions and river cruises can be organised directly for your convenience or do as so many guests do and take a complimentary pushbike for an energetic peddle around the flat streets of the neighbourhood. If the sky looks dark and gloomy, there are Vietnamese cooking lessons with Anantara’s signature Spice Spoons concept, as well as language, painting and lantern making classes.

Even if you are staying elsewhere, why not stop by for a memorable meal at Lanterns Restaurant, a refreshing drink at O’Malley’s Irish Pub (yes, true) or the more authentic heritage-themed garden bar, a perfect complement to the special atmosphere of this ancient city.

  • The Museum of History and Culture 
  • The Hoi An Folklore Museum 
  • The Museum of Trade Ceramics 
  • The Museum of Sa Huỳnh Culture 
Lantern Festival:

On full moon (the 14th day of every lunar month) the streets come alive with colourful lanterns, candles and traditional music.

When to Visit:

While the city’s location on the Thu Bon River enhances much of its appeal, weather can be a challenge and the waterfront is known to flood during prolonged heavy rain. Visitors are best advised to time their travel to the drier months between February and April, when rainfall is low and temperatures are comfortable.

Stay: (TripAdvisor 4.5)


The writer stayed at Anantara Hoi An Resort as a guest of the Minor Hotel Group


Fly to Vietnam with Vietjet

The new-age carrier Vietjet has not only revolutionized the aviation industry in Vietnam but also been a pioneering airline across the region and around the world. With a focus on cost management ability, effective operations, and performance, applying the latest technology to all activities and leading the trend, Vietjet offers flying opportunities with cost-saving and flexible fares as well as diversified services to meet customers’ demands.

Vietjet is a fully-fledged member of International Air Transport Association (IATA) with the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certificate. As Vietnam’s largest private carrier, the airline has been awarded the highest ranking for safety with 7 stars by the world’s only safety and product rating website and listed as one of the world's 50 best airlines for healthy financing and operations by Airfinance Journal in many consecutive years. The airline has also been named as Best Low-Cost Carrier by renowned organizations such as Skytrax, CAPA, Airline Ratings, and many others.

October 31, 2016

Bank of England haunted by ghostly nun


Sarah's haunting love for her brother

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that bizarrely, people in London still claim today they've been asked by Sarah Whitehead the same repeated question: "Have you seen my brother?"

Bizarrely, because Sarah's brother was hanged in London in 1812 for forgery at The Bank of England where he worked, and Sarah herself died 25 years later.

But to this day, people swear they've been stopped near the bank on Threadneedle Street by a little old lady dressed in widow's weeds of long black gown and black veil from another era, and asked that question.

Knowing how close Sarah was to her brother Paul (often misidentified in the media as Philip,) family members withheld from her that he had been hanged, and she began going regularly to the bank to ask his whereabouts when he didn't return to the home that they shared.

No one would say, until a clerk finally blurted out the truth, and at that moment Sarah's mind snapped. She donned widow's weeds and every day for six years returned asking to see Paul, ultimately also demanding money she said the bank now owed her.

In 1818 the bank agreed to pay her a significant amount on condition she not visit them again, and Sarah agreed. But after her death, her ghost – dubbed The Black Nun – began appearing regularly in the bank and along Threadneedle Street, with scores of sightings of her continuing to this day, 179 years after her death.

And each time she politely asks those she encounters the same question: "Have you seen my brother?" and when told "No," simply vanishes…


[] A SKETCHED likeness of Sarah Whitehead, London's ghostly Black Nun, and The Bank of England she reputedly haunts to this day. (Wikimedia)

October 30, 2016

A Pet Friendly Holiday Destination in Northern NSW

Big bow-wows to paw-star travel

Pack the doggy's bag, head to the hills or a not-so-ruff hotel says Helen Flanagan.

Words such as walkies, car and park elicit an effusive response from self-named Ralph, the Kerry Blue terrier. And mention Mavis's, pandemonium ensues.

Woofs reach a new high from the back seat as he shoots the breeze through the partially opened window, takes in the sights, sounds and whiffs of occasional four-footers and flocks of squawking water birds, and we veer off the highway towards the Tweed Valley, up hills, down dales along roads parallel to meandering creeks and rivers.

After whines of what sounds like "are we there yet", is the Mt Warning National Park sign. Across the rickety Korrumbin Creek Bridge, around the corner at the base of Wollumbin-Mt Warning, there she stands, majestic Mavis's.

The Federation Queenslander, was originally sited at Labrador on the Gold Coast. It was where Peter Clarke was brought up and later he and partner Charlie Ebell transformed it into the Harley Street Brasserie.

"We decided on a tree change in 2007, so upped stumps and brought the building with us," dog-lovers Peter and Charlie explain. "It was cut into three pieces, put on three massive trucks, and painstakingly put back together; hence it looks as though it's been here forever." And so began the magic of Mavis's Kitchen and Cabins which is named after Charlie's mum, who taught him about the love of good food and the joy of sharing."

Mavis's Kitchen occupies a plum position on the ten hectares. Along the driveway is a 70's-built log cabin with a sun-drenched verandah. A smidgen of yesteryear has been retained – sort of rustic with a small R but with premium inclusions such as a fancy espresso machine.

The dairy, where guests sleep in the former creamery, is nearby, and set in the shadow of staghorn and epiphyte- studded trees and beside water lily-topped goldfish ponds, is a 100 year old renovated farm house with a big-enough-for-a-party deck. Ralph eyes off the day bed, slurps water from the bowl, drips it onto the shiny hoop pine floors in the country-style kitchen, but thankfully not in the living areas with hand-crafted timber furniture and bedrooms adorned with huge paintings of buxom women.

At the bottom of the rear stairs it's a different story. Ralph takes one look at Lionel the rooster and five happy clucking layers, before scarpering, tail between his legs. Obviously afraid of being hen-pecked.

A walk in the park-like gardens with 'hosts' Dallas the German Shepherd and Doberman Sac and a romp in the garden near bio-dynamic organic salad plants, herbs, leeks, tomatoes, celeriac, pumpkins and citrus trees, is much more fun.

Mavis's Kitchen serves simple food with integrity. Ingredients vary daily as does the backboard menu. All ingredients are fresh, seasonal, organic and sourced from local growers. Expect generous serves and delish choices such as a country-style terrine; roast loin of free-range pork; pan fried fish of the day; roasted organic chicken marinated in thyme orange and honey; and slow-cooked Greek-style lamb with rosemary and sea salt chips, Greek salad and tzatziki.

A breakfast feast of yoghurt, fresh fruit, muesli, bacon and free range eggs is supplied to guests. Walk it off and spot platypus, wallabies, black cockatoos, wood ducks and native frogs.

If you're feeling more adventurous make the steep climb up Mt Warning, 14 kilometres above sea level before dawn, and be the first on mainland Australia to witness sunrise. It was named by Captain Cook in 1770 during his trip up the east coast of Australia, in respect of the dangerous shoals encountered offshore,

The eponymous world heritage-listed magna plug, also the world's largest and oldest extinct volcano is densely covered in temperate and sub-tropical rainforest. A sign 'where the mountains touch the sky' succinctly describes the mystical peak which each morning is shrouded in mist.

Lunch at Mavis's Kitchens is not to be missed. Be seated early (alfresco only if joined by the four-footer), to catch the action of arriving Harleys, limousines and helicopters often with celebs such as Johnny Depp, Amanda Heard and their infamous dogs Pistol and Boo, onboard. Yes, Mavis's is for stars on four legs and two or just you and yours.

Mavis's Kitchen & Cabins:

Words: Helen Flanagan

Images: Supplied by the property

Feature supplied by:

October 04, 2016

A visit to the UK's National Motor Museum at Beaulieu

by Liz Swanton

When the other half lives and breathes all things automotive, there is a certain inevitability about holidays that include visits to car museums.

So it was hardly surprising that high on his ‘to do’ list for a recent trip to the UK was an excursion to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.

At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess to being a petrol head too, lest you think I’ve been dragged along, kicking and screaming, for the ride.

But even with my own interest, car museums are a bit like castles and cathedrals: you can have too many of them in one holiday. It was the fact that a friend – who is definitely not a car aficionado – had raved about Beaulieu that definitely piqued my interest.

And she was right. Located in the pretty New Forest National Park region of Hampshire, Beaulieu was everything it promised to be and more, with more than 250 vehicles on display in a modern well-designed building that is packed to the gunwales with all things motoring.

Jack Tucker's Garage - an award-winning re-creation
of a 1930's garage, exactly as it would have appeared
at the time, including all the authentic tools and equipment.
Vehicles on display range from the sublime to the ridiculous, from the earliest motor cars built and a dreamfest of British sports machines, through to the Bluebird CN7 used by Donald Campbell for a land speed record on Lake Eyre in 1964, and the flying Ford Anglia that starred in the Harry Potter movie franchise.

Beaulieu is also home to the World of Top Gear, so if you loved watching the program with all the adventures of the three former hosts, and the cars they built for those exploits, you can see them here.

The sad thing about our first visit – yes, I said first – was that we arrived in the early afternoon, and it was soon quite clear we just wouldn’t have time to see everything. Because Beaulieu is not just a car museum …

That was when we discovered that there was a bonus to the £24 entry fee (£19, if you book on line in advance; £64/£49 for a family). If you return within a week of your first visit, your second visit is free. There are a few signatures needed, coming and going, but it’s a terrific idea and we decided to take up the offer.

Donald Campbell's Bluebird CN7 was powered by a 'turbo-shaft' engine
and reached in excess of 400mph on Lake Eyre in South Australia in 1964.
For our second visit, we were able to concentrate on Beaulieu Abbey and the gothic-style manor, known as Palace House.

Founded by King John in 1203, the Abbey was shut down by Henry VIII in 1538, as part of his Dissolution of the Monasteries move against the Catholic Church. Palace House, which was once just the gatehouse of the medieval abbey before it was ruined, has been home to the Montagu family since the 1500s.
The Palace House was created in 1538
It’s now one of the Treasure Houses of England, a group of 10 of the country’s most beautiful old homes, and worth spending several hours enjoying. The house has so much of its own ‘upstairs/downstairs’ history to be absorbed – jump on one of the tours to learn it all from costumed guides who are not just knowledgeable, but also entertaining.

To be honest, despite passing the better part of two days at Beaulieu, we felt we hadn’t ‘done it all’. There is just so much to see, it is already on the wishlist for the next trip.


New Forest,
United Kingdom,
SO42 7ZN

Ph:  01590 612345

October 03, 2016

Rebuilding the world's longest car

Struth! 100-footer was world's longest car
IN its hey-day, the 26-wheel, 100ft long American Dream carried its own helicopter, and needed a driver in both front and rear. (New York Autoseum)

David Ellis

STUDENTS at an automotive college in America's New York State have set themselves a massive task – they're rebuilding the world's longest car, a Cadillac-badged monster that's a whopping 100 feet, or just over 30 metres long.

The flamboyant auto was built in Burbank, California in the late 1980s by car buff Jay Ohrberg, who is both a collector and a specialist-vehicle builder for local movie and TV studios.

Basically a super-stretched 1970s Cadillac Eldorado and named American Dream, the monstrous 26-wheeler (with those wheels not only in front and back, but centre as well) had a special swivel in the middle so it could navigate around corners, and be taken apart for transporting on a low-loader to filming sites.

FORLORN: how it was found after being abandoned in an open carpark after Hollywood lost interest in its novelty value. It is now being rebuilt by students at an auto teaching museum in New York State. (New York Autoseum)
And on the road it needed specialist drivers both at the front and the rear.

Luxuries included a "living room" with a lounge and multiple-seat dining table with candelabra, a king-size bed, heated Jacuzzi tub, and an extended boot with splash pool and diving board covered by a folding landing pad for its own helicopter.

When Hollywood eventually lost interest in the American Dream it was simply abandoned in an open carpark and slowly stripped; in 2012 the New York Autoseum automotive teaching museum in the village of Mineola bought the forlorn-looking wreck at auction, and today it is being slowly rebuilt as a teaching project for students.

And that project, staff say, could take years.

October 01, 2016

The deserted and abandoned whaling stations of South Georgia

The famous manager's house at Stromness. On 20 May 1916, Sir Ernest Shackleton knocked on this door after his heroic open boat journey from Elephant Island. (Roderick Eime)

The history of whaling in and around South Georgia is a blood-curdling tale of brutality and exploitation that remains a blemish on the environmental record of mankind.

Today the remains of the whaling stations and their supporting infrastructure serve as memorials to this bleak period in history when the world’s great whales were hunted to the brink of extinction by greedy whalers seeking to maximise their catch without any thought for preserving these beautiful animals.

In late 1998, I was fortunate to visit the crumbling stations on these far-flung islands which now attract tourists in ever-increasing numbers. Much of the buildings are in a very poor state of repair and quite dangerous to enter, so these days much of it is roped off for good reason.

Looking for a cruise to South Georgia?
Whaling began on South Georgia at Grytviken in 1904 and continued until whale numbers became uneconomical in the mid-1960s. There were also major bases and facilities at Leith Harbour, Stromness and Husvik which stayed open intermittently until the same time. Other smaller bases were permanently closed prior to WWII.

Many polar explorers used South Georgia as a supply base prior to their Antarctic missions. Most notable among them was Sir Ernest Shackleton, who remains buried there in the whalers’ cemetery. He had died aboard his ship Quest while enroute to South Georgia in 1922. Captain Frank Hurley, Sir Hubert Wilkins and Captain James Cook also have ties to South Georgia, with Cook claiming the islands for Britain in 1775.

Related story: Sub-Antarctic Renaissance 

In April 1982, Argentine salvagers landed at Grytviken and Leith Harbour under the pretense of removing scrap metal, but this turned out to be a prelude to their invasion later that same month. This event was the first spark of the ensuing Falklands War and South Georgia was retaken by British forces on 25 April 1982, during Operation Paraquet.

Grytviken 07-31

Grytviken 06-09

Grytviken 07-32

Grytviken 06-06

Collapsed smokestack at Stromness, South Georgia




The day Swedish drivers swapped sides

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that when Sweden decided to change to driving on the right side of the road 49 years ago this month, over 80% of drivers opposed the idea saying it would result in roadway carnage.

After all, they argued, Swedes had been driving on the left side of the road since the first horses and buggies hit the streets 233 years before in 1734.

But with all neighbouring countries driving on the right-hand side of the road, and the majority of Sweden's vehicles being left-hand drive imports, the government swept aside public opposition, and decreed in 1963 that driving on the right-hand side of the road would become law at 5am on September 3 1967.

A massive education program was initiated called Dagen H (Dagen meaning "day" and H for Hogertrafik "right-hand traffic.") Dagen H logos were printed on everything from milk cartons to bras, 130,000 Dagen H reminder signs erected along roadways nationwide, and Dagen H stickers slapped on anything that moved.

One-way roads, crossings, roundabouts and flyovers had to be redesigned, and 360,000 road signs were changed country-wide. Traffic lights were reversed and road lines repainted during the night before the change-over– and buses had to have new passenger doors cut into their right-hand sides.

Then on September 3 only essential vehicles were allowed from 0100 to 0600, with these forced to stop at 0450, and at 0500 to cross carefully to the other side of the road.

And on the first "working Monday" after, there were 125 non-fatal traffic accidents nationwide – compared with 198 normally.

[] CHANGING from driving on the left-hand side of the road to the right-hand side had its confusion for drivers in Sweden in 1967, but the country survived.

September 26, 2016

Struth! ride the world's longest escalator

Longest escalator rises to the need

IF you want to add riding the world's longest outdoor escalator and moving footway system to your list of achievements, you'll need to go to Hong Kong to do so because the one there is without doubt the world's longest, and takes an extraordinary twenty minutes to ride from end to end.

Covering a whopping 800 metres (around 2,600 feet) and with a vertical rise of 135 metres (443 feet) between bottom and top, it joins the lower Central business district of the city with the higher residential Mid-Levels district by way of eighteen inter-connecting escalators and three inclined moving footways.

Opened in October 1993 at a cost of HK$240m (AU$41m) and more than 150% over-budget, the system was forecast to carry 27,000 people a day, but within ten years double this number were patronising it daily. And currently its closer to 90,000 daily – over three times more than the original forecasts.

Because the route that it follows is so narrow between Hong Kong's high-rises, it has only one "lane" and thus can run in only one direction at a time… so that's downhill from 6am to 10am to get people from the residential Mid-Levels to work and shopping, and then uphill from Central from 10am to midnight to get them home again.

And with locals and the millions of tourists who use it each year also having to get off and then back onto the system where it breaks for the roads it encounters, restaurants, bars and shops have flourished around each of these break points.

- David Ellis


[] HONG KONG boasts the world's longest escalator and moving footway running 800 metres down the side of this narrow pedestrian way between the Mid-Levels residential area and lower Central Business district. (Photo courtesy Maucaine)                                    

September 20, 2016

Mario's life at sea is his business

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, David Ellis says that while most of us like talking about our week or two going cruising every year or so, businessman Mario Salcedo instead talks about the week or so he spends going ashore every year or so…

Because for the last twenty years, Mario has lived and run his investment advisory and management company year-round from aboard 5-star cruise ships, most of them the luxury liners of Royal Caribbean Lines.

And he reckons he's done nearly 1000 cruises in those 20 years, chalked-up around 6000 nights at sea, and spent in the vicinity of US$1,400,000 doing so. And all after being bitten by the cruise bug at age 45 when he "wanted to discover the world," and setting up his own company to do so.

Booking interior staterooms because he says he only uses them to sleep in, shower and dress, Mario eats only two meals a day for his weight's sake, and does a lot of walking and scuba diving when in port to keep fit… and loves socialising at night either dancing or while enjoying an after-dinner cigar and a cognac.

Mario spends 50 weeks a year at sea, with the other two made up of travel between ports to change ships – or to see his doctor or the bank.

And bizarrely he maintains a condominium in home-town Miami – complete with a maid he drops his laundry off to whenever a ship he is on visits town, and a car he likes to keep handy in the event he might need it on one of those ship visits.

[] MARIO Salcedo has lived and run his investment advisory business year-round from aboard cruise ships for the past twenty years. (Royal Caribbean Lines)

September 05, 2016

Struth! Southern Highlands tulip Wonderland


IN his continuing search for the more eye-catching in this world, David Ellis says that if you're a green thumb and into all things florally and Springtime, the place to head this month is the NSW Southern Highlands.

Because just an hour or so south of Sydney, one of Australia's oldest and most-visited floral festivals will attract something like 65,000 visitors for the 65th annual Tulip Time from September 13th to 25th.

Ablaze at Bowral's famed Corbett Gardens will be 75,000 tulips and 15,000 annuals, and with a theme of Alice in Wonderland, garden bed displays will cleverly depict such scenes as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, the Cheshire Cat, Big Clock, Playing Cards and more.

And a further 40,000 tulips will add more rainbows of colour to parks and gardens across the Southern Highlands' other major towns of Mittagong and Moss Vale, and a score of surrounding picturesque villages.

On Saturday September 17th a Street Parade through Bowral will include marching bands, floats, vintage farm equipment, street performers, a procession of classic cars – and 140 cyclists who'll have just pedalled down from Sydney raising money for brain cancer research.

As well a heritage steam train will bring scores of other visitors from Sydney for not just the gardens, but the region's internationally-famed street dining and shopping, and a Tulip Time market-place crammed with local foodstuffs and beverages, home-wares, clothing and jewellery… while awaiting wine buffs will be the area's famed boutique wineries.

It's a long way from Bowral's first 500-bulb Tulip Time in 1960; for information and free assistance with booking accommodation call1300 657 559, or visit to book online.

[] 75,000 tulips and 15,000 flowering annuals in Bowral's Corbett Gardens will be the centre-piece for this month's 65th Southern Highlands Tulip Time festival. (Courtesy Southern Highlands News)

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