Travel Stories

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Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia: Art in the hills

11 Jun 2007  |  4 min read

Gazing across the rolling Yarra Valley less than an hour from inner-city Melbourne, the eye can take in columns of grape vines m in orderly lines over low ridges, expensively manicured golf courses, and huge steroid-expanded homes running to many millions of dollars. In the distance lie the blue shimmering hills of the Great Divide. This is where tourists, inter-state visitors and... > Read more

Adelaide, South Australia: The great indoors

8 Jun 2007  |  4 min read

The young man behind the counter at the Art Gallery of South Australia gets talking as I'm buying a catalogue. He comes from somewhere else too but has been in Adelaide, a city with a population approximately that of Auckland, for over a decade. "I haven't seen a traffic jam for 11 years," he says -- and as an Aucklander I add that to the long list of things to like about this city... > Read more

Samoa, USA: What's in a name

5 Jun 2007  |  1 min read

The mere name of a place can act like a magnet for the curious traveller -- and not just those evocative and familiar ones like Paris, Barcelona, Beirut or Beijing which have been burned into us since childhood. But when you finally get to such familiar places they can look . . . well, pretty familiar. Years of watching movies set in them, seeing photographs in magazines, or getting... > Read more

Dunedin, New Zealand: The old hometown looks . . .

5 Jun 2007  |  3 min read

To be honest, I’d only been to Dunedin twice previously -- and I left early both times. A few years ago I spent a night there on my way to somewhere else, and when I was 17 I arrived as snow turned to soggy sludge in a cutting wind. I fled to the airport after an utterly miserable couple of hours. I should have liked Dunedin better on that first damp encounter: I was born and brought up... > Read more

Seattle and the Boeing factory 2005: We have lift-off

5 Jun 2007  |  5 min read

This is the place where words fail, where comparisons seem inadequate or, at best, only marginally helpful. This is where sheer scale overwhelms you, has you gasping. If this were a natural phenomenon you could demur to a higher authority, make reference to the hand of God raising it up from the earth, say something about being humbled in its presence. But Man built this place, so for... > Read more

Ross, South Island of New Zealand: Home is where the hearth is

5 Jun 2007  |  4 min read  |  5

Good historic hotels are getting harder to find. Increasingly the elderly pubs of the nation are being gentrified and scrubbed clean. Their walls are being painted up nice, a colour consultant is hired, and the big boys move in and take what was once the character of the place and reshape it into something more . . . marketable? The history that was once in the walls is re-framed and hung on... > Read more

British Columbia's Sunshine Coast: Under the endless blue

31 May 2007  |  5 min read

Paul shoves the cap of his beer bottle into his jacket pocket and settles deeper into the wooden chair. "You know what I say to people who come here and find we don't have television in the rooms or cellphone coverage? I say, 'So what part of the name West Coast Wilderness Lodge' didn't you understand?" We laugh and clink bottles beneath a cloudless sky while squirrels and Stellar... > Read more

The Australian Outback: The Man Who Knew Too Much

1 Mar 2007  |  4 min read

There's a much repeated reason why the men of Outback Australia are so tight-lipped. "Flies. Open your mouth and a fly gets in," says a weather-beaten guy in a faded Akubra at the bar outside Brisbane. He's merely repeating the myth but, by his subsequent silence, confirms the cliche of these men for whom large expanses of dust and scattered scrub is their natural habitat. That, and... > Read more

Southwest Pacific: The Lonely Sea and the Sky

7 Feb 2007  |  4 min read  |  1

The day before our Pacific cruise a brief news item caught my attention: a volcano in Vanuatu was spewing ash and thousands of villagers were being evacuated amidst fears of a major explosion. Maybe our restful cruise to Vanuatu would be more dramatic than anticipated? The following day as we cast off from Auckland few other passengers seem to know about this alarming event, and when the... > Read more

The Australian Outback: Dry land, dry characters, dry throat

4 Feb 2007  |  12 min read

On a hot and cloudless morning in the arid Outback, Doug taxies his single-engine Cessna onto the rocky runway at Arkaroola, a strip of man-made flatland some 500kms north of Adelaide. He makes a routine safety check, kicks the plane into fast-forward and we rise into a blazing blue sky, looking down on a parched landscape of scrub and dusty earth. The waterless creeks beneath us are merely... > Read more

Sorrento, Italy: Where life takes a holiday

29 Jan 2007  |  4 min read

Giuseppe the concierge welcomes us with a slight bow and a broad smile, then waves us towards the front desk. I am flattered and surprised that he knows our names, but the reason becomes apparent as we sign in. We are the only two guests in the 50-room Grand Hotel Cocumella which occupies a balcony seat in the pretty town of Sorrento across the bay from Naples. The Italian Jesuits who built... > Read more

Beyond Whistler, Canada: And the road goes on forever

29 Jan 2007  |  4 min read

There's always some mild embarrassment when you don’t enjoy some place everyone expects you will. "Oh, you'll love Whistler," they all said. But I didn't. Admittedly I didn't see it at its snow-covered best and I’m sure this town just north of Vancouver is very pretty and vibrant in ski season. But I was there mid-week and between seasons. There were only bare flecks... > Read more

Denniston, West Coast, New Zealand: Damned and damp

21 Jan 2007  |  3 min read  |  5

The weather was perfect: fiercely cold, low mist and a chilling drizzle. This is ideal when you are at Denniston, because only in such miserable conditions can you get some small appreciation of what life must have been like here a century ago. At 600 metres above sea level and with the coast barely visible through the rolling mist, this former coal mining town in the hills above Westport is a... > Read more

Northland, New Zealand: After the Flood.

2 Nov 2006  |  8 min read

For me there are two ideal kinds of lie-down, totally relaxing, long weekends away with a good book. The first and most obvious requires endless tropical warmth and hours of sunshine, and a beach or pool within waddling distance of the deck chair and buffet. The other is . . . Well, it’s sort of what we got when we went to the Golden Sands Beachfront Apartments at Cable Bay in... > Read more

Canada: Driving and Blogging from BC (A compendium of on-the-road blogs)

8 Oct 2006  |  15 min read

So, five years on from 9/11 and what have we learned? Mostly that with heightened security arrangements we have yet to figure out a way of getting masses of people through airports without causing frustration, delays and rancour. As one who likes to fly -- yes, the seats are still uncomfortable but someone feeds you, brings you drinks, there are movie choices and no cellphones, so what's not... > Read more

Taipei, Taiwan: Red room for a blue man

19 Sep 2006  |  2 min read

I wish I could remember the name of the place so I could recommend it -- but then again, maybe it's best I can't. I had spent a tiring week travelling around Taiwan by myself, negotiating train timetables and ticket offices, and finding hotels, temples and places to eat. By the time I got back to Taipei where I could count on a tiny bit of English being spoken I was weary and just wanted a... > Read more

Rarotonga: A moment in the frame

7 Sep 2006  |  2 min read

Every now and again -- if we are really lucky -- we realise we are in that postcard perfect world we have lingered over in the pages of glossy magazines, but images which we persuade ourselves only the combination of weather, a talented photographer and PhotoShop could allow to exist. But then, suddenly, there we are. We are the person just beyond the frame of perfection frozen in the lens.... > Read more

Sydney, Australia: High, wild and gone

27 Aug 2006  |  1 min read

Frank was never going to make old bones. He was an Aussie wide-boy and after a wild, suburban youth and service in Vietnam he'd returned to Sydney and become a stuntman. He was stocky, but larger than any room he occupied. His speaking voice terrified children and his raucous laugh set off car alarms, but he was gentle with his young daughter. Frank was likeable and tough, but you also... > Read more

Thailand and Vietnam: Things have changed

27 Aug 2006  |  2 min read

Good news came by e-mail: Raymond is in touch again. The last time I saw him was a year ago when he was managing a luxury hotel in Thailand's Golden Triangle. He was a young and handsome Swiss guy who had the world's best job: making sure the lodge ran smoothly, tasting imported wines, being nice to nice wealthy people, eating beautiful food, and watching the river flow. We hit it off... > Read more

Perth, Western Australia: Journey to the end of the world

16 Aug 2006  |  2 min read

For many years I thought Perth was in Western Australia. Then I went there. My recollection is this: up at around 5am to get a taxi to the airport to wait two hours before departure, three hours to Melbourne or Sydney or wherever it was to wait another two hours before the five hour flight to Perth. It seemed to take a couple of days to get to Perth, and when I arrived it was the middle of... > Read more