Jetstar's extra services
With an eye to China's travelling middle class, Jetstar has started a four-times-weekly service from Haikou, the capital of Hainan province, to Perth via Singapore. The island province is home to more than 8 million people and its capital is the closest Chinese port to Perth. Flights depart Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, with one-way fares from $289. See jetstar.com.
Meantime, Air Canada has started flights from Vancouver to New York's John F. Kennedy International. The airline's three-times-daily service is in addition to its existing flights to Newark and daily flights between Toronto and LaGuardia Airport.
'Life wish' in the mountains
Adventurer Cheryl Bart understands the meaning of the term "calculated risk". Bart and her daughter Nikki reached the summit of Mount Everest in 2008, making history as the first Australian mother-daughter team to reach the Seven Summits. Neither has since wavered in the pursuit of extreme adventure.
"People have said to me, 'What's wrong with you? Do you have a death wish?' I say, 'I have a life wish, I want to see and learn and experience as much as I can,"' Cheryl says.
"In addition to all the physical and mental challenges, it [Everest] was a giant risk-management project and I spent a lot of time reading and talking to people about ways to mitigate the risk. We did a lot of training in crevasse rescue, a lot of rope work and we had rules on the mountain for how we would act.
"The Sherpas had taught us the mountain remains, whereas humans are frail and fragile and that you don't proceed at all costs."
Cheryl's most recent achievement, in January, was reaching the south pole in the centennial year of the first Antarctic explorers. A trek to the north pole in April will complete the explorer "grand slam" - reaching the two poles and the world's highest peaks.
Before then, however, Cheryl returns to Nepal, leading a 24-day trek for World Expeditions. Starting at Lukla, the group journeys to Everest Base Camp, Kala Pattar, and Kongma La, with an optional ascent of the 6189-metre Island Peak. The trip departs from Sydney on October 24 and costs $3640 a person, including meals and internal flights.
Lonely Planet releases
In July, Lonely Planet will release its 16th edition of Southeast Asia on a Shoestring. The first edition, written by Tony and Maureen Wheeler in a Singapore hotel in 1975, included Bali, Thailand and Malaysia; in more peaceful times Cambodia and Vietnam were added to the guide. As well as hard-copy guides, Lonely Planet has country guide apps for Italy, Ireland, France, Spain, Australia and Costa Rica for iPads and iPhones ($10.49), 70 city-guide apps, audio walking guides, audio phrase-book apps and offline translator apps for Apple devices, Nokia and Android.
Going to the dogs
Ronster is a new website for travellers seeking a short-term home for their dogs. Ronster members earn credits for minding others' dogs, then use those credits to have their own pet cared for. Dogs are matched with a minder based on breed, size, exercise habits and sleeping preferences. Owners can "buy" extra credits if they don't have enough for the time they plan to be away travelling.
Website founders Tanya Martin and her husband, Michael - owners of a Weimaraner named Ron - came up with the idea after an informal dog-sitting arrangement with friends. It's Victorian-based and costs $20 to register.
Key in the forests
Smart Traveller is surely not the only guest to have checked out of a hotel with a plastic, non-recyclable room keycard in hand. The Accor hotel group has introduced room keycards made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified wood from managed forests. The cards are used at the Pullman, Novotel and Ibis at Sydney Olympic Park and Sofitel Melbourne on Collins. The cards are part of the group's Planet 21 project goals of a 15 per cent reduction in water consumption and 10 per cent decrease in energy use.
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