CONSIDER THE POUR
On a recent Qantas flight from Sydney to Adelaide a slightly officious flight attendant tells me it will be $6 for a small bottle of red wine and they take cash only. Having no cash on me I settle for the free water.
A few days later, on the return Qantas flight from Adelaide to Sydney: the red wine is now free and flowing. "Would you like another one, sir?" the flight attendant asks. Indeed, I feel like I missed out on the way over.
Does free booze on Qantas flights, much like the Murray-Darling, only flow one way?
Ross Duncan, Potts Point, NSW
As travellers whose only experience of international arrival and departure from Melbourne has been the airport, my wife and I recently found ourselves boarding a cruise ship at that other gateway to our city, Station Pier.
What a contrast. A series of shed-like structures better suited to the Melbourne Showgrounds greeted us after our half-hour crawl in a taxi for the final few hundred metres along Beaconsfield Parade.
Blood pressure on the rise, we then endured shuffling lines within the departure shed with hundreds of other hapless cruisers, some of whom even fainted while waiting. Never was a gin and tonic more necessary than when we finally ensconced ourselves on board.
Needless to say, our disembarkation upon returning to Melbourne simply reinforced our earlier impressions. As an international destination, Melbourne can and should do better.
Robert Collier, Toorak, VIC
TRACKS WINDING BACK
I enjoyed reading Catherine Marshall's cover story about her Trans-Siberian train journey (Traveller, April 6).
It brought back memories of the same trip I did in March 1976, before many of the kind of warm garments that Catherine mentioned had been invented. One day mid-journey, with snow outside, we woke up freezing – the heater in our carriage had broken down.
Last year, in the northern summer this time, my partner and I did a couple of interesting overnight train journeys. The first was from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, to Beijing, China.
It was very good and is popular with tourists, though the many hours of waiting in the middle of the night at the Mongolia-China border while the train bogies were changed, was a downside.
Our second journey was on the Z99 Shanghai to Hong Kong (Kowloon) train which we also enjoyed. It's a real locals train with only one other Western couple on board.
For both journeys, we travelled first class, each with en suite, so it was very comfortable and reasonably priced. I can highly recommend both journeys, especially for train buffs.
We booked through local travel agents in Mongolia and China who specialise in these journeys and got a lot of our information from the seat61 website.
Janette Asche, Indooroopily, QLD
WALKS ON THE WILD SIDE I
In regards to the article "Game for a Walk" (Traveller, March 30) and the subsequent reader letters in response, I have travelled to South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia on wildlife tours.
Invariably, on foot you see few animals and only in the far distance. By vehicle you see far more animals, a greater range of animals and many close up.
The reason is that the wildlife has learnt that people on foot could be poachers and thus this is a signal to the animals to hide. Whereas, people in vehicles are tourists and thus can be ignored, even if they're close, somewhat noisy and intrusive.
So there are good reasons to avoid wildlife tours on foot, apart from danger to yourself and also to wild animals from armed guards.
David Cheal, Mygunyah, VIC
WALKS ON THE WILD SIDE II
Our environment needs those who grasp the meaning of wilderness intimately. Since 1978 the Kruger National Park in South Africa has been conducting walking trails within its boundaries.
To date, about 200,000 people have walked on the wild side. In 40 years, there has been not a single guide or guest fatality, but many thousands of people now have a more profound commitment to conservation, giving back in spades.
About two animals a year have been taken down by guides – stuff can and does happen, once in every 2000 walks.
An ecological tragedy? Compare that in the past dozen years in Kruger, about 8000 rhino have been poached. Over the same period, Tanzania has lost 60 per cent of its national elephant herd to poachers, more than 60,000 creatures.
Humans and other animals co-evolved on the plains of Africa. All belong there, under environmentally sound policies and practices.
Clive Thompson, Collaroy, NSW
Your article on the centenary of British Airways (Traveller, April 6) was of special interest to me as I have travelled the world for 60 years and in 1959 flew from London to New York in a BOAC Comet 4 airliner.
Fortunately we survived the journey, as earlier models of this plane fell out of the sky regularly.
Service on the flight was almost non-existent with little more than a cup of tea and a sandwich provided for the day it took to reach our destination.
The plane could not make it non-stop and had to refuel in Iceland where we sat in a shed with no refreshments for a couple of hours.
John Aarons, Brighton East, VIC
We recently returned to Sydney for a short trip and on leaving were pleasantly surprised with how good Sydney Airport departure terminal is looking.
This was deflated though when we went to change money at one of the foreign exchange kiosks. On the counter was a sign proudly proclaiming "No Fees or Commissions", but I was floored at the Singapore dollar-Australian exchange rate quoted at 0.69¢ to the dollar.
These are currencies that are trading at parity, so I would expect to pay a reasonable retail rate with in-built commission, but not that excessive. I went to another kiosk but they appear to be all operated by the same company.
Shame on Sydney Airport for allowing one of its tenants to price-gouge on its captured customers. Fortunately, we were able to obtain a much more sensible rate upon landing in Singapore, where Changi Airport obviously does not take the same view of its customers.
Tim O'Neill, Singapore
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