Traveller letters: This is the worst way to travel around the US

DOG DAYS

Reading Barry Divola's nostalgic piece on taking "the dog" across America (Traveller, March 23) rekindled memories of my own Greyhound trip from New York to Seattle in 1972.

I'd flown in from Luxembourg on Icelandic Airways, the budget "hippie airline" at the time, and headed straight to New York's bus depot for a 70-hour journey to Seattle.

Although my trek was 20 years earlier than Barry's, the Greyhound passenger demographic was similar: the poor, mentally ill, addicted, on the run or misplaced.

During the journey's first leg to the twin cities of Minneapolis-St Paul I sat beside a young woman who told me 100a hundred times that singer Randy Newman was the new Messiah.

A seven-hour stopover at Fargo, North Dakota, allowed time for a couple of beers and to share a pack of smokes with an old-timer who had been riding the freight-trains for years.

He'd served as a GI in World War II and spent time in Brisbane, my home town. We breasted the bar with a couple of local lads wearing 10-gallon Stetsons and fingering pearl-handled pistols strapped to their hips.

On we went through Boise, Idaho, to Spokane, Washington, and then Seattle at last. A hot shower never felt so good.

Bernie Pramberg, Kenmore, QLD

NORTH AND SOUTH

Your "Dear New Zealand …" cover story (Traveller, March 30) struck a definite chord with me, having just returned from two weeks in the South Island.

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As highlighted in your tribute, the people were welcoming as always, the mountains were as spectacular as ever, and the city of Christchurch is in renewal while retaining its heritage and showing great resilience, even after the mosque shootings.

More particularly for us, the time we spent with Ultimate Hikes on the Milford Track was priceless, ticking all the other features in the article. The adrenalin of actually completing the hike was amazingly challenging and rewarding.

The lodges we stayed at and the tastes served up were remarkable, especially considering the locations in the wilderness. The nature was right there with us for the entire 54-kilometre hike, accompanied by very competent and caring guides who were always available to explain the history, geology, flora and fauna along the way.

Yes, it's a great place to visit, and it's so easy to get off the beaten track and leave the news cycle behind on some of the best hikes in the world.

Russell Pearse, Ararat, VIC

With a husband who is a Kiwi, we have travelled across the ditch many times over the years and we thought the photo of the tui on page 26 of Traveller was gorgeous.

However, the tree it is perched on in the photo is not the beautiful pohutukawa (also known as the New Zealand Christmas tree) but rather a callistemon or bottle-brush.

Rebecca Smith, Glen Huntly, VIC

Your cover story on New Zealand (Traveller, March 30) closely followed the completion of our long-planned trip to the country.

Just as the featured writers had conveyed, the experience has left us with some lasting memories, the magnificent scenery, the friendly hospitality and the renewed insight into the history and culture of the Land of the Long White Cloud.

The 23-day tour took us south from Christchurch, to Mount Cook, Dunedin, Te Anau , Queenstown, Franz Josef and across on the TranzAlpine train back to the Garden City. Blenheim, Wellington, Napier, Rotorua, the Bay of Islands and then our exit port, Auckland, rounded off the trip.

As with most holidays the weather can often be an unknown factor. Our tour director kept remarking each day that we had been "truly blessed' by the weather we were enjoying.

He quoted annual rainfall figures in metres and it was difficult to imagine what impact such deluges would have. Yet within less than a week after arriving home a massive rain event occurred in the Westland region.

The dramatic footage of the Bailey bridge over the Waiho River being destroyed by the raging torrent was a stark reminder of the force of nature that has helped shaped the land for us to enjoy.

In all this I am reminded of the Crowded House song Weather with You and in keeping with the New Zealand theme, Dragon's track from their album Sunshine to Rain, with one of my favourites, Rain.

Allan Gibson, Cherrybrook, NSW

BAY WATCH

I almost choked on my muesli when I read the article on the six things to do in Rio (Traveller, March 30) and came across the description of Guanabara Bay as a pristine waterway.

You may remember the scandal when the Olympic yachting events were held there amid the rubbish, sewage and animal carcasses.

From all accounts it hasn't improved. I would hate to think someone might swim in it. The ocean beaches are polluted but the bay is worse.

Philip Moore, Oatley, NSW

ANIMAL WELFARE

I, like many others, I suspect, have a trip to Zimbabwe to experience the amazing wildlife on my bucket list. Similarly, these same people would likely be shocked by your article "Game for a Walk" (Traveller, March 30)

Guests walking freely throughout a game reserve to heighten their experience by potentially facing death? Death of the guests or the animal?

I cannot see why anyone would want to walk freely in a reserve where the guides carry a gun ready to shoot the animal if it attacks, therefore putting the animal's life at risk. Humans have a choice, the animals don't.

Joanne Kay, Byron Bay, NSW

EDITOR'S NOTE Tourism is well documented as the single best way to support wildlife conservation in Africa, where wildlife populations are dwindling. Experienced guides and rangers are rarely, if ever, forced to discharge their rifles.

GONE IN 90 SECONDS

I hope the writer of the letter "Scales of Injustice" (Traveller letters, March 30), regarding the big bag saga with Jetstar, never has to exit an aircraft in an emergency.

Aircraft are certified on the basis that all passengers can exit in 90 seconds, with recent videos of emergencies showing many passengers lugging their big heavy bags with them.

There's no chance of a 90-second clearance rate when panicky folks are jostling to get at their bags – luggage before life. Please keep your passport and wallet/purse on you, leave your bag and save your life and mine.

Richard Dowling, Blackburn, VIC

FARE NOT FAIR

Online bookings had closed for the next flight to Sydney, where we had to return urgently after being informed that Mum was gravely ill.

After an inordinate length of time (more than 50 minutes), waiting for someone to answer our call, we set off for the airport.

When our call was eventually answered, we were informed up front before hearing our explanation that we would be charged more than $400 in addition to the ticket we'd already booked.

Kudos to the Qantas ground staff who were kind enough – despite a full flight – to at least arrange for us to sit together. But we're appalled by the extra costs incurred through no fault of our own and which are not claimable on insurance.

Mark and Sue Werman, Kilara, NSW

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