Traveller Letters: Australians pay more for passports than anyone else, don't make us wait for them

STAMP OF DISAPPROVAL

It's so disappointing to read recently that the federal government has flagged that high demand is likely to lead to long wait times for Australians needing to renew their passports before they can get on a plane. Australians already pay more for their passports than any other country in the world - surely with this money and the long notice period, the government can get its systems in order. We have already waited long enough to get on an international plane so please don't make us wait any longer.

Simon Benedict, Kensington, VIC

LETTER OF THE WEEK

GEM HUNT

In response to your story (Traveller, September 11) about places we never expected to love, here are a couple of my Victorian gems. Kilcunda, South Gippsland, an hour and a half from Melbourne, is a tiny seaside town that's not on many people's radar. It's probably overlooked because of its proximity to Phillip Island but its natural coastal scenery, stunning walking and bike trails and the absence of crowds makes this a post- pandemic panacea. Its charming Oceanview Hotel and Kilcunda General Store are also worth a visit in their own right. Elsewhere, Maldon, under two hours north of Melbourne, is a town that's faithfully preserved in all its 19th Century gold rush glory. While it doesn't have the glamour of nearby Daylesford, it has personality and charm with an impressively-preserved streetscape, a thriving cafe culture, and, before COVID-19, a surprisingly diverse cultural events calendar.

Mark Campagnaro, Clifton Hill, VIC

BAY WATCH

I agree that Naples (Traveller, September 11) does look a little rundown, but scratch the surface and you'll find a diverse and safe travel destination. A couple of highlights worthy of mention include the neighbourhood of Rione Sanita where the welcoming community don't mind you strolling through the local streets. Organised tours through some of the area's historic sites are now also offered and provide much needed employment for the local residents. Then there is Procida Island, situated in the Bay of Naples. Most visitors come for the day to explore the steep cobbled streets and enjoy the excellent seafood. But stay a night (or three) on this very small island and you can get a real feel for local life. Accommodation and ferry tickets are easy to book with English widely spoken.

Pam Allen, Westleigh, NSW

SIN OF OMISSION

Whitefellas are more conscious lately of acknowledging First Nations people so it was disappointing to read in the snippet mentioning the 1852 flood in Gundagai in Traveller's story that the names of white bushrangers briefly imprisoned in the local gaol were included but not those names of two Aborigines, Yarri and Jackey, who saved many lives during the flood.

Liz Middleton, Clematis, VIC

BANDS ON THE RUN

In response to your request for reader stories about blasts from Australia's musical past while travelling overseas (Traveller Letters, September 11) I offer my story, also from Buenos Aires. I caught a taxi in Buenos Aires. The driver, a particularly surly individual, almost spat at me as he asked me if I was an American. I answered "no" and he asked, with equal animosity, if I was English. Again I said "no", so he then asked where I was from. When I said "Australia", his face lit up in a huge smile as he rummaged through the glove box of the taxi to find a cassette tape which he inserted in the player. He drove me to my hotel while we both sang along to the music of INXS. A memorable experience.

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Viv Dore, Randwick, NSW

In 2006, at age 50, I was on my first trip overseas (and first trip in a plane). After a week around Rome while my husband worked, and we heard lots of AC/DC and Air Supply on radios, we took the train to Florence. Wandering around on our first night we heard a noise, an evocative noise.... could it be? yes, a young indigenous man playing the didgeridoo, leaning against a centuries old wall in Firenze. Blew my mind.

Corinne Johnston, Gymea Bay, NSW

Driving in a large English camper van across the German countryside in December, 1983, in the late afternoon dim light of early winter near Bamberg (in northern Bavaria), we were listening to local German FM radio, and what did we hear? An iconic song that seemed to eerily complement the dusting of snow on this northern European rural landscape: "Das ist 'Great Southern Land', bei der Australisch gruppe, Icehouse..." was the announcer's respectfully delivered introduction.

James Watt, Geelong Nth, VIC

A long time ago, in a universe now far, far away I was on a Contiki tour of Europe. There was a decent mix of nationalities on a full bus but, as always, there were various groups of Aussies around. The Angels', 'Am I ever Gonna See Your Face Again', popped up on a playlist one day. The surprised and somewhat bemused looks on a lot of faces on the bus when the Aussies on board dived with enthusiasm into the chorus of that song has stuck with me as a great memory to go back to from that trip.

Vivienne Ireland, Footscray, VIC

YEAR OF LIVING DELIGHTFULLY

Oh, Ben Groundwater, your column on gap years (Traveller, September 11) made me laugh and cry . My own gap year was in the 1970s when I quit my job to go and live on a kibbutz. It was both the hardest and best thing I ever did and instilled in me a deep passion for travel adventures. We are so grateful for all our magical holidays. May there be many more.

Rhoda Silber, Manly, VIC

SOLO MAN

Ben's right - a year in the world will help define you. I was in my 20s when I did it solo for a year. My first stop, Calcutta (now Kolkata), was absolutely mind blowing in the 80s. Then there was Delhi belly at the Temples of Mahabalipuram, where I was saved by a new Austrian friend. Then followed buggered knees on the Annapurna trail supported by a Danish mate; the German band, Dada Dogs – lighthouse lit - playing on the beach at Trivandrum (now Thiruvananthapuram); conversations with a Dutch novelist and Danish director, with American drug dealers, and with a CIA Afghan spy (or was he?). I visited 30 countries and made hundreds of contacts – all unplanned, unpredictable and formative. Lesson learned? People are good.

Ron Thomas, Kalorama, VIC

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