We had decided to take Scomo's advice and "holiday here this year", booking flights and accommodation from Sydney for one week in Darwin, followed by four days in Uluru. All bookings for two couples were completed in early February. We received a credit notice from Qantas on March 22 saying our confirmed flights from Alice Springs to Uluru were cancelled due to COVID-19. On further investigation they had also cancelled our earlier flights from Darwin to Alice Springs on that day.
On checking the Qantas website, the flight from Darwin to Alice Springs is still flying, and we were able to rebook our seats on that flight with the credit note. However there are no flights from Alice Springs to Uluru. This seems ridiculous. Surely all travellers to Uluru are not coming out of Sydney or Melbourne direct?
Mike Hilton, Berkeley Vale, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK
HOW SUITE OF THEM
We were recently en route to Sydney but stopped and turned back by SES crews due to the severe flooding in the NSW mid-north coast area. Thinking we had lost our money with two hotel bookings in Sydney, we contacted the two establishments to cancel our bookings and explain the circumstances. To our delight and gratitude, we were informed by the Metro Aspire Hotel in Ultimo, and the Meriton Suites in Church Street Parramatta that our money would be refunded and/or there would be no cancellation fee.
Knowing that the hospitality industry is itself experiencing hard times, it was a pleasure to be treated with such empathy. We will definitely be booking these hotels on our future trips to Sydney.
Carol Murphy, Port Macquarie, NSW
I was intrigued to read your cover story, (Traveller, March 20) about all the wonderful islands ringing Australia. However, there was no mention of a wonderful experience to be had on a group of islands that barely ever gets a mention. I refer to the Cocos Keeling Islands, an Australian external territory. This one is closer to Indonesia than it is to Australia but well worth the extra mileage.
We know a family who has been working there for five years now and the life they have been able to provide their two children is remarkable. At age five and seven they are able to swim with sharks, (they don't bite) dive to a good depth without masks as well as cook and eat the fish they catch almost at their front door, Their parents can kite surf, board surf and body surf,. So, go on travellers, take the road less travelled and go see this amazing group of islands.
Carol Reed, Newport, VIC
Must the monolithic Crowne Plaza Terrigal, NSW, get all the accolades in your guide to the NSW central coast (Traveller, March 20)? They're already at the top of the results list for any internet search for Terrigal accommodation and then they get two thumbs up from Traveller as well.
Dig deeper for accommodation and you'll find other lovely places like Tiarri Terrigal, where I stayed recently - an adults-only oasis that's an easy walk to the beach and Esplanade, with a friendly, attentive host for whom nothing is too much trouble. The price is good too; a fraction of what you'll pay at Crowne.
Kerrie Wehbe, Blacktown, NSW
COOK BY THE BOOK
Ben Groundwater's cover story for Traveller about Australia's many islands was interesting but his brief comments about Norfolk Island's early history were wide of the mark. Captain James Cook certainly "discovered" the island during his voyage in the Resolution in 1774. But he did not land there, as suggested by Ben. Further, the "penal colony" - as in the "island jail" used to further punish repeat offenders or incorrigibles - was not established until 1824, 50 years after Cook's sail-by. A subsidiary colony (using convict labour) was, however, established in March 1788 to pursue flax production and general farming which proved totally unsuccessful and was abandoned in 1813.
Martyn Yeomans, Sapphire Beach, NSW
EDITOR'S NOTE The National Library of Australia in Canberra, in an article on its website, states that James Cook landed on the north-west corner of the uninhabited island and spent the morning there ashore. Cook was said to be impressed by the sight of the tall pine trees which covered the island and the flax in the undergrowth.
YOU BEAUT UTE
The recent spate of letters regarding the shortage of rental cars in Tasmania reminds me of a work trip I took there during the pilots' strike in the late 1980s. I needed to visit a customer in Launceston on urgent business but my firm could not book a hire car for love nor money. Nothing was available. So I thought I'd wing it. I flew from Melbourne to Launceston on a RAAF Hercules (a story in itself).
Fortunately, the customer was located a short walk from Launceston airport, so I dragged my suitcase down what was then a country road and secured the order I was there for. It did not escape my attention that literally across the road from them was the Thrifty depot, chock full of cars – all locked up and temporarily out of business.
Explaining my predicament to my customer, he said, "What about a rent-a-ute"? So I rang the nearest service station and, sure enough, they had one available. After a short taxi ride, I was barrelling down the Midland Highway towards Hobart in a diesel one-tonner, suitcase bouncing around in the tray at the back. It served me well for the rest of the week, and I was sad to have to hand it back.
Jim Picot, Altona, VIC
Rod McCallum of Garran, ACT (Traveller Letters, March 20) could download the Qantas mobile phone app and access his frequent flyer card this way. It's easy to scan the barcode via your phone to earn points at all the places where Rod would usually tap his physical card, such as for fuel.
Jenny Gray, Sydney, NSW 2000
We experienced all that Melinda Dawson describes in her letter, "There's a bear out there" (Traveller Letters, March 13) and a great deal more. Through Rocky Mountaineer, we booked a fortnight's experience encompassing the famous train from Vancouver to Banff, a wonderful day long coach trip from Banff to Jasper (via the Icefields Parkway, including a walk upon the Athabasca Glacier), and the Rocky Mountaineer from Jasper to Vancouver. We finished with a week-long cruise through the Inner Passage to and from Alaska on the MS Neiuw Amsterdam with many unforgettable land-based excursions. Our own particular bear sighting was a black cub with a watchful mother bear, just out of Banff.
Graham Devries, Camberwell, VIC
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