DISSENT ON THE ASCENT
Warwick McKenzie (Traveller letters, October 4) misses the point mightily when dismissing the numerous activities available when Uluru is, thankfully, closed for climbing later this month. Those "vested interests" he is so scathing of include the traditional owners, who offer an unparalleled insight into the cultural stories and importance of Uluru. Hardly a "sideshow", Warwick. A sense of adventure is a wonderful gift but should always be underpinned by a sense of respect as well.
Leigh Hillman, Brunswick East, VIC
Warwick McKenzie suggests climbing Uluru is for "real Australians". However, we should all remind ourselves it is the local Indigenous people who have brought about the ban on climbing Uluru. They are, actually, the real Australians in this context, and there are whole other levels to "experiencing the Rock". Culturally, Uluru is much more than a monolith to be climbed by adventurous tourists. Get your kicks without trampling the beliefs and rights of others.
Kerrie Wehbe, Blacktown, NSW
I am appalled that such white Australian attitudes continue to harbour, and show, hurtful disrespect towards the legal custodians of this immensely sacred site. That very large numbers of visitors have chosen to ignore these traditional values and wishes is a symptom of cultural ignorance, arrogance and prejudices associated with tourism activities and behaviours in many parts of the world. Meanwhile, the goal of "reconciliation" across Australia can be achieved only after the rights of First Peoples are fully embraced, respected and consistently enacted.
Pablo Bateson, Katoomba, NSW
LETTER OF THE WEEK: HIGH AND MIGHTY
Your cover story on "off the grid" destinations (Traveller, September 28), featuring Sikkim by Brian Johnston, reminded me of the visit my sister and I took there in March for the Rhododendron Festival. With our own guide, car and driver, we visited breathtaking monasteries and did half-day treks through the rhododendron, orchid and magnolia forests.
We stayed three days in a village homestay with fresh organic food. It is a proud green-minded state with an efficient waste-management system and a policy of no single-use plastic. The "hot tub" at the homestay was the cattle manger, lined with stones heated for 13 hours to keep the water hot. Bliss. And yes, Brian, you are right about the roads - they are definitely off the beaten track. But travelling slowly through misty, flower-filled valleys on roads lined with prayer flags makes the journey as important as the destination. Beat your own track to Sikkim.
Sandra Brayshaw, Goulburn, NSW
Although the far-flung Kimberley is certainly "off the grid" (Traveller, September 28), I wonder if it's really that uncommon as a destination for the intrepid traveller. To wit, I offer a recent road trip with some oldie biker mates through country NSW, visiting out-of-the-way places such as Mendooran, Albert and Gunnedah. Dining at wholesome but unglamorous roadhouses along the way, sightseeing at intriguing local attractions and staying overnight in austere bush accommodation provided a valued connection to our remote hinterland while delivering a small, but much-needed, boost to the local economies.
David Beins, Cooks Hill, NSW
Are places isolated because they're hard to get to, or because no one in their right mind would want to go there? I've been to several, such as Northern Ireland in the '70s and Kashmir in wartime. However, the most thrilling trip starts next week. We're going to Scotland for a wedding and flying back on October 31 - at least I hope we are. But since it's the very day [at the time of writing] that Boris Johnson has promised to bust out of the EU, who knows? I'm imagining scenes like the fall of Saigon, with desperate Scots trying to get on the last chopper out.
Nick Trumble, Fitzroy North, VIC
HOME SWEET SECOND HOME
Mark Chipperfield's article on Leh (Traveller, October 5), the capital of the Indian state Ladakh, instantly drew me back to what has become my second home. Mark included all of my favourite haunts such as Bon Appetit and the Appletree Cafe (tucked away in a courtyard, and the place for an early breakfast). It was great to see Ladakh Bike Rental get a mention as the owner, Gurmat, has become a dear friend over the years. As for the polo, do get there for the opening ceremony, with traditional dance and costume, as well as a polo match in the afternoon. Make sure you get a front-row seat.
Paul Evans, Totnes Valley, NSW
Now it's getting ridiculous. A 10-hour daytime Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo to Melbourne leaving mid-morning, arriving early evening, virtually no difference in time zone. Soon after the first meal is served, all the windows turn shaded and stay that way until just out of Melbourne. With newer planes, this is now controlled centrally so there is no chance for individuals to open their own window shade. I specifically chose a window seat so I could look at the beautiful Australian outback - no chance. It seems the aim is to get passengers dozing all day, even though nobody needs it if you want to reset your body clock to the destination. How do they get away with this?
David Parker, Geelong, VIC
Thank you for your article on the Gambia by Catherine Marshall (Traveller, September 28). We went many times until we emigrated, avoiding the British winter via a much simpler six-hour flight straight from London. It's a tiny, magical country with beautiful small lodges. A special memory is travelling the length of the river, including an overnight stay in a mud hut just off the bank (a nervous experience for a faint-hearted Brit when it came to creepy crawlies).
The other high point was our Dutch lodge-owner organising a taxi for the English guests, and his Australian bar-person, to see the 2003 Rugby World Cup final at the British Consulate via Senegal TV. It improved our French if not our heart rate (and kudos to our bartender who graciously poured us champagne on the house when we made it back). Happy memories, such a lovely surprise to see it namechecked. Highly recommended to any traveller with a sense of adventure to see real Africa.
Victoria Watts, Gordon, NSW
FLY, BE FREE
My 13-year-old granddaughter took her first flight as a solo traveller last week. She flew Virgin from Sydney to Adelaide. Any nerves she had were quickly diminished by the excellent treatment from the airline. I alerted the lady at the check-in desk of her status. She immediately told the cabin crew and moved her to a front aisle seat. She was given priority boarding and, as she boarded, she was welcomed by staff who called her by her first name. Great service from Virgin, which has probably gained a lifetime customer.
Alex Hamill, Sydney, NSW
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