Great trails, pub grub and shooting on safari : Takeoff travel news

Port Campbell National Park. Photo: Mark Watson

TECH: Talk the walk
Hit the road on foot or by bike throughout Victoria with a new website that shows 15 great walking, cycling and mountain-bike routes, ranging from the iconic (Great Ocean Road or Wilson’s Promontory) to the obscure (Gippsland Plains Rail Trail or the Goldfields Track). The new website provides GPS data, interactive mapping, beauty spots, trail descriptions and degrees of difficulty. You can also click for accommodation, gear hire and, of course, great restaurants, because trail mix doesn’t always cut it. See greattrailsvictoria.com.au.  


FOOD: Best grub for pub lovers
Fight back against the demise of the great English public house by settling in for lunch at Britain’s oldest pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans. The pub’s kitchen is now headed up by chef Ian Baulsh, a St Albans local recently returned from two years in Australia working with Melbourne celeb chef Ian Curley. Founded in the eighth century, the pub’s signature dishes are freerange, house-made pork sausages and beef burgers sourced by a master butcher, and a British cheeseboard, all using local produce. Baulsh has added a summery touch, with chicken liver pate, pan-roasted monkfish and chargrilled tuna nicoise. St Alban was Britain’s first Christian martyr, Oliver Cromwell sank pints in the pub, and it’s been called home by Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Hawking. The city is 25 minutes by train from London’s St Pancras station on the Thameslink line. See visitbritain.org.

AIRLINE: Planes, gains and automobiles
Passengers flying Qantas can now earn as well as redeem points on car hire with Budget and Avis in Australia and New Zealand. And in a move that will have points collectors smiling, travellers also will earn frequent flyer points even when they are paying with points. ‘‘Members will still continue to earn points for that booking at the same rate as they would if they were paying with cash,’’ says the airline. Its rival, Virgin Australia, lets you earn points with Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty car rentals through its Velocity Frequent Flyer program, but allows you to use points to book a car only with Europcar; see virginaustralia.com.au  . In other news, Qantas is ramping up flights to Hamilton Island, including a new, twice-weekly Melbourne-Hamilton Island service from June 27. See qantas.com.au

SAFARI: Ready, set, shoot
Photographers of all abilities will know the frustration of snapping a safari through sticky windows or around a badly placed safety pole. The new safari jeep at South Africa’s Sabi Sabi private reserve has been customised for photography tours, with tiered seating and swivel chairs, fixed camera mounts for additional stability and cut-out side panels. The tours are guided by professional photographers and include tuition on shutter speeds and action shots, held over sundowners back at the lodge. Would-be lion paparazzi can also hire additional equipment including the big guns – such as a 200-400-millimetre lens – to pap the Big Five as they roam the fence-free range on the edge of the Kruger National Park. Photography safaris at Sabi Sabi run on demand, all year round and cost from $1800, two days, includes photographer and vehicle for up to four people. Stays at Sabi Sabi’s Bush lodge cost from $1030 a person, sharing. See sabisabi.com.  

AIRPORTS: Flying, beautifully
Life spent in airports is quite possibly life wasted. Instead, use that time when your flight’s delayed to become beautiful (within reason) at AMUSE Beauty Studio, which has opened recently at Sydney Airport. The new store stocks some of the most desirable names in the industry, including Tom Ford, Jo Malone and Amouage. It also offers free beauty quickies for brows and nails, and an express make-up service for that emergency smoky eye. As well, it’s home to Australia’s first Hermes concept shop-within-a-store, stocking its homewares range, which has never been available outside its branded stores. The beauty store, run by the parents of the Newslink chain, is now open in Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals, T2 and T3, and comes to Melbourne in August. See amusebeauty.com.au.  

BOOK: Propaganda paradise
So North Korea’s on your bucket list? Get a taste for its altered reality with Anna Broinowski’s witty book, The Director is the Commander. The filmmaker wanted to make a movie that would stop the creation of a coalseam gas mine near her home, in Sydney Park, so she turned to the master of propaganda, Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea and author of the manifesto The Cinema and Directing.  The only Western filmmaker in the world to gain total access to North Korea’s film industry, Broinowski worked with local directors, actors and crews to create Aim High in Creation! The Director is the Commander, $32.99, penguin.com.au. NSW-based Guidepost Tours books tours of North Korea with British-based Koryo Tours. A five-day tour (including visa processing) costs from $2000 a person, departing from Beijing. See guideposttours.com.au.  



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