I spent the past year taking Aboriginal tours – here’s what I learned


As a non-Indigenous Australian with much to learn about our nation’s First People, I saw the past year (with the country’s international travel ban) as an opportunity to support the travel industry while learning from its leaders. 

Indigenous tourism rebooted

While the promotion of Indigenous tourism hasn’t always done the best job of showcasing an authentic version of Aboriginal culture, the industry has come a long way since it began to take off in the 1990s.

Uluru Kata Tjuta national park, Australia
  Twinkling canopy Uluru at night © swissmediavision/Getty Images

From discovering the Dreaming stories connected to the twinkling canopy above Uluru in the Northern Territory to bedding down at an award-winning Aboriginal-run ecolodge on Western Australia’s Dampier Peninsula, there are now hundreds of incredible Aboriginal-owned, run and supported tourism experiences available in every corner of the country, including more than 185 in Tourism Australia’s Discover Aboriginal Experiences collective alone.

A not-for-profit launched nationally in 2020 with a vision to enable prosperity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through tourism, booking platform Welcome to Country has made it even easier to plan memorable – and sustainable – Indigenous tourism activities.

Jarramali Rock Art Tours-look out credit TTNQ.jpg
Jarramali Rock Art Tours-look out © Tourism and Events Queensland

Connecting with Country

On the New South Wales South Coast, Brinja-Yuin woman Trisha Ellis reveals why the ancient shell midden that covers Bingi Bingi Point isn’t just an indicator that this place was once the region’s most popular seafood restaurant. It’s also an early example of sustainable farming.

“When Yuin people came back to the coast after the cold season, they’d choose two or three shellfish species to eat, and leave the rest alone,” says Trisha, who offers walking tours and cultural awareness training through her business Minga Aboriginal Experiences. “When the next lot came along, they’d look at the midden to see what people had been eating, and choose a different species to eat so the others could regenerate. Instead of trying to control the environment like European farmers, we let nature do the work for us.”

Brinja-Yuin guide Trisha Ellis demonstrates a weaving technique. Image credit Sarah Reid.jpg
Brinja-Yuin guide Trisha Ellis demonstrates a weaving technique © Sarah Reid

On a two-hour walk on a section of the Bingi Dreaming Track – an ancient wayfaring pathway linking significant Yuin sites – Trisha reveals the myriad ways her ancestors have lived in harmony with this wild stretch of the Eurobodalla Coast, where sapphire blue seas pound deserted golden beaches, for more than 20,000 years. From the bright magenta fruiting bodies of the pigface plant that taste like a pleasantly salty kiwifruit, to the controlled burns that ensured a plentiful supply of wildlife to hunt around the calendar, there’s so much to know.

At the other end of Australia’s east coast, on the doorstep of the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest in Far North Queensland, Kuku Yalanji man Aaron Port, a guide with Walkabout Cultural Adventures, schools me in the art of using a traditional spear to catch my own mud crab – the ultimate bush tucker feast – or would have been, if the crab we found was large enough to sustainably harvest. But I soon learn that our tropical surroundings are bursting with snacks so tasty, it’s a challenge to abide by the Aboriginal custom of taking only what I need from nature.

Vince Harrigan welcomes guests to Balnggarrawarra Country.
Vince Harrigan welcomes guests to Balnggarrawarra Country © Sarah Reid

Further north, near Cooktown, Balnggarrawarra man Vince Harrigan, a guide with Culture Connect, led me on a bushwalk to a series of beautifully persevered ancient rock art galleries few non-Indigenous people have ever clapped eyes on. Before we enter the site, Vince calls out to his ancestor spirits in language to announce our arrival – a tradition highlighting the deep connection Indigenous Australians have with their Elders that transcends the physical realm.

See Australia differently

Back home in northern New South Wales, Arakwal-Bundjalung woman Delta Kay recently launched a series of cultural and bush tucker walks. Despite being familiar with local Aboriginal culture and history, I was gobsmacked to learn during Delta’s Byron Bay walking tour that the Bundjalung word for my hometown is not Cavanbah, as it has always been known by non-Indigenous locals, but Gabanbaa, the proper pronunciation having long-been lost in translation. From Delta’s moving Welcome to Country to the evocative Dreaming stories she shares, this walking tour grounds me to this land in a way that Byron’s gamut of wellness gurus could only hope to master.

Australia_Storytellers_Spearing.jpg
The art of using a traditional spear to fish © Walkabout Cultural Adventures

I’m currently in the midst of planning an adventure to Queensland’s northern tip to get a taste of Torres Strait Islander culture, and having just finished reading renowned Aboriginal author Bruce Pascoe’s latest book, Loving Country: A Guide to Sacred Australia, an Aboriginal-guided tour of the 40,000-year-old fish traps of Brewarrina in central-northern New South Wales is now high on my list.

At times Aboriginal guides are unable to go into more depth about particular Dreaming stories or significant sites for cultural reasons. And with English a second, third or even fourth language for some guides, particularly in remote areas, communication can sometimes be a challenge. But this is all part of the Indigenous Australian cultural experience. I’ve also been lucky to participate in some transformative non-Indigenous Australian tourism experiences in my time, but there’s something incredibly special about exploring Australia with a Traditional Custodian that every traveler should experience at least once. Now, more than ever, the takeaways are invaluable.

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Georgia’s ‘flying coffins’ are a creepy freak show for dark tourism


At first unsettling glance, the “flying coffins” are an uneasy, uncanny manifestation of every single thing your mother warned you about.  

The precarious-looking cable cars of Chiatura radiate an aura of malevolence, transforming this arcane town in the Republic of Georgia into a dystopian Disneyland. The barely touched Soviet-era infrastructure is a mechanical freak-show; a putrefying worm on a rusty hook for dark tourists travelling through the Caucasus region.

But as with many things your mother warned you about, all is not what it first appears. Not a single grisly death has been attributed to these aerial relics, which have been soaring above town sans upgrade since the 1950s. Well, that’s the party-line anyway. 

While the “flying coffin” moniker is statistically an unfair yoke, the alternate nickname, linked to one of history’s cruellest dictators, is factually on-point. In the early 20th Century, this mining town was Soviet Georgia’s soot-filled Bolshevik heart, home to 30,000 comrades and most infamously a fledgling rabble-rouser by the name of Joseph Vissarionovich (Stalin). 

Well before going on to become a heinous despot, Georgia-born Stalin conceived Chiatura’s zig-zagging cable-car system. The “Stalin Cars” were exalted as an exemplar of Soviet engineering back when the first line began operation in 1953 (coincidentally, the year Joe kicked the bucket). 

The last of 25 criss-crossing lines was completed in 1966, saving workers from their hundreds-of-vertical-metres commute between home and work, and also fast-forwarding production of Chiatura’s USSR-powering raison d’être: manganese ore. 

Stuffed deep into a sheer-sided river gorge in the west of Georgia, Chiatura’s geography isn’t exactly commuter-friendly. Today locals use the handful of still-working lines for their everyday commutes, turning what can be 30-minute marshrutka (bus) rides into five-minute flights. For travellers, boarding six-decade-old infrastructure with a questionable maintenance commitment is undeniably a flight of blind-faith. 

My inaugural Commie Tardis ride swoops abruptly down from the wild grey yonder with the temerity of a double-headed eagle. Its industrial-blue paint is an ominous aposematism, barking at me to abort my mission; to avoid it like I would a funky coloured mushroom. 

Rust haemorrhages through decades of paint-overs, now part of the structural integrity. On the “keep me up side”, at least the connecting bracket, wheels and well-greased (un-frayed) cables are relatively rust-free. 

The attendant squawks at me, first in Georgian, then Russian, then reverts to mime to coax me inside. The door snaps shut, locks mechanically from the outside, effectively entombing me. The engine-room yaps to life, the coffin lurches upwards in bursts, incrementally, as if tug-o’-war-ed from above by muscly miners.

Sparing shafts of light and fresh air leak into my solitary confinement through kitchen-sieve-esque portholes and a banana-sized hole rusted through the floor; its edges sharp enough to julienne carrots. I plant my feet decisively on the cross-members as my Stalin Car out-staunches a cross-wind that would close the average ski-resort chairlift for the morning.

From above, Chiatura’s lucent green-scape overwhelms humanity’s brutalist palette of oxidisation and crying concrete. Aggressively industrial processing plants thwack out of past-vertical cliffs over the steel-blue Kvirila River. Their commanding windows scrutinise like supervising eyes.

On the valley floor, Russian-made trucks belch soot into already tainted air. Overhead, a small ropeway trapezes manganese to and fro. Its safety nets have just managed to catch one of the falling buckets before it ruined a passing family’s decade. 

I queue at the oldest station – home base for “Pease” and “25” lines – with a grocery-grappling grandma who utters a poker-faced gamarjoba [hello]. The attendant says something important into a phone that looks rescued from a KGB lunch-room. The bell tolls twice, up we go again, hopefully. 

Inside, paint peals away from the spacious, used-to-be-yellow car like industrial psoriasis. Scratches and mining-town grime opaque the windows. The cable car parts cliff-top overgrowth silently, eerily; docking with a jolt that sends a cat-sized rodent scurrying along the cables, through a scorched grand arch to sanctuary. 

Upper Chiatura feels abandoned, left behind, expired. Colossal late-communist-era flats only hint at habitation: a dark car here; a communal garden there; laundry strung across a random unpainted balcony. Feral dogs patrol the rubble, treading prudently around shattered glass and the occasional discarded needle.

The once-grand terminal remains a community focal point. Its splintery benches worn by a million derrieres; its staircases concaved from generations of hurrying home; its 10-foot ornate doors patchworked with plywood. “Nia loves Gizo,” is scratched into the plaster, enclosed by a trinity of love hearts. Was it requited, I wonder?     

With shifts that can stretch on until midnight, station attendants embrace side-hustles. Cobbled shoes are displayed in a ticket-booth nook. A woman sorts her market vegetables on the walkway. Her prized guard-pig snoozes comfortably nearby. 

While post-USSR Georgia beelines for Europe-aligned modernity, a coat of pastel paint over Stalinist architecture is not fooling the plummeting population of a town frozen in concrete and steel. While youngsters in the country’s quicksilver capital, Tbilisi, polish their second-hand Mercedes, Chiaturans perpetually lash together their 1970s Ladas. 

“After the Soviet Union broke up, it was a very difficult period for Georgia,” says my three-star hotelier, Shorena. “It was difficult to live, especially in winter, with no gas, no electricity. Every government since tries to make [Chiatura] new, but I think we still need time. There are no factories or places to work. The young people are going abroad or to Tbilisi.” 

For a decade, rumours have flown around that the old cable cars will soon surrender to their own decrepitude, a symptom of a struggling mining-led economy whose ongoing disputes still spill over into the streets. 

While many lines are permanently closed, with some stations earmarked for demolition, others on the town’s fringes still enigmatically, anonymously chug on (I was assured a line close to my hotel was no longer working but it rattled back into operation the next morning). 

Four new lines are under construction, destined to carry “modern” rust-resistant cars. What will be a godsend for Chiatura’s commuters could be, inadvertently, the beginning of the end for the town’s dark-tourism credentials. Any local will tell you that the cable-car stations – complete with fascinating communist-era reliefs and mosaics – are by far the most interesting thing to see. 

Given that Georgia is endowed with so many postcard highlights – from the world’s oldest wine region to multiple mountain-hiking Xanadus – it’s difficult to explain why you should seek out this obscure mining town and brave its travel-insurance-testing ‘flying coffins”. But if I have to explain it, you probably won’t appreciate this black-and-white snapshot anyway.

One thing is for certain in this uncertain town: progress, as sluggish as it is, has Chiatura’s dystopian Disneyland in its sites. Best to hop aboard sooner rather than later, if you dare. 



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Victorians returning from NZ urged to get tested


Victorians returning home from New Zealand are being urged to monitor for coronavirus symptoms and “get tested immediately” following an Auckland Airport worker who contracted the virus.

The Department of Health on Wednesday advised: “Anyone who has travelled to Victoria from Auckland since April 17 to monitor for symptoms and isolate and get tested immediately should symptoms develop.”

The New Zealand Ministry of Health has released a number of exposure sites since the worker was confirmed to have contracted the virus on Tuesday.

Anyone who has visited these exposure sites on the listed dates and times needs to get tested, isolate until they get a negative result and phone the Victorian Department of Health on 1300 651 160, it was advised.

All close contacts of the Auckland case have so far tested negative to COVID-19.

It comes amid revelations the coronavirus-infected airport staffer who cleaned planes from high-risk countries also worked on an aircraft bound for Australia, with fears the staffer may have passed the infection on just two days after the trans-Tasman bubble opened.

New Zealand’s director of public health Caroline McElnay said authorities believed the case was linked to a returning passenger from Ethiopia.

“The person who has become infected works at cleaning planes from international flights,” she told reporters on Wednesday.

“This includes countries that are deemed red zone where COVID-19 is widespread, but also includes having cleaned green zone planes flying back to Australia on Monday.”

Dr McElnay noted it was the same protocol used in Australia.

“The person wore full PPE while cleaning and we have been in touch with Australian authorities to notify them about this case,” she said.

“Our assessment is that there is no additional risk to any passengers who travelled on those flights cleaned by the infected person.”

The worker has received both doses of the COVID-19 jab, which means the risk to the community is low.

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World’s 10 best city tram and street car rides


ST CHARLES STREETCAR, NEW ORLEANS, USA

Sashaying along St Charles Avenue through a tunnel of southern live oaks, this historic streetcar takes in antebellum mansions, two universities, lovely Audubon Park and some of the USA’s prettiest civic architecture. Vintage streetcars built almost a century ago still operate on this 21-kilometre line, the world’s longest in continual operation. From the French Quarter, cross Canal Street at Bourbon which becomes Carondolet Street, hop aboard and enjoy 45 minutes of eye candy. See neworleans.com

TRAM ROUTE 28, LISBON, PORTUGAL

SatMay11Lisbon - Lisbon transport, Portugal - text David McGonigal
28 Tram
Supplied tourism image for use in Traveller via journalist

This clanking, 1930s-era tram threads through the city between Campo de Ourique and Martim Moniz, through wide esplanades and narrow streets, taking in some of the city’s cultural treasures as well as quiet neighbourhoods. Highlights include the Castle of St George, the historic Graca quarter, now restored to its former glory, the bohemian Bairro Alto and the indoor/outdoor Campo de Ourique market. Hop on and off at any of its 30-plus stops with a 24-hour ticket. See carris.pt

See also: Sorry, Melbourne: The city with the world’s most gorgeous tram network

TRAM NUMBER 2, BUDAPEST, HUNGARY

SunMar10Ten
2019 download of Shutterstock image for Traveller, OK to reuse

Budapest Hungary, April 18, 2018: Famous Number 2 Tram is passing by next to Duna-Korzo promenade with Buda castle complex on opposite shore of Danube river in Budapest. Called The Site Seeing Tram.

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Budapest’s slender yellow and white trams bring an antique note to the city and line number 2 is a scenic marvel, following the curve of the Pest embankment alongside the Danube River, with views of the baroque Parliament building, Buda Castle and the Chain Bridge. Head north from the National Theatre, and sit on the river side. Hop off at Kossuth Lajos Square and take a look at the Shoes on the Danube Bank, a memorial to victims of the country’s WWII fascist party. See introducingbudapest.com

RINGSTRASSE TRAMS, VIENNA, AUSTRIA

Vienna’s grand boulevard, the Ringstrasse throws a lasso around the city’s wedding-cake palaces, museums and monumental buildings created when the Habsburg empire was at its height. While the tourist tram makes a complete circuit of the Ring, a much cheaper option is the city’s regular trams. From Schwedenplatz take tram number 1 from platform B, travelling in an anticlockwise direction. When you get to the Opera House, change to tram number 2 to take you back to Schwedenplatz. See wien.info

T1 TRAM, ISTANBUL, TURKEY

The glorious antique trams have disappeared, but their sleekly modern successors are a foot saver in hilly Istanbul. From Kabatas, on the eastern side of the Golden Horn, the T1 tram winds through the boho-chic Karakoy district, over Galata Bridge and up the hill crowning Seraglio Point, gateway to the Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the amazing Basilica Cistern. A few stops further along, alight at Beyazit to visit the Grand Bazaar. See iett.istanbul

“DING DING” TRAM, HONG KONG

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Hong Kong - October 16 2017: Iconic Ding Ding Tram

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Running east-west along the foreshore of bustling Hong Kong Island, the double-decker trams are slow, noisy and anything but smooth, but there’s fascination every inch of the way. It’s a journey for the senses with smells as well as sights and sounds, especially where the tram travels through the middle of Chun Yeung Street wet market. Central to Causeway Bay is the classic journey. Squeeze your way to the upper deck and sit beside the window. See hktramways.com

TRAM NUMBER 96, MELBOURNE

The 96 tram: among those suffering service cuts.

East Brunswick to St Kilda Beach packs in some of the city’s favourite icons including the Melbourne Museum, Exhibition Buildings, Carlton Gardens, State Parliament, the Bourke Street Mall, Crown Casino and Carlton Gardens. Hop off at Fitzroy’s Moor Street stop for some of Melbourne’s sassiest street art then duck into Lune Croissanterie at 119 Rose Street for a sweet treat, take a stroll along St Kilda Pier and snap a selfie against the leering clown face of Luna Park. See yarratrams.com.au

TRAM NUMBER 3, ROME, ITALY

One of the longest of the capital’s tram routes, tram No. 3 is a cheap introduction to some of the highlights of Rome. Travelling in a half loop, the tram stitches together the village-like atmosphere of Trastevere, Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem, Porta Maggiore and finally to Valle Giulia near the National Etruscan Museum, close to one of Europe’s biggest urban parks surrounding Villa Borghese. See rome.net

TRAM NUMBER 2, AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS

SunMar10Ten
2019 download of Shutterstock image for Traveller, OK to reuse
Amsterdam, Netherlands - March 31, 2016: Tram 1 running in city centre of Amsterdam, Holland

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Running from the main railway station through Amsterdam’s heart, tram No. 2 takes in the Van Gogh Museum, the splendid Rijksmuseum, the Royal Palace, the city’s famous flower market and the canal belt. Another essential stop is Leidseplein Square, a centre for restaurants, cafes, nightlife and street performers. Buy a day ticket for €7.50 and hop on and off as you please. See iamsterdam.com

BLACKPOOL TRAMWAY, BRITAIN

SunMar10ten
Blackpool number 703 in Sunderland number 101 - 1934 Balloon Car type Blackpool tramway tram - Blackpool, Lancashire, UK - 7th June 2010

Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Dating back to 1885, this tramline running along the Fylde Coast bordering the Irish Sea is one of the world’s oldest, although trams on the 17-kilometre line were modernised in 2012. Today it draws millions each year, many of whom recall riding the tram while licking a bar of Blackpool Rock as one of the linchpins of their youth. During summer holidays and non-winter weekends, original heritage trams operate between Pleasure Beach and North Pier. See visitblackpool.com

See also: The world’s greatest train journeys

See also: The world’s 20 coolest public transport rides



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Comedian shocked as Qantas ticket with extra legroom costs almost a billion dollars


An Aussie comedian who tried to buy extra legroom on his flight said the ticket had come with an eye-watering, almost billion-dollar price tag.

Dave O’Neil shared a screenshot of his booking for return flights from Melbourne to Perth, which he’d been trying to purchase extra legroom for. The quoted price was for $987,999,999.00.

“Hey @Qantas all I wanted was extra leg room on my flight to Perth, very happy to pay for it but this seems a bit expensive,” he wrote.

The excessive price gathered a huge amount of attention on social media with the tweet attracting more than 2000 likes and hundreds of replies.

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“They always lower the price by a few bucks so you don’t feel like you’re spending a full billion,” Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall wrote.

“Just use Afterpay to spread the cost out,” another joked.

“On behalf of all Qantas shareholders, thank you Dave for the dividends,” another said.

Qantas also replied to Mr O’Neil telling him the cost did look unusual, and to get in touch.

Qantas told news.com.au it hasn’t been able to replicate the charge, but is still investigating.

“While we know that customers really value extra leg room, the price displayed was definitely a bit of a stretch,” a spokesperson told news.com.au in a statement.

“We can confirm the passenger was charged the correct amount of $70 per sector for the extra legroom and we’re investigating what caused the incorrect amount to be displayed.”

It comes as Australian airports were once again filled with emotional travellers as the trans Tasman bubble officially launched on Monday.

It means for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Kiwis and Aussies are allowed to freely travel across the ditch without quarantining.

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Ding attacks toddler on Fraser Island, inflicting deep puncture wounds


A toddler is in hospital with deep puncture wounds inflicted by a dingo which attacked the two-year-old boy who walked unsupervised from his family’s holiday home on Fraser Island.

The young boy sustained significant injuries to his legs, arms, neck, shoulder and head after being mauled by just one animal, with a paramedic saying he was lucky not to be attacked by a dingo pack.

Neighbours at Orchid Beach on the island’s northeastern coast raised the alarm after hearing a commotion around 7.30am on Saturday.

The two-year-old had wandered outside while his family was asleep and was approached by a dingo, on duty paramedic Lee told the Courier-Mail.

Lee said the dingo bit the boy on many parts of his body as well as the back of his head.

“The young lad had sustained bite marks and puncture wounds to his left leg, left arm, base of neck, shoulder and a laceration to the base of his head and the back as well,” Lee said.

“None of these wounds were life-threatening but some were quite deep puncture marks.

“This child was extremely lucky to not sustain worse injuries as it was believed to be a single dingo and not a pack.”

The toddler was saved after nearby residents heard the attack taking place.

“I believe it may have been neighbours in houses nearby, heard the commotion going on outside and they dealt with it,” the paramedic said.

The boy was airlifted to Bundaberg Hospital where he is in a stable condition.

Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, has a history of dingo attacks, with one incident in 2019 serving as an eerie reminder of the Azaria Chamberlain case

A pack of dingoes dragged a 14-month-old boy by the head from his family’s caravan after midnight.

It was only the boy’s cries waking his father, who wrestled his son away from the pack, that saved the boy.

The ninth attack on Fraser Island in 20 years, it was similar to the infamous 1980 case when nine-week-old Azaria Chamberlain was taken from her family tent near Uluru in the Northern Territory.

Lindy Chamberlain was convicted of murdering her child and spent three years of a life sentence in jail.

Then, by chance, the baby’s bloodied matinee jacket was found in a dingo’s lair at Uluru.

Ms Chamberlain was released, exonerated and financially compensated.

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Emirates Airbus A380 superjumbo takes off with all passengers and crew vaccinated against COVID-19


Middle-East airline Emirates has flown a special Airbus A380 superjumbo flight with almost 400 passengers on board, all of whom had been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Flight EK2021 took off on Saturday, aimed at drawing attention to the success of the UAE’s vaccination program and encouraging confidence in travel.

Along with the vaccinated passengers, all flight and ground crew were also vaccinated. The UAE has administered nearly 9 million vaccine doses thus far to its population of 9.7 million residents, the vast majority of whom are expatriates. The UAE has one of the world’s highest rate of vaccinations at 90.22 doses per 100 people.

“Today’s flight is a showcase of the combined efforts and dedication of all stakeholders in supporting the vaccination programme, and the implementation of protocols in the past 12 months to ensure a safe travel journey, stimulate passenger traffic and set the groundwork for the ramp up of air travel in the near future,” Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates’ chairman said.

Passengers were able to check-in and board using contactless technology introduced last month, including biometric facial recognition and the ability to control the check-in kiosk from  their mobile devices. They also received rapid COVID-19 tests.

Maggie and Simon Neil, who have lived in the UAE for 20 years, were among the passengers who paid Dh2000 ($A717) each for their business class seat on board.

“We hadn’t been on a plane for over a year and we really wanted to be a part of it. We are both vaccinated which we believe is important for safe travels and to top that, our fare will go towards helping those in need,” they told Dubai’s Khaleej Times.

Proceeds from the flight went to the Emirates Airline Foundation, a non-profit charity that supports projects for disadvantaged children around the world.

The Emirates flight follows a similar trip by Qatar Airways last Tuesday, the world’s first flight to carry a full-vaccinated complement of passengers and crew. The Qatar Airbus A350 took off from and returned to Doha’s Hamad International Airport after a three-hour scenic flight.

Qatar Airways’ chief executive Akbar Al Baker said the airline’s special flight “demonstrates the next stage in the recovery of international travel is not far away.”

Both Emirates and Qatar are trialling the International Air Transport Association’s Travel Pass, which will allow airlines to confirm passengers have tested negative for COVID-19 or been vaccinated against the disease before they fly.

Qantas is trialling a similar vaccine passport app and also has plans to trial IATA’s version.

See also: What you need to know about the new ‘OK to travel’ pass airlines are adopting

See also: The last A380 superjumbo takes off on first flight



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Scott Morrison wants overseas vaccination travel plan


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is urgently asking medical experts to formulate a plan on how vaccinated Aussies can travel overseas and skip hotel quarantine upon return.

The PM said the country’s “main goal” was vaccinating the most vulnerable parts of the population, but said an international travel plan was “what I’d like to see happen next”.

“This is what I’ve tasked the medical experts with, is ensuring that we can know when an Australian is vaccinated here with their two doses, is able to travel overseas and return without having to go through hotel quarantine,” he told 6PR Perth Radio.

“I think we’re still some time away from that. The states, at this stage, I’m sure wouldn’t be agreeing to relaxing those hotel quarantine arrangements for those circumstances at this point in time.

“But what we need to know from the health advisers is what does make that safe and what does make that possible.”

Mr Morrison warned reopening the international borders now could result in more than 1000 cases of coronavirus a week.

“Vaccinations are not a silver bullet. We’ve never said they are,” he said.

“Australians have become very used to the fact … of having zero case numbers and zero community transmission.

“I don’t think Australians … would welcome restrictions and closures and borders shutting and all of those things, again, out of states concerned about the rising numbers of case numbers.

“So everyone needs to get on the same page with that. And so they’re the important threshold issues we’ve got to work together through as a national cabinet.

“And that’s why I’m calling them back together again to work on that same operational tempo that we were during the pandemic, because these are the challenges we need to solve together now.”

Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton backed the PM’s plan and said he hoped for a home quarantine setup for vaccinated Aussie travellers “soon rather than later”.

“As quickly as we can and as the Prime Minister pointed out, if people have had properly recognised the vaccine, if they are living in London or the United States or anywhere else in the world and they want to come back home and see family or see their grandparents, bring their newborn grandchild back home, then we want to facilitate that as quickly as possible,” he told the Today show on Friday morning.

“But we just need to do it in a safe way.

“And if we are having a situation where people are coming back and bringing the virus back with them, then we will see community transmission – So again it is trying to get that balance right.

“But if we can get people away from hotel quarantine into home quarantine and people do the right thing, then you can scale up the numbers obviously much more significantly than if we are just relying on hotels.”

But Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Australians should have been home already.

“There are more than 40,000 Australians still stranded overseas,” Mr Albanese said.

“Scott Morrison said that Australians would be home by Christmas; that‘s Christmas 2020.”

Australia slammed its borders shut in March last year when the global coronavirus pandemic first began to unravel.

Just two weeks ago, Australia entered into an agreement with New Zealand allowing travel between the two countries.

Mr Morrison hinted at a travel bubble agreement with more countries ahead of the trans-Tasman travel arrangement’s official start on April 19.

“I think I can see a future where we could be in a similar arrangement with Singapore and we’re working on that now,” he said.

“Other Pacific countries, that’s possible. But when you’re talking about countries, you know, for example, like Indonesia or India or Papua New Guinea or countries where we know that the virus is in a very strong form, including in Europe and even still the United Kingdom, the United States. Australians, I don’t think would welcome the incursion of the virus into the country. So we have to weigh all of that up.”

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Take a longer break after COVID-19 is over


If you’re eager to make up for lost travel time, then you might want to dust off your boots and hike the Great Himalaya Trail through Nepal.

The whopping 1700-kilometre trek through steep, rugged terrain and across glaciers gets you within gazing distance of all Nepal’s 8000-metre-plus peaks. Serious fitness is required, and stamina too. You trek for 145 days. The tour lasts 150 days.

World Expeditions has run the “Great Himalaya Trail Full Traverse” every year since 2014, except during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now new departures are scheduled for early 2022 and 2023.

The company’s longest tour, according to public relations manager Michele Eckersley, “could also well be the longest guided commercial walking tour in the world” . As far as we can determine, it’s currently the longest land tour of any kind.

As hope for a resumption in international travel blossoms, travellers are making long travel plans on the back of pent-up demand, unspent travel budgets and determination to make up for lost time.

“We’re finding that those who are booking, across all ages, are now looking for much longer trips, or putting together back-to-back trips,” says Vanessa Budah at The Travel Corporation, which represents 40 brands.

“Travellers once booked 10 or 12 days, but now they’re wanting much longer.”

Budget is the only limit to tour length, since bespoke travel companies can put together anything. In 2013, Britain-based Hurlingham Travel Services famously created a two-year tour that took in all 962 World Heritage sites and cost £1million (A$1.7 million).

But even regular organised group tours allow you to pack in amazing destinations over more than just a week or two, with some already revving their engines.

Adventures Overland hopes to depart in September this year  from Imphal in eastern India on a 52-day, 16,000-kilometre drive to London via China, Central Asia and Russia.

The company also offers “the biggest, the grandest and the most epic bus journey in the world” between Delhi and London. It follows a similar route over 70 days, with a departure currently scheduled (perhaps improbably) for August 2021.

Intrepid Travel has a 64-day “Africa Encompassed Northbound” open-truck journey with many departure dates in late 2021 and 2022. It takes hardy travellers from Cape Town to Nairobi and includes Okavango Delta and Serengeti safaris, the Victoria Falls, gorilla-spotting in Uganda, and a surely welcome rest on Zanzibar’s beaches.

Intrepid ran one of the longest organised tours ever in 2016, an “Ultimate 365-Day Adventure” that took in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Antarctica, and says it will consider running it again.

Contiki is hoping to revive its 82-day “Seven Wonders of the World” tour in 2022 or 2023, which ticks off big bucket-list sights such as the Taj Mahal, Great Wall, Pyramids and Machu Picchu. G Adventures’ 65-day “Great South American Journey” already has 2022 departures.

Meanwhile, if you’re missing cruising, then there are super-long options on the high seas too. Demand has been extraordinary among recently cruise-starved travellers.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ 143-night world cruise in 2023 is already sold out, and every cabin on Oceania’s ever-popular “Around the World in 180 Days” cruise in 2023 was snapped up within 24 hours in January this year.

The cruise will visit 33 countries, 96 ports and 60 World Heritage Sites. But for some, 180 days simply isn’t enough. Oceania says 20 per cent of its world-cruise guests opted to extend their voyage on either side, bumping their journey up to 218 days.

That has Oceania offering the longest cruise by far, but many cruise lines such as Cunard and Crystal Cruises offer world itineraries well over 100 days long, with departures both in early 2022 and 2023. Viking’s longest cruise is 138 days from Fort Lauderdale in Florida to Greenwich (London) by way to the Pacific, Australia, Asia and the Mediterranean.

Viking has previously come up with something even more extravagant. In 2019, it launched a 245-day “Ultimate World Cruise” return from Greenwich that was set to cover 55,700 nautical miles and visit 111 ports in 51 countries. It would have bagged a Guinness World Record for the longest continuous passenger cruise but was scuppered in Dubai on day 204 by the COVID-19 outbreak. The company has no current plans for a repeat attempt.

For the moment, Silversea is capturing the headlines with the launch of the first expedition world cruise. The “Unchartered World Tour” departs from the tip of South America in January 2022 and arrives in Norway 167 days later. Along the way, it visits 30 countries, 107 ports and truly remote places including the Antarctic Peninsula, South Shetland, Easter Island, and Svalbard above the Arctic Circle. That should be enough to satisfy anyone’s pent-up lust for travel.



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Woman claims Walgreens photoshopped hair bun out of passport photo


A woman was left in hysterics after receiving a very baffling passport photo due to an awkward Photoshop job.

TikTok user Katie was told that her large bun was too big for the picture when visiting a US Wallgreens store, so staff edited it out – leaving her unrecognisable to friends and family.

Katie, who posts under the TikTok username @katiefiore898, shared the photo on TikTok and it has since gone viral and been viewed over 300,000 times.

She explained: “Wore a bun to get my passport pictures but they said it was too big so they just had to cut it off.”

After the blunt bun removal, Katie was left mortified at the finished result.

However, her passport mishap appears to have entertained internet users, with one person joking: “Went from Katie to Kyle.”

Another added: “Why would you wear a bun for a picture that’s going to last at least ten years.”

A third joked: “I’m dead. I’m sorry for laughing so hard at this.”

Another person said they had a similar dilemma and staff told her she couldn’t have hair on her shoulders after she tried to take her bun down.

In Australia, the required standard for passport photos means images cannot be retouched in any way and the size of the face from chin to crown can be up to a maximum of 36mm, with a minimum of 32mm.

In the US, however, passport photo regulations state that hair cannot obscure a person’s face and the head must be sized between 25 and 35mm.

It is understood that Katie went in for a new set of photos, this time without a bun.

With The Sun

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