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Brave captain returns for first game

CBR Brave captain Mark Rummukainen (right) with Jordie Gavin and Maxime Suzzarini. Photo: Melissa AdamsHe was a leading force behind the birth of the CBR Brave, and captain Mark Rummukainen has returned from the world championships to lead the side for the first time.
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The Brave hosts defending Australian Ice Hockey League champions the Sydney Ice Dogs at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre on Saturday night.

It will be Rummukainen’s inaugural game for the Brave after he missed its 2-0 season-opening loss to Newcastle a fortnight ago while representing Australia at the division two world championships in Serbia.

“I was pretty bummed to miss out on the first game with a big crowd and a bit of hype around it, but obviously you’re not going to turn down representing your country,” Rummukainen said.

“To see tangible evidence of what we wanted to get done is being done, I’ll be very proud and excited to see a huge crowd and play as part of the Brave.

“Hopefully we can put out a huge effort and come away with some points.”

Rummukainen was the former captain of the Canberra Knights before the team folded just six weeks before the start of the season.

He played a major role in getting the Brave off the ground and ensuring there remained an ice hockey team in Canberra.

Rummukainen is hoping for better luck than what Australia had in winning just one of its five games at the world championships.

”You go to a tournament like that to win, so it’s disappointing,” he said.

“We had two overtime losses and the last game against Serbia, they scored in the last three minutes to win 1-0, so there’s three games that could have gone either way.

“A lot of positives came out of it for our program going forward, but we would’ve liked to have at least won a medal.”

The Brave takes on an Ice Dogs team in turmoil after the shock resignation of head coach Ron Kuprowsky on Thursday.

Assistant coaches Colin Downie and Brad Andrlon have also stepped down, but the Brave is wary of taking them lightly.

“They won the whole thing last year and they’ve changed their style of play the last couple of years,” Rummukainen said.

“You’ve got to beat every team and you’ve got to win games to win the league, so we’re new and want to prove something, so it’s time we stick it to them.”

SATURDAY: Australian Ice Hockey League: CBR Brave v Sydney Ice Dogs at the Phillip Swimming and Ice Skating Centre, 5.30pm.

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Lost world of The Grand Budapest Hotel’s Stefan Zweig

Stefan Zweig: ‘a connoisseur of coursing blood and throbbing temple’.Like a literary version of the Kevin Bacon Game, it’s a challenge to find an important cultural figure from the early 1900s through the 1940s who didn’t connect with Stefan Zweig. Zionist founder Theodor Herzl gave him his start with front-page articles as a 19-year-old. Einstein became a fan. Zweig introduced Dali to Freud and served in the War Archive with Rilke before working with Joyce to translate A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man into Italian. He watched Rodin sculpt and Richard Strauss compose.
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Today some of his exile-friends have joined him in receiving popular revivals: Joseph Roth (who abused Zweig despite – or because of – his unfailing financial support), Jakob Wassermann and the daring Irmgard Keun, who sued the Gestapo for lost income after the ban of her ”degenerate” books.

Before Wes Anderson ”discovered” the world’s most popular writer of the 1920s and ’30s, more recent fans such as Colin Firth, Kazuo Ishiguro, Belinda Carlisle, Carla Bruni, Salman Rushdie and Antony Beevor lauded the Austrian writer, whose massive body of work includes a cache of novellas, biographies of figures as diverse as Marie Antoinette, Magellan and Freud, a memoir of Europe’s interwar years, a novel, plays, libretti, and hundreds of poems and essays. In the decades after his death in Brazil in 1942, Zweig’s works faded from popular consciousness. In France, though, he has remained among the top three foreign-language bestsellers, behind only Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.

Those who become acquainted with Zweig through the coda that ends The Grand Budapest Hotel, ”Inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig”, may find themselves perplexed when they crack open the author’s greatest fiction. While Zweig peaked during the glitzy but uncertain era that embraced Hemingway and Fitzgerald, his characters don’t muster the manic levity of flapper girls or the bravado of post-war wanderers. Likewise absent are the zany characters who populate Anderson’s jolly romp.

While often daring in its descriptions of sexual obsession and psychological undoing, Zweig’s work retains the feel of a lost world as its passions remain keenly topical. His writing teeters between the old and the new, the cream-puff facade of decadent Viennese splendour alongside dirty secrets, with nods towards Freud, that proliferate in the tightly constrained.

Zweig’s characters allow their misunderstood but unchecked emotions – and their straining bodies – to betray their assumed selves and tempt death. There are murders, illicit affairs, suicides and devilish psychological manipulation, but – unlike in The Grand Budapest Hotel – no madcap chases from evil henchmen. Zweig and his work are comfortable on film. In the 1930s, Hollywood offered him $US3000 (circa $40,000 today) a week to write for the screen; he declined. But he occasionally penned scripts, and more than 40 film versions of his work have appeared, including Max Ophuls’ 1948 Letter from an Unknown Woman and, most recently, A Promise (based on Journey into the Past).

Pushkin Press, leader in the Zweig resurgence, has ensured the availability of much of his work, often in the inestimable Anthea Bell’s crisp new translations. To coincide with the release of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Pushkin has issued a Wes Anderson-curated best-of sampler. Inexplicably sporting the title of one of the film’s sections, The Society of the Crossed Keys includes a French Riviera-based novella about obsession and the beginnings of Zweig’s memoir and his only full-length novel, alongside an interview between Anderson and George Prochnik, whose new book on Zweig, The Impossible Exile, appears next month.

Anderson admits to stealing his film’s structure from Zweig’s most common and affecting trope: the amazing ”true” story of an individual as relayed to an unsuspecting author, who remains a mere receptacle. The film’s introduction lifts nearly verbatim the first passages of Beware of Pity: ”There is nothing more erroneous than the idea, which is only too common, that a writer’s imagination is always at work … In reality he does not have to invent his stories; he need only let characters and events find their own way to him …”

When an artist names his inspiration, it’s tempting to hunt point by point for what he has captured and twisted from the original. But an inspiration remains by its nature unviewable and often mingles with too many other unidentifiable strands. The appropriation of a work, though, can be tinged through this kind of use. Woody Allen’s Love and Death spoofs the great Russian novels, just as his Midnight in Paris caricatures the Lost Generation, but the viewer is complicit with the jokes through shared knowledge. For a writer who has fallen into relative obscurity, this type of reinvention and subversion becomes more problematic.

A primer for Anderson fans arriving at Zweig with only The Grand Budapest Hotel for guidance: forget the film’s gorgeous Technicolor lobbies and deadpan delivery, physical comedy and whimsical characters. Most importantly, forget the raucous laughter.

Zweig’s writing is more subtle, but at the same time overflows with over-the-top, emotionally draining yet exhilarating melodrama. His work does not remove the viewer from their situation the way the best comedy can; his dramas amplify and, at their most successful, elucidate it. If Anderson is all about laughs, Zweig is a connoisseur of coursing blood and throbbing temple.

This marriage might seem more fitting when viewing Anderson’s film as a pleasure for those seeking reprieve into an imaginary place where the surroundings are more beautiful and the worst scenarios (dismemberment, incarceration) become the stuff of hilarity. Zweig, too, was a crowd pleaser of a different sort. Thomas Mann and Robert Musil disregarded him as a populiser for the masses, and his work helped overthrow the belief that German-language writers must be difficult.

There are writers we love to resuscitate over and over. Some finally stick, their hearts strong enough to sustain the repeated alternating throttles and neglect. Aside from his masterful stomach-churning plots that make the most ordinary life appear precious and precarious, Zweig provides a back-story that becomes ever more tantalising. With his life’s glittering distractions, his precisely groomed moustache, fussy manners and naive pacifism, it is tempting to settle on the figure of a man who appeared to have everything even as the world self-destructed – and who is now resigned to history as the driving-force behind the double-suicide that cut short his life and that of his 33-year-old wife.

Most important about Zweig is the cache of gems he left behind. The World of Yesterday, his memoir of Europe from the turn of the century through to the rise of Hitler, remains a touchstone with its overview of shifting culture, morals and politics. The culmination of his fiction, Beware of Pity, first published in 1939, alternately condemns war and muses on how an insignificant remark can reshape a life if unbridled emotions rule actions.

Alongside The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov, Zweig’s final work, The Royal Game (or A Chess Story), remains one of the finest fictions about the game. In it, a man imprisoned by the Gestapo steals a book in hopes of maintaining his sanity. To his horror, he discovers that the book is a compilation of famous chess matches. For those looking for a more complete education in Zweig, Pushkin offers a 720-page Collected Stories.

There’s hope, still, that the new wave Anderson has added to the ever-flowing Zweig resurgence will keep the writer where he belongs: in the hands of readers who will wonder, as did Anderson, ”How is it that I don’t already know about this?”

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Dunemann defends controversial call

Adamant … Andrew Dunemann has defended his ‘no-try’ ruling during the Parramatta-Wests Tigers match on Monday. Photo: Melissa AdamsNRL video referee Andrew Dunemann has staunchly defended his decision to disallow a try to Parramatta due to obstruction in its 21-18 loss to Wests Tigers on Monday, adamant the call was a ”no-brainer” despite criticism from the Eels.
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Dunemann and fellow video referee Steve Clark overruled on-field referee Matt Cecchin after he approved a try to centre Will Hopoate, ruling Eels forward David Gower impeded Tigers youngster Luke Brooks, who fell to the ground.

An angry Eels coach Brad Arthur accused the halfback of taking a dive, while Parramatta star Jarryd Hayne branded the obstruction rule a “lottery”.

As the former player in the box, it is Dunemann’s responsibility to make the final call.

The former Canberra Raiders assistant and interim coach used his blog on the website for his company Boom Sports Management and Media to stand by his decision.

“The try in which Luke Brooks was interfered with, in my opinion, was a no-brainer,” he wrote.

“In my opinion there is no way he took a dive, and there was no way I was going to be the person who questioned his character with the evidence I had in front of me.

“It doesn’t take much when you are [sliding in defence] to be brought down, particularly when it’s big man against little.

”The other things to note are Brooks was basically in front of the sweep runner, and had no reason to play Russian roulette as it would have been a three-on-three situation, and possibility four-on-three to the defence.

“The last damning piece is the sweep runner runs into the immediate space Brooks would have been defending in.”

The obstruction interpretation has been a constant source of frustration for players and fans this year. It intensified when the NRL admitted the referees were wrong in awarding Manly’s Kieran Foran a crucial try in the team’s win over North Queensland last Friday night.

Video referee Paul Mellor, who made the decision, was dropped for this weekend.

“To all intents and purposes it [Hopoate’s no try] is what happened in the Cowboys game, except instead of being able to make some play, Brooks was on the ground,” former halfback Dunemann wrote.

“The inside defender is denied a chance to fill his immediate space, in which the attacker continues to run to create an advantage.

“The tolerance of contact will always be different depending on what then unfolds with the play, what type of play it is, where the space is created, and where the try is scored.”

Arthur vented his frustration after the game, accusing Brooks of gamesmanship and said clubs are now confused about what constitutes obstruction.

“I don’t know what an obstruction is any more,” Arthur said.

“As coaches, we’ll start to encourage our players to take a dive.

“The rule is you’ve got to get back on the inside shoulder and that’s what Dave Gower did.”

Hayne also insisted it should have been a try.

“In the past, that’s a try,” he said.

“Let’s just keep consistent and on the same page and not change it a week, two weeks after.

“That’s what’s frustrating the most.”

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Frank Camorra’s golden oldie quince recipes

Quince curd. Photo: Marcel Aucar Quinces, when cooked with sugar and other aromatics take on a beautiful flavour and perfume. Photo: Marcel Aucar
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Quince recipes. Photo: Marcel Aucar

Baked quinces.

Baked quinces

Marmalade was originally made from quinces. In fact, the word ”marmelo” is the Portuguese word for quince. It was not until the late 18th century that oranges were used. Quinces are too tart to eat raw but when cooked with sugar and other aromatics they take on a beautiful flavour and perfume – a mix of apple and pear. For many years, the fruit was thought to be a relative of the pear. Though pears can be grown on quince rootstock, they are a separate species. Baked quinces are an incredibly easy dessert for a group of friends. The fruits cook slowly in the oven, leaving you free to entertain your guests. The spices in the syrup can be replaced with herbs; lemon verbena or rosemary work well. Finish the dish with a splash of oloroso sherry if you choose. The curd recipe is a delicious alternative to lemon curd and can be enjoyed in a similar way.Baked quinces

150g white sugar

200ml white wine

400ml water

4 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

4 black peppercorns

2 star anise

4 medium perfumed quinces

½ a lemon

4 tbsp maple syrup

Put the sugar, wine and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the cloves, cinnamon, peppercorns and star anise. Peel and halve the quinces and rub them with lemon to prevent them from browning. Lower the quinces into the sugar syrup and let them simmer until tender. They may be ready in 25 minutes or perhaps take a little longer, depending on their size and ripeness. Set the oven at 180C. When the fruit is tender to the point of a knife, lift it out and place in a shallow baking dish or roasting tin. Add the maple syrup to the cooking liquid and pour over the quinces. Bake for 30 minutes or until the fruit is very soft and tender. Serve with the cooking juices.

Serves 4Quince curd

400g quinces, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces

4 eggs

150g unrefined castor sugar

pinch salt

65ml lemon juice

75g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Place chopped quince in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water, bring to boil and cook until quinces are soft. Drain cooked quince and puree while warm to a smooth pulp. Scrape warm quince puree into a heatproof bowl, and rest bowl on a saucepan of simmering water. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. As the puree heats, whisk together eggs, sugar, salt and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Add egg mixture to puree in the double boiler and cook the mixture for about 20 minutes, or until it has thickened. Stir occasionally and do not overheat; overheated eggs could cause the curd to curdle. Once cooked, cool slightly then add the cold butter and mix until butter dissolves and curd takes on a shiny gloss. Let cool completely, then store in a clean jar in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Makes about 500 grams

Frank’s tip: To stop quinces from discolouring, keep them in water with a squeeze of lemon.

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Empire of the sands

Screen time: Al Antsey, head of Al Jazeera English, says there are stories around the world that deserve coverage but aren’t receiving any. Photo: Tom Pilston/PanosForeign correspondents generally dislike talking too much about the dangers of their job, acutely aware that when a repressive regime starts harassing internationals it’s likely doing a lot worse to its own citizens. Egypt’s latest army-backed government is no slouch at internal crackdowns, but has reserved a special ferocity for journalists, especially those from the Al Jazeera network. Some 20 of them now face trial on charges ranging from airing false news to belonging to a terrorist organisation, their “crime” being to interview members of the Muslim Brotherhood after it was outlawed on Christmas Day last year.
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Among the detained or charged is Australia’s award-winning correspondent Peter Greste, who, after two weeks, reluctantly broke the code of downplaying professional hazards with an open letter from Cairo’s Tora prison. “I have sought, until now, to fight my imprisonment quietly from within,” he wrote. “It is now clear that this is a dangerous decision.”

This singling out of the broadcaster marks a crisis point for Al Jazeera (AJ). It’s also a weird compliment, confirming its reputation for fearlessness. And it confirms how seriously Arab governments take this relatively young network, which asserts editorial independence but is seen by some as a soft power extension of its chief backer, the Qatari royal family, and its ambitions to become a major player in the region.

Given all this, it’s somewhat surprising when I’m flown by AJ to its headquarters in Doha to find those in charge in lockdown over the issue, arguing that to canvass plans to protect their people could put the detained at even greater risk. Even more surprising is that this famously contentious broadcaster, which redefined news for the Arab world – and got branded a nest of terrorists in the process – seems to run like any other Western news operation. The same banks of lights, multiple cameras and people scurrying about with clipboards. The same illuminated, oversized desk behind which a groomed presenter calmly reads the bulletin.

This is a network without a local audience but 82 bureaus around the world. Eighty-two bureaus! Who gets to do that in the modern media landscape? So the reports come in from correspondents in Brazil, Palestine, India, Sudan; a six-minute discussion about the “cleansing” of Fallujah in Iraq, then back to footage which can be raw and a bit grainy but for all that is gripping. Not a car chase or waterskiing squirrel in sight, which is Al Jazeera English boss Al Anstey’s jokey (but not entirely) definition of what doesn’t and won’t ever get covered on his network. Not because he’s particularly down on aquatic rodents but because it’s his favourite symbol of all that’s wrong with the traditional news queue. “If you want to offer something meaningful, I don’t mean boring, but what’s actually going on in the world, then don’t put a waterskiing squirrel in your bulletin,” says the British-born Anstey. “Have some integrity.”

But integrity costs. Our main subject, Al Jazeera English, launched in 2006, but branches of the AJ brand are now popping up everywhere. AJ Balkans. AJ Turk. AJ America (the jauntily-named AJAM) has been on air since last year. The network also makes documentaries, and sport and medical specials, and has a strong, growing digital presence. Yet the existence and future of this very big business rests entirely on the whim of the Emir of Qatar.

His name is His Majesty Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, latest ruler of this small and stupendously rich Gulf kingdom in a family line running back almost 150 years. It was his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, who created Al Jazeera out of the wreckage of a joint BBC-Saudi venture to broadcast to the Arabic world. When it collapsed in the mid-1990s, some 180 Arab experts were dumped jobless onto the market – and the then emir snapped them up, turning the Qatari capital of Doha into about as unlikely a home for the free-speaking Al Jazeera network as can be imagined.

For this is a place unfamiliar with either democracy or free speech. Civil liberties are restricted, organised political parties prohibited, criticism of the Emir an imprisonable offence – there’s a poet currently serving time for this crime – all of which is an uncomfortable match with one of the earliest of Al Jazeera’s many slogans, “Voice of the voiceless.” One can speculate forever what the emir was up to – he’s certainly not giving interviews – but the fact is, a considerable amount (but tiny proportion) of Qatar’s vast natural gas revenue is directed to a network employing more than 4000 staff broadcasting to 310 million households around the world. Which no one even pretends pays for itself.

How much does the Emir pour into Al Jazeera? That would be one of the subjects excluded from Al Jazeera’s promise of transparency in all matters. Al Anstey flatly refuses to reveal his annual budget except to say there is one, a very precise one, and “we’re resourced well to do exactly what we do”. It means he takes flak sometimes, like when he was in Australia last year lamenting the financial pressure driving the media world down the route of second-hand news, and someone in the audience sent a crawl across the screen, which said, “Can’t help but think easy to talk about business of journalism when you’re funded by the Qatari royal family.”

But Anstey denies any charge of smugness. “Many other outfits are funded, the BBC and ABC among them. The fact is, when you drive through the gates of this compound you go into a sort of neutral air space. Because we’re sitting here looking at the globe, the new world order. We’re not seeing it through a Western prism, or an American prism, or an Arabic prism, so in a way we’re everyone’s outsider.”

This is the Al Jazeera compound he’s talking about, base for both the English- and Arab-speaking stations, though they occupy separate buildings in Doha’s backstreets, each with its own team of guards. They’re modest, low-rise, in contrast to the city rising into the sky at breakneck speed around it, studded with the sort of glittering architecture that left me feeling like a country mouse. It’s as if there’d been a competition for out-there designs and someone decided, “Heck, let’s build them all.”

Again, it’s the money. This is the richest country in the world; per capita income is listed by the World Bank as north of $US100,000 though if you take out the migrant workers, who don’t count as Qataris – despite being 90 per cent of the 2 million population – it’s closer to $US700,000. Per person, per year. The sort of wealth that prompted luxury goods purveyor Mont Blanc to recently design a black leather falconry glove, especially for its Gulf customers.

Yet it’s Al Jazeera that has pulled the world’s eyes towards Qatar. It was an instant turn-on for Arab viewers who had never seen such a creature – until its launch, local news was basically an update on the leader’s diary, an arm of government propaganda. But the network only really hit the English-speaking world’s consciousness post-9/11, when it seemed to be everywhere, covering everything, including becoming an effective video drop-box for international outlaw Osama bin Laden. The outraged George W. Bush administration slammed the channel as an al-Qaeda stooge and purveyor of lies – and though the allegations were later disproved, the administration’s depiction of Al Jazeera as a nest of traitors took years to fade.

The issue was still bubbling when Al Jazeera English started world-wide recruiting in 2005. One-time Perth radio reporter Fauziah Ibrahim, now an AJE presenter, is one of a group of Australians I speak with who joined the network in this early phase – a kind of club within the club – and remembers her reaction when she was approached for a job. “I said, ‘Omigod, that’s a terrorist Muslim outfit.’ I’d heard about Al Jazeera, but in the most negative way.”

Shortly before, Ibrahim had resigned from business channel CNBC after a tough question to then head of BHP, Chip Goodyear – who’d just reported a whacking profit – about why he was refusing to offer or even negotiate with labourers striking for a $1 an hour pay rise.

“I got called into the office and hauled over the hot coals, and told, ‘We do not do that to BHP, to Chip Goodyear. Do you know how influential he is? If he doesn’t speak to us, he’ll go to Bloomberg, you’ve lost him.’ And that’s when I thought, ‘You know, I really don’t care. I’m much more interested in the story of the labourers.’ ”

When the AJE recruiter told her this was exactly what the network did, tell stories about real people, she was sceptical. “And he said, ‘No, believe me, they will pay you to go anywhere you want and tell the stories you want to tell.’ ” It turns out this is pretty much exactly how it happens at Al Jazeera. Another early hire was former Channel Ten journalist Hamish Macdonald. He was at Britain’s Channel 4 when Al Jazeera approached, posting him to the Asia hub in Kuala Lumpur during its start-up phase. “It was a hothouse of crazed activity, exciting but really scary,” he recalls. “We were just making it up.”

There were crazy days, agrees KL colleague Sharon Roobol, whose long CV includes a stint in Canberra with Nine Network veteran Laurie Oakes. “Cameramen and editors and producers were joining us every day. There weren’t enough desks or chairs or coffee cups. The brief was to cover global stories through voices on the ground, to look where the other networks weren’t. It felt like the future.” And Al Jazeera backed its people. Macdonald’s opening pitch was to travel to the Pacific Islands for a story about the world’s first global warming refugees. He was promptly given $US50,000 cash … and spent an unreceipted $US18,000 hiring a copra-trader’s boat to get him there. Those stories are marked 001-2-3-4 in AJE’s vaults.

“We don’t do that any more, our accounting practices are probably a bit more sophisticated now,” laughs Yoko Shimizu, ex-Channel 7, and now AJE senior producer in Doha, who runs into Macdonald, her old uni mate, at various disaster points around the globe.

“But the concept is the same, we’re allowed to splash on a really big story. For instance, every man and his dog covered the Japanese tsunami – for one, maybe two weeks. Al Jazeera maintained two teams plus myself for the whole month, then revisited every month after that. We have the resources to make sure these people will not be forgotten.” The staff multiplied, bureaus were set up in trouble spots like Tehran and Harare. There was plenty of vivid first-hand journalism and some early awards but five years passed before Al Jazeera English got its defining moment – the event that was equivalent to the Arab channel’s moment after 9/11, or to CNN’s moment during the 1991 Gulf War, which was defined by Peter Arnett’s electrifying footage of American bombs trailing phosphorescent green across the night sky of Baghdad.

AJE’s moment came during the 2011 Arab Spring: those wild, unforgettable images from Egypt’s Tahrir Square. Their team had it first, they had it best, and were still broadcasting live when president Hosni Mubarak – who’d tried everything to block transmission – unexpectedly caved in and resigned after 30 years of repression, still finagling to pass “his” empire onto his son. The mad joy which erupted as the news beamed onto makeshift screens in the square went direct – without cuts or commentary – out to the world. Right place, right time? Sure, but “we’d laid all the groundwork,” Shimizu says. “Our correspondents were there, they’d made the contacts, they were Egyptian. We’d invested time and resources into the country.”

Except what goes around comes around … Egypt’s military is now back in the saddle, with scores to settle against the broadcaster it has long accused of bias against it and in favour of the Brotherhood – reflecting Al-Thani family policy. Twenty-two Egyptian-based staffers resigned en masse last year, alleging a pro-Brotherhood editorial policy. And those with long memories recall the time an AJ anchor turned up as a guest to celebrate – and televise, live – a birthday party thrown for a Lebanese terrorist and convicted child-killer freed as part of a prisoner swap between Israel and the Lebanon-based Islamic group Hezbollah.

“In the Arab world, he was seen as a hero because he was defending the Palestinian cause,” says AJ top man, Mostefa Souag. “We didn’t know about that party. And that guy got a warning, which is our highest disciplinary measure.” As for the WikiLeaks revelation that AJ’s then boss succumbed to pressure from the American ambassador to moderate its coverage of the Iraq War – in line with government policy – Souag says: “I can assure you that nobody has ever changed the policies of this Al Jazeera. Not before and not now.”

Al Anstey is the former news director, now managing director, of Al Jazeera English. He’s quite the silver fox, ex-everywhere (imagine a less-pompous version of Jeff Daniels’ character in The Newsroom). But Anstey traces the fire in his belly to his early days at Associated Press, covering catastrophic floods in Bangladesh. Hundreds dead. Villages drowned. He waded out, camera on shoulder, and reported on the mourning and the misery, the lives shattered. “I pinged that story back to HQ – and when I checked the logs later, almost no one covered it. The lead story in London that same day was the storm that blew through northern England, injuring no one. And I thought, ‘There’s something very wrong here.’ People said, ‘Well, the floods happen every year.’ But doesn’t that make it a stronger story, that it happens every year? Doesn’t it deserve coverage?”

Twenty years later, Anstey left his job as ITN’s head of foreign news and the next day – April Fool’s Day, 2005 – arrived in Doha. He sat down with a small team and a blank sheet to decide what this new English-speaking network would be. While AJ Arabic could genuinely claim to have been a pathbreaker, the first in its field, AJE was born into a world dominated by CNN and the BBC – and, some might add, Fox. The issue was how to cut through.

Eyewitness reporting was the first key principle. Truly international. Challenge all sides. Be trustworthy. Explain at full depth. A big story at the time was the furore and riots over the Danish cartoonist who’d offended many Muslims with his drawings of the religion’s founder, Mohammed. “[This was] an extraordinarily complex story, which was being covered on the news in 25 seconds,” Anstey says. “As a viewer, I didn’t begin to understand what was going on.” So time was important, too, giving a story time.

But there’s considerable latitude in the interpretation of this principle. The exploitative treatment of migrant workers in Qatar, for instance, is a story which receives conspicuously little air-time on the channel. Like modern-day slaves – or “cattle”, as one manager in a recent Amnesty International report described his workers – they stream in from Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, working long hours for little pay, sleeping cheek-by-jowl in squalid dormitories hidden on the outskirts of the glitter city they are building. Safety and construction standards are lax, yet when a fire caused by an electrical fault ripped through one of Doha’s main malls in 2012, killing 19 people, Al Jazeera took flak for the slowness and scarcity of its coverage.

Most Al Jazeerans prefer to slide around this, agreeing only that it’s a “Very Sensitive Issue”. Fauziah Ibrahim is more forthright, insisting that while these stories do get covered in the end – even if less exhaustively – “we understand, too, that we need to tread that fine line with the Emir. We know who our paymaster is, we know we need to play by the rules, play by the game.”

I wonder, how far is too far, journalistically? “Well that’s the thing, I don’t know, because it comes from up there” – she points above our heads, the universal sign for management. “They say, ‘We’ve got to do the story, but this is how we’re going to do it and that’s that.’ ” It’s also “up there” that decides the stories that won’t be covered. “Like in 2007,” Ibrahim says, “no stories about gay marriage.” Then there are the stories that are covered, but she’s not sure the reasons why. “I’m constantly going to the program editor, ‘Why are we doing this story?’ As soon as they roll their eyes and look up at the ceiling, I go, ‘Oh, it’s from up there.’ So I try to find a different way to tell it.”

She’s only saying directly what is often whispered: that Al Jazeera serves its home country’s broader agenda and its ambition to bat above its weight in the region. Not so long ago, Qatar consisted only of desert tribes and a pearling industry. Now it’s backing rebel Islamist forces in Syria and, before that, Libya … it plays an active, even frantic diplomatic role brokering talks between feuding groups … and in eight years’ time it gets the ultimate international validation of hosting the FIFA World Cup.

Al Jazeera is no tame network. As Hillary Clinton said during her time as US secretary of state, “You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials.” But in the arcane world of Arab politics, an internationally respected news network watched by millions is also a powerful card to have in the hand. “Every government wants power,” says Souag. “A small country like Qatar, you don’t expect them to have nuclear power, they don’t need that sort of thing. They need soft power. Soft power includes media.”

While Souag is now acting director-general of the Al Jazeera media network, back in the mid-1990s he was just another unemployed expert shaking off the dust of the BBC-Arabic collapse. When word came of the emir’s plans for a network in Qatar, Souag took it as some kind of joke. “Someone coming in with no previous experience whatsoever, with no culture of freedom of the media? You could not believe this was happening, this kind of jump with no introduction. You cannot do it.”

But it happened. And if, among its nobler aims of providing serious, high-grade journalism, Al Jazeera also gives Qatar an international profile, even a form of protection, “Is there anything wrong with that? If you can create a soft power that is beneficial to the rest of the world, and beneficial to you – including you, yes, protecting you – then I believe that’s very smart.” ■

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Searching for Sonny

Heavy toll: Sonny?s grave at Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, is second from left in the front. Photo: Chris MoonOn a pilgrimage to a family war grave in the battlefields of France, Chris Moon is unprepared for what he finds.
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World War I was won and lost on the Western Front, on the battlefields of France and Belgium. Three-quarters of Australia’s total WWI losses – more than 46,000 men, five times as many as at Gallipoli – were there. Most never returned, buried near where they fell. One of those was my great-uncle Sonny.

I hadn’t heard of Sonny until an old WWI medal came my way after my grandfather’s death. All my family could tell me was that Sonny died on the Somme. The medal, awarded posthumously, shows the winged figure of Victory on one side and the intriguing words “The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919” on the other.

After some searching, I found an old envelope with Sonny’s Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaque, but most poignant of all was the receipt, signed by his distraught mother, for the parcel containing his “personal effects received from the field: 1 purse, German coins, 1 mark note, 1 wallet, photos, cards, odd papers, 1 religious book, 1 tie pin”.

I wanted to know more about this mysterious ancestor. Millions of Australians can trace a family link to a digger who died on the Western Front. Sonny’s is just one small story – but he’s family. I feel we owe it to him to tell his story.

The Battle of Amiens started on August 8, 1918, and Sonny was killed three days later, aged 20. He is buried at Heath Cemetery, Harbonnieres, France.

With no one now alive who knew Sonny, this is all the information left about this young man who gave his life for king and country.

I decide to travel to Amiens, to trace his final days and pay my family’s respects at his grave.

The website of the Australian War Memorial (AWM)contains Sonny’s war record: born in 1898 in Sandringham, Victoria; enlisted on April 16, 1917; five feet six inches tall, 141 pounds, with a fresh complexion. He embarked, as a private in 1Machine Gun Company, for the war from Melbourne on HMATA60Aeneas on October 30, 1917, and fought with the 20th Battalion (infantry). On August 3, 1918, he was made lance-corporal.

Amiens is a small, unhurried city in Picardie, northern France. I immediately feel comfortable here.

Australians, especially battlefield tourists, are welcome.

After checking in to the Hotel Central Anzac, I visit the cathedral, which contains a tribute to the Australians who fell in defence of Amiens, then cross the river to lunch at one of the restaurants that line the opposite bank. With a shock, I realise this is the Somme, a river with the most painful memories for Australians.

I enlist Barbara Legrand, of True Blue Digger Tours, to take us to Pozieres, then Bullecourt on the Hindenburg Line, where 10,000 diggers died in 1917, breaching this impregnable line without artillery or tank support, only to have to cede it because of poor leadership.

Barbara is scathing of the Allies’ tactics, except for the Australians, whose practicality, adaptability and bare courage eventually won the war on the Western Front, especially after our own general, Sir John Monash, arrived and changed tactics.

We visit war cemeteries – there are 657 (596 with Australians) in northern France, and 422 in the Somme area alone. All are immaculately maintained.

Braving icy winds, we stand in the battlefields and learn how the action unfolded.

There was little cover for advancing infantry, who were mown down in their hundreds by artillery shells and machine guns.

It was the farmers who cleaned up afterwards. The first half metre of soil is clean, but modern ploughs go deeper. Today, farmers around Bullecourt are still dragging up unexploded shells and mortar bombs, which they stack by the roadside for bomb disposal teams.

In the late afternoon, we arrive at the scene of Sonny’s last day.

I have with me an account of the course of the Battle of Amiens covering this day, from The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, from the AWM’s website.

Chapter 15 recounts the activities of the 20th Battalion.

Where was Sonny in this account? Was he the ‘‘machinegun officer who established his guns on the left near the Proyart- Rainecourt road under Lieutenant Richardson, of Captain Cameron’s company?’’ Or was he part of the right company, Lieutenant Oliver’s, which ‘‘passed easily through Rainecourt, firing from the hip at German advanced groups, and dived into the valley’’.

Rainecourt was to have been mopped up by the second-line company, Captain Moore’s, but, before he could pass the order to his officers, Moore was gassed and Lieutenant Sharp, taking command and having no orders, went on after the left company [Cameron’s].’’ I will never know exactly, but I have enough information to know that I’m looking over the fields and village where Sonny died.

Sonny’s wasn’t the more usual story of trench warfare on the Somme. He was winning this fight.

The Germans were turned around in this series of battles and, if he had not been killed that day, the odds are he would have returned home a conquering hero.

I imagine the guns, smoke, shouting, terror and the elation when a strategic point is taken, and I imagine the despair of Alice, the mother who withheld approval of her son’s enlistment until his badgering forced her hand, and who subsequently received the unthinkable news: ‘‘Killed in action.’’ Finally, we reach Heath Cemetery at Harbonnieres. From the register book, I locate Sonny’s grave. There, with the barest of details of who he was, are the words, chosen by the family, ‘‘So dearly loved, so deeply mourned’’.

I had crossed the globe for this, but am not at all prepared. How, exactly, does one ‘‘pay respects’’?

I need a ritual of some kind, something to leave at his graveside, a poppy perhaps.

I take photos: of the gravestone, the cemetery, the countryside, myself. It requires more.

Finally I mumble, ‘‘G’day, mate’’, then, haltingly, with tears, I tell him who I am, of the things he missed, how his sister’s life (my grandmother) unfolded, her marriage and children. I tell him how grateful everyone is, and how the war ended with ‘‘civilisation’’ victorious. And I tell him that his grave is on land protected in perpetuity by a grateful French nation, so the world will never forget. And I salute.

In the visitors’ book, I write, ‘‘Vale, Sonny. R.I.P.’’

The writer travelled at his expense.



Trains to Amiens leave daily from Paris’s Gare du Nord, a 70-minute journey. See raileurope南京夜网.au. The Mercure Amiens Cathedrale is opposite Amiens’ World Heritage-listed cathedral. Rooms from $160 a night. See mercure南京夜网.


True Blue Digger Tours hosts day-long Somme tours from €120 ($180) a person. See trueblue-diggertours南京夜网. APT has a 19-day Paris and Somme Battlefields with Magnificent Europe cruise; it includes visits to Amiens for Somme battlefields, the Musee Franco-Australien and the National Australian Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux, Fromelles, and Bullecourt. See aptouring南京夜网.au.


The National Australian War Memorial, Villers-Bretonneux, near Amiens. See ww1westernfront.gov.au/villers-bretonneux.

The Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front – 12 WWI sites along the Western Front allowing visitors to interpret the Australian experience of war. See ww1westernfront.gov.au.


awm.gov.au; ww1westernfront.gov.au.

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They shall grow not old

As the Gallipoli landing centenary nears, Ruth Pollard reflects on the Anzac dawn service.
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For a site that has seen such horror, the Gallipoli peninsula is a silent, beautiful place. The pale blue Aegean Sea seems to stretch in a single, glassy sheet from land to horizon. Behind you, the plateau that was unforgiving in war is now a towering green backdrop to the rows of modest, meticulously tended gravestones at Beach Cemetery.

The Gallipoli Campaign took place on the peninsula between April 25, 1915, and January 9, 1916.

Next year, thousands of Australians will be on the peninsula on Anzac Day to take part in 100th anniversary events.

Whether you are family of a Gallipoli veteran, an amateur war historian or a life-long pacifist it is difficult to walk on ground here and not be overwhelmed.

The landscape forces you to confront the horrific, months-long battle in which thousands of Australian, New Zealand, British, Indian and Turkish soldiers died and so many families were left in anguish and grief.

And as you stand in the quiet beauty of north-western Turkey it is impossible to forget that just across the border in Syria, another war of unspeakable violence is being fought with no hope of an end. More dead soldiers, more wounded veterans and more families torn apart.

A walk between the small rows of headstones on the Gallipoli peninsula will make you smile and cry all at once – heartfelt, eloquent inscriptions are balanced with that unique Australian gift for understatement.

My favourite reads simply: “Well done, Ted.”

For independent travellers, an excellent base for the Anzac Day dawn service is the small, waterfront town of Eceabat. It is a 20-minute drive from Gallipoli and you’ll meet many others making the same journey out to the peninsula.

Forget what you have heard about drunken revelry taking place among the gravestones of veterans – the Anzac dawn ceremony is sober, respectful and well organised. Alcohol is forbidden and bags are checked thoroughly.

The evening passes with surprising speed. The backpackers – most seem to be Australians and New Zealanders on a gap year in London – are well-behaved, respectful and snuggled tight in their sleeping bags on the lawn in front of the bleachers.

Then, in the last hour before dawn, something extraordinary happens. Most of us, old and young, are awake and standing, watching the horizon for the first signs of light. A hush descends and I am amazed to look around at the crowd; upright and heads bowed together in silence. As the ink-black sky turned to dark blue and the first call of the Last Post cut through the morning air… it is a moment I will remember forever.

By 8am it is baking hot and time to make your way up to the Lone Pine memorial – a three-kilometre walk along a steep path that will be a challenge for some. It is here that the modest cream gravestones give identity to some of the fallen.

Some 8709 Australians died in the failed push to control the strategic Turkish seaways, along with 2707 New Zealanders, about 21,000 British and 1358 Indians.

Up to 86,000 Turkish soldiers also died in the campaign – an extraordinary number of fatalities from Turkey’s then vast but crumbling Ottoman empire.

Many who visit Gallipoli will be moved by the words of the Turkish commander at Gallipoli, founder of the modern secular Turkish republic and its first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. In 1934 he wrote a tribute to Anzacs who died at Gallipoli that is memorialised on a plaque on the peninsula.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives … You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country,” Ataturk wrote.

“Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side-by-side now here in this country of ours … you, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.”

Ruth Pollard is Fairfax Media’s Middle East correspondent.Five Gallipoli 2015 pilgrimage tours


Two Gallipoli centenary tours, which include five nights’ accommodation at Gallipoli, offer historian guides.

For those unsuccessful in the Federal Government’s dawn service ballot, the tour will broadcast the official service at a key historic site at Gallipoli on April 25, and afterwards its own service will be held.

See gallipolitour2015南京夜网.au.


APT’s Gallipoli 2015 luxury small ship Mediterranean cruise will take in Greece, Turkey, Montenegro, Croatia and Italy over 17, 23 or 31 days.

The ship will be anchored in Anzac Cove for the morning service. Those successful in the ballot will be taken over to the dawn service. Three hours later everyone will be able to walk around the site of the service.

See aptouring南京夜网.au.


Insight Vacations’ 11-day Anzac Day and the Splendours of Turkey tour, includes sightseeing tours in Istanbul, Gallipoli, Athens and Troy. See insightvacations南京夜网.


The 31-night Gallipoli Remembered tour of the Mediterranean, on board 450-person Saga Sapphire, is limited to the over-50s. The three Australian historians on board will lecture on the history of each port of call. See battlefieldmemorialtravel南京夜网.au.


Being the official travel agent to the Australian War Memorial, Boronia Travel Centre has access to some of the industry’s most experienced battlefield historians and guides on their 12-day battlefield tour. See boroniabattlefieldtours南京夜网.au.

Nina Karnikowski

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Deals of the week: Ayers and graces

Home and away: go glamping at Uluru. Take a trip through Austria’s winter wonderland.
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Peppers Sentosa Seminyak.


Stay at Longitude 131° Uluru-Kata Tjuta for three nights and save $950 a couple through a deal just released by Baillie Lodges.

The three-night “glamping” experience includes accommodation in Longitude’s beautifully appointed detached villas, each with amazing views of Uluru and surrounded by wilderness, a 15-minute scenic helicopter ride, guided excursions, all dining, premium beverages, in-suite bar and airport transfers.

From $2970 a person twin share. Valid for travel May 1 – September 30. Phone (02) 9918 4355. See baillielodges南京夜网.au.


Royal Caribbean has specials going on various cruises, including a New Zealand journey on Voyager of the Seas. The mega-liner will be fresh from a refurb when she departs Sydney December 9 for the 11-night cruise that stops in Auckland, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington and Picton, plus five days at sea.

The cruise costs from $1369 a person. Phone 1800 754 500. See royalcaribbean南京夜网.au.


Peppers Retreats & Resorts has added Bali to its portfolio. The sleek Peppers Sentosa Seminyak comprises 49 three-, four- and five-bedroom luxury villas, each with private swimming pools.

Available now is an opening special that saves about 20 per cent on usual rates. Pay $US699 a night in for a three-bedroom royal pool villa or from $US919 a night for a four-bedroom presidential pool villa. The offer includes breakfast and Wi-Fi.

Valid for booking until June 30 and valid for travel until December 23. See peppers南京夜网.au/seminyak.


Avalon Waterways is adding two new ships and new itineraries in 2015. Early bird bookings across a range of European river cruises attract savings of $1000 each couple.

A new itinerary is the 16-day Rhine & Rhone Revealed, which combines a cruise on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel with a cruise through France on the Rhone from Beaune to the Cote d’Azur. With the discount it costs $8290 a person twin share. Phone 1300 230 234. See avalonwaterways南京夜网.au.


The Pullman Quay Grand in Sydney has a “Vivid Stay and Play” package, for stays during the Vivid festival. Kids under 12 can eat free in Q Dining and ECQ Bar, as an adjunct to the package that includes overnight accommodation in a harbour view suite, a three-course dinner for two in Pullman Quay Grand’s newly revamped restaurant Q Dining plus a bottle of Taittinger champagne.

It costs from $599 a night and is valid for stays May 23 to June 9. Phone (02) 9256 4000. See pullmanquaygrandsydneyharbour南京夜网.


There’s an early bird discount on Back-Roads’ nine-day Austria: A Winter Wonderland trip. The tour begins in Munich and explores the Tyrol region as well as Cesky Krumlov before finishing in Vienna taking in Christmas markets along the way. The trip includes eight nights’ accommodation, coaches, four evening meals, a beer tasting and entrance fees. Departures are November 30, and December 7, 14 and 21.

Receive $204 off when booking and paying in full by May 31 – the price is $3881 a person twin share. Phone 1300 100 410. See backroadstouring南京夜网.


Creative Holidays is offering a 20 per cent discount on stays in Disneyland California hotels.

Under the deal, stay four nights at the 3.5 star Disney seaside-themed Paradise Pier Hotel in a standard view room for $796 a person, twin share. The price includes a Disney “2-Day 1-Park Per Day Ticket”.

Valid for sale until May 31 and for travel August 24 to September 18. Phone 1300 301 711. See creativeholidays南京夜网.

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Traveller Letters: Travelling solo

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The cover story about solo travellers (Traveller, April 12) was full of great suggestions. I wanted, however, to reiterate a point made in The Tripologist a few weeks back. It may help some solo travellers, especially women, to be reminded that small group tours are often a perfect way to travel solo. Those such as Intrepid offer tours with groups consisting of as few as nine people; usually a solo female traveller or two among them If you are worried about having to share a room with a stranger, there’s always the singles supplement – money well spent in the lottery of snorers, chronic late-night phone users, insomniacs and people with irritable bowels and moods. Being a solo traveller in such a small group tour makes for exciting and adventurous travel without the danger and uncertainty.

-Margot Pope

Bless you, Ute Junker for presenting so many good tips about travelling alone. Having poured through pages of ads for glorious-sounding trips for “x” amount of dollars per person, followed by those words – “twin share”, it was refreshing to read about the many positive things for doing it solo. As a single female wannabe adventurer of a certain age, I appreciated the way Junker succinctly covered many of the more daunting aspects of seeing the world alone: selecting destinations, planning, potential hassles and the big one, dining alone. It has inspired me to rethink my future travel plans with renewed optimism.

-Rosemary Rule


Tatyana Leonov’s article on traditional Taiwanese dishes, (Traveller, April 12) gave me a tantalising reason to return to Taiwan. Taiwan is a well-kept secret and one I would recommend for the independent traveller. In Taiwan all signs and announcements are in English. It’s also very clean, easily navigable by public transport and offers a wide range of activities for all ages. Taiwanese are polite, friendly and helpful, the shopping is great and the museums are world class though someone should visit to write about its wonderful scenery.

-Penelope Fox


I was stunned to read in Luxe Nomad (Traveller, April 12-13) that Lee Tulloch did not ask Catherine Deneuve to stop “chain smoking” during a meal on the launch of SS Deneuve. Tulloch gets no support from this reader regardless of her being a guest of Uniworld. It was a surprise to hear that Deneuve seemed oblivious to other passengers’ rights. Luxe Nomad is normally a well-presented and lively column but this was an exception.

-Nick Hallebone


Although often advised by travel agents of the potential problems associated with the use of free credit card travel insurance, I’m delighted to report such concerns are not always accurate. Three weeks before our expensive tour of South America my husband suffered a stroke which required the cancellation of our booking. The tour operator, Bunnik, repaid 25 per cent of the deposit and Zurich, the underwriters for our Commonwealth Gold MasterCard, compensated us for the remaining 75 per cent, apart from a $250 excess.

-Pamela Bell

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Weekend Away: Villa Howden, Tasmania

Villa Howden’s warm interior. Villa Howden, Tasmania.
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Anthony Dennis finds a touch of provincial France at Villa Howden near Hobart.


Joseph-Antoine Raymond Bruny D’Entrecasteaux would be proud, perhaps even a little nonplussed. It’s more than 200 years since he explored Van Diemen’s Land, and sitting there, not so far from the channel that now bears the French navigator’s surname, is a little palatial piece of faux France, right down to the antique shutters dating to the 18th century (the one in which D’Entrecasteaux himself was born) on the windows. Everything else here at Villa Howden, nestled on the banks of North West Bay, part of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, just 15 minutes’ drive south from central Hobart, is pretend provincial France, and a pretty good impersonation it does, too.


There are 10 suites, ranging in size from nearly 32 square metres to more than 54 metres, all with the same features but each with their own distinctive style. In keeping with the Gallic air there’s a croquet and petanque court, as well as a separate all-year-round saltwater swimming pool – sensible, since Tassie’s summers can be as fleeting as a French president’s marriage. The light-filled public spaces of Villa Howden, which began life as a residential folly in the 1970s, could, to some, feel just a tad cold and artificial, but the overall effect is persuasive, with the Gallic theme thankfully restrained.


The rooms (sorry, suites) feature all of the accoutrements of a luxury small hotel, such as an always-welcome espresso machine, as well as an iPod dock, flat-screen television, bath robes and slippers, and a soft mini-bar included in the room tariff. But our favourite feature is those antique shutters that make us feel, at least momentarily, that we really could be in France, rather than on the semi-rural outskirts of a comparatively prosaic Hobart. On a twee note, the “do not disturb” sign is actually a teddy bear that you are encouraged to leave outside to “guard” your suite should you wish not to be bothered.


The suites, some with water views and Juliet balconies, are spacious and comfortable. And, really, with so much to do in this stunning corner of the world, you needn’t linger in them too long. There are a number of private guest areas, including a guest library, a piano lounge, a sunroom, a terrace and a deck that overlooks the bay.


The 48-seat restaurant, in the space where the indoor pool used to be located, is surprisingly good. It’s certainly worth securing a table during your stay instead of heading into town. The menu features confidently prepared dishes using a range of fine local Tasmanian ingredients. At weekends Villa Howden buzzes with outside visitors attracted to the high-teas in the restaurant. Devonshire teas are served Monday to Friday, as well as charcuterie boards, mezze platters and cheese boards.


Hobart and its restaurants, cafes, bars, galleries and museums are just 15 minutes’ drive along the Southern Outlet motorway. And Villa Howden is perfectly placed for a drive down to the seaside town of Kettering, the departure point for the 20-minute vehicle ferry across to Bruny Island, a gourmet and natural wonderland.


Villa Howden’s a lovely, if not inexpensive, alternative to staying in central Hobart. It’s a retreat far enough from the city to feel like you’re in the countryside, but close enough to enjoy the myriad delights of the Tasmanian capital and its surrounds.


From Hobart Airport, take the Tasman Highway/A3 to the city heading over the Tasman Bridge and into the CBD. Continue straight onto Davey Street/A6, taking a slight left onto the A6 signposted towards Kingston/Huonville. Follow the A6 by taking the right-hand lane. At the roundabout take the fourth and last exit onto the Channel Highway/B68. Turn left on to the Howden Road just after the North West Bay Golf Course. Villa Howden is 800 metres on your right.


Villa Howden, 77 Howden Road, Howden, Tasmania. Suites start from $345 a night, including breakfast for two, soft mini-bar and Wi-Fi. Check the website for accommodation packages. Phone 03 6267 1161, see villahowden南京夜网.au.

The writer stayed as a guest of Tourism Tasmania and Villa Howden.

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Riding the new wave

Open-air lifestyle: Komune Resort is modelled on a Balinese village. Fantasy ride.
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Accommodation is spacious.

Alfresco dining.

First resort: surf’s up at Komune.

Craig Tansley uncovers the future of surf resorts in Indonesia.

‘Surfers morphed into their 30s, their 40s . . . their 50s; they got good jobs, they got married, they had families,” Tony Cannon speaks slowly between sips on the fanciest, fluffiest latte he’ll drink this side of Seminyak.

“But then we can’t stay grungy 20-year-olds all our lives, can we?” He grins and surveys all around him: the bouncy green turf under us that ends abruptly on an empty black-sand beach; the horizon swimming pool that looks out across one of the world’s best surf reef breaks (Keramas); an open-plan bar and restaurant where surfers eat breakfast as they check their morning emails.

In the distance, Bali’s highest peak, the active volcano Gunung Agung, is stencilled against a heat-hazed horizon, while soothing electronic music seems to ooze out of the coconut trees on all sides.

An enormous monitor lizard creeps across the narrow bridge leading back to my room, advancing slowly to hide in the choko vines beside the dirt path. Surfers stroll from the line-up, leaving black sandy footprints on the green grass; they wash off the salt and the sand in outdoor showers lined with volcanic rock, swim a lap or two of the pool and order fresh-squeezed fruit juices and coffees from the bar.

And out in front, barely 200 metres away – with a regularity that would border on monotonous if it wasn’t the stuff of every surfer’s fantasy – the kind of waves I sketched as a bored adolescent on my high school exercise books break identically … perfectly … across an Indonesian reef.

Komune Resort, the brainchild of a group of Gold Coast businessmen/surfers including Tony Cannon and former pro surfing champion Luke Egan, marks a radical departure from the blueprint of the typical Indonesian surf camp. As Australian surfers forged pathways into Indonesia from the early 1970s, the entrepreneurs among them established surf camps all up and down the Indonesian archipelago.

These were simple affairs, frequented primarily by groups of male surfers seeking one thing and one thing only … the perfect wave; partners and families were mostly left at home lest they spoil the search.

Till now, that is.

“Every time I’d come to Indonesia I’d either be stuck in some big hotel in Seminyak or Kuta dreaming of surfing perfect waves,” Cannon says.

“Or my wife would be stuck in the middle of nowhere, with nothing to do while I surfed all day. That’s why we started up Komune.”

Komune Resort is a rare thing indeed – a genuine family surf resort, entirely devoid of the testosterone-charged atmosphere that too often characterises (and taints) surf travel; and though it may feel like it, Komune Resort is not on a far-flung island of the Indonesian archipelago.

Instead, it’s conveniently located 45 minutes from Bali’s international airport; and the same distance again from tourist favourites Seminyak, Kuta and Legian. Oddly, few Australians venture in this easterly direction.

In fact, this region of Bali was virtually unknown just two years ago before they built the tollway north-east past Bali’s international airport. Even with the fancy new road, Cannon says you still have to create your own paths round here.

“You’ve still got to trail-blaze around these parts,” he says.

“This whole east coast of Bali is littered with unknown surf breaks, with amazing beaches, with pristine spots; you can’t even see them on a map, you just have to turn off and have a bit of hope and see for yourself. You can find anything you want to do around here, it’s uncharted.”

While tourist drawcards like Ubud and Sanur are just 20 minutes’ drive away, offering non-surfers near-limitless shopping and activity options, Komune Resort’s location on Bali’s east coast offers the opportunity for guests to explore far, far beyond where the tour buses venture. I book a driver through the activities desk and soon leave the highway behind as we travel north-east towards Bali’s most easterly tip.

We drive along a narrow road that cuts through rainforest and a series of hairpin corners where locals bathe in slow-flowing rivers and fruit vendors peddle their wares – durian, mangos, bananas – inches from the roadway.

There’s nothing here but tiny villages where the smell of frangipani and overripe mango pervades, while vines from fig trees hang down onto our bonnet and 1500-metre-high mountain ranges peek through the foliage.

Schoolchildren wait for buses beside the road, dressed in white like tiny sailors, while their parents toil in rice paddy fields. The only signs for Westerners I see are for yoga retreats somewhere high up in the mountains.

We arrive finally in the tiny seaside village of Amed and negotiate a charter price with an old man to take his jukung (boat) for a sightseeing cruise along the coast. We motor through the waves, passing an empty coastline created by ancient lava flows that have left an intricate pattern of terraced cliffs and misty, green escarpments that drop into deserted bays and tiny valleys.

A pod of 20 or so dolphins join us as we pass pearling farms.

When the sea gets rough, our driver holds on hard to his wooden tiller, grinning till his eyes disappear entirely as each wave hits us. We make it to a smooth, pebbled beach near the town of Tulamben, and rent a mask and snorkel. Just 50 metres from the beach, US cargo ship Liberty, which sank during World War II, sits in just a few metres of water. I swim over it and see the stern of the ship rearing up, encrusted with coral and patrolled by fish, and hold my breath to swim through its chambers.

There are few other visitors and exploring here still feels wild … unrestrained, uncharted and, importantly, about as far from the crowds at Kuta and Legian as I could possibly imagine.

The following day a driver takes me 45 minutes away to the Sidemen region north of Ubud – the epitome of rural Bali with its flooded paddy fields ploughed by teams of water buffalo. I can’t see any tourists here either; instead I sit under a mango tree by myself and watch locals dry rice on sheets of cloth under the baking midday sun, and walk through quiet villages that descend hundreds of metres into dark valleys. I stumble upon an empty restaurant here at the end of a quiet road; it’s so steep we’re forced to leave the car behind and go on foot. White birds fly above us in this peaceful valley as I eat traditional Bakso soup and bask in the absolute silence of a Bali lost in a time warp.

After each excursion further and further into east Bali, I find myself longing to return to the homeliness of Komune Resort.

Modelled on a traditional Balinese village, Komune Resort is built within a large beach-side compound, providing an instant feeling of community. Between its suites and its restaurant/bar lies a large organic fruit and vegetable garden that provides produce for the kitchen.

It also has its very own Joglo where massages and beauty treatments are offered day and night, most for less than $20.

Right next door locals congregate to bathe and pray where the river meets the ocean – a sacred site for Hindus. At night security guards leave out tiny bundles of candy and cut flowers as offerings to the many spirits who they say occupy the resort.

On my return each evening – after I surf in the last remnants of daylight while apricot-coloured clouds swirl around the outline of Gunung Agung – I sit with families and couples at the bar watching the last rays of the sunset, waiting till the floodlights turn on above us and local surf stars take to the line-up at night (you can also book your own private night surf sessions).

There’s movies on the lawn to keep families satisfied, and DJs play some nights under the coconut trees for those seeking a party, but most surfers seem to prefer to do not much but listen to the sound of the waves relentlessly breaking across the reef in front, retiring early to bed each evening in the hope they’ll be the first out to surf them at dawn.

The writer travelled courtesy of Komune Resort.



Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Garuda offer daily non-stop flights to Bali.

It is a 6hr 30min flight from Sydney and 6hr 15min from Melbourne. Garuda is about $720 from Sydney and $689 from Melbourne including tax. Fares on Jetstar start at $445 return from Sydney including tax and $400 from Melbourne. See jetstar南京夜网.au, virginaustralia南京夜网.au or garuda-indonesia南京夜网.

Australians obtain a visa upon arrival for a stay of up to 30 days. Komune can organise an airport transfer.


Komune Resort offers guest rooms with queen beds or two single beds for $US150 ($160) a night. It also offers free wireless internet, a beach bar and restaurant, night surfing, massages and beauty treatments, day tours, free yoga twice daily and other activities. Komune is opening a new health hub in October offering a day spa, fitness centre, yoga pavilion, 25-metre training pool, kids club and new suites and premium rooms. New luxury beachfront villas will also be opening in 2015.



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Caribbean dream

Beach at Cabo San Juan Guia. Photo: Andrew Bain Kogi village. Photo: Andrew Bain
Nanjing Night Net

Hiking through Tayrona National Park. Photo: Andrew Bain

Directions to Pueblito. Photo: Andrew Bain

From its mountains to beaches, this corner of Colombia offers plenty, writes Andrew Bain.

Not all lost cities in the South American mountains are at Machu Picchu. High in the northern reaches of Colombia, in the coastal Sierra Nevada range, a pair of lost cities lies hidden in dark jungle. Around them, monkeys scamper through the canopy, hummingbirds hover beside flowers, and poison frogs hop about the undergrowth. It’s one of the most evocative mountain wildernesses in South America.

The Sierra Nevada is the world’s highest coastal mountain range, rising to more than 5700 metres above sea level. A great portion of it is protected by Tayrona National Park, considered by many to be Colombia’s finest national park.

People come mostly for its beaches – locals proudly and regularly tell you that these Caribbean beaches were once rated the second most beautiful in the world – but it’s in the mountains behind the beaches that the haunting remains of two lost cities, Ciudad Perdida and Pueblito, furnish the jungle.

Hardy travellers come to trek to Ciudad Perdida, an ancient city rediscovered by a treasure hunter in 1875. The trek is a journey of around five days on foot, wading across the Buritaca River seven times and sleeping and eating in basic conditions in indigenous villages.

Pueblito yields more easily and can be reached on a day hike that also takes in a number of the beaches. From Santa Marta, which is claimed as South America’s oldest city, it’s a short drive to the roadside village of Cabalazo, where I begin walking. Jungle teems down the mountain slopes, and inside this snarl of growth it feels almost as though you could lose a city in a week.

I start walking at 7am and already it’s 35 degrees and I can just about drink the humidity in the air. There’s not a puff of breeze and, as the trail begins steeply, I’m soon a human cascade of sweat. It’s almost impossible to believe there are snowy peaks nearby.

Tayrona National Park is, by any measure, a remarkable piece of geography. Though covering just 30 square kilometres, it stretches from ocean to high mountain tops, rising through four ecosystems.

Stand at one point near Canaveral on its sweltering Caribbean coast and you can see the snowcap on Pico Cristobal Colon, Colombia’s highest mountain, less than 70 kilometres inland.

About 300 species of bird have been recorded in the park, along with more than 100 mammals and 1000 plants. As I climb towards Pueblito, butterflies dance about the trail, and a tiny frog hops away.

An entire playlist of birdsong rings out from the canopy.

It’s little more than a five-kilometre walk to Pueblito and, midway, the trail passes beside a “village” inhabited by Kogi tribespeople. The Kogi are one of four tribes descended from the Tayrona people, who inhabited the region in Pre-Columbian times.

It was the Tayrona who built and lived at Ciudad Perdida and Pueblito, and even today Kogi shamans still come to Pueblito to perform religious ceremonies.

In the village, eight people inhabit a single hut and customs remain traditional (except for the drinks and handmade souvenirs they sell to hikers). A cooking fire burns in the dirt, the most basic of traditional dress is worn, and a young girl hacks with cough.

“You should get her to a doctor or hospital,” my guide, Diva, tells the villagers.

“We don’t know what they’d do to her,” one of the men replies, suspicious of the outside world.

Beyond the Kogi village, we come to a fork in the trail, turning right for Pueblito as the jungle somehow thickens. Tree roots grope like fingers in the ground, and vines drape dozens of metres to the ground. The calls of howler monkeys – an eerie noise like a storm wind – roll across the mountains and, in the distance, the canopy of a tall tree shakes and the silhouette of a capuchin monkey rises up a branch.

Along this track, the jungle briefly opens and there is Pueblito, first a burial site for Tayrona ancestors, and then the scant remnants of the city itself.

The settlement dates back to around AD450 and was inhabited until about 1600. At its peak, it was home to around 2000 people and 250 houses. Today, no houses remain except for one reconstructed hut.

What does remain are a series of rock-ringed terraces – one terrace for each house – stepped into the jungle, which continues to steam and howl. Visually, it’s no Machu Picchu, but the setting is as evocative as an Indiana Jones movie.

From Pueblito, the way down to the coast – I’m dreaming of the unseen beaches already – is over large boulders almost the entire way. As I scramble down, a yellow-striped poison frog scampers to safety up a boulder, though what it has to fear from us is uncertain – it’s the one packing the poison.

Slowly the coast draws near, first in sight then in sound, until finally we’re walking through a grove of coconut palms and out onto sand at Cabo San Juan Guia, a glimmering, wishbone-shaped beach. Suddenly all this talk of world’s best beaches doesn’t seem so far-fetched.

Cabo San Juan Guia is place of deep tans and deep water. Bodies sprawl on the sand, and the sea is the Caribbean colour of legend.

Palm trees arch over the beach and black vultures look down from their tops, perhaps sensing that someone here might expire in the heat. From Cabo San Juan Guia, the walk is a beach hop north to the road end at Canaveral.

Crossing boulder-stacked headlands to a run of perfectly shaped beaches, it’s like hiking from one postcard to another.

The further north the trail goes, the more brutal the coast becomes.

By the time it reaches Arrecifes, about an hour’s walk from Cabo San Juan Guia, the sea is inevitably storming ashore. Signs warn that swimming on this beach is forbidden because of an undertow that’s drowned more than 100 people. At the back of the beach, other signs warn visitors not to approach the edge of a lagoon because of the presence of caimans (crocodiles). Strolling the narrow strip of beach in between is like a tightrope walk between dangers.

But there are no such issues back in the protected cove at Cabo San Juan Guia, the most beautiful of Tayrona’s beaches. I float on my back, looking up into the mountains. Jungle stretches as far as I can see. Somewhere inside it is Pueblito, but already, in this bathtub-warm sea, it feels lost again.

The writer travelled courtesy of the South America Travel Centre.



LAN Airlines operates six flights a week from Sydney to Santiago, Chile, via Auckland, with onward connections to Bogota, Colombia, and beyond to Santa Marta, the gateway to Tayrona National Park; see lan南京夜网; phone 1800 558 129.


Inside the park, there is high-end accommodation at Ecohabs, where the cabins are styled like indigenous Tayrona huts. There are also campgrounds strung behind the beaches. In Santa Marta, boutique hotel Don Pepe, a few steps in from the foreshore, is highly recommended, with its stylish colonial rooms wrapped around a small swimming pool.

See ecohabsantamarta南京夜网/ecohabs-tayrona and hotelboutiquedonpepe南京夜网.


South America Travel Centre organises tailormade trips to Colombia. Accommodation can be arranged in Santa Marta or inside the national park; see southamericatravelcentre南京夜网.au.

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Herding cats

A leopard peers around a rock. Wild side: looking for a leopard on an afternoon game drive. Photo: Michael Gebicki
Nanjing Night Net

Rabari herders. Photo: Michael Gebicki

The Jawai communal tents. Photo: Michael Gebicki

Accommodation at the Jawai Leopard Camp.

In southern Rajasthan, man and beast enjoy a rare co-existence, writes Michael Gebicki.

With the instinct of a starlet, the leopard has chosen one of the few spots in the rock face that are being spotlit by the early morning sun. It is the male, one of several leopards that inhabit this particular rock dome, my guide, Adam Bannister, says.

It is lying on its front, handsome and sleepy-eyed, and relishing the warmth after the cool night, with the supreme confidence of a predator at the pointy end of the food pyramid. We are close enough to make out the bees buzzing from the three hives anchored to the roof of the indentation where the leopard is lying, yet he does not even turn his head in our direction.

Nor is he looking at the Rabari shepherd driving his goats through the kardhai scrub little more than 100 metres away, and certainly not the pair of camels grazing on the trees behind with delicate lips. Nor does he turn his head even when the braying of a multi-tone bus horn – “do-re-me-fa”, dropping suddenly when it gets to “so” – sounds from Highway 62, running less than half a kilometre away.

All this – grazing animals, shepherds, vehicles – are just part of the background noise to the leopards that live in this southern region of India’s Rajasthan, about midway between the cities of Jodhpur and Udaipur. Apart from the vehicles and we foreigners, it has been this way for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands.

Around us is a bleached, bone-coloured plain bisected by lumpy granite outcrops similar to the one where the leopard is sitting.

These are the southern eruptions of the Aravalli range, folded mountains that were formed from the collision of tectonic plates. Eons of wind and rain, hot days and cool nights have resulted in a process known as onion-skin weathering, leaving a loose outer layer that peels away in slabs. That weathering has ground these mountains into stumps and left them pitted with caves and crevices that make this an ideal leopard habitat.

According to Bannister, perhaps 100 of the spotted cats live in the hills that stretch to the horizon, about 30 of them within reach of the game drives that take place daily from Jawai Leopard Camp.

Opened at the end of 2013, the camp is part of the Sujan Luxury collection, established by Jaisal and Anjali Singh. The brothers cut their teeth in the safari business with Sher Bagh in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan’s east, one of the best places to see tigers.

While Ranthambore is an exclusive tiger preserve, the aim at Jawai is to offer visitors an intimate and exclusive window on the remarkable interaction between herders, cultivators and leopards that exists here.

Most tented safari camps make a stab at camouflage, but not so Jawai. Spread across a generous area of tawny grassland, the eight cream-coloured tents sit on elevated slate platforms covered with soft reed matting. Black poles provide the vertical supports.

Apart from the plush sofas and lounges, chairs are chrome and black leather. There is a nod to nostalgia in the articulated desk lamps and the big metal steamer trunks, and an echo of local culture in the splashy red cushions.

Bathrooms are big and smartly tailored and equipped with double sinks and rain showers.

The centrepiece of the camp is a dining pavilion open on three sides and an adjacent bar/lounge/library with a swimming pool on one side, possibly the ultimate indulgence in these parched surroundings.

Beyond the wall of sticks and cactus that defines the camp’s perimeter is village India. When a turbaned man unzips my tent to deliver masala chai at 5.30am, it is to the high-pitched music of a Bollywood soundtrack coming from the nearest village.

The first game drive begins half an hour later, when guests set off along bush tracks aboard open-top Mahindra jeeps. Even at this hour, when it is dark and cool enough to require a jacket, there are a few Rabari herders about, tending the animals that are their livelihood.

The Rabari are an indispensible part of the Jawai mosaic. You are here to see leopard in the wild, but without the Rabari in the frame, you are missing a big part of the picture. How is it that hunter and herder tolerate one another?

Usually the interaction between wild animal and agriculture is a zero-sum game with wildlife on the losing end of the scale, yet here both live amiably together.

A tribal caste of cattle and camel herders and shepherds, the Rabari probably migrated from Persia or Afghanistan, yet today they are Hindus and predominantly vegetarian. Rabari men wear white, except for a huge and elaborately knotted crimson turban, essential for keeping a cool head in the heat of the desert.

The women wear a chunari, a cotton veil, often red and either block printed or richly embroidered, a skill for which the Rabari are famous. For dressier occasions, such as religious ceremonies and the child marriages for which the Rabari are also known, the women wear enormous nose rings and bracelets that circle their arms from wrist almost to armpit. In modern India, where jeans and T-shirts are the norm, the Rabari remain staunch upholders of a colourful way of life.

Most of the country they inhabit in this region is dry scrub, suitable only for grazing animals, but closer to Jawai Bagh, the big reservoir on the Jawai River, the fields are ploughed and irrigated for chickpeas and mustard. One evening, we watch egrets spearing frogs on the margins of the bagh while pink flamingos stroke the water with their beaks.

Away from the villages, the game drives reveal a surprising abundance of wild animals. There are small family groups of gazelles that make leaping escapes, lithe as ballet dancers, and once we startle a nilgai, the Indian name for a blue bull, Asia’s largest antelope, which goes crashing off through the undergrowth. There are mongoose and peacocks and a saw-scaled viper that writhes across the sand in front of our wheels, tiny and highly venomous.

Apart from the snake, these are all part of the diet of the leopard, Jawai’s apex predator. Unlike in Africa, there is no need for a leopard to drag its kill into trees to keep it out of reach of jackals, hyenas and wild dogs, and no lions to fear. Although they are solitary animals and elusive, the chances of a leopard sighting are high.

Guests who book in for two nights have at least an 80 per cent chance of a sighting, according to Jaisal Singh.

At the convivial communal breakfast at the big table after the game drive, everyone has seen a leopard, either that morning or the previous day.

On our evening drive, we watch as about 100 black-faced Hanuman langurs scamper across the fields and slowly make their way up and across the granite face in front of us. It is clock-on, clock-off time, Bannister says. The leopards sleep among the granite domes by day and hunt on the plains by night, the langurs feed on the plains by day and spend the night high in the rocks, but it is a dangerous time for the langurs and a surprise encounter could lead to disaster.

While we drink our afternoon tea and munch fresh biscuits, we watch them move in a slow rolling wave following a handful of scouts, first from left to right, then they climb higher and sweep back across in the other direction.

We are still watching when an elderly man wearing white robes with a scarf wound around his head approaches the rock dome, each step stirring a puff of dust that snares the light of the setting sun around his feet in a golden ball. It is the priest who lives in the temple halfway up the hill. We watch as he begins to climb the long staircase stretched across the rock face. Leopard encounters must be an everyday occurrence for him, yet he has been living here alone and unmolested for many years.

Fascinated by a terrifying possibility, we follow his progress, not speaking until he passes through the low wall around the temple, rings the bell and shuts the door, safe and sound.

The writer travelled as a guest of Singapore Airlines and Banyan Tours.



The nearest railway station is Jawai Bandh, a 30-minute drive from the camp, which can be reached via an overnight train from Delhi. Another option is a flight from Delhi to Jodhpur and a two-hour drive. Singapore Airlines has one-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Delhi. See singaporeair南京夜网.


Banyan Tours can put together a personalised itinerary that covers transfers, train and domestic air travel and accommodation anywhere in India. See banyantours南京夜网.


The rate for a luxury tent is INR40,000 ($A710) a night for two. That includes twice-daily game drives, all meals, soft drinks, house wine and beer.

See sujanluxury南京夜网/jawaileopard-camp.



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