OUR EASTER BASKET IS CHOCK FULL OF GOODIES!

5 April 2018

Hooly dooly! We haven’t had this much eggscellent news to deliver since the last issue! We have so many eggsciting tours happening in Australia & overseas that we’re about to eggsplode!

They’re eco-based, nature focused & mostly led by Jeremy & Jan. We always try to offer you something special & a little bit different, so make like a bunny & hop into some cracking reading!

Happy Easter to you all!

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RUDALL RIVER EXPEDITION – JUST ONE PLACE LEFT!

Due to a last minute ill-health cancellation we now have ONE place left on our escorted, catered & very exciting Rudall River/Karlamilyi National Park Expedition in July. This infrequently visited destination is one of the last frontiers – we’ll enjoy lots of bush camping, 4WD challenges, campfires, camaraderie, bushwalks, outback experiences, sunrises, sunsets & wide open spaces.

Dab your digit here then call us ASAP to reserve your place in the convoy!

CARAVAN/MOTORHOME SAFARI ALONG ‘WHALE TRAIL’

Thar she blows! That’s what delighted gypsies will be shouting on our first ever Caravan/Motorhome/Camper Trailer Safari along WA’s beautiful & pristine “Whale Trail”!

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Beginning near Esperance & ending in Albany & travelling along our stunning southern coastline, this fantastic self-drive 12-day adventure will visit such whale-watching hot-spots as Duke of Orleans Bay, Cape Le Grande, Lucky Bay, Fitzgerald National Park, Bremer Bay, Point Ann, Cheynes Beach & more at peak viewing time! The tour will be escorted by award-winning Tour Guide Jeremy Perks & his partner Jan Barrie & is a joint project with our partners at George Day Caravans who will once again be generously providing a top-quality caravan to lead our convoy.

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In addition to keeping your eyes peeled for whales, there will be lots of other fun activities such as 'Pot Luck Suppers'; 'Open House' visits; star-gazing evenings; guided bush walks; reversing seminars; optional wildlife cruises; wildflower spotting competitions & more!

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The tour is self-catering but we'll provide yummy Welcome & Farewell Dinners. Also included are the services of a professional Tour Guide who is a qualified mechanic & experienced towing trainer; powered sites at caravan parks; national park entry fees (sorry, no pets); carefully planned itinerary; Pre-Departure Kit & the opportunity to meet new friends with similar interests.

You’ll have a whale of a time! See the tour page for more information.

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DIRK HARTOG ISLAND TOUR COMPETION WINNERS!

Congratulations to Di Boekhout from Wandering Star Trailers (who designed & made our trusty catering trailer many moons ago!) & loyal client Yeeda Topham – the two winners of our Dirk Hartog Island Tour Competition! DHI is located in the Shark Bay World Heritage area & is a paradise for those who love fishing, swimming, 4WD’ing, beachcombing, kayaking & camping.

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Each prize is worth almost $700 & includes return barge transfers for a 4WD & trailer; camping fees at the DHI homestead campground & a bottle of champagne to enjoy on the beach at sunset! Well done Di & Yeeda & thanks so much to Kieran & Tory Wardle at Dirk Hartog for their generosity in donating the prizes!

WE’RE GOING BACK TO DIRK HARTOG THIS YEAR!!!

We had such a fabulous time on our inaugural Science Safari to Dirk Hartog Island last year that we’re going to do it again! We had originally thought this could only happen in 2019, but our plans have changed & we’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be running a second DHI “Voluntour” Science Safari later this year from October 15 – 26, 2018!!

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Working once again with our friends at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation & Attractions (DBCA/formerly DPaW), we’ll enjoy another exquisite eco-adventure while making a valuable contribution - & a generous donation! - to help conserve & rehabilitate WA’s precious native wildlife & restore the island to its former glory.

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This special philanthropic 4WD ‘tag-along-tour’ will be led by Jeremy & catered by Angela. Activities will include trapping, processing, recording & monitoring a range of native & re-introduced animals. Tour begins & ends at Hamelin Pool Caravan Park with one base camp on DHI. Catering, campground fees, supervised scientific activities, Pre-Departure Kit & donation to ongoing DBCA conservation & rehabilitation projects all included.

Numbers strictly limited. Pat your paw print here to read more & to book your place!

WE STILL WANT TO TAKE YOU TO GREECE!!

Ok, we confess..this is a romantic & self-indulgent thought bubble. But we’ve been trying to take you to Greece for such a long time & the urge just won’t go away! We had a tremendous tour planned a couple of years ago & got a great response, but because of political problems in that part of the world at the time, we reluctantly decided to pull the souvlaki pin on it. Now things have settled down & it looks like a great time to have another go!

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Imagine ancient ruins, spectacular scenery, blue & white rooftops, moussaka, ouzo, baklava, bouzouki music, dancing, singing, history, culture, sparkling seas, fiery sunsets, ferries & heaps of fun! So our question to you is….would you like to join us if we put a tour together to the Greek Islands in the next couple of years? If enough of you say ‘yes’, we’ll zone in on Zorba & make it happen!

ROCK ON AT A GEOTOURISM WORKSHOP!

Interested in geology & geotourism? If so, the Forum Advocating Cultural and Eco-Tourism (FACET) together with Geoparks WA are hosting a one-day workshop on May 14th providing an overview of geotourism, an insight into Geoparks around the world & a look at the work being done in regional WA to grow geotourism.

For more information or to register for the workshop, visit the FACET website. Rock on!

SAFARI REPORT: DRIVE YOURSELF WILD IN NAMIBIA

Here’s our somewhat overdue report about our first-ever venture into hiring 4WD’s to run a tag-along-tour in an overseas destination. We chose Namibia for our experiment & the tour was a joint venture with our friends at Self-Drive Adventures (SDA) who run similar ‘do- it-yourself’ expeditions all over the world.

With their organizational support, we escorted a great group of 16 Aussie clients to this fantastic southern African country for 22 days last September on a self-driving, self-catering wildlife safari. The convoy was led by SDA’s popular & professional South African tour guide Dave van Graan with Jeremy & Jan bringing up the rear as ‘tail end Charlie’. So many things about the tour were fantastic, but unfortunately (and in keeping with the Easter theme), like the curate’s egg, there were some bad parts as well. We need to share both aspects with you, but let’s start with the good things – and there were plenty of them!

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First, everyone loved Namibia – what a fabulous country & what a terrific safari destination it is. The wildlife sightings were just marvelous, the scenery was dramatic, the people were happy & welcoming, the itinerary was well planned (but we should have listened to SDA & made it longer!) & the gypsy participants were wonderful – our thanks to all of you!

Joining us on this amazing adventure were self-drivers Barry & Shelley Coad; Jim & Lisa Bond; Peter & Suzanne Gallagher; Ross & Irene Hogben; Michael & Sally Lumsden; Tony & Lesley Wheeler (all from WA); & Connie & Grahame Edgar (NSW); and passengers in the escort vehicle Margaret Rogers (WA) & Nancy Verco (NSW). You were all brilliant company & when the going got tough, demonstrated great patience, understanding & good humour.

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The too-many-to-list highlights included Himba & San cultural experiences when the boys practiced their hunting skills & the girls learned to make jewellery; incredible wildlife sightings at Okaukuejo Camp in Etosha National Park – one night NINE black rhinos came to drink at the waterhole – a most unusual sighting as they are usually solo creatures; visiting children at a local school; seeing the biggest elephant EVER looking ghostly due to desert dust; our base at lovely Windhoek Country Club; beautiful Palmwag Camp where we celebrated two birthdays; Dave’s encounter with a burglar & his magic can of peas that saved the day; exploring the Hoarusib River; overnighting at ‘Dave’s Bush Camp’ near Aarmsport; watching young bull ellies tussling & locking tusks in a dry riverbed; the windswept Skeleton Coast; the quaint seaside town of Swakopmund & Mieke’s Guesthouse; quad-biking on the dunes; & for those who went, the optional post-safari tour to remote Fish River Canyon.

To share in the fun, check out some silly poems here.

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So what were the not-so-good parts? It was all about the hire vehicles - four out of eight experienced problems sometimes so severe that several clients had to miss parts of the itinerary while they waited in remote areas for repairs to be made or replacement parts or vehicles to be delivered. Our clients had paid a lot of money for the tour & had looked forward to it for so long. We were heartbroken for them & furious that a tour so long in the planning had been so badly affected by vehicular problems caused by what we considered to be vehicles unsuited for the local conditions combined with poor maintenance & quality control procedures.

We & SDA managed to recover some of our clients’ money from the hire company but sadly refunds can’t compensate for lost time, missed experiences & unnecessary hassles, stress & worry. Over time, we would like to think that the good memories will overshadow the not-so-good ones, but using hired vehicles for convoy travel overseas is not a curate’s egg that we will want to crack open again in a hurry.

PERTH CARAVAN & CAMPING SHOW REVIEW

Closer to home, we’ve just spent five days working on our very busy stand at the annual Perth Caravan & Camping Show. Each year the organizers invite us to give a series of free towing & reversing demonstrations which are attended by hundreds of people.

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The demos & accompanying presentation not only educates ‘newbies’ on how to successfully reverse into a caravan bay using our easy-peazy method, but helps them avoid embarrassment while everyone else in the caravan park has a good laugh at their expense! It also cuts down on the number of reversing-related-divorces! And it keeps us out of trouble conducting towing training courses in the time between tours. More than 47,000 people attended this year’s Show & we reckon we saved almost as many marriages!

BRACE YOURSELF FOR A WILD TWO YEARS!

Open that diary & get that suitcase packed ‘cos we’ve got some mind-boggling adventures planned for you in the next couple of years! Here’s just a taste:

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Canning Stock Route (July 2019)

We’re tackling the Mother of All 4WD Adventures again next year from July 3 – 23, 2019. Jeremy will be leading this self-drive, self-catering 4WD expedition after a one-year break & he’s itching to get back! Bookings are now open & places are filling fast.

If you’ve got a tough vehicle, an adventurous spirit & love the outback, then contact us on the bush telegraph now!!

Great Silk Road Safari (Aug 2019 – TBA)

This will be our fourth Silk Road Safari & it’s one of our favourite adventures. It is SO unusual, so exotic & so different from anything you’ve ever seen before! The tour begins in Xian, China, & winds its way westward through to Kashgar, then crosses the border into Kyrgyzstan & Uzbekistan, concluding in Tashkent.

Over three inspiring & educational weeks you’ll see minarets, mosques, madrassahs, mausoleums, tombs, temples, Terracotta warriors, yaks, yurts & more & absorb so much history & culture it will make your head spin like a whirling dervish! Our friends at Tashkent-based Miramax Travel will once again be leading this tour on our behalf with their in-depth knowledge & expert English-speaking guides - we guarantee that you’ll have an amazing time in their professional & capable hands.

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If you’re a Silk Road aficionado, you’ll know there are plans to build a super-highway along this ancient trade route in the next couple of years. Once that happens, this magical experience will be severely compromised or could vanish completely. Don’t miss this opportunity to step back in time & travel on the Great Silk Road with people you know & trust.

Express your interest today! See the tour page for more info.

Treasures of Tanzania (August 19 – Sept 1, 2019)

We’ve taken you on African safaris to Kenya, Botswana & Namibia, now we have another wild & wonderful destination to show you – Tanzania!

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When we travelled through East Africa as photo/journalists, we spent a lot of time exploring Tanzania & always swore we’d go back. Now we’re thrilled to be returning & hopefully you’ll be coming with us! Tanzania is a safe & scenic country situated south of Kenya & east of the Congo lying partly in the Great Rift Valley with a long tropical coastline.

It’s an incredibly diverse country with prolific wildlife (think lions, ellies, wildebeest, giraffe, hippos, crocs, gazelle, zebras, baboons, birds & more); rolling golden savannah; gorgeous beaches, fascinating culture (120 different tribes including the famous & proud Maasai); fabulous game parks (Serengeti, Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater just to name a few); soaring mountains (Kilimanjaro); ancient history (Olduvai Gorge – the cradle of civilization & Zanzibar - the ‘spice island’ which was a major world port for five centuries & hub of the cruel slave trade, not to mention the birthplace of Freddie Mercury!) & a sophisticated tourism industry with quality lodges & tented camps.

In August 2019, we’ll be taking a group of 14 fortunate gypsies on a two-week escorted, catered & accommodated safari to our favourite Tanzanian destinations to enjoy the annual wildlife ‘migration’, participate in cultural experiences & lots more fun activities.

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The tour will be led by an experienced local tour company & will be personally escorted by Jeremy & Jan. Transport will be provided in mini-buses, 4WD’s, light planes & even an optional hot-air balloon! A detailed tour flyer will be available soon! We already have several expressions of interest & they’ll get first bite of this tempting Garden of Eden apple so add your name to our ‘wanna go’ list ASAP!

Holi Festival India Tour (February/March 2020)

Oh no! Another favourite place! How do you choose? And to make it even more difficult we’re arranging this tour to coincide with the colourful & crazy “Holi Festival” so that we can celebrate with the locals in a small rural village in Rajasthan!

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Other highlights of this incredible India tour will include Delhi, Agra, the Taj Mahal, Varanasi, Mandawa, Neemrana Fort, river trips on Mother Ganges, game drives in a tiger sanctuary, houseboats in Kerala, cultural & craft experiences, fantastic food, Bollywood dance class & film, turban-tying session, visits to ‘Exotic Marigold Hotel’ film sets, temples, museums, markets & oh-my-goodness-gracious-me so very much more! Detailed flyer will be available soon but express your interest now!

Northern Lights, Orcas, Reindeer & Huskies Tour! (November 11 – 21, 2020)

Okay, world travelers, slip out of your saris & squeeze into your snowsuits! We’re heading for the Arctic in 2020 to see the Northern Lights! Plus Orcas, reindeer, huskies & heaps more exciting things!

We’ll explore the Norwegian fjords by ship for six days & stay in Tromso for four more – this quaint fishing village was recently named by National Geo as one of the best places in the world to see aurora borealis!

The tour will be accommodated, catered, led by marine experts & personally escorted by Jeremy & Jan. We can only take 14 clients on this one-time-only gypsy adventure so get in quick!

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NOW HERE’S THE RUB! In order to book the ship for our private use, we must confirm & pay deposits by June 1, 2018! Don’t let this one-off opportunity melt away! Contact us NOW & tell us you’ve seen the light!

‘NEW YEAR’S EVE IN MYANMAR’ TOUR REPORT

We’d planned our ‘New Year’s Eve in Mandalay’ tour for months, so you can imagine how we felt when Myanmar started making front page news - & for all the wrong reasons! Because of the alleged human rights abuses to the Rohingya people & the moral dilemma we faced, we thought of cancelling the trip.

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But before doing so, we decided to ask the clients how they felt about it & then make a democratic decision. When it was unanimously agreed that not going probably wouldn’t help Myanmar OR the refugees, we decided to proceed. We’d like to think we made the right choice, but either way, from a tourist perspective, it was one of the most enjoyable ‘come-back destinations in Asia we’ve ever visited.

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When things settle down there we’d highly recommend that all of you visit Myanmar – our group fell in love with it! Just for a change, we thought we’d share our experiences with you in a poem that was read out on our last night in Yangon…enjoy!

‘MINGALABA’ (GREETINGS) TO MYANMAR

New Year’s Eve, a special night!
This year we thought we’d do it right!
Celebrate in a land afar – ancient, mysterious Myanmar!
Imagine Buddhas, temples, shrines;

Stupas, legends older than time;
Soaring turrets, chiming bells, stories dancing puppets tell.

A skyline bedazzled with spires of gold,
Shining like fire, centuries old,
Endless steps & shimmering walls,
Brown-clad monks, nuns in pink shawls.

We came to this country with trepidation,
And learned so much about this complex nation...
Its difficult present, its troubled past,
Let’s hope peace & harmony return at last.

We’ve seen a lot in just twelve days,
Yangon, Bagan, & Mandalay,
Mount Popa, Kalaw & Inle Lake;
Photos to snap, memories to make;
A rooftop party, fireworks & fun
Our New Year was a terrific one!

Donna & Graham, Ced & Anne, Jill & Wayne, Jeremy & Jan,
Anne & Gabor, Tim & Jo; bow ties, flashing headbands & a tuxedo!
Spicy curries, luscious fruit, garlic, chilli & ginger root,
Juice so thick it stood a spoon, crimson sunsets & a huge blue moon.

Gentle people, helpful & kind, tour guides who filled up our minds;
“Happy rooms” & happy places, so many happy smiling faces!

A mountain trek, children, hillside homes;
A dignified monk on a mobile phone;
Handicrafts & busy looms; torrential rain cancelling our balloons.

Irrawaddy flu, Bagan belly, Burmese soaps on the hotel telly;
Dodgy wifi, emails that never come,
Muddy shoes & muddier bums!
Longboat rides to floating farms,
Fishermen who row with legs, not arms,
Elegant ‘longyis’, precious silver & gems,
Lotus silk woven from prickly stems.

Volcanic shrine shrouded in veils of mist,
Revealed only as the dawn sun kissed,
Then burning briefly like a short-lived star,
That’s my lasting image of Myanmar.
Sadly soon we will say goodbye; back to our Anzac homes we’ll fly.
It’s been a joy, how lucky we all are;
Thank you so much for coming – ‘‎cezu ba’!

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Until next time, happy travels from – Jan and Jeremy

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