Smart Traveller: Long walk to freedom

Adventurer Peter McVeigh in Nepal.
Adventurer Peter McVeigh in Nepal.
Natural high ... Mossman Gorge.

Natural high ... Mossman Gorge.

Peter McVeigh went for a walk earlier this year - and kept going for 152 days and 1700 kilometres. The 19-year-old returned to Melbourne two weeks ago as the youngest person to traverse Nepal's Great Himalayan Trail.

Along the way, he endured temperatures of minus 22 degrees, crossed 29 mountain passes above 5000 metres, spent 13 days breaking through waist-deep snow, and recovered from a bout of altitude sickness that stopped him eating for five days. He slept in a tent every night.

"I wanted to do something big and adventurous and to be put outside my comfort zone," McVeigh says.

The adventurer worked at several jobs to save for the trek with World Expeditions. "I did anything I could, from soccer coaching to gardening and working in a pizza shop," he says. "I think it cost me more than $30,000."

Four people set out on the guided trek but McVeigh was the only one to finish. "We had different guides along the way and different groups would join us for segments," McVeigh says. "One of the guides was Australian mountaineer Greg Mortimer. I was privileged to spend time with him and he has inspired me to go and climb mountains."

World Expeditions began commercial treks of the trail last year and has another departing in March. McVeigh will speak about his experiences at free information nights in Sydney on August 28, Brisbane on August 29 and Melbourne on August 30.


New in the Daintree

A $20 million eco-tourism centre and two new Dreamtime-themed walks have opened at Mossman Gorge in Queensland's Daintree Rainforest, near Port Douglas.

An estimated 300,000 visitors a year explore the gorge's lush rainforest and crystal-clear streams. Guided walks along crushed granite paths reach the hunting grounds of the Kuku Yalanji people. Each easy-graded walk starts with a smoking ceremony and is led by an indigenous guide who demonstrates traditional plant use and identifies bush food. The centre has a cafe, art gallery and gift shop. An electric-powered minibus service to the gorge runs every 10 minutes. Taking the shuttle helps save the terrain from the effects of private vehicles. Minibus day passes cost $4.80 adults, $2.20 children. Walks are $45 adults, $22.50 children for 1½ hours; $65, $32.50 for 2½ hours. Family tickets are available.


Tee off with the Shark

How much would you pay to play golf and have lunch with Greg Norman? If your answer is between $30,000-$50,000, you're in the ball park. That's the price range for a small-group Captain's Choice/Ultimate Sports Tours journey to the US next year, with participants guaranteed to tee off with the Great White Shark at his Medalist Golf Club in Florida. The cost includes airfares

($34,435 in economy; $50,915 in first class, with a land-only option for $31,895).


Saints in the sky

The Royal Flying Doctor Service's tourist facility at Alice Springs is one of the town's main attractions, alongside the School of the Air and the Desert Park. The Stuart Terrace facility, visited by more than 60,000 people a year, recently unveiled a $3 million upgrade that was three years in the making. Apart from dusty old radios, medical gear and other museum pieces used in the service's early days (started by the Reverend John Flynn in 1928), there's a 70-seat theatre, interactive touch screens, cafe, gift shop and full-scale replica of a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft that visitors can board. The centre is open 9am-5pm daily. Entry costs $12 adult; $8 student, $6 child.


Survival tips

If things go awry in the desert and the Royal Flying Doctor Service isn't in sight, it may be handy to have a copy of Outback Survival by Bob Cooper in your pocket. Cooper's new book (Hachette Australia, $24.99) demonstrates how to find water, treat a snake bite and cope with dozens of other outback scenarios.


Follow the songlines

The music-streaming service Spotify has created destination playlists, including a winter theme for skiers, Ibiza party tunes, Celtic classics for Ireland, Bollywood tunes for India and a Greek medley.


Airline's retro upgrade

It's back to the future for Fiji's Air Pacific. Next year the airline will change its name to its 1951 moniker - Fiji Airways. Alongside the name-change, the airline will have new A330s. They begin flying in June. Air Pacific flies daily to Nadi from Sydney and four times a week from Melbourne (see;

Meanwhile, China Southern Airlines has added Cairns, its fifth Australian city, to its flights schedule. The airline will fly to Cairns from Guangzhou, via Brisbane, three times a week, from December 18 to February 28. Guangzhou to Brisbane flights will become a daily service. See

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This story Smart Traveller: Long walk to freedom first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.