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Showing posts from 2008

Canterbury Tales – The revival of Otahuna

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For Queensland Homes - Gold Edition



There’s no second chance to make a first impression and at Otahuna Lodge, tucked discreetly away in the backblocks of outer Christchurch, one certainly knows when one has arrived.

Jack, our taxi driver and Christchurch native, turned off the meter as we poked about the Tai Tapu hedgerows in search of this mysterious mansion. “That looks like a pretty fancy one over there,” he says excitedly, indicating a substantial modern home of about six bedrooms.

“I don’t think so,” I replied kindly, remembering the image from the website, “That’s it over there.”

I’d just caught a glimpse of a gabled roofline beyond some magnificent, semi-wild woodland trees. A remote controlled gate was our only clue. After a rudimentary introduction via the intercom, it swung open to reveal a winding track through imposing gardens. “Oh, my!” said Jack as if plunging into some Lewis Carroll scenario. Eyes like saucers, he drives carefully up the oak and acacia-lined carriageway unt…

Australia's Kimberley: On Wandjina Time

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Roderick Eime traces the path of Australia’s forthcoming epic motion picture through some of the oldest landscapes on Earth.

He stares down on me as if from the heavens, mute and limbless, his power over the elements is total. The Wandjina are the spirit gods of the Kimberley who control the weather and their images abound throughout the caves and craggy overhangs of this rugged and foreboding corner of Australia.

For countless thousands of years the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley, with such evocative names as the Ngarinyin, Umida, Wunambul and Unggarangi, kept watch over the Wandjina figures, just as their spirits kept watch over them. Today, privileged visitors can still see these images in all their mysterious glory gazing imperiously down from their cave ceiling frescos.

The landscape of the Kimberley is among the oldest formations in the world, dating back some 1.8 billion years.

“Where are the fossils?” I innocently enquire of Carly, my naturalist guide at the El Questro Wil…

Tom Butler: Mountain Man

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The rugged high country of New Zealand's Southern Alps is no place for lightweights. The weather can be ferocious; windy and icy cold in winter and baking hot in the summer months. But none of that was going to stop mountain man, Tom Butler, from fulfilling his dream of a picture perfect guest lodge amid the stunning, blockbuster scenery.

Still in short pants, young Tom helped family friend and then owner, Oliver Newbegin, create his vision of an ideal rural retreat near the foreboding Arthurs Pass, 160 kilometres west up the steep glacial ranges from Christchurch. After school, Tom would head up to the site where the historic homestead was being painstakingly restored. His duties were modest; digging, shovelling and carting material from site to site.

Dating from the 1870s, the original structure was built by Arthur Hawdon, one of the Canterbury region's pioneer settlers. The house and the landholding passed through a century of convoluted transactions to Oliver in 1988. Over t…

Australia's Kimberley: Living on Gwion Time

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Expedition cruiser, Roderick Eime, comes face-to-face with an ancient hunter born before the ice age.

Blank faced and expressionless, he stood there staring at me. His slender arms adorned with intricate tassels hold a clutch of boomerangs as if inviting me to hunt with him. Literally frozen in time, this ancient gent has held this pose for perhaps 20,000 years.

I sat there staring back with the sort of spine-tingling sensation one experiences when confronted by the alien and inexplicable. He was not alone. Surrounding him were lesser, fainter figures, some dancing, some apparently paying homage, others plain and nude. What does this gathering mean? What is their message?

The Gwion Gwion people of Australia’s Kimberley are long gone, but their art remains in abundance, decorating sheltered rock caves and overhangs, lookouts and frescos throughout an area twice the size of Victoria. Often referred to as ‘Bradshaw Art’, these finely detailed and intricate figures remain a mystery to rese…

Checking into the Ivory Tower

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as published in Hong Kong Business

Beyond mere five-star, there exists a level of luxury that transcends any hotel rating system. A rarefied statusphere where the experience is valued and remembered long after the account is settled. Roderick Eime rose briefly above his station to glimpse life at the very top.

Long envied for their premium cachet and set amid dramatic, blockbuster locations, New Zealand's ultra exclusive 'Super Lodges' continue to earn the praise of luxury travellers and hard-nosed critics alike. Not to be outdone, Australia has launched a counterattack and brought the battle right up to their transTasman cousins. We compare the “front row” from each side.



Grasmere Lodge Cass, South Island NZ

Playing heavily on their dramatic location near Arthurs Pass, Grasmere Lodge will always command the attention of those looking for quiet and comfort in a nostalgic colonial style. Set amidst the spectacular Southern Alps, you'll be wondering which Hollywood epic you&…

Greening Hotels - Saving the Planet or the just the Bottom Line?

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for HM Magazine

The rush for ‘green’ credentials and kudos has many people asking questions – and none more so than the travelling public.

The travel industry as a whole is drawing both praise and criticism for its impact on the environment. Carbon-burners like airlines, road transport and cruise ships are under scrutiny for their obvious greenhouse gas emissions, but hotels and resorts are not immune either.

Luxury travel is seen, with some justification, as indulgent and pampering with scant regard paid to the consequences of such hedonistic and selfish actions. Golf courses suck fresh water from precious reserves while locals gather drinking water in leaky buckets. Outdoor floodlights illuminate empty tennis courts as nearby barefooted villagers cook over smoky stoves and candlelight. We’ve all seen it.

As probing and questioning eyes fall upon the hospitality industry, the industry is responding with various mechanisms and programs, some genuinely practical and effective – others less…

Expertise to Go - The Great Outsourcing Debate

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It’s no longer headline news that many hotels, chains and even humble guest houses are outsourcing many of their non-core activities.

Sometimes it’s as simple as house-keeping and maintenance, in some cases entire hotels are sold with the management company simply retaining operating rights under an agreement with the new owners, usually a large funds management company.

Regardless, it’s a long, sometimes hard, self-analysis that requires identification of core competencies and a commitment to performing those to optimum efficiency.

The criticisms of outsourcing are many, especially when they involve job losses to overseas contractors; airline maintenance and call centres being just two that spring to mind. The overriding issues here are loss of employment opportunities to locals and questions about service quality and control. That said, there are times when outsourcing makes good sense and creates winners all around.

Here at HM Magazine, outsourced public relations is one of the commone…

Melbourne - Intriguing City Precincts

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Client:

Just as the great sporting nations enjoy a healthy rivalry, so too does Melbourne enjoy a respect among the great city destinations of the world.

With her annual Formula One Grand Prix engaging many millions of television viewers from around the globe, the fast-paced, cosmopolitan face of Melbourne is front-and-centre on the world stage. However, so much of what Melbourne has to offer will always remain hidden from cable channel surfers and TV sports fans. Even Melbournians themselves are only now beginning to uncover some of the secret nooks and crannies of their own city.

To get an idea of this unseen urban terrain, hold your breath as you dangle almost 300 metres above the streetscape from Skydeck on Level 88 of the awe-inspiring Eureka Tower. It’s the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere and the Edge Experience, where visitors enter a glass-floored chamber, is one of the Melbourne’s home-grown heartstoppers.

Almost straight down and to the immediate north and no…

Melbourne – Outdoor Living

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Client:

Australia’s great coastal cities enjoy world renown for their incomparable outdoor lifestyle. Sydney and Brisbane for their sun-drenched, water-based relaxation; Perth for great beaches; and Adelaide for parks and scenic hills. Yet Melbourne stands apart with an open-air character of its own; cosmopolitan and sophisticated, yet still essentially Australian in every way.

Set out to explore Melbourne and you’ll find a multi-faceted city full of surprises. And with an explorer’s mind, you’ll uncover things mere tourists will almost certainly overlook. To get your adventurous juices flowing, start your journey at the vast Visitor Information Centre in Federation Square, that un-missable landmark right across from Flinders Street Station. You can book tours, buy tickets or just get maps for your own self-guided voyage of discovery.

Outside in Federation Square you're just as likely to see street theatre, musicians or all manner of performance artists - and if you're not carefu…

Plan Less, Travel More, Grab a Bargain

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Abandon your plans, throw away the brochures and take the flight of fancy. Jump into the swirling pool of last minute travel opportunities and see where you end up. Roderick Eime dares you.

For many, the family holiday is as meticulously planned as a military operation. Timetables, visas, schedules and check-in/check outs all conspire to make vacation planning as stressful as the life we are attempting to escape from. How about throwing plans out the window and trying some of the many “last minute” travel, holiday and adventure possibilities flourishing on the ‘net?

It’s no secret that hotel and resort bookings can be found on the Internet at rock bottom prices, especially if you seek them out close to your anticipated travel time.

Industry leader in what the trade calls “distressed inventory” is perhaps the website www.wotif.com which currently offers more than 10,000 properties in 40 countries and books almost 3 million room nights each year – numbers that grow every day.

“Large hotels …

The Last Mahouts

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They stood before us like condemned men, their proud tradition and heritage had run its course. These well-weathered, handsome men of the jungle were the last real mahouts, trained in the ancient and dangerous art of wild elephant capture.

The mighty Asian elephant has featured large in Asian culture for centuries. This enormous beast, a perennial symbol of strength and power, has been tamed and trained to perform in a variety of roles in agriculture, royal ceremonies, circuses and even combat.

The Brand of the Long White Cloud

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Published Sunday Telegraph Escape - 6 May 2007 - © Roderick Eime [PDF]



“New Zealand. Show me one good thing about it,” asked a cynical Peter FitzSimons in Tourism NZ’s highly successful 2004 TV campaign. His artificial rhetoric has come home and our Kiwi cousins are basking in tourism success.

Of course, catalysts like Lord of the Rings and even Zena, Warrior Princess catapulted New Zealand’s spectacular scenery and landscapes onto the world stage. Almost at once, Middle Earth and 100% Pure New Zealand were indistinguishable.

I’ve made three trips across the Tasman in as many years and one thing that sticks with me is the Kiwis’ consummate expertise in service excellence. And not just the five star hotels and resorts in which they excel, but right down to the little corner shop. Regular folks, it seems, are ready to go the extra mile for visitors, something I’m sure we don’t manage here at home. “Youse right there?” I still get from staff at large retailers here when I attempt to interru…

Palin’s Travel Tonic

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Michael Palin, that icon of independent travel, actor, comedian and grandfather made his seventh visit to Australia to promote his latest book and TV series, New Europe. Roderick Eime hounded him, and his PR people, for two weeks to get this interview.

Almost one thousand expectant guests crammed the auditorium, a record-breaking sellout for the Sydney Morning Herald Dymocks Literary Lunch. The mainly grey-haired, bespectacled audience sat entranced, their veal fillets a mere side dish for the main course; English adventurer and raconteur, Michael Palin.

With New Europe, Michael claims to fill what has been a void in his own experience and that of many of his own generation. In all he visits 20 countries, starting high in the Julian Alps on the border between Slovenia and Italy where the Iron Curtain once ran, he travelled through the Balkans and the countries bordering the Black Sea before turning northwards through the heart of old East Europe to the Baltic States, almost as far north…

Great Aussie Cruise with Real Bite

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The enormous chunk of tuna flesh bobbed on the end of the line supported by a small foam ball. Matt ladled great gobs of minced gills and guts onto the surface creating a lumpy, letterbox red slick just behind the boat. Then he struck.

We’d seen his ominous black shadow patrolling beneath us like a menacing midget submarine probing for a weakness, but nothing prepared us for what happened next. In a heart-stopping explosion of gaping crimson jaws filled with rows of razor sharp teeth, the 5 metre, 1000kg monster breached its full torso out of the water in a triumphant display of total dominance. Gotcha!

Underwater, the view is even more terrifying. The seemingly flimsy aluminium cage appears barely strong enough to withstand the fury of this consummate killing machine. Those who remember the Jaws trilogy will recall the complete inadequacy of the metal sanctuary and in no coincidence, many of the scenes that employed live sharks as stunt doubles to the mechanical star were filmed in t…