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August, 2019

Easter Island: The island at the end of the Earth

Easter Island’s staple industry is tourism, which pulls in about 90,000 visitors a year. Around 95 per cent of the island’s known monolithic sculptures (moai) were carved from stone quarried from Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater formed of consolidated volcanic ash, or tuff, located in the Rapa Nui National Park. Photo: iStock
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Crater Volcano Rano Kau in Easter Island.

For ns, Easter Island may well seem a long way to travel for a small Polynesian island bereft of palm trees and luscious stretches of white, powdery beaches, its iconic stone statues so instantly recognisable that it dwarfs all other attractions.

After all, this is the most isolated permanently inhabited place on earth, a speck of volcanic mounds in a vast ocean. To put its 163 square kilometres into perspective, a marathon runner recently sweated his way around the entire island in just one day, our guide assures us.

The nearest island is Pitcairn, almost 2000 kilometres away, and the only entry point for tourists is via Chile – which Easter Island belongs to – or Tahiti, both around five hours’ flight away. Cruise liners occasionally swing by, but the waters are often too rough for passengers to land.

Yet it’s this stark isolation that fuels the mystique of Easter Island, also known by its indigenous name, Rapa Nui, and Spanish name, Isla de Pascua​ (useful information when you’re trying to locate your departure flight in Santiago).

Today, tourism is the island’s staple industry, pulling in around 90,000 visitors a year, nearly a quarter of those cramming the hiking paths, small township and main tourist attractions in the peak season of January/February, reaching a crescendo during the 10-day Tapati cultural festival. Yet it was the feverish building of colossal stone statues, the moai, that occupied the early settlers of Rapa Nui, and it’s these mysterious monoliths that draw in the crowds.

A great starting point for any curious visitor is the little one-room archaeological museum in the island’s only township of Hanga Roa, where most of the population of 8000 live. It answers my burning question of how on earth a band of Polynesian seafarers in canoes even stumbled upon an island so remote, yet alone went on to inhabit it.

It turns out they were extraordinary navigators, using the stars primarily, but also marine currents, wind directions and the travel routes of nesting birds to locate new islands. There’s sketches of the high-sea canoes it’s believed they used to reach Rapa Nui and later colonise it somewhere between 800 and 1200AD – around the same time these seafaring Polynesians were populating New Zealand (800 to 1000AD).

That certainly accounts for the amazing cultural similarities to the maori haka we witnessed when we were placed front row at a traditional show in town. For our delicate, jet-lagged troupe, it was a visceral onslaught – stomping, victorious roars, and men in loin cloths and tribal paint, thrusting batons wide-eyed in front of us.

The museum, of course, also has lots of background on the moai, built by a highly spiritual people to salute their ancestors. Of the 887 known moai, nearly all carved from volcanic rock at the Rano Raraku quarry in the island’s south-east, nearly half remain in the quarry in various stages of completion; 288 were successfully transported and erected on the familiar Ahu stone altars located at coastal spots around the island. The largest one ever erected, called Paro, is nearly 10 metres high and weighs in at a hefty 74 tonnes. But El Gigante, which is still attached to bedrock in the quarry, takes top honours, at 21.6 metres high and an estimated 170 tonnes.

The statue building came to an abrupt end around the 17th century, when tribal war broke out, most likely sparked by environmental carnage and dwindling resources. By the time the first Europeans arrived in 1722, the forests of palm trees were gone, exposing the volcanic soil to erosion and creating the barren landscape you see today.

It’s late April when we visit Rapa Nui: autumn, and the crowds have gone, the hiking trails are blissfully empty and it’s balmy T-shirt weather. Who’d be bothered with high season, I ask myself? At Explora, one of the island’s handful of luxury lodgings, our guide for the four days is trained psychologist Carolina, whose infectious exuberance and detailed knowledge of Easter Island is a product of both her own natural curiosity and Explora’s strict screening and training of their guides, who often rotate between sister Explora properties in Chile’s Atacama Desert (temporarily closed due to a fire) and Patagonia. It’s three months of intensive learning and tests, so there’s no question you can fire at Carolina that doesn’t return a decisive, detailed and colourful explanation.

The hotel is among rare farming land, about 10 minutes’ drive from town, with all 30 rooms enjoying elevated views of the coastline. However, the emphasis – like all Explora properties – is on getting you out and about, so every evening guests gather to choose their outing for the following day.

There’s a choice of half-day or full-day excursions. By the time you leave, you will almost definitely have done the compulsory trip to Rano Raraku quarry and nearby Fifteen Moai at Ahu Tongariki​. There’s a half-day hike to the highest point on the island, with spectacular 360-degree views; and a trip to the underground caves where many of the tribes once lived, which takes in petroglyphs, offering a fascinating insight into how the early Rapa Nui lived.

The highlight for me was the 10km half-day hike to the crater lake of Rano Kau on a crystal clear morning, the walk hugging the cliffs up a fairly steady incline that tested the stamina of us mostly middle-aged crew of varying fitness levels. After navigating a rock-strewn path for a couple of hours, I certainly appreciated why walking sticks are handed out so liberally and spares carried by the guides. They’re a godsend for the knees.

Hiking the windswept fringes only seemed to reinforce a liberating sense of isolation.  A blindingly blue sea thunders against craggy cliffs that butt up against vibrant red volcanic earth, much of it exposed by persistent erosion. Scrubland best sums up the rest.

Suddenly Carolina halts us in our tracks. “Close your eyes, hang onto the person in front and follow me.” We gingerly follow orders and stumble forwards. “Okay, open  your eyes!” Here, on the edge of the cliffs, we’re peering down into the one-kilometre-wide Rano Kau crater lake. Windex-blue patches of water pierce through giant clumps of floating plants. It’s utterly spectacular. After the frenzy of camera-clicking ceases, we pause to hear how the tradition of the Birdman was born here after the statue building ceased; the dawn of a new social order. The short version is that a nominated member of each of the island’s tribes would swim out to the islet just offshore each September, when the seabirds migrated here, and whoever secured the first egg would secure his tribal leader ruling rights for the next year.

This islet takes on even greater significance when Carolina assures us there’s visibility of up to 50 metres if you want to snorkel around the rocky outcrop. As an avid lap swimmer, I immediately picture the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool and imagine staring that far into azure blue with perfect visibility.

The expedition concludes with a visit to nearby Orongo, on the lip of the crater, the ceremonial village used by the Rapa Nui people during the Birdman era.

Today, it’s a collection of weathered stone houses and petroglyphs set on a brutally exposed clifftop. A snippet at the information centre brings home the fragility of not just these structures, but all the island’s moai and rock carvings. “In a period of just 97 years, extreme weather has caused deterioration of the petroglyphs … details have disappeared: edgings of the engravings, the borders of every detail … thus we have a clear idea of the damage caused by natural factors.”

It doesn’t augur well for the moai, their features already severely blunted by the elements, clawing lichen and their precarious coastal locations. I feel privileged to have walked among giants that one day will inevitably be reclaimed by nature. TRIP NOTESMORE

traveller苏州夜总会招聘.au/chile

explora苏州夜总会招聘

southamericatourism苏州夜总会招聘 GET

LAN Airlines operates daily flights between Sydney and Santiago via Auckland. There are flights to Easter Island from Santiago every day except Tuesday. n citizens pay a reciprocity fee of US$117 on arrival in Santiago. latam苏州夜总会招聘. STAY

The Explora Hotel Posada de Mike Rapu Easter Island is an all-inclusive, 30-room hotel (all meals and beverages and daily excursions with bilingual guides are included). Curved, glass-fronted pavilions housing the bar, restaurant and lounging areas offer panoramic ocean views. There’s also a massage room, outdoor pool and spa. Three-night packages from $2538 a person, twin-share.  See explora苏州夜总会招聘. GET AROUND

There is no public transport on Easter Island, probably because nearly everyone lives in town. There’s a sealed road around much of the island and rougher roads lead to less accessible areas. Explora includes free transport to attractions. However, for those who want their own wheels, the hotel has bicycles. Otherwise, there’s a fleet of rental places on the main street of Hanga Roa. Prices aren’t cheap. You can rent a scooter for about 25,000CLP a day (motorcycle licence required); cars start from around 45,000CLP.

Isobel King travelled courtesy of South America Tourism Office and LATAM Airlines.

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Tissue-based drama This is Us swollen with the milk of human kindness

An authentic world full of real people: This is Us stars Milo Ventimiglia as Jack. Photo: NBC Once upon a time there was a logic in television that grouped programs into two distinct classes: those that were obvious and unsophisticated, and those that spoke in a more articulate, authentic language. Think Full House for the former. And Love My Way for the latter.
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This Is Us (Wednesdays, 8.30pm, Ten), the buzzy new American series about a bunch of inter-connected, mostly pretty people, sharing personal and professional moments in their otherwise compelling lives, somehow manages to be both.

The pilot episode introduces you to a jumble of characters whose connections are not immediately obvious, though a more experienced viewer can probably take a wild but accurate guess. They include Kate (Chrissy Metz) and Kevin (Justin Hartley), Randall (Sterling K. Brown), Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and Jack (Milo Ventimiglia).

By the end of episode one, assuming you’re not speed-dialling your therapist to unload all of your trigger-issues, you will have one of those “oh, right, that’s how they’re all connected” moments, which somehow seems to be both inventively unexpected and coming right at you with all the delicacy of a gorilla in ballet shoes.

Dan Fogelman has crafted here are nicely authentic world, full of characters who speak like real people, unlike their traditional television cousins who speak like television characters. At the same time he’s cranking hard on the pedal-o-issue machine, perhaps with a ferocity not seen since the giddy old days of ’80s medical masterpiece St Elsewhere.

In that sense, it has all of the elegance of Love My Way, but somehow lacks the brilliance. That show, a trail-blazing drama from Foxtel in the early noughties, found a rare balance that allowed it to deeply mine human drama without ever falling victim to the schmaltz within it.

It wouldn’t be fair to This Is Us to say that it fails entirely on that front, but being American, it seems to sit on the precipice.

And the fact that the biggest existential crisis in the pilot episode is the terrifying prospect of turning 36 suggests there is indeed a new generation of television writers coming through the ranks with a very interesting notion of what constitutes a mid-life calamity.

The immediate touchstones for a show like This Is Us are the ’80s high-collar-and-mussed-hair classic Thirtysomething, and its ’90s stepchild, the heavily sentimental Once and Again. Chuck in some touches of Modern Family and even Everwood and you’ve got a palette with a fairly accurate set of colours.

But there is something wholly deliberate about This Is Us that undermines its brilliance, a sense of artful deliberacy to its moments of unexpected tenderness than leaves you bothered that your emotions are being played with, and weeping into a box of tissues, usually in the same moment.

Even Thirtysomething, which seemed to milk its emotions hard, had the virtue of making it all look effortless.

Ventimiglia is the show’s strongest suit but, thanks to a quirk of the storytelling, he’s not deployed across the whole ensemble. Which leaves too many scenes more reminiscent of a teen drama, and full of Hollywood meta-references and things that only feel substantial because they’re written as though they are.

As the first season’s narrative unfurls, This Is Us starts swimming in more stable water. And the writing is rock solid, even if the show’s tendency to dip into more treacly emotions is not.

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Flight Test: Air Canada

Onboard the Air Canada 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Brian Losito/Air CanadaOur rating: 4/5
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THE PLANE

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

THE ROUTE

New York (Newark) to Vancouver

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Air Canada Altitude, part of Star Alliance.

CLASS

Economy class, seat 25K.

DURATION

Five hours, 40 minutes.

FREQUENCY

Air Canada offers one direct daily flight from New York (Newark) to Vancouver, leaving at 7pm and getting in at 9.40pm. If you’re prepared to endure a multi-hour layover, there are numerous earlier flights via Toronto.

SEAT

Economy features a 3-3-3 configuration of pleasantly comfortable seats which squeak and spring like a new sofa. Each seat is 43.9cm wide (17 inches) with up to a 78.7-cm pitch (31 inches), depending on the row. The seats recline 12.7cm, which, combined with the ample leg space, is just enough for me to stretch out my 1.8 metre body without causing a commotion.

BAGGAGE

Air Canada charges CAD$25 for the first checked bag of up to 23 kilograms, and CAD$35 for the second. Unless this flight is part of a longer international journey, as mine is, in which case two checked bags are free.

COMFORT

There are several features about this plane that draw more of my attention than they usually would. The first is ventilation, which is excellent. I never feel stuffy or dry – two conditions that plague me on many long-distance flights. The windows are also remarkable, some 65 per cent larger than standard airplane windows. There are no shutters. Instead, electrified gel sandwiched under the glass brightens or dims on command, like a pair of smart sunglasses. I am obsessed.

ENTERTAINMENT

The seatback touchscreen is big, clear, and responsive. Written material boasts some 600 hours of film, TV, and music, though the selection feels a little more limited in practice, particularly when it comes to current movies. A nice touch is the 2016 Air Canada enRoute Film Festival, though, which offers a variety of Canadian films from three to 17 minutes in length. Each display has a USB port for charging your own devices.

SERVICE

Have you ever met an unfriendly Canadian? Not on an Air Canada flight, at any rate. The crew members are chatty and smiley; one woman spies my neighbour reading sheet music and engages her in a length conversation about Bach; another distributes activity books for kids with all the jolly benevolence of Santa.

FOOD

Air Canada Cafe tantalises you with art-directed pictures of its food on the touchscreen display. Nothing ever looks this good, of course, and also it costs money – a surprise on a nearly six-hour flight across an international border. After realising there are no free snacks (not even a pretzel), I cave and purchase a sriracha chicken wrap for $CAD7.50; it is thin and of questionable texture. Alcohol also costs money – another death blow.

ONE MORE THING

As of late last year, even transiting through Canada requires an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA), at a cost of $CAD7. The ludicrous formality must be processed in advance, a fact that has been poorly publicised by Air Canada to its customers, many of whom (like me) have found themselves frantically applying on their mobile phones at the airport. Be careful: incorrect information locks you out for 72 hours.

THE VERDICT

A gorgeous plane and gracious service is let down by the frugality of air travel in North America, where even minor comforts (a snack) come with a price tag. But if you’re travelling onwards to , never fear: All is corrected in the next leg, where wine flows freely all the way to Brisbane.

Lance Richardson paid for his own flight.

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Siren song of the Amalfi Coast

Terrace of the oyster bar at Le Sirenuse hotel in Positano.From Naples the road slinks improbably around the coastline, skirting past Sorrento and heaving over a headland before corkscrewing above a blue sea. Positano is jammed into a fold in the cliffs, and looks as if it could easily slide down with a clatter onto its beach far below. There is only space for a one-way road, and it plunges halfway down the town before surging up again, scraping by cafe chairs, postcard racks and wayside statues of the Virgin Mary.
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Positano on Italy’s Amalfi Coast is for visitors with a head for heights and who are confident behind the steering wheel. With relief I leave my car with Le Sirenuse’s bellboy. Where it goes is anyone’s guess; flat land for car parks is as rare as reindeer here. Mostly, in this cliff-clinging town, I tumble down steps and huff-puff back up again on foot, alternatively enclosed in canyon-like streets or propelled onto pocket-sized terraces with views over vertiginous rooftops to shockingly blue-green water.

Le Sirenuse opened in 1951 in a converted aristocratic house, and is still owned by the same family. Somehow it has found room to expand, oozing like calcium deposits down the cliff and taking over neighbouring buildings. The result is a warren-like hotel over eight floors, crammed with art works and antiques. Every cranny is mopped and polished. Prints and family oil portraits line the walls, pillows are plump, restaurant tablecloths starched as a pope’s robes. The candlelit, Michelin-starred La Sponda restaurant features fish sprinkled with zucchini flowers and Mediterranean lamb encrusted with rosemary. The pool terrace, shaded by lemon trees, is surely one of the world’s best.

Guestrooms have swallow’s nest balconies entwined in vines and bougainvillea, and Positano’s finest outlooks. The peacock sea far below gets more beautiful as the day progresses. At sunset, after the day-tripper boats have departed, the silvery water is scribbled over by the wakes of the odd speedboat. I feel like leaping off my balcony, like the cliff-divers of Acapulco, and into its limpid loveliness.

The views are everything in Positano, and Le Sirenuse knows it. The hotel does everything superlatively but always accepts that its service and luxuries are second fiddle to the landscape. It’s rather lovely that staff gardeners take you on a tour of the rare flowering plants that grace the hotel terraces, but my attention constantly drifts away to the Mediterranean. And though the breakfast spread isp first-class, its terrace location is so fabulous you’d hardly notice if you were served sawdust.

Actually, you’re served a banquet to delight Nero that, in the Italian style, features a temptation of cakes. I assuage my guilt by walking off my indulgences with a 2000-step haul up to Nocelle, a cloud-enveloped village surrounded by terraces of tomato vines and lemon trees.

Later I explore Positano itself. It’s an old town, once part of the medieval Amalfi maritime republic that rivalled Venice for trade, now jammed with shops selling ceramics and art works. I climb past an old watchtower on a track lined with cactus and bougainvillea to Spiaggia del Fornillo, a quiet cove where striped parasols lean in the sand.

There’s a lot you can do on the Amalfi Coast. I spend a day driving hairpin bends along the coast to Amalfi town. A hydrofoil will whisk you from Positano to Capri for the day, and Pompeii is a drive away. Le Sirenuse offers complimentary activities that change daily: a visit to a limoncello producer, olive-oil tasting, a trip to the seafood market with its chef.

The best is a trip along the coast in the hotel’s gleaming vintage wooden boat Sant’Antonio. The perspective of the Amalfi Coast from the water is quite different from on land, and you can go swimming. The boat stops in a cove and its passengers leap overboard into the big blue. Afterwards the captain hands out bellini cocktails and we sail back to Positano, sleepy with sun, salt and the good life. TRIP NOTESMORE

traveller苏州夜总会招聘.au/italy

visitaly苏州夜总会招聘.auFLY

Emirates flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Dubai (14.5 hours) with connections to Rome (six hours). Phone 1300 303 777, see emirates苏州夜总会招聘/auDRIVE

Leading n self-drive specialist DriveAway Holidays offers car hire in Italy from about $30 a day for a mid-sized vehicle. Phone 1300 723 972, see driveaway苏州夜总会招聘.auSTAY

Le Sirenuse is a member of the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World brand. Rooms from $858, including boat excursion and other activities. Phone 02 9377 8444, see lhw苏州夜总会招聘

Brian Johnston was a guest of Leading Hotels of the World and DriveAway Holidays, but paid for his own flights.

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Bankstown terror teen tried to join Islamic State on family holiday, court hears

The two teenagers were allegedly arrested with two bayonet knives and a note pledging allegiance to Islamic State. Photo: 7 News One of the M-9 bayonet knives for sale at Bankstown Gun Shop.
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One of the 16-year-old boys, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was filmed abusing police as he sat handcuffed in Adnum Lane on October 12. Photo: 7 News

One of the boys, in white, uploaded videos of him converting other young people to Islam. Photo: Facebook

Police guard the laneway where the two boys were arrested in October. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The boy on the street in Bankstown before his arrest. Photo: Channel 7

It was supposed to be a family holiday to discover his homeland of Egypt.

But when a Sydney teenager was detained and tortured after he allegedly ran away to join Islamic militants during the disastrous trip, the holiday led to a mental breakdown, his father claims.

Nine months after returning to , the boy was one of two youths who was arrested in Bankstown last year, allegedly moments away from an Islamic State-inspired knife attack.

Chilling details of the Bankstown plot can be revealed for the first time following a court hearing in which the boy’s father painted a sad picture of his son’s descent into radicalisation.

The two 16-year-old school friends, who cannot be named due to their age, were arrested in October outside a laneway prayer hall and charged with preparing for a terrorist act and membership of a terrorist organisation.

They allegedly had a backpack containing a torch, a knife sharpener, two camouflage-print neck gaiters, a handwritten Arabic note pledging allegiance to the caliphate and two hunting knives bought earlier that day from the Bankstown Gun Shop.

The second boy, the stepson of a convicted extremist and a counter-terrorism target since the age of 12, had a video on his phone in which he held down a sheep as its neck was slashed with a knife, Parramatta Children’s Court heard this week.

During an unsuccessful bail application this week, it was revealed that the first boy was detained in Egypt for a month after trying to escape a family holiday to join Islamic militants in the Sinai region.

He returned to in January 2016 with the help of the n ambassador to Egypt. His father said his son was tortured in detention and spiralled downward after his return.

“Since Egypt, he’s having a hard time,” he told the court. “I said I would send him to a psychologist and everything would be all right.”

Among the items found on his phone on his return were internet searches on “going jihad when parents are alive” and “Sinai ISIS” and an article titled “Jihadi John’s journey from schoolboy to executioner”, according to police allegations.

During 2016, the boy dropped out of school, ran away from home several times, was the subject of several police “child at risk” reports, slept rough at Central station for a week and had an AVO out against him to protect his mother after he allegedly punched a glass cabinet at home.

After the family’s Parramatta home was raided in February, he said he wanted to be homeless, his father said.

Both boys have been on counter-terrorism radars for years and were being followed by police on the day of their arrest.

They both left their high school in 2014 due to an incident and the second boy turned to distance education while the first boy’s father tried to get him into several schools, eventually enrolling him in an inner west high school in 2016.

The second boy was intercepted on the phone in 2015 telling his mother he wanted to “outdo” the shooting of police accountant Curtis Cheng.

Last year, he was observed to be among a small group of attendees at a Friday prayer session run by well-known counter-terrorism target Wissam Haddad.

In a recording played by prosecutors during the bail application, he was filmed abusing police as he sat handcuffed in Adnum Lane, Bankstown on October 12.

“Whatever Allah orders me to do I’m going to do it,” he said.

“Anyone who works with the police is an apostate dog … youse are nothing but a bunch of pigs and we are going to rule this earth by sharia … all you pigs, inshallah, I will see you burn alive in hellfire.”

The pair had allegedly bought two bayonet knives earlier that day. Unable to find a bag to conceal them, the first boy was seen chucking his school books, pencil case and calculator in a bin and putting the knives in his backpack.

The pair then caught a bus to the Adnum Lane prayer hall for what police allege were their final prayers and ablution.

In the police recording taken in the laneway, the second boy said he bought the knives to go hunting.

He also said popular youth leader Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman and ‘s Grand Mufti were “apostate dogs” because they worked with the government and he told the police that their children and wives would become slaves when Islam takes over.

The boys’ barrister, Geoffrey Foster, said the case contained “a lot of circumstantial fluff” and content intended to “besmirch their character” and invent a “sinister plot”.

However Magistrate Katherine Thompson denied bail, saying the first boy had a track record of disobeying authority while the second boy showed contempt for government and police, making it unlikely they would show up for future appearances.

An application to suppress Tuesday’s bail application was dismissed on Friday.

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