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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 46, February 2010

Amazing! I had so much to say that I got all the way to item six before I got around to talking about our trips. If you or anyone you know is planning a trip this year, you really need to read that sooner rather than later.

If you did one of our trips in the past three to five years, there is a real chance that one of the changes to our website will affect you personally. Read the website section and see how.

Willis's Walkabouts logo

In this issue

New Flights to Darwin

If you live in Canberra, Mount Isa or the Gold Coast, you win.

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Definite Departures?

Depending on the trip, we normally need four or five bookings to guarantee a departure. Occasionally, if I particularly want to do a trip, I will run it for fewer at no extra charge, but normally we need an additional payment to guarantee departure for very small groups. (Other guides need to be paid.)

Once we have the numbers, I will call a trip "definite" or "guaranteed" but no trip is ever 100% definite more than 60 days prior to departure when our heavy duty cancellation fees kick in. Although it has never happened, it would be possible for a number of people to cancel just before the 60 day deadline, leaving me with a big loss. That could force a cancellation of a "definite" departure.

The best way to check the status of a particular trip is to go to the Availability and Specials page on the website. I try and keep this as up to date as possible.

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A New Park for NSW?

I mentioned some of the threats to NSW parks in my December newsletter. On the positive side, I recently received an email which I'd like to pass along. Your support, especially if you live in NSW, can help move the proposed park along.

"Last year got us to within a whisper of delivering on the vision of thriving River Red Gum wetlands protected in world-class National Parks. Now, as the International Year of Biodiversity kicks off, we need to finish the job. Click here to take action."

"We are at a crucial time in the campaign. The NSW Government is moving in the right direction towards implementing the outcomes promised in December. But there has still been no final decision on the details, and if we don't see new legislation in Parliament in March then the outcomes will be at risk."

"That is where the Federal Government comes into play. They have a major role in the future of River Red Gum through their legal powers and funding mechanisms. They can act in concert with the NSW Government to make Red Gum National Parks a reality."

"Please take action now to urge the Federal Government to do its part to save these national treasures. Click here to send an email to key Federal Cabinet Ministers. Prime Minister Rudd doesn't have an email address, but you can go direct to his website and add a comment via a form here."

Latest Red Gum News

"In late December 2009, the NSW Natural Resources Commission delivered its final report on River Red Gum forests to the NSW Premier (see it here)." (It's a 30+ page, 1.77 MB pdf.)

"The report confirmed that River Red Gum are in grave trouble, with vast areas at risk of dying, and it fully vindicated the decision made earlier in December by the NSW Government to reserve key Red Gum areas in National Parks."

"The report of the Natural Resources Commission:

"Your support can help make these outcomes a reality. Take action here."

As single individuals, none of us is likely to make a lot of difference. but lots of people acting together can get noticed and can make things happen. I've used the form and made a few comments of my own already. Personally, I believe that anyone who cares about an issue yet does nothing to make their concerns known has no right to complain about whatever may happen with respect to that particular issue.

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The Commercialisation of National Parks — a Spreading Disease?

Following my write up of the situation in NSW in my last newsletter, I got an email from a member of the Qld NPA. The following is from an email they sent their members on 1 December.

"Today, NPAQ met with Anna Bligh as part of a series of ongoing quarterly meetings between the Premier and 8 representatives of the Conservation Sector."

"What ensued (in part) was a very robust and open discussion on the issue of commercial tourism infrastructure in National Parks."

"One of the benefits of being a member-based organisation is the feedback we receive on National Park issues from travelling members. I believe that there is a growing perception that National Parks in Queensland are suffering death by a thousand cuts - horse-riding in Southeast Queensland Parks, cattle in some North Queensland Parks, a growing disparity between the proportion of QPWS resources being spent on recreation management as opposed to natural and cultural resource management (sometimes as high as 9:1), the distraction of politically iconic fauna species (such as koalas - $25m promised to date this year, but $0 for new National Parks), and a real struggle to expand the National Park estate in line with the Q2 commitments."

"Since last Wednesday's announcement, there has been unabated surprise and growing resistance to the possibility of commercial tourism infrastructure in National Parks."

"I strongly encourage you, if you have not already done so, to write to the Premier and express your concern over this issue, and indeed to direct her attention to non-Park lands."

"We cannot let our National Parks be resigned to this fate."

If you'd like more information, see the NPA of Qld website or email Executive Coordinator, Paul Donatiu or phone 07 3367 0878.

If you'd like to make a comment to Premier Bligh, use her contact the premier web page.

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Changes to Our New Website

The Navigation Menu

I'd like to make it as easy as possible to navigate to the different pages on our website. I am now considering changing the existing menu to a drop down one. I'd appreciate your feedback before I go any further. If you have a few minutes to spare, please have a browse using the current menu then using the drop down version, then let us know which you prefer. In the drop down version, holding the cursor over an item in the top menu gives you a list of clickable choices.

New Environmental Page

I thought I needed something to explain what our two accreditations mean so I created an "Accreditation Page" which quickly became an Accreditation and Environmental Protection Page. On it, I've listed a number of environmental organisations which I support. Given the pressure the environment is under, I urge all of you to support one or more of them in whatever way you can. There's even a link to a page where you can find opportunities to volunteer to assist conservation and parks in your own area.

New Testimonials Page

As much as I depend on repeat business and recommendations, people who have done our trips remain our most underutilised resource. That is about to change. The new Testimonials Page includes

When I put links to the Testimonials Page on the home page and some of the other pages, I may start getting a lot of enquiries. For now, I've left it unlinked so that readers of this newsletter have a chance to comment before it goes live in its final form.

Note. I am still working on this page. By the time it's finished, there will be more quotes and more photos. I might even have to split it into a number of pages. For now, using the link buttons on the page, it's easy to jump down to a particular section and back to the top.

Help! I have very few recent comments from people who did trips with other guides. I'd like to have more. If you did a trip with one of the other guides in the last few years and would like to write a comment for possible inclusion on the Testimonials Page, please send me an email with your comments. Better still, include a good photo of yourself on the trip you are talking about.

Many thanks to all those who volunteered themselves on our post-trip questionnaire. If anyone else who didn't fill in a questionnaire would like to volunteer or even give us some delayed feedback, click the link above and download it. You can email it back or post it to
Willis's Walkabouts
Reply Paid 67729
12 Carrington St
Millner NT 0810
(The free reply paid post only works within Australia. If you want to post it from outside the country, you'll need to use a stamp.)

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Trip Update

Now through 10 April

There is one space available on one tripBaroalba - Hill 420: 7-20 March
A flight over the area on 1 December suggested a slight route change which could improve the trip. I said I'd guarantee departure for as few as three just so I could do it. I've now got 7 of a possible 8 places filled. It's a spectacular area with an incredible concentration of Aboriginal art.

11-30 April

Only two trips have bookings. The first is a definite departure; the other will be cancelled on 12 February if we don't have the bookings to run it.

Any other April trip which doesn't have bookings by 12 February will have to be cancelled. We need that much notice to ensure we have a guide available.


There are three May departures which already have bookings. The first two each need two more to run. The third is in a special category of its own.

June Onwards

Every trip is still available. The following need only one or two more bookings to become definite departures.

Other trips which already have bookings include.

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Willis's Walkabouts and Hire Cars

On some trips, we charter buses, boats, helicopters and/or light aircraft to get us to and from the walks. On others, we use our own 4WD vehicles. Three of our four vehicles are registered as self drive hire cars so that the clients can share in the driving as well as allowing us to use two vehicles on a trip with one guide. We've now gone one step further.

On the trip shown in our Finke 2008 Photo gallery the clients hired the cars and provided their own transport. That worked so well that we now offer the same trip with the same transport. The list price is lower than our other trips, but the transport cost per person depends on the number who book.

Given the huge cost of helicopter transport and changes in Kalumburu which should make it possible to get a permit to drive in, we will do the same on our Drysdale No. 1 and Drysdale No. 2 trips this year. Doing this allows us to offer trips we couldn't offer otherwise. If you have any opinion about this kind of arrangement, please let us know.

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Walkabouts Guide Becomes a Superstar

Over the years, many guides have come and gone. Many of you would have walked with Amelia Hunter who led trips us for for eleven years, 1997-2007. If you saw her out bush, you'd hardly recognise the photos on her website but you would remember her sense of humour.

That sense of humour is alive and well today. Amelia was one of the team captains on "The Squiz" a sports-comedy quiz show on SBS last year. She's also performed at many comedy festivals both in Australia and overseas. She told me that, "my origins in comedy began on those remote area walks telling stories about you." I'm not really sure how to take that.

Amelia will be performing at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, 2-14 March. Here are a few links for those who are interested.

Amelia looked a bit different out in the bush. Here's what she looked like on the Mitchell Explorer in May 2007.

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Another Top End Tour

I've known Mick Jerram who runs Gecko Canoeing for many years. Like me, he'd rather spend time leading trips in the bush than in the office. If you are coming to Darwin for one of our trips and enjoy canoeing, you might want to consider one of his canoe trips. They are all good but the one that intrigues me the most is the Wickham River trip on the edge of Gregory National Park. One of my guides led a walk along the Wickham on one of our Gregory trips years ago. At some point, we might even be able to incorporate a canoe trip into a Gregory trip.

In addition to the canoeing, Gecko offers three walks

If you are looking for a short walk, especially early in the dry season when we offer relatively few short ones, Gecko is worth considering.

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Special discounts — combine them and save even more

Book now and save! As in the past, if you are one of the first three people who quote this newsletter when booking any Australian trip within two weeks of when we sent it out, you will get an extra 10% discount on any trip where your total discounts are 10% or less. You'll get an extra 5% off if your total discounts are 15% or more.

Note 1. There has to be a limit. The maximum total discount on any trip is 35%.
Note 2. This offer does not apply to trips where the special offer specifies no other discounts apply.
Note 3. It's amazing how few people take advantage of this offer. You have to ask to get it.

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News About This Newsletter

The newsletters are sent from walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au. This is the contact address on our website. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

Emails sent to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au are currently automatically forwarded to rrwillis at internode.on.net. If you want to send an email to that address, replace the word "at" with the symbol @. I am trying not to put that address any place where it can be harvested by spam bots.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. The program we use to send this newsletter has an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. My newsletter mailing program will not allow the auto delete to send me an email notifying me that a deletion has been made. If you want to be removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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