Travel: `The rules for the island's only golf course have had to be rewritten to take account of the propensity of the crabs to steal the balls'

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The Independent Travel
Midsummer's Day is a good occasion to take stock of the travel coverage so far this year and look ahead to Christmas - and, writing from Malaga, Ross Pierson does both.

"You tell us that for a `mere' pounds 1,402 it is possible to visit Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean for the festive season. May one briefly list three reasons why that expenditure might be ill-spent? 1. Christmas occurs in the midst of the wet season (November-March). Rain on CI at that time is like standing under a fire hose. Leather goods - shoes, handbags, whatever -grow a thick, green mould overnight. This is a daily occurence. 2. It is also the monsoon season. The island's few beaches are lashed by an Indian Ocean swell that dumps five-metre-high waves on narrow strips of shingle. Brittany in a winter gale, though chillier, would be a fair comparison. 3. You might well encounter the return migration of the red crabs as they ascend from the shoreline to the plateau around late December.

"CI is the crabbiest spot on earth. These crabs are no respectors of persons. They go over, around or through everything and everybody in their path. Up to 1 million crabs are run over on the island's roads in each migration season.

"Ecologically that is insignificant, as there are still 99 million left, but the smell of hundreds of thousands of dead crabs, in a temperature of 30C and 100 per cent humidity takes some getting used to. And no, they are not good eating. Even the Japanese occupation forces, cut off, desperate and starving before their surrender in 1945, refused to eat them. They are such a menace that the rules for the island's only golf course have had to be rewritten to take account of the propensity of the crabs to steal the balls.

"On the whole, I think I would stick to a more traditional Yuletide."

"Good nostalgic stuff -but inaccurate," writes Colin Murison Small from London, continuing today's correctional theme. He is referring to travellers' recollections of cut-price Channel crossings in the 1960s in these columns a fortnight ago.

"It was Skyways, not Skywings, who ran the Lympne-Beauvais link; and Silver City flew Bristol Freighters from Lydd, not Lympne."

These errors crept in during the editing process - or, more accurately, I goofed. Mr Murison Small continues: "You might have mentioned, for state- registered old dodderers like me, that the Harwich/Hook service carried all the national servicemen between the UK and the British Army of the Rhine on secondment and leave."

We caused a few problems for an institution in Cardiff last week. In our feature on belly dancing, we gave what we thought was the UK contact number for the Turkish belly-dancing school; most unfortunately, the number printed is that of an old people's home. The staff tells us that they do not (yet) offer exotic dancing lessons to residents. My apologies; the correct number is 01545 570742.

It ill-behoves any writer to draw attention to the typographical errors of other publications, so I shall not name either of the travel trade journals responsible for a couple of classic clangers. Feminists may be delighted to learn that Virago Brazilian Airlines is adding flights between London and Sao Paulo in April, but disappointed when they discover that the real name of the airline is the much more macho Varig. Perhaps they might prefer a holiday in a Somerset seaside resort - such as Western Super Mare.

This column operates a boycott of soft targets such as amusing mistranslations on foreign menus. But the Restaurant U Liszta in Bratislava is not in this category, with a perfect conversion from Slovak to English; it is just the contents that worry me.

Under the heading "Diet Meals", the restaurant offers three options:

1. Boiled beef, stewed vegetables.

2. Stewed vegetables, ox eye.

3. Stewed vegetables, boiled potatoes.

Somehow I can't see this regime catching on at Grayshott Hall (see Alison Rice's story, above).

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