Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Brisbane to Cairns - 6 June 2021

When I first went to Australia as a teenager I hitchhiked from Melbourne to Cairns, about 3000kms (roughly 1800 miles) by road. You get a sense of the size of Australia when you realise that as far as north as Cairns (pronounced by the locals as “Cans”) is from Melbourne, there is still another 1100kms before you reach Cape York at the Torres Strait across from which is Papua New Guinea. I went for the journey, for what I would see along the way and who I would meet. Eventually I planned on finding some work but did not know where. In the end I wound up back in Melbourne where I got work but before then, I did the trip all the way up and back down again. As a young bloke just out of school there was something very appealing about all those white lines flicking past the window, the sun over the endless horizon on what is the flattest continent on Earth. There were few hills, nothing like what I would call mountains, and the roads were often straight for miles at a time. I did most of that trip in stages with stops in between including a weekend in Eden at Lakes Entrance, and a few days in Sydney. I also stayed albeit briefly in Canberra and in Brisbane but didn’t find much to recommend either. Later, in that same trip, I went from Brisbane to Cairns about 1678kms along the Bruce Highway which runs between the two. You aren’t supposed to do that in one go without stopping but I did just that, by accident. I left Brisbane in the morning walking from the

Ten Songs - 5 May 2021

Music can be a very personal thing. For a lot of people music is associated with specific events or times, with people and places, various phases of relationships – good and bad. Music can cover a whole range of emotions.  It can be uplifting or soothing but is rarely both in the same song or piece of music, unless your name is Beethoven

The Bình Xuyên and the Battle of Saigon - 7 April 2021

By 1954 Bay Vien (“Bay the Seventh”), an illiterate gangster once impoverished and homeless, had become the richest man in Saigon with immense wealth at the head of a criminal-military organisation thousands strong, and the key to the French presence in Cochinchina. He was the leader of a powerful Vietnamese criminal enterprise decreed by the

East Coast, New Zealand - In Your Own Time - 10 February 2021

Go east they say, it’s the wild side of New Zealand. The East Cape (the Eastland) of New Zealand’s North Island stretches 344kms by road along route 35 from the small town of Ōpōtiki to Gisborne – there’s a shorter route through the Waioeka Gorge on route 2 but you miss all the fun – though the Waioeka has its own attractions. I have driven from

Bars I Have Known - 7 January 2021

Bars can be a great way to meet people, find work, make contacts and get the low down on the local scene where ever you are. They can be melting pots and social intersections. You can meet all kinds of people in all kinds of bars. I have come across: the well-travelled, the educated, the literate, the well-heeled and those not, the working and

'Our' Man in Tokyo, Richard Sorge - 8 December 2020

This Travelogue piece follows on from Richard Sorge; ‘The Spy from Baku’ and ‘The Spy in Shanghai’. Richard Sorge was a master of bluff and a manipulator extraordinaire as well as being a great actor, important for a spy. Being a spy also made him a born liar, the two sharing similar traits, and as with all spy stories the lines between

The Spy in Shanghai - 18 November 2020

This piece follows on from Richard Sorge, Part One, ‘The Spy from Baku’. Richard Sorge was arguably the greatest spy of the 20th century. Ian Fleming, a spy who become a writer, called him the “most formidable spy in history”. John le Carré, a spy who wrote books and later a bestselling author of espionage once called Fleming’s chief

Richard Sorge - The Spy from Baku - 7 October 2020

Richard Sorge had one of the greatest impacts on the outcome of World War Two of any individual, yet most people have never heard of him. He was not a politician or a diplomat, he didn’t command troops, fly planes, captain battleships or even fire a gun, and he never fought in any of the battles. What he had was access to key inside information