Michael Batson

Travel Writer





What A Player I'd Been If I Hadn't Done Coke - Part II - 17 February 2011

Maradona arrived in Belgrade on a private jet with film director, Kustinica . It’s unclear who the jet belonged to, whether a charter or Maradona. Given his run-ins with the authorities over the years and prodigious outgoings supporting a decadent and opulent lifestyle, not to mention those of his numerous hangers-on, how much money Maradona has, or what is income levels are. In 2009, he still owed the Italian authorities 29 million euros. On the way into the city, Maradona spoke to Kustincia’s mother on the phone. It was the penultimate day of her life. Crawling through the narrow back streets of the Serbian capital to Kustincia’s house, Maradona took the opportunity to say hello to several bemused locals, some of whom seemed to recognise him. Given his physical changes over the years, the football legend has assumed somewhat chameleon qualities, barely recognisable from one era to another, one illness to the next; bloated drug addict to slimline rehabilitation and recovery. He seems to possess the fallibility of Mike Tyson without the violence, his own worst enemy. These days his whiskers are grey but the hair bushy and black, the waistline slim. After visiting the director’s house they went to the Red Star stadium. The last time Maradona was there was in his younger playing days wearing the famous red and blue stripes of Barcelona. After describing the scene that day, and that goal there is an impromptu kickabout with the assembled cast and crew. He is

Paris of the South - 30 January 2011

My plane to Buenos Aires was late, very late. So late in fact, that it had yet to arrive in Auckland to go to Sydney to return to Auckland, for the journey back to Buenos Aires. According to the staff at the Aerolineas Argentinas check-in desk, the schedule had been disrupted by “unexpected volcanic activity over Patagonia”.  This utter

Plunderers, Poachers and Shipwrecks - 8 January 2011

The South Coast near Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island is an inhospitable stretch of land at the best of times. The winds are sometimes extreme with gales from the north and the south. The only time there’s calm is when the wind is changing direction. However, the barrenness belies a tapestry of life, death and history to beguile the

Red Sticker City - 3 January 2011

New Zealand’s second-largest city has 400,000 residents but big country town feel. Just a few streets from the CBD and you could be in a small regional town with one-tenth of the population. It’s noted for the picture postcard idyll with the Southern Alps’ backdrop complete with earthquakes but with other less inviting undercurrents.On 4

Bridge Over Troubled Waters - 12 December 2010

Cambodia is a country which has experienced more than its fair share of tragedy, some on a scale barely comprehensible to most foreign observers. This year, what was supposed to be a celebration of the Water Festival, turned into disaster on Diamond Island near the capital, leaving many questions unanswered as to why, in a country not noted for

Life and Death on the Coast - 3 December 2010

The West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island has some of the most stunning scenery to be had anywhere on the planet. The life of Coasters is shaped by the rugged beauty of its landscape which contains a lethal legacy clearly illustrated by recent events.To drive the coastal road of the West Coast is to privilege one of nature’s wonders

Above Us Only Sky - 7 November 2010

The plaque at Liverpool’s airport contains an apt excerpt from the eponymous John Lennon’s song Imagine, ‘Above us only sky’.In that football mad city, England’s most successful club side, Liverpool, the red half of Merseyside, is currently suffering its worst start to a season in decades.Liverpudlians (colloquially known as “Scousers”) are