Michael Batson

Travel Writer





Valparaiso - It's By The Sea - 5 March 2011

Two hours drive by bus from Santiago is the port of Valparaiso, until the early 1900s Chile’s first city. Testament to its former glories, Valparaiso was home to Latin America’s first stock exchange and the oldest continuous Spanish language newspaper in the world. Valparaiso once served as an important stopover for ships sailing between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, where they could either prepare or recover from the torment of the Straits of Magellan. During its heyday, it was known as “Little San Francisco”. Completion of the Panama Canal almost killed off its maritime significance. The city sits in a stunning geographic setting and is nicknamed the “Jewel of the Pacific”.Valparaiso was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003 based upon its improvised urban design, unique architecture and its natural amphitheatre-like setting. Santiago is the capital but many of the legislative bodies reside here. It’s described as an “exceptional testimony to the early phase of globalization in the late 19th century.” The territory was originally inhabited by Chango Indians, who lived on farming and fishing. Today, Valparaiso is home to Chile’s navy and one of the country’s most important seaports as well as the country’s cultural capital. Looking out over the bay a vast armada is moored like some invading force. Chile’s landed elite have long sent their sons to serve in the armed forces, with the navy the preferred choice. For this reason, it is the navy that

It was the Land of Opportunity - 20 February 2011

La Boca is the working class district near the docks, famous for its narrow cobbled streets and brightly coloured houses. If paying a visit it pays to be cautious. It’s a fairly rough area and tourists are sometimes targeted by petty criminals. I found the area remarkably small, largely consisting of a single street, so I had trouble working out

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