Michael Batson

Travel Writer





The Avenue of the Basques and the Irish - 24 February 2011

Flying west into Chile’s capital Santiago from Argentina is an interesting experience to say the least.  The route taken brings you inevitably down through the Andes, the pilot having to negotiate mountain passes and vicious cross winds.You cannot make this journey without thinking of the film Alive about the Uruguayan rugby team, which crashed high in the Andes and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.Chile is the longest and narrowest land on Earth. Backed by the spine of the mighty Andes, it extends from sub-Antarctic climate in the south to the Atacama in the north, described as the world’s most perfect desert.An interesting, and unnoticed geographic feature of Santiago is that it lies east of New York, giving the Americas a different perspective.The plane appears full of skiers, either Chileans returning home or Argentines leaving, their faces burned with that curious colour that sun reflected on snow leaves without sun block.  South Americans don’t appear overly concerned with covering up when on the slopes.  The plane, a rear-engine jet, had an unusually large smoking section.Landing was accompanied by rapturous applause.  Given the perilous route into Santiago, with jagged peaks threatening either side, even I was tempted to put my hands together.People reckon there’s something in the air about Chile’s capital. That something would be smog, tons of it. The city is home to almost 40 percent of all the motorised vehicles in Chile. This despite

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

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