Tequila Part 1

I met him late one Saturday afternoon when the bus I was travelling in stopped at the city of Guadalajara. The person who had been sitting next to me got up and left and he plumped himself down in the vacated seat.

He must have been in his mid 30´s. He was good-looking in a dark Spanish way – head of black wavy black hair, olive skin, moustache, regular jaw line. From the way he was dressed – neat shirt and trousers – I would have picked him as a public servant or a teacher.

We made small talk for a while.

The end stop of the bus was the town of Tequila and he was going there because he worked as a security guard at a tequila distillery; this week he was on the night shift.

I was on my way there because it seemed only natural to visit the town where Mexico’s famous national drink was made. Besides which, it wasn’t easy anymore finding destinations in Mexico to travel to which were still relatively safe.

It was in 2013 and I was nearing the end of my two weeks in Mexico. It was unlikely I would return, which was a shame because Mexico was a unique country and quite unlike other Spanish speaking nations in South and Central America. But facts were facts: the country was sliding into anarchy. Organised crime gangs were running entire provinces and forming a threat to the central government. Murders, assassinations and kidnappings were so commonplace they had become almost banal. The notorious El Chapo Guzman, the most notorious leader of a crime gang exporting cocaine, marihuana and meth amphetamines to the U.S. and Europe, was constantly in the news. Murders and ‘disappearances’ were everyday events.

The number of areas which the Mexican government advised tourists not to visit was far greater than during my last visit in 2007.  

The journey to Tequila as it turned out, my last glimpse of Mexico and as fate would have it, it was a strangely and quintessentially Mexican experience. And it began with Marcos, a man who had ventured beyond the borders of Mexico and returned, fully realising the dangers he ran…..

Read more

Vortex of Madness


When we left the town Gladstone, we had it all worked out.

Leastways we thought we did.

Gladstone was a small nowhere town in the what was known as the mid-north of South Australia – where there was an awful lot of ‘north’, like about 500 kilometres of it.

Anya and I had pitched our tent in a caravan park and were planning to ride our bikes to another nowhere place called Port Broughton, which was situated on the coast about a hundred kilometres south west of Gladstone.

The weather report forecast a light northerly wind in the morning which would blow up around midday and increase during the afternoon, ahead of a cool change in the evening.

Studying our map, we found a series of back roads which would take us south to a town called Redhill and from there, another unsealed back road heading west to a place called Port Broughton. In this way, we would ride south with the northerly behind us to Redhill and then in the afternoon, head west to Port Broughton when we would have the northerly as a side wind.

Distance wise, 70% of the trip was to Redhill. We calculated that the rest of the trip to Port Broughton would take at the most, around 2 hours.  

But the weather report was wrong and we found ourselves heading into vortex of madness. The last leg of the journey which was supposed to be the shortest turned out to by far the longest….. 

Read more

Travelling in Japan


The word seems easy enough to define.

Yet how people travel and what they experience varies enormously.

You can say that ultimately, there as many ways of travelling as there are travellers.

In our case for example, Anya and I always travel alone together, booking our own accommodation and travelling from one destination to the next by local bus or train (in Japan we avoided the popular bullet trains or Shenzhen)

We never move quickly and stay in places for at least a few days going on to the next destination.

We use guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, but in a different way to most other travellers.

Firstly, we use them to work out which places we aren’t interested in because they either too busy or over commercialised. We are always on the look-out for smaller, less popular destinations. Another reason we consult the LP guides (borrowed from a library) is to find places which aren’t in the LP guide – and hence where very few travellers will visit. In other words the LP guide is useful to find places which are worth a visit – and others, which are right off the beaten trail.

When we began thinking about travelling in Japan, the first thing we bought was a good map of the country.

Our main focus was to get a bit closer to how the everyday Japanese live; their way of life and culture. Often we ended up in places that had no sights, no attractions. Wherever we were, we went on long walks, often to the outskirts of the cities/towns. We often also walked around at nights. Japan in this sense is a good country to indulge in this kind of sightseeing because it is a uniquely safe country with low crime rates; an orderly society with a strong civic culture.

Japan is a unique society in every way. On the one hand it is so obviously  modern – a high tech superpower and the third largest economy in the world – and yet on the other hand, it is also very traditional. It is a liberal democracy, with elected politicians and a free press and yet one could hardly think of a bigger contrast between Japan and the world’s other liberal democracies. 

In what follows are some of my thoughts and reactions during the month we spent in Japan…..

  Read more


One day in 1952, my father bought a camera.

It happened shortly after he became an officer in the Australian air force and for the first time in his life could afford it.

Cameras in those days were luxury items unaffordable for the great majority of ordinary working people.

Mind you though, there was a bit more involved in his purchasing that camera than his income.

He had been posted to Malta and he was about to leave Australia for an indeterminate period and whilst today Malta doesn’t sound terribly exotic, in 1952 when very few people could travel, it most definitely was. And my father knew that whilst on Malta, he would be able to travel during his leave periods.

Located south of Sicily and bang smack in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta was strategically a valuable asset for surveillance of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and the coast of Southern Europe. A British colony at the time, it had served as a base for the British navy and air force since the Second World War. That ‘hot war’ was superseded by a ‘Cold War’ – a time of simmering tensions between the Soviet Union (i.e. Russia and its slave regimes in Eastern Europe) and the U.S. and its western allies – both of the protagonists armed with nuclear weapons. My father was sent to Malta as a part of an Australian contingent supporting the British.

He had always been a bit of a collector; postage stamps when he was a kid, black and white photos cut out of newspapers and glued onto the blank pages of exercise books when he was a teenager. The collecting moved into a different realm when he was in the navy during the Second World War: he collected the banknotes and coins of every strange port where his ship docked – Indonesia, The Philippines, Malaysia, China, India and Burma (now Myanmar).

Over the following years during his time on Malta, he continued his currency collecting – whilst also taking photos.

And what photos they were!…..

Read more

Joining the Pilgrims – Part 2

In the cold and dark I joined the pilgrims as they began their ascent over the 10, 000 steps, but for a while, I couldn’t see them and I was actually struggling to see the steps in front of me.

Then dawn broke and there was light and the show began.   

The forms and faces of the other pilgrims became visible and what a truly eclectic mix it was: young couples, elderly couples, family groups and larger groups belonging to a sect – one lot clad in saffron and chanting, another dressed in pure white cotton and carrying small brass pots of water.

Everyone was on the move towards some unseen goal, some destination ahead which no one knew…….

Read more