Traveller’s Tales: Preserving the Memories

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Home&Away is a collection of 35 award-winning travel stories by New Zealand writers. Each transports you to a different destination.

Some of the writers stay close to home like Steve Braunias who commuted from Hamilton to Auckland once a week and loved " The rhythm of the Overlander train, its sharp whistles and low hoots, smooth diesel engine and compact metal hulk clattering over the tracks. His hours were filled by happily by looking at the passing landscape, reading and falling asleep.

But most of the authors travelled offshore. Robin Charteris suddenly found his canoe tossed into the air by a large hippo who surfaced right under it while he was on an African safari. Hippos are fiendishly dangerous creatures and although he lived to tell the tale it is a moment he will never forget.

Shelley Maree's "North to Alaska" will bring back memories for GrownUps who have cruised to the same destination. She paints an evocative picture of her cruise ship "The Spirit of Endeavour" moving slowly through a sea of crushed ice while humpback whales "spouted and flicked their great flukes. And traces Alaska's history including the fact that when fur revenues waned Russia sold Alaska to the USA in 1867 for the measly sum of about 2 cents an acre.

In "Falling in Love Again," Michelle Hewitson tells the story of a return visit in London. For the second time in her life she loved the gargoyles on the outside of the Natural History Museum, the Turner-esque sunset over Regent Street, Borough market's displays of hanging pheasants, hares and blackberry pies and John Nash's perfectly lovely All Saints Church. It's such an evocative story of her rediscoveries that it makes you immediately want to follow in her footsteps.

Mike Cartridge decided to veer off the standard tourist trail in Egypt and arrived at a very messy downtown Cairo which had the appearance of a combined construction/demolition site. And when he took a trip to the three pyramids of the Gaza plateau these were not, as he had imagined they would be, surrounded by desert but were "more-or-less at the end of a suburban street. "

Not every journey leaves the traveller with happy memories. Graham Reid experienced Honiara, the dusty humid capital of the Solomon islands, as "A battered country, dressed in last decade's cast-offs and living at subsistence level" After reading his story anyone would want to remove Honiara from their bucket list for now.

Carroll du Chateau: Let's Tango is an amusing tale about taking tango lessons in Buenos Aires. Her story starts enticingly with:

"It wasn't when Juan pulled his Argentinian beret over his eyes, took me in his arms and started the slow slide. It wasn't when the music kicked into that unmistakeable rhythm, or when the instructor started clicking her fingers and stamping her feet. No, it was when I first wriggled my feet into those high, black, T-bar-strapped tango shoes. I was there, Buenos Aires, the city Madonna called the Big Apple.

In the introduction to Home&Away Graeme Lay, the editor, mentions that, "Kiwis are known for their sense of adventure and curiosity and love to explore the rest of the world. They rough it when they are young, and then do it again, in comfort, in their later years. " I imagine there are lots of GrownUps like me and my partner and myself who are passionate travellers

And, like us, they may have accumulated hundreds of photographs in albums or computer files about journeys they went on. But didn't note down when and where each was taken or wrote stories about their travels. Which in retrospect seems a bit of a shame.

Now, when we go on a journey, we do try to write longer emails to friends and relations and cc them to our home address as well so we can print them off later. This can be tricky as not every place we stay at has computer access or wireless. And finding places that sell postcards or stamps can be like finding a needle in a haystack! So I also write brief notes in a travel diary to trigger my memory after we get home and have time to write .

Later on, when our grandkids go travelling (and it's likely they will, it's in their genes) they will probably love to read any old postcards/travel diaries/ emails from us. Especially if they intend to go to the same places as we did so they'd be able to compare how things have changed, and what's still standing.

I know how much I appreciate the brief account written by my Grandmother of how, as a child, ships she was travelling in were twice shipwrecked near the treacherous Cape of Good Horn. It makes our journeys seem rather tame by comparison.

But as Steve Braunias shows us even a small journey can sound significant and interesting. And I don't think it matters at all if the stories we tell lack the polish of those written by professional journalists. As long as we write honestly and from the heart.

home&away
Award Winning Stories by New Zealand Writers
Selected and edited by Graeme Lay
New Holland Publishers
RRP $34. 99