My Life In Travel: Michael Buerk

'My best holiday was canoeing down the Zambezi river with my twin sons'
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The Independent Travel

What is your first holiday memory?

I was brought up just outside Birmingham and we always went on holiday to a small village called Borth on Cardigan Bay in Wales. Everyone in the Midlands in the 1950s seemed to go to this tiny village where it always rained.

Where have you had your best holiday?

I was based in South Africa in the 1980s for the BBC, and I canoed down the Zambezi river with my twin sons who were about 11 at the time. We canoed from the Kariba Dam to the Mozambique border and slept under the stars. One night I awoke to find a rhino picking its way between the boys.

Are you a beach bum, culture vulture or adrenalin junkie?

I get bored to tears sitting on beaches and I've got a fairly low boredom threshold for culture. The thought of bungee jumping makes my palms go damp, but I do enjoy sailing

What is your greatest travel luxury?

I've spent so much of my working life under pressure that my greatest travel luxury is time.

Where has seduced you?

The south-east coast of Turkey, between Bodrum and Antalya. It's got everything, from fantastic mountains and seascapes to the extraordinary relics of classical civilisation.

Is it better to travel or arrive?

When I was a foreign correspondent I went through periods when there was a high degree of pressure, so it was always so wonderful to get on a plane where I couldn't be reached.

What has been your worst travel experience?

I got bombed in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia during the war. The capital was being taken by rebels, so the airport was closed. My sound man was killed and my cameraman lost his arm.

Describe your worst holiday

We once borrowed a cottage somewhere in the Scottish borders in the middle of a field. We sat there and it rained. By the fourth morning we just knew that it was time to go and we bolted.

Where is the worst hotel you've stayed in?

I stayed in a hotel in El Salvador during the war that was under siege from rebels. One night we were woken by the clumping of boots. The whole of the inner courtyard was full of soldiers who had come to avail themselves of the women who appeared to be in all the other rooms.It was an army brothel, and they appeared to be extremely anxious to get these services. I felt very vulnerable indeed.

And the best?

The Mount Nelson in Cape Town is a lovely old pink hotel with gorgeous grounds. It's an elegant Victorian building in the shadow of Table Mountain. Another favourite is the Hotel Windamere in Darjeeling, which is an extraordinary relic from the days of the Raj.

Where have you eaten your best meal?

In Beirut. During the Cyprus war I was sent there for some rest I had fantastic Lebanese mezes under the stars. It was what I thought being a foreign correspondent was all about.

Where would you go on your dream trip?

There are parts of the Far East that I'd love to visit like Vietnam, parts of Cambodia and Laos. I did a lot of filming in Alaska in the 1970s about the oil exploitation there, so I'd really like to cruise up there in my dotage from Vancouver on a luxury cruise liner. I've got an emotional attachment to Vancouver because my father was Canadian and I lived there until I was three.

Michael Buerk's autobiography 'The Road Taken' is out now, published by Hutchinson

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