Travel: Passport - Janet Street-Porter

When the landing gear of the Cessna plane she and her husband were in failed to lower, they wrote their wills on an empty film packet as the shark-infested waters swept by below them
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The Independent Travel
My brush with death happened in the early 1970s. I was married to Tim Street-Porter, the photographer, and I used to travel with him to do stories. We had a lot of jobs in Baja California, one of which was in Las Cruces which you can get to only by plane. Someone lent us their Cessna and on the return journey the front landing gear wouldn't come down. The pilot radioed the owner and all he could do was whinge about destroying the plane, and instructed us to circle and dump fuel.

Tim and I wrote our wills on Kodak packets as we flew over the shark- infested waters. It took hours and then the owner told us to do loop the loops to try to bump out the front landing gear. We went through about 20 minutes of aerobatics and they still didn't pop out. Eventually we dumped all the fuel, the pilot cut the engines and told us to move all the equipment out of the back of the plane and crawl into the tail to balance things out. We landed on the back wheels and the plane flipped up on to its nose and stuck in the asphalt. The emergency services told us to jump out and run for cover in case it blew up. It didn't. Afterwards we went to the control tower and the air traffic controller said it had been a really disappointing crash.

Since then I've never been afraid of flying, but a few years later I went to Jamaica with Neil Tennant, on a scheduled BA flight. We got on board to find Paul and Linda McCartney and all their kids, Mick Hucknell and his entourage and a Channel 4 film crew who were flying out to do their New Year's Eve concert. And sitting downstairs were all these pop stars who were going to be in the programme. I've never seen so many pop stars on one plane. I thought, if this plane goes down I won't even be a footnote: I'll be an also-on-board.

To relax I love to walk or go sailing. My holidays are a bit schizophrenic. I'm either walking seven hours a day, or I'm lounging on the back of someone else's boat with a drink. I like isolated places, places that you can get to only by water or a long trek. I love St Vincent and have been a couple of times, although I rarely go to the same place twice.

For the TV programme As the Crow Flies, I walked 350 miles from Edinburgh Observatory to Greenwich Observatory, in a straight line. In order to do this I ended up walking through people's back gardens. I also walked through a very deep river with all these tin cans and bits of wire at the bottom. But the worst bit of the walk was the Pennines. It was so wet and to keep to a straight line we had to walk through bogs. Then you've got to lose all sense of shame as you go into some isolated pub and start stripping off and hanging your clothes up around the fire to dry.

What I hate about travel are mosquitoes because they always find that bit of your body with no cream on it. Once in Sri Lanka I was bitten by so many mosquitoes I was forced to lie in a bath of cold water for hours. My speciality is to get a really good suntan and to go for a walk, with shorts instead of long trousers, to show off brown legs. I always come back covered in mosquito bites, bramble scratches and ticks. Often when I return from holidays I look so bad that my friends greet me with: "And you paid money to go and do that."

Janet Street-Porter's book, 'As the Crow Flies', is published by Metro at pounds 8.99. The TV series is showing on Fridays on BBC 2.