Thursday, September 23, 2010


If I was asked to name what I loved best about travel I would have to say the ‘people I meet’; if you asked me then the one item I thought every traveller simply couldn’t do without I would immediately reply ‘a sense of humour’.  Marry the two and you have a sure fire recipe for successfully circumnavigating the globe.

On board the QE2 - obviously before real fur was banned!

My first round the world trip was taken with my mother.  She had married for the second time and was yet again facing widowhood.  Actually she would in time add another two spouses to her grab bag, but for the purpose of this story we’re only interested in husband number two, a lovely man who left both of us heartbroken but one of us with a considerable sum of money. 

To cheer her up I suggested a cruise to Fiji and back, a natural choice, her mother was born there and we still had family in Suva.  When I suggested she take a cruise that took in Hawaii she looked at me in amazement, the thought had never entered her head.  When I took the idea further reminding her that grandfather had been born in Indiana and it seemed silly to get so close to America and not visit, she began to see the bigger picture.

Of course I saved the best to last,  why traipse all that way only to turn around and come home by the same route when she could continue to New York and sail home by way of England.

I swear on a stack of bibles I had no ulterior motive in stirring this cunning little plot, suffice to say it took me no time at all to arrange a housekeeper, book the tickets and wave goodbye to my husband, (for good reason referred to as the reluctant traveller), two children and one dopey Doberman.

That initial journey with Mother was the experience of a lifetime.  First class cruising was not to be sneezed at and I quickly piled on ounces and pounds as the luxury American liner Mariposa, steamed across the Pacific.  (Note the old time weight - just as heavy in kilos!)

We did indeed touch on Suva meeting up with distant relatives, explored Samoa and thoroughly enjoyed Honolulu;  galloped blithely across the States hankering for an ice cold beer in the teetotal brown bag state of Utah, before leaving behind mother’s side dentures under a pillow in a motel overlooking the Niagara Falls.  

But for some obscure reason we completely forgot to visit nearby Indiana where Grandpa was born and family still live though I doubt they know we even exist.

The obliging motel staff at Niagara Falls did forward Mother’s dentures onto New York, but the customs officer requesting a full description of the item in the package was too much for Mother to handle much less reveal. So partially but fortunately not obviously toothless,  my mother remained until we returned to Oz.

 While Mother enjoyed afternoon tea with Lord Louis Mountbatten on the Queen Elizabeth 2 as we steamed between New York and Southampton I slid gently into oblivion sipping gin and it with more experienced sippers on the first class deck.

We sailed home on the Canberra by way of South Africa, a country then under the influence of cruel apartheid.  It was an eye opener for me and perhaps responsible for my choice of future travel destinations.  It’s hard to get to know a country’s people when you’re not permitted to share with them a park bench, much less a seat on a bus.

Did I enjoy all that first class luxury?  Of course I did, but over the course of the next forty odd years as I  crossed the globe in cattle class and worse I enjoyed these budget experiences far more, no doubt because of the places I visited and the people I met. 
Whoever said money isn’t everything got it dead right.  Remind me again ...who said that...?



©Robyn Mortimer 2010