AN INTERVIEW WITH AUSSIE TRAVEL-WRITER PETER MOORE
Peter Moore has been described as the Jim Carrey of travel-writing, and whoever boldly coined such a cunning comment actually isn’t half wrong. Anybody who has read any of Peter’s genuinely madcap travel books, such as ‘The Wrong Way Home’ or ‘The Full Montezuma’, will surely agree, as he manages to negotiate all manner of hair-raising trials and tribulations whilst on the road, whether he’s travelling overland from London to Sydney, or exploring the wilds of Central America.
It’s fair to say that Peter has never been one to settle down for long; he’s visited in the region of one hundred countries since the travel bug well and truly bit him.
Hi Peter, how’s it going?
Pretty good. My football team just won. All is well with the world!
So where have you been lately?
Well, I’m writing at the moment so it’s just short trips for me – or fixes, as I like to call them at the moment. A week in Stockholm, a few days in Italy; nothing too exotic.
Of your three crazily epic overland journeys that you so hilariously documented in your books ‘The Wrong Way Home’, ‘The Full Montezuma’ and ‘Swahili for the Broken Hearted’, which were the most fun, the most stressful, and the most life-enhancing?
They were all fun, stressful and life-enhancing, but if I had to choose a favourite it would be ‘The Wrong Way Home’ trip where I travelled overland from London to Sydney. It took me through Europe, the Middle East, the Sub Continent, South East Asia and Australia, so it was a real mix of cultures and experiences. But it was also the trip where I did some real crazy things like sneaking into Afghanistan and visiting Bosnia during a cease-fire, and I’m not sure how I survived.
I also had my prejudices turned on their head; I was expecting Iran to be hard work but it turned out to be one of my favourite parts of the trip. The people were pathologically hospitable.
Were you always fascinated by the ‘art’ of travel from a very young age?
Not really. Our annual family holiday was six weeks in a caravan at South West Rocks, a seaside town on the north coast of New South Wales. It wasn’t until I was nineteen that I got hooked on travel. My dad was a plumber and a Seventh Day Adventist and was going to Vanuatu in the Pacific to build a shower block for a mission school.
He took me along as a labourer and after we finished the headmaster took us to a nearby island that was home to stone-age tribes called the Nambas. All they wore was a red cloth around their penises and there were two tribes – the Big Nambas and the Small Nambas. The only difference was the amount of red cloth they used! It was crazy, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
If there is one place above all else that is quite simply out of this world in your mind, where is it?
Man, that’s a hard one. I’ve loved so many places. The Mayan ruins at Tikal in Guatemala were mind-blowing: thick jungle, howler monkeys, real Indiana Jones stuff. And I really liked the old tea shop under a medieval bridge in Esfahan in Iran. But it’s the encounters I have with people that I meet that are the most memorable parts of my trip.
Do you find that the writing – which naturally follows in the wake of each trip – is just as hard-going as the physical travelling itself?
Usually the writing part is just as much fun. I pull out my photos and note pads and spend three months or so reminiscing. But with my book about going around Australia, I had writer’s block for the first time. There were good reasons though; I became a father, which stuffed up my sleep patterns, and writing about Australia as an Australian is a minefield. But bizarrely, I just snapped out of it, and it’s fun again.
Are there many places out there that you haven’t as yet been to, but that you still hope to visit with a vengeance?
Heaps! I haven’t done much of South America. And the whole of the former Soviet Union gets me very excited. I even bought a key-ring Geiger counter on the Internet in preparation for that one!
Have you ever worked on any travel programmes on TV down under in Australia, or are you purely a travel writer by trade?
No. Maybe because I’m living in London at the moment! Seriously though, there’s been a bit of interest. I’ve done a pilot for a show about riding around Italy on a Vespa, inspired by my book, ‘Vroom with a View’. I’m not that fussed about it though. As a traveller, I like the freedom that being a writer gives me. I just do a trip as I normally would. It’s just that I have a notepad in my back pocket to make a few notes.
What advice would you give to anybody who is desperate to go travelling, but who daren’t do it?
Just do it. I think a lot of people get paralysed by a fear that things won’t go perfectly. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that when things go wrong, your trip starts getting interesting! But seriously, if you’ve got decent travel insurance, there’s not that much that can go wrong that will really ruin it for you.
Finally, when can we look forward to reading all about another of your life affirming, globe-pounding adventures?
As aforementioned, ‘Crikey!’ is my latest piece of work which is about a trip I did around Australia. I did the trip with my new English wife, so readers get the two perspectives, the Australian one, where it is perfectly acceptable to drink a beer with a Redback spider at your feet, and the English one, where it’s not!
For more information about Peter, please visit his website at www.petermoore.net