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Posted on 19 Sep 2014 in The Godfather: Peter Corris |

The Godfather: Peter Corris on travelling overseas

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peternewpicI recently compiled a list of the countries I’ve been to since leaving Australia for the first time at the age of 25. This was probably about the average age to travel overseas for an Australian in search of something back then, but far later than for some of my grandsons who have gone globe-trotting while still in nappies.

The total is 18 – a long way down on the tally of touring professionals like Bob Carr and Bob Dylan. I don’t count ‘just passing through’ visits like going through Denmark to Sweden or the New Hebrides to Fiji. I consider that I have to have slept a night in a country or had a significant experience there to count it, and 18 is all I can muster.

The importance of the travels varies, of course. Although I only spent a short time in Russia, it looms large in my memory. This was 1970 and I was carrying a hypodermic syringe and vials of insulin. On attempting to leave the country I was taken aside at the airport and interrogated by people who seemed unfamiliar with the needs of diabetics. The experience was alarming because my interrogators were armed and it took a while before someone arrived who was able to resolve the issue.

Similarly, I wasn’t long in Germany but I fell in with an American named Marty. A New Yorker, he’d come to buy a Volkswagen, see a bit of Europe, and then ship the car back to the US. Apparently even given the expense of the trip this was a good economic proposition. The US must have had high tariffs on the importation of foreign cars at the time, along the lines of ‘what’s good for Detroit is good for America’.

After wandering about, venturing briefly into Austria, we arrived at the Hamburg docks expecting that, as Marty had arranged, the car would be taken off our hands. But there was a delay. We ended up sleeping in the car in near-freezing temperatures overnight, running the heater from time to time to avoid frostbite, and worrying what would happen if the petrol ran out. It didn’t, but I was never so happy to say farewell to a car in my life.

It’s too late now, but I regret never having visited South America and only skirting the fringes of Africa – Egypt and Morocco. I’ve never been to the polar regions but came close when I was commissioned to write a TV mini-series about a murder in Antarctica. I did a treatment and there was talk of a research trip there until things changed at head office and the project was shelved. I was paid for the treatment but would have liked the trip.

Two of my overseas visits changed my life. One was to the US where, as I’ve written before, I spent time in San Francisco, holed up in a cheap hotel waiting for money and reading cheap paperbacks of Ross Macdonald novels. This planted the seeds of my private eye series about Cliff Hardy.

The second was in 1972, on my way to the Solomon Islands, when I stopped off in Port Moresby and met Jean.