My holidays: David Shearer

The Mt Albert MP and Labour Spokesman for Foreign Affairs and Energy shares his travel memories.

Labour MP David Shearer enjoying the gentle surf at Whananaki, in Northland.
Labour MP David Shearer enjoying the gentle surf at Whananaki, in Northland.

What was your greatest holiday?

Because I worked all over the world with the UN I've had weird and wonderful holidays in many far-flung places - the Dead Sea in Jordan, a remote part on the east coast of Africa, the beaches of Sri Lanka. But I can honestly say it's tough to beat our annual camping expedition with the family and great friends to a Northland beach in the summer ... as long as it's not raining.

And the worst?

In the Sudan, where I picked up campylobacter and lost about 12kg over a few miserable weeks. Truly awful.

If we bump into you on holiday, what are you most likely to be doing?

Heading down the beach with a surfboard and my dog Tino (who loves following me out in the surf) hot on my heels. I'm likely to be unkempt, unshaven, and my phone battery long since flat.

If we could teleport you to one place in New Zealand for a week-long holiday, where would it be?

I was going to say a minister's office in the Beehive on September 20 - but I'd want to be there more than a week and not for a holiday. So it would be number one, above.

How about for a dream holiday internationally?

In 1987 Anuschka and I got married in Thailand and then went to Burma for our honeymoon. It'd be nice to go back there with a bit more time and with a bit more money - for the luxury we didn't have last time.

What's the dumbest thing you've ever done when travelling?

That's easy. In Afghanistan a few friends and I packed a brunch on our day off and went tramping through what turned out to be a minefield. We thought it was all okay until we spotted an unexploded mine sticking out of the ground. I still remember the sickening feeling in my stomach when I realised what we'd done. We carefully retraced our steps, thankfully without incident. But I was told by an Afghan farmer at the local village that he'd lost two goats there the week before. Seriously stupid.

Complete this sentence: I can't travel without ...

Not always, but if I can, I take a guitar. There are always people around who want to play and it has created some great times, not to mention being a great way to fill in some time.

What was the most memorable meal you've had while travelling?

In Trincomalee, Sri Lanka, during the war there, at a hotel that had been abandoned years before. The local catering staff came back too and cooked a wonderful meal for our group who were there working from all over the world. We sat at tables out on the beach under a full moon. After many toasts in calvados - courtesy of some French friends - a herd of wild horses casually wandered past. At least that's the way I think I remember it ...

What's the best thing you've brought back from a trip?

We managed to pick up too many carpets in Damascus' Grand Bazaar in Syria. We went there a number of times, each time swearing it was just to look. But we came to know a really good carpet dealer there, who threw carpets on the floor until they were stacked about a metre high and gave us endless cups of tea. A few grace our floor with memories now.

Favourite airport to land at?

I wouldn't say it's my favourite but the most memorable landing was at Baghdad Airport. Because of the ground-to-air missile threat, our plane would spiral steeply down from a high altitude at the same time being met by hot air blasting up from the desert. It made for one of the bumpiest, scariest rides I've experienced. Not exactly my favourite airport, but certainly the best place to know you were on the ground. That was a weekly trip.

What's the next trip you've got planned?

At the moment I'm booked to fly to New York straight after the election to lobby some of the world's ambassadors and foreign ministers for New Zealand's place on the UN Security Council. A decision is made around that time. I will be there with Murray McCully. We are doing it jointly, irrespective of who gets into government.

- NZ Herald

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