If everything has gone according to plan, I will hopefully be 30,000 ft above the South China Sea today on my way to Cambodia with John Key, courtesy of RNZAF.

It is with a tinge of regret that I'll be missing the aftermath of the weekend's dramatic Labour Party conference.

MPs may be a bit shell-shocked at how quickly events have moved to a possible leadership challenge.

If the internet is working properly in Phnom Penh and Burma we wont have to rely on John Key supplying us updates between his meetings at the East Asia Summit.


I have never covered an EAS. Not many New Zealand journalists have. We have historically given priority to Apec which started in the 80s, rather than the EAS that started in 2005. The two might merge one day but certainly this year's EAS is more important to New Zealand than Apec in Russia. The US president is attending and a new trade deal will be launched.

We are due to land in Phnom Penh at 8 pm NZ Time after a 14 hour journey, and refuelling in Darwin.

That's unless the plane breaks down. But the Air Force 747s are a lot more reliable than the first overseas assignment I did as a political reporter, covering Jim Bolger's trip the Marshall Islands for the Pacific Islands Forum.

We spent many hours killing time on the tarmac at Apia at 3 in the morning but nobody was bothered. It was on the way home, the forum was over, the politics was done, the stories filed, and no one cared less about a delay.

The demands of overseas assignments today are incomparable as former Dominion editor Richard Long told Media 3 (TV3) on Saturday morning. Back then it was file one story at night then off to dinner.

I'm not complaining though. You see some remarkable things on these trips and what you remember most are not the mosquitoes, heat or difficulties of working in different time zones.

For the Marshall Islands the abiding memory was witnessing our hosts cooking a live giant turtle for the leaders' feast.

The last time I travelled with the Air Force, I was covering Key's trip to Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. We travelled from Auckland, to Samoa, to Hawaii, to Phoenix, to New Orleans to Port of Spain, then the same way back. Great fun.

My strongest memory of that trip was the whirlwind visit of then French president Nicolas Sarkozy to talk up the climate change conference in Copenhagen. The Queen didn't seem to mind at all that the French had taken over the Commonwealth summit for a day.

We are heading to Burma after Cambodia and I'm probably more excited by the prospect of going there.

But inevitably the most memorable moments of these trips are the unexpected.