FOR THE last 20 years I have travelled the world. I’ve had the good fortune to be paid to visit some of the most beautiful places under the sun.
Camera bag strapped to my back, I have trotted – nay galloped – around the globe as a travel photographer, capturing some of the world’s great wonders with my trusty Nikons for posterity in books and magazines.
I have been privileged to witness Machu Picchu, the ancient Peruvian home of the Incas, at daybreak.
The Incas hid their kingdom and saved it and themselves from the Conquistadors’ path of destruction and sadism.
This magical and spiritual place has survived intact high on an Andrean mountain ridge.
In the hallowed stillness of sunrise, I have photographed the first shafts of golden sunlight breaking over the horizon to illuminate Intihuatana, the temple the Incas built to worship the sun. It is awe inspiring.
I’ve hopped around dozens of Caribbean islands, each with its own individual character.
From sleepy Nevis with its strong Christian ethos, where huge menacing-looking young black men, dressed in string vests and baggy trousers which hang off their backsides, are only too happy to help little old ladies cross the road.
Driving round Nevis’s circular, usually deserted, main road through the old sugar cane plantations, you pass home-made signs at the side of the road: “Were those unkind words really necessary?”, they ask. “Have you done a good deed today?”
Well, come to think of it, I haven’t. I must make sure I do something kind today. It is faith restoring.
Or Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, which boasts just one traffic light because nearly everything and every one travels by boat.
Catching the first rickety ferry one morning to get some early pictures of an island resort. Just me and about two dozen workers who were heading over to start their early morning shifts, cooking, cleaning and running the watersports.
It was a far cry from the London Tube commute. Everyone from muscular teenage lad to wrinkled grandmother spoke to each other, the noise of the chatter and jokes shouted above the ancient diesel engines was deafening. Then a strong lone voice broke into song and silenced everyone.
All the way across the water, the big fat lady with a voice like Aretha Franklin serenaded us with gospel songs. We were all mesmerised. Everyone broke into spontaneous applause as we landed and the banter started all over again. It was moving.
Or Saba, the tiny tip of a volcano poking out into the Caribbean Sea. The only flat bit on the whole island is the airfield’s strip of tarmac a couple of hundred yards long.
To take off, the pilots have to rev the engines of the 12-seater aircraft at full throttle and then hurtle over the end of the cliff. For a couple of seconds we are all plunging downwards to the sea and imminent destruction. Finally the engines gather strength and push us up into the sky. It is stomach churning.
I have the honour of being a Queen Mother in a remote rural village in Ghana, the former Gold Coast. A lone white woman turning up out of the blue on their feast day was seen as a sign from the gods.
I was whisked away to a mud and thatch hut where I was dressed in golden robes by handmaidens. They escorted me to a wooden stage and sat me atop an ancient ceremonial Ashanti stool.
The bare chested warriors beat out the news to the neighbouring villages on their drums, while the women, painted and dressed in their finest Kente cloth, chanted rhythmically.
I poured libation with the chief while the linguist swished his elephant tail whisk and addressed the assembled throng. It was unbelievable.
I won’t bore you with tales from Brazil’s stunning Nordeste beaches or Kenya’s pristine Indian Ocean coastline. Let’s face it, when you’ve seen one idyllic palm-fringed beach, you’ve seen them all.
At least that’s what I began to think after a couple of decades on the road. I yearned to be back home in sunny Huddersfield with its green hills dotted with sheep, welcoming pubs, wonderful tracks for hiking and biking, local arts scene, solid stone cottages and marvellous golf courses, not to mention the humorous natives.
And so here I am. I’m living in the town of my birth and have returned to my roots as a newspaper journalist. And in the words of a well-known burger chain: “I’m loving it.”
There’s no place like home.