Adventuring New Zealand

Dear Lordy, you know what they say about needing a holiday from the holiday. I just got back home after two weeks adventuring in New Zealand and the list of tasks awaiting me is daunting. Over one hundred emails. One thousand plus photos to sort and then post to Facebook. Laundry. Also need to catch up on guitar, vegies and exercise. Most of that took a backseat to two Diana Wynne Jones books that I’ve been looking forward to reading; Castle in the Air and House of Many Ways. It just goes to show that I can only focus on one thing at a time. Once I start a good book I can’t get anything else done.

All of this of course means that I’ve been neglecting my writing and my blog. It’s time to begin remedying that. I did get taken by the urge to write one night early in my holiday where I spent the evening scratching away in an empty Vietnamese restaurant in Auckland. But that was all.

Many of us would be familiar with the jaw-dropping scenery of New Zealand featured in the Lord of the Rings movies. While I determinedly avoided LOTR tours, I did indulge in all manner of other wallet-burning activities. Caving, white water rafting, black water rafting, skydiving. Also a Milford Sound cruise, a Maori culture and hangi night, a geothermal tour. New Zealand may be the adventure capital of the world but it doesn’t come cheap.

That's me at the bottom

Ironically, two of the best experiences I had cost nothing. The first was witnessing the giant Kauri trees on the northern island. I say ‘witness’ because they really are a phenomenon you have to see firsthand to fully appreciate. That first glimpse of a wall of whiteness through the thin dark trees and the moment of realization that it was a single specimen, a god among trees, dwarfing all others into insignificance. Ten more metres along the forest path and I was presented with an unimpeded view that swiftly filled my mind with awe.

Tāne Mahuta. Lord of the Forest. Estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old, its existence may very well stretch back to the time of Christ. Mind blowing. To simply be in its sunlit presence filled me with peace and an awe of nature. It’s no wonder that man would deify these giants of the forest. They now put me in mind of George R.R. Martins weirwoods; god trees that witnessed and remember all the doings of the small creatures that lived and passed away before their long lived eyes.

The second freebie was our visit to the Hot and Cold River in Rotorua. This area is famed for its geothermal activity and this particular river gets its name from the mix of hot and cold water making a wonderful (and free) place for a relaxing dip. The place is something of a local ‘secret’ that not too many tourists know of. Big Risa and I adventured out to the site after dark not knowing quite what to expect, only that the place was located twenty minutes out of town under a bridge. Sounds dodgy right? Fortunately there were other people enjoying the amenities and they had set up some tea candles amongst the rocks to provide mood lighting. With a few directions on how to get down to the water safely in the dark we were able to join in the fun of a night time dip and a relaxing soak.

New Zealand is a gorgeous land, full of things to see and do. Perhaps it is missing the food to complete the holy triumvirate but I guess you can’t have it all. Hmmm that just got me thinking of a place that may just score the triple; my next holiday destination. But more on that later. New Zealand is a traveller’s paradise and the trip provided plenty of inspiration for me. Now to get to writing it!


RIP Diana Wynne Jones

I was just googling some books, trying to find the proper order in which to read a series by Diana Wynne Jones when I glimpsed that dreadful word tacked onto the end of the search results: Obituary.

Now many a book’s author has passed away by the time you may pick up their book for the first time, but most of the books I read are in fact by authors who are still producing work in this same era as I’m living in.

Diana Wynne Jones is one such author. I’d had the impression she came from the same writing era as the great Tolkien, but that she was also still writing away with the best of them. Indeed I’ve seen some books published as recent as 2008.

So it was a bit of a shock when I found out just now that she passed away recently, March last year. She is the author of Howl’s Moving Castle, which I latched onto after watching the anime version; I fall in love with it more each time I watch it. Simply enchanting, it leaves me feeling wistful every time. It is magic. It is my favourite anime and the book holds up its end of the bargain.

There are other works of hers that I was planning to read and it’s no more imperative now than before but now when I pick them up I will remember.

RIP Diana Wynne Jones.