Tag Archives: kiwi

Good Things Come

Kapiti Island

The kaka – king of Kapiti Island

I declared it The Year Of Resolve, but I could as easily have dubbed it the year of… Surprise!

Not such a surprise, some resolutions fell early by the wayside. But they didn’t all fall miserably – it just transpired that my plans required more perspective.

After my return from Christmas in the UK, I mapped out my attack. It involved sailing Cecil the van back down to the South Island and deciding where to spend the rest of the summer, knuckling down to more work and perhaps abandoning play for a while.

The first of the year’s surprises began with Go Travel New Zealand sending me on assignment to see sights that weren’t originally on my route. Whales and dolphins in Auckland, barely out of the city centre harbour, an abandoned railway, stories intertwined along its tracks, and an island, standing in plain view of Paraparaumu but hiding all kinds of treasure.

Next came The Pioneer, a mountain bike stage race running from Christchurch to Queenstown, and so much more than a route back home via out-of-the-way places.

And then I arrived back in Otago. And I was tired. Quite attracted to the idea of sitting still, I didn’t have any more plan. Or a home for that matter. Just quite a bit of work on my hands and a question on my mind – what now?

The answer surprised me. People surprised me. And I ended up in Milford, as many of you may know if you’ve seen me peppering social media with an endless ecstasy of soul-lifting sights.

I was lost to the world for a little while there, but I found all sorts of things – new friends, bottlenose dolphins, extortionate WiFi… some direction, fresh dreams, a bit more of myself. And all in the knowledge that the Holy Grail had found me – and not where I expected.

Kapiti Island is a gem. Entirely pest-free, it allows abundant, endangered birdlife and flora to flourish, including the elusive kiwi. There are melodious bush walks, paua decorated beaches, dramatic views, and a healthy supply of entertainment from the resident kaka, the kea’s michevious cousin. There overnight to go kiwi hunting, I didn’t hold high expectations. I was resigned to it being a longer road to seeing the critter than I’d gambled for in Okarito, my last hunting ground.

But imagine my surprise, ten minutes into our forage, when we were faced with the unmistakable sounds of an argument in the bush right beside us. We’d stumbled upon a territory altercation that ended with one shadow in the bush emerging triumphant. His disgruntled challenger fled the scene, but not before he’d paused, right in our path, and given me a nod of acknowledgement. Thrilled, we continued on our way just for the fun of it, only to find a female foraging not too far away. Can we count that as two-and-a-half kiwi?! And I wasn’t even meant to go to the island looking!

The year before, leaving Okarito, I observed that sometimes we can be a bit blinkered, minds on a mission, unobservant of the small pieces of happiness we could capture if we only glanced around. And it turns out, sometimes, we’re not even looking in the right places for the ‘main event’ we’re so focused on. We don’t even know, at the time, that they’re there.

Being found can be just as magical as finding what you’re looking for, if not even more so. Being found by a solution, a place… a person. Perhaps somewhere or someone that we had written off, or not even considered as a possibility. It’s nice to know that if you’re in a state of thinking inside the box, outside the box can break in and grab you when you’re not looking.

The months continued in the same vein, endless adventures in magical Milford broken up by a trip to Melbourne to witness a wonderful wedding in a rose garden. And in Melbourne, the bride made me an offer as unexpected as it was enviable. In a friendly takeover, it transpires I’ll now be working as an editor under Jacqui Pretty at Grammar Factory when it comes to engaging with entrepreneurs writing business books, which is brilliantly exciting. Fiction and literary nonfiction will still have their place here, at Right Ink On The Wall, and with updates in the pipeline, this website marrying my books, business and desire to make the world a brighter place might begin to make a bit more sense!

All that was left to make April the polar opposite of last year was my passport arriving back in the post with a visa saying: Permanent Resident. I may lay my head in many different places and have a whole lot of world left to explore… But the majestical home of the mythical kiwi is now my forever home too.

You would only have to read backward in time in this blog to see that hope & happiness were clouded over for a wee while, despite attempts to pin down the silver linings. Dark weather can swoop in and affect us all, and I’m sorry for the questionable poetry that hit your inboxes when that happened here… But just look at how things can turn around. And trust. Trust that good things come. They do. They will. Even if, when they find you, it’s a big surprise.

The Year Of Resolve & The Hunt For The Holy Grail


My hard-fought shot of the elusive Okarito Kiwi

Out on the wild west coast of New Zealand’s South Island, there’s a wee place at the edge called Okarito. It is beautiful, mostly beach and bush, and it hides the Holy Grail – its own species of brown kiwi (smaller than a unicorn but larger than a dragon’s egg), along with a guide who’s actually sanctioned by DOC to help people catch sight of the elusive critter. I was there only a couple of magic days and mysterious nights, but it pretty much summed up the year for me: I was on a mission.

The guided tour to see the country’s most famous resident was fully booked, but never one to say never, I took myself out into the bush in the middle of the night to find one for myself. The maiden voyage saw me venturing out with an elite team of highly-trained explorers (a pair of likeminded souls who fancied the thrill of the mythical chase, highly skilled in the art of Googling a kiwi’s call before braving the dark). The second night, I went solo. It was same, same, but different. Same – in that the kiwi avoided me, not even so much as calling out to tease at it had on the first expedition. Different – in that I’d forgotten I was terrified of possums and had no one to giggle with nervously in the pitch black when they swooped out of the forest to eat me alive (wait, that was the sandflies; the possums stood there and tried to put the evil eye on me. Sneakier than direct attack.)

I’d driven past the sign to Okarito more than once, distracted by the monumental glaciers to its right. But I was so glad I finally found it and its beautiful beach house. During the days, I filled the wait for kiwi O’clock with other things. Like cycling Enid along the empty roads, visiting Andris Apse’s home to see his beautiful gallery and learn his incredible story, climbing the Trig, walking on the beach to watch the sun set behind the headland, and sailing the lagoon.

There were other things to see. Life went on. Life turned up. In the dark, I didn’t just dodge the perilous possums, I saw glowworms blinking in the black, and I could only see them because the lights were out. On the lagoon, I saw the kind of mirrored reflections I thought could only exist in paintings. I took a boat tour with Franz Josef Glacier, Mt Cook and Mt Tasman as a backdrop, and though I didn’t see a kiwi in Okarito, a startling array of other birdlife popped by to say hello, including tui, oyster catchers, black swans & their cygnets, a great white heron and a bunch of bar-tailed godwits. These guys fly about ten days straight from Alaska without stopping or eating just to hang out there – the least I could do was be happy to see them.

And, while I didn’t sight the Holy Grail of mythical creatures, hearing the kiwi call gave me hope. They are out there – fighting outrageous odds, given the invasion of their lands by forces of evil committed to their extinction (that’d be those possums again). Now I know where the sign is. And the guide (whose services I’d recommend, having cornered him in his own home to demand photographic evidence, ending up discussing my quest at length while his cup of tea got cold). I’ll be back.

This time last year, I was down. But I wasn’t out. I’d lost something precious. But I was on a mission. A mission to hunt happiness – that elusive Holy Grail that life’s possums are always trying to do away with. So I didn’t indulge too far my sorrow for that which was gone. I didn’t turn my face only backward to mourn or only forward to search for a distant date when I would feel better and could begin to have a ball again (it was something like May 7th). I turned my face from side to side and looked all around. And even though Happiness didn’t magically, immediately appear, I saw beauty in the moments I did so. Life went on. I went out and lapped it up. I laughed. I faked it for a time, sure. But this year just gone, I fell in love again. I fell in love with the life all around me – and my own life just as it is, looking to no one else to make it amazing except myself. (It helped that the mountains saw snow the likes of which hadn’t been boarded in several seasons.)

This year I have seen lambs genuinely frolicking – hopping and skipping like bizarre ballet dancers. Fish jumping, like funny jack-in-the-boxes. Baby seals paddling, a waterfall their playpen. I have heard tui warbling and kiwi calling, waves lapping and wind howling. I’ve smelt the smoke of campfires and courageous cooking. I’ve tasted salt in the sea breeze and touched sand and snow, rock and rain.

Are you a new year’s resolutions kind of person? I am. And I usually win at them. But last year, I had to start below scratch and resolve just to find some resolve. It’s there if you want to hunt it down – just dig deep.

It’s a new year. A lot of us are looking at fresh starts (whether we wanted them or not). Find your resolve. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. And don’t just look back or forward – look around you. Appreciate what you see. And see the signs. Take the turns. Hope will be there. And magic might happen.

A moment of reflection in Okarito

A moment of reflection in Okarito