Category Archives: On Nature

On Nature

My Theory Of Relativity

That Wanaka Tree 2

That Wanaka Tree

I was in Wanaka last weekend, having a lovely time with some lovely people, and also parting ways with Cecil the wondervan – for we have different adventures to pursue, and mine lie across the seas in Canada.

Trying on my new-found pedestrianism, I went for a walk. No local Instagrammer’s trip in these parts is complete without a visit to That Wanaka Tree, so I headed in that direction for another snap.

But the route continued beyond the famous landmark, so I decided to explore farther. On a peaceful path, trees on one side, the lake on the other, I lost track of time and wound my way around the shore to find myself on the Te Araroa trail, which journeys 3000km from Cape Reinga at the very top of New Zealand to Bluff at the very base.

I found myself admiring Ruby Island as the track took me closer and then higher to better vantage points, around Roys Bay and up past Waterfall Creek.

Ruby Island

Ruby Island

Ruby Island is a photogenic specimen itself, and I know for a fact that not everyone rates the plaudits That Attention-Seeking Tree garners, nor understands why photographers flock there for the money-shot. In the same way, while Queenstown is often regarded as the Prom Queen of the country, Wanaka has a more understated but equally fervent following of people who’d prefer to make their home there.

It’s apples and pears. I think that what’s important, in this age of unrest, scaremongering and misunderstanding, is to appreciate other people’s opinions, their entitlement to those opinions, and even the reasoning behind the opinions themselves, when they don’t align with yours.

Not being the same makes different places and different people exciting and colourful and beautiful. There is a length and breadth of life to experience, a whole world to explore, and certain whos and whats and wheres within it that will make your soul sing, if it’s open to seeing from more than one perspective.

Let’s not only acknowledge our differences but celebrate them as well.

This is going to be my last post for a while from beautiful Aotearoa, home of my soul, and the place where Right Ink On The Wall began. I’ll be back… But I’ve new horizons to explore, and only hope that I meet with people as welcoming and wonderful. Regardless of where I am, I’ll be trying to see things from other positions, different points of view – and hoping we can all, with all our differences, find a way not only to coexist, not only to accept, but to embrace each other.

That Wanaka Tree 1

That Wanaka Tree… Again

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.

Happiness Is…


Most people who know me (and, at this juncture, many people who don’t know me at all) have an inkling that I’ve got a lot of love for Instagram.

Getting my first touch-screen phone with a passable camera (which only happened last September – judge away!) made it possible for me jump on the bandwagon, and I’ve been a happy addict ever since. During a darkish time, it motivated me to find a bit of beauty in every single day – it got me outdoors in search of moments I didn’t just want to memorise, but play with and publish with a line that would remind me of what it really looked like, how it really felt.

Social media sometimes gets a bad rap. We’re saturated with images, memes, gifs… smart-ass comments, shares and over-shares… But you can’t deny that amongst the plethora of posts out there, some can be provoking. Some can be show-stopping. Some can reach out a hand and hold your heart, even lift it, spiral it to new heights.

Often, I’m in search of a smile. Often, I have one person in mind in whom I think a post might provoke that delightful lilt to the lips. And that makes sharing worth it for me. It’s not about courting your envy or inspiring your awe – it’s about inviting you in. It’s me shouting a greeting: I wish you were here. It’s beautiful. I wish you could see what I see.

So, since I’m back sharing here, I thought I’d invite you to smile at a recent, in-progress Instagram series of mine: Happiness is…

One thing to note: They’re not really pictures of snowboarders or mountains or lakes I’ve seen or book I’ve written. They are posts about passion. Whether with words or phone-photography, I’d love to provoke someone somewhere to find a moment of passionate engagement with something, with anything. A moment that makes them pause, that makes them smile, that makes them think: Happiness is… this.

11402678_10101337395520820_9056833985631954804_nHappiness is: Snow, sunshine, stories, and overhearing conversations that make you smile


Happiness is: Driving leisurely, singing loudly, pausing frequently.. because it’s so damn beautiful turning corners is a hazard


Happiness is: Crashing a roadtrip to ride new snow


Happiness is: Playing out of bounds


Happiness is: When you make the mountain your office and your snowboard your escape


Happiness is: Being published. Won’t ever get bored of seeing my novel on a bookshop shelf 🙂


Happiness is: When the cloud clears, and you remember you can fly


Happiness is: Snowboard on, earphones in, hangover gone


Happiness is: Riding to the beat of your racing heart

What is your happiness? Where is your happiness? Find it; treasure it; share it.

Follow me on Instagram: Sara Litchfield

Connection: Biophilia In All Its Forms


The Routeburn: Towards Harris Saddle

This weekend, I ran away. I’ve been burning the candle at all sorts of ends – it’s basically just a puddle of wax on the floor. I’m consistently over-ambitious, over-extended, and aching all over. But I’m more energised than I’ve been in a really long time.

I’m not ashamed to say the last six months have been tough. At times a bit of a warzone I’ve had to battle through, struggling to keep my head up. But if they’ve been a battle, this last month’s been a revolution.

Being broken up with out the blue is a lot like being dropped from a team for no reason. You’ve lost a connection. But the main thing to keep in mind is this: However much a better person someone else makes you, it’s possible to lose them and still become an even better one. Another thing to remember: Just because you’re now flying solo, it doesn’t mean you have to do it alone.

In the last couple of months I’ve got back on board with the Queenstown Creative Writing Group, taken photos with the Snappers, joined the triumphant TEDx Queenstown team (the videos are up!), jumped on wheels to spin around with the Roller Derby squad, and hit the ice to become a part of Queenstown’s first and currently only women’s ice hockey team. I’ve also spent time with friends who have cemented into a crew to wind up and down the days with – making a living, of course, taking up the multitude of hours in between.

I’ve been out the loop a little with #1000Speak and the gang, but I’ve been keeping up with posts and marvelling at the continued energy that has turned into monthly efforts to foster a world-wide community dedicated to compassion. The theme this month was connection, so I’d like to add my belated mite.

Being part of a team, whether sports squad, arts gathering or friendship group, is about connection. Connection is what makes us human; it’s what keeps us compassionate, empathetic, enthusiastic – it allows us to come together with a common purpose and achieve common goals as well as individual ones. Being part of team, being connected to anything – it motivates us, lifts us, cheers us. Completes us.

Sometimes, like this weekend for me, you want to get away from the maelstrom and wander about in the quiet. I went with a friend, but it could be you’d rather spend some time alone. Whichever way, there’s still connection there. Wherever you are, even in silence, you can find connection with your surroundings.

Biophilia translates as ‘love of life’. It was coined by Erich Fromm to describe an innate psychological attraction to what is alive and vital – to nature. It’s something I certainly experienced this weekend as I walked the Routeburn, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks, to show-stopping views such as those captured above and below.

Whatever you’ve been through and wherever you’re going, make sure you pause to consider the connections you’re making along the way. Make sure to embrace them. Make sure to love life.

Where have you been lately? What have you been doing and with whom? Do you ever pause to contemplate how we’re all connected?


The Routeburn: Coming up the highest part of the track


The Routeburn: Also known as Middle Earth


Glenorchy Lagoon: A warm-down walk at sunset

Don’t Forget To Feel Alive


Sunrise over Arrowtown

What a week it was. Partner-in-crime’s birthday was Wednesday. Tuesday night, friends gathered for dinner & drinks. I had a lovely Skype catch-up with an editor friend before joining the crowd. On the one hand, I was designated-drivering but, on the other, I had fried chicken, so overall I was winning. Fun times. Then a new arrival said something that spun me about a bit. “Wow, Sara doesn’t look stressed!”

Now, I’d had a haircut. And this party-time – Tue night & Wed day – had been locked in the diary as un-negotiably non-work time, so I was pretty relaxed. But this gave me pause.

I’ve been trying for a while now to cultivate a blog full of hope & happiness, living a life full of the same. Obviously, all sorts of anti-fun things happen – but it’s generally possible to put a positive spin on them and find the silver-lining. At the same time, I’ve been building up an editing business, going through the publishing process (don’t talk to me about rewrites right now), holding down an accounting job while freelance accounting for a fish&chip shop and a charitable trust on the side, and participating in two writers’ groups. And moving house several times. I’ve had to forgo the badminton season this year but am still hoping to get some snowboarding in before a trip back to the UK in August.

In summary, I’ve been busy. And, even though I know that I procrastinate, and I know that there are days I’m not as productive as I should be, and that there are days when I’m not creative in the slightest, and that I’m envious of about a hundred other people who seem to be perfectly simultaneously juggling and balancing a hundred successful plates at the same time (as well as having a family to feed for gad’s sake!)… I find myself thinking about work/WIP. all. the. time. I fear that I’m getting a reputation as ‘the one who only works.’ This is distressing to someone once known as ‘the one who is always out.’ I suffered enduring FOMO back in my city days and never missed anything that might be remotely *fun* (or even a second cousin to fun. Twice removed).

I’m definitely living a more staid life. Apart from anything else, I lost the ability to cope with a hangover somewhere between Asia & Australia. But, however much work I’m doing, however ambitious I’m being – I’m still having fun.

Last weekend, I went up to Auckland for a reunion with some school-mates and we watched England lose to the All Blacks at Eden Park. I got to have the teeny-tiny donuts I’ve missed since the world cup.

On Wednesday, I skydived from 15,000 feet, free falling for 60 glorious seconds that felt like forever. It was beautiful up there. I sprung the jump on partner-in-crime as a surprise birthday present with great success, getting right to the drop zone before he suspected.

We then went to the birdlife conservation park and met kiwis for the first time. I’ve been desperate to see them in the wild, but it’s not that easy. Fun fact – they are the only bird that have evolved to have their nostrils at the tip of their beak rather than the base. They also mate for life, which pleases me.

On Saturday, I got up at a quarter to five. In the *morning* (it actually wasn’t my idea). We hiked up a mountain in the dark with our housemate to watch the sun rise (it did). And it was heart-stoppingly stunning. It made me happy to be exactly where I am, doing everything I’m doing. Like all of the above, it made me feel alive. And happy to be so.

Are you a recovering FOMO-fiend? Do you find work / your current projects overwhelming your life sometimes? Don’t forget to feel alive. No time is wasted time if you’re doing something that brings a smile to your or someone else’s face. 

A River Runs Through It

image-1‘Life every now and then becomes literature’ – Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

I’ve moved. The fairytale cottage fades into the past like a dream, the escapade of moving (again) now another funny anecdote in the story of my life. I’m still not quite entirely unpacked (and I’m sure, depending on the degree to which you know me, pictures in your heads will vary widely at this point), but I feel settled and happy in my new home.

The new pad is a home-made house sitting on seventy acres. You have to get out your car to open a wooden gate off a dirt track in order to reach it. From a spacious room full of windows letting in reams of light, I look out onto a paddock, flanked by rolling hills and woodland. If you venture through the woods at the far end, you descend to the pebbly banks of the Lower Shotover – the river the jet boats ride. At the moment, frost tends to dance on just about everything in sight, making leaving the house at 7am an arctic, if pretty, expedition.

But the best element of all? Aside from our lovely host & housemate Briar, it has to be the horses. There are three: Holly, a graceful ex-racer; Poppy, a miniature bundle of cute, solid Shetland; and then there’s River, pictured above, a towering, magnificent youngster, broken in recently by Briar’s sister, Shae, who lives in a cottage next door.

I have always loved horses. When I was wee, I remember having riding lessons on a horse called Pepsi. Always the naughty one of the group. Our relationship didn’t last too long, from my recollection. I went on in my formative days to flirt with ballet, swimming, the bass recorder, the piano, cello, drama, badminton, netball, hockey, an orchestra, a string ensemble, ice skating, musicals, skiing… All of which I committed varying degrees of commitment, enthusiasm and talent to. But I never became a horsey-girl.

When I moved to Edinburgh, I should have learnt to drive. I’d found it challenging, to say the least, to obtain a license in crazy, ring-roaded Coventry and pointless in Cambridge & London. But I took the pennies instead and took a bus out of the beautiful city into the even more beautiful countryside. I found a riding school and I took some lessons so that I could start trekking.

My horse bit me on my first day. Right on the stomach. And my riding didn’t improve much. The school horses followed each other around and tended to ignore me. I couldn’t afford private lessons and soon I was back in the big smoke, far from the country-life that had called to me. I didn’t ride again until I reached New Zealand.

Here, once settled, I went on two treks. One through Paradise (famous as the setting for many scenes in Lord Of The Rings, if you’ve heard of it?) and another through Cardrona. Both stunning and thoroughly enjoyable but also thoroughly expensive, despite being booked as half-price deals. And my horses tended to do their own thing, as usual, sensing the same lack of authority that calls seagulls out of the air to pluck fish and chips from my actual hand when I eat them on the beach (sigh).

A little wistfully, I’d made my peace with not being able to ride regularly, or well, when we became friends with Briar & Shae. I’ve now ridden both Holly & River several times, not just round the paddock but down to the Shotover River, idling along its sandy beaches through frost-dipped foliage. I’ve learnt a little how to trot properly and I’ve definitely overcome some of the apprehension that’s held me back from being a firm, confident rider in the past.

I never thought I’d ride River – he’s so big, so beautiful. I met him first when he was unbroken and found him quite intimidating. So not for me, I thought.  When Shae invited me to go for a ride, I was surprised. She’d trust this wonderful, playful, but most of all giant horse to my hands? As with many relationships/challenges/fears, what it takes is some confidence, some surety, some commitment – an invitation, a leg-up and some support and you can do anything.

I never thought I’d ride River, but it was in the realms of the possible. However, I’d never imagined that I’d ever have the opportunity to go bare-back riding – something so free, so natural and so uplifting that the feeling stays with you in a glow. I’ve felt this now, too.

Sometimes life conspires for your happiness. It presents a home when you lose one, a horse when you’d like one, a friend & teacher when you need one. There are so many sad stories in the world, so much grief, so much pain. When good things happen, we can only be thankful and enjoy the ride.

Have you ever conquered something you thought you never would? What’s *your* bare–back riding? Do you ever have moments where the sense overtakes you that your life is becoming a story?  


Snowed In Vs Moved Out


Well, I know now. know a little more how much a simple thing like a snowfall can mean to a person.’ – Sylvia Plath

As expected, we’ve been given our marching orders – vacate date is tomorrow. The weather seems to feel pretty much as I do about the situation – no sooner did we start to pack on Sunday evening then the rain storms that had showered us all week, to the accompaniment of Armageddon thunder, turned to snow.

We woke in a winter wonderland. There was no question of making it down the mountain to civilisation, with or without our possessions – remember when I illustrated where I live?

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 8.52.31 AM

On the one hand, we were supposed to be moving our household and couldn’t find the car. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else to witness the coming of Winter – and I got to snowboard in my actual garden.

The snow has made everything a hundred times harder. We weren’t able to move anything. We boxed up as best we could in the biting cold, aware of the dwindling logs for the fire. We would have been lost without a friend with a heavy-duty 4×4 enacting a rescue mission, enabling Partner-in-crime to escape and return with wood and wine (the two essentials for surviving an avalanche, no question).

Yes, the snow has made everything a hundred times harder. But just look…


This is the reason I’m out here. I’m happy to do all the extra work required to be able to wake up stranded, buried in snow and surrounded by beauty. Apart from anything else, it also sounds pretty cool to say you’re snowed in, and my wifi is still connected.

During the day, I was contacted by two potential clients, who booked me in for dates that fit in mysteriously perfect accord with my other deadlines. One had contacted me repeatedly over the last couple of weeks due to a recommendation and booked me despite my lack of prior response (*shakes fist at over-zealous spam filter*).

I’ve not wanted to move out of my lovely home and I’ve thrown the usual number of teddies out the pram when it’s come to packing. But it’s almost as if Nature and the gods of Freelancing have struck up as one, saying, ‘Hey, more things go right than wrong. Look around. Enjoy the moment. You’re perfectly placed right here, right now.’

Last night, we burnt the wood and mulled the wine, clearing out the top part of the house in the process. This morning, we made it down the hill at 7am, past a car in a ditch, which we didn’t join, but which could have been us if we’d risked the journey to work the day before. I made the drive to Arrowtown through fields of icing sugar backed by majestically powdered mountains, as the sun came up and cast the whole panorama pink.

There’s a lot to do today. The snowy scenery makes it easy to pause and just appreciate where I am and all the good. Fun as yesterday was, at least today we can move around and move out. Packing is pesky and cleaning is painful, but at least we’re moving out on time. And we were granted a moment, frozen in all senses of the word, to stand still and be filled with wonder.

Have you ever found signs to lift you out of sad situations? Are you awed by nature? Been snowed in? Do you agree wood & wine are the way forward?


Mt Cook & Kea Point: 10 Years Of Pilgrimage – Part Three


“You don’t have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things, to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

The pilgrimage started here, two days and ten years ago. We continued here, yesterday, when I’d grown up a little. We finish here, today. I don’t know when I’ll next be at Mt Cook and I’m excited to think what may have happened by then – going from history, something will have…

I missed Bella the van when I got to Queenstown, however hard it had been to get rid of her. I also missed Partner-in-crime – we were parted for a couple of months while I tried to sell Bella on the Gold Coast. Cai went to work in Adelaide and I went to stay with our pal, the late and loved Kade, and his family, after an abortive attempt to live alone in Bella, in Byron Bay and off bread & butter (alliteration unintentional). I wasn’t sure when or even if we’d be together again.

But we were 😀 Cai’d been in Auckland for the world cup semis, because Wales were doing so well (we’d even been in the same bar the same night without knowing it), but had never been further south than Auckland. So when he came to join me, I gleefully hired a wee camper van and picked him up from Christchurch. First stop – the hot pools of Hamner Springs. Second? Mt Cook. 

We walked to Kea Point and stared at… well, where the peak should be. We were shrouded in mist, the mountain in cloud. You couldn’t see the landscape but I knew it was there. Remote and overwhelming, the sheer magnitude of the place surrounded us. “This…” I said, “This is New Zealand.” 

That was winter 2012. Come summer, we had a place of our own and were road tripping every weekend, exploring, fishing, loving life. We went back to Mt Cook. This time we had bluebird skies. Only a year before, I hadn’t known where I was going – this time, I’d arrived. 

Last weekend, Easter 2014, our good friend came over from Sydney. The last time we saw him in New Zealand, we’d road tripped to Ohau with Kade & co. Since then, so much has happened. We lost lovely Kade, one of the wonderful ones who, along with his whole family and girlfriend, wrote us letters to help us gain the passport stamps declaring us NZ residents that arrived last week. I’ve moved house, written a book and planned a trip back to the UK to visit. It’s been a crazy few months.

It was so good to be together again. We reunited in the pouring rain, but it cleared the next day and the cloud slowly swirled around Mt Cook like a halo as we trekked to Kea Point. The sun even popped out, warming our backs and lighting up the glaciers. We played peekaboo with Coe’s new camera (which brought us the above view) and yarned while we tramped about. Perhaps it’s not just been Mt Cook, but the company I’ve had on every visit there that has made it such a special place in my mind.

I’ve been awed by nature so many times now in that national park – and I’m sure I will be again. I’ve gone there for beauty and wonder and wanderings. But I’ve also lived and laughed and loved. It’s people as much as place that can call fond memories to mind. I feel lucky.

Do you have a place you visit by which you can measure the changes in your life? What makes you take stock? If you’ve not already, I hope everyone finds their Mt Cook. 

Mt Cook & Kea Point: 10 Years Of Pilgrimage – Part Two


“It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

Our journey began here – yesterday and ten years ago. Having spent three years studying theology and philosophy, I naturally spent a further four years training as an accountant. Qualification under my belt, I elected to leave the big smoke far behind me. I travelled Asia for a month and a half, visiting family and enjoying epic adventures with my sister, who has no equal on land or sea. I then hopped over to America and drove the West Coast, top down and volume up, freedom flying through my hair again and scratching the itch under my skin. Then, finally, I made it back to the land that first sang to my soul. Just in time for the start of the rugby world cup 2011.

No amount of mediocre performance from England could dull the joy of being back here, nor the happiness at finding the country much as I’d left it all those years ago. I felt like it had been frozen in time, untouched, just waiting for me to return. I delighted in taking my travelling companions back to old haunts, including, of course, Aoraki Mt Cook. I went twice during that world cup, in between matches, taking the different friends I was with just to witness them soak it in while we tramped about together. I marvelled all over again, treading the track to Kea Point each trip and breathing the wonder of the snowy mountain scenery. September and October saw flakes in the air and a bite in the wind. Dramatic to say the least.

Also dramatic was witnessing the All Blacks take it home at Eden Park and win the world cup – just epic. I was pretty sure this was where I wanted to be. But I’d started this madcap mission after a secondment to work in Australia fell through – so to Australia I went. I loved Sydney. I unashamedly followed the beaten path and moved to the beach. The Northern Beaches deserve a series of posts unto themselves. Two things of moment happened there in the first 2 weeks – I nearly died from anaphylaxis and I met my partner in crime, who’s been a part of my adventures ever since (watch this space for a blog post titled Life of Cai).

Much as I loved Sydney and becoming Tom Cruise in Cocktail, shimmying Boston shakers on the beach, I still itched. It wasn’t just wanderlust-  somewhere else was calling me to call it home, and I knew where it was.

January of 2012, my mother chose to join my cousin on a trip to New Zealand for her sixtieth birthday and I flew from Sydney to join them. I jumped in a car as soon as I landed, driving through the night to reach Queenstown, where I now call home. We had less than a week, but I wanted to show Mum the best of New Zealand and try and communicate just why I was wandering – why I was out here. Our road trip took us to Marlborough… via Mt Cook. We walked to Kea Point. In the rain. Myself in flip flops (/jandals – and yes, after several trips there, I should have known better). Mum loved it despite the lack of view. The scenery was still as seductive as ever. 

I went back to Sydney and picked up my beach life. But it seemed a little pale compared to the mountains and lakes I’d been loving the week before. I agreed to meet a friend back in New Zealand for the snow season, and I decided I’d stay. But first, there was an Ozzie road trip and, of course, Bella… 

Have you ever felt a call to a particular place? Known where you belonged? Travelled far just for a particular feeling? Stand by for part three tomorrow – I seem to have a lot to say (here’s the ending) 🙂

Mt Cook & Kea Point: 10 Years Of Pilgrimage – Part One

299384_952657130680_1286931103_n“It is an act of worship just to sit and look at high mountains.” – Sir Edmund Hillary

I’ve been neglecting you all, and I’m sorry. Time isn’t just flying – it’s a peregrine falcon in a dive. I don’t know where it goes. It did stand still for a moment, however, and let me make an escape on the Easter weekend. I hope you all managed to take a break too. I’ve missed a couple of posts, so here’s a two, no, three-parter. I did a lot of thinking on the weekend, and it wants to come out in words.

Aoraki Mt Cook (‘cloud piercer’ in Maori) sits majestically in the middle of New Zealand’s South Island. It’s the tallest mountain in the country, at 3,754 metres, and a four hour foray from my humble abode in Queenstown, through breathtaking scenery. Sir Edmund Hillary cut his teeth there – he’s the one famous for climbing some other mountain and being the only New Zealander to appear on a bank note in his lifetime (he insisted it be Mt Cook that appear on its background).

As I skipped along the track to Kea Point and a view of the peak, I realised I’d first stepped on its slats ten years ago now, almost to the month. I counted the number of times I’d visited this sanctuary in that time, hoping to count to ten (much as you might raise an eyebrow, I do appreciate a little order and symmetry in life). Although I tried to distort the stats by counting times I’d driven past and enjoyed the view from afar, the number of times I actually went into the wilds of the national park and trod to Kea Point came to eight. I realised both how much my life changed in between those trips and how little my experience of Mt Cook did. No matter how many times I’ve dropped by to say hi, the mountain has always taken my breath away. The glacier may be receding and my life may be ever-changing, but the important things don’t change. Nature reigns there, in all its glory, and the national park remains a place you can find beauty seeping through all your senses.

My first visit was during my gap year, around this time back in 2004. I’d finished school, spent six months living in Singapore with my cousin’s family, working for a shipping company, and was now with one of the best travelling companions to be found, scrambling across the islands without a care in the world. 2004 was the first time I’d truly felt free – New Zealand was the first place. That trip to Mt Cook we couldn’t afford to both eat well and sleep in a bed, so we decided to share a buffet dinner and to drive through the night. First, we walked to Kea Point. Darkness fell as we approached the end of the track and you could see the stars standing out above the monarch’s snowy silhouette. The bad news was that my camera battery died the moment I called upon it. The good news was that I already knew I’d be back someday. We hit the road after midnight, the plan of driving through the night slightly railroaded by running out of petrol and having to camp outside the nearest town’s petrol station until it opened at 7.30.

I didn’t return for seven and a half years. In the meantime, I went to Cambridge, gained a degree, and transitioned easily into the big-city-life of London Town, working for Ernst & Young. But both freedom and New Zealand remained on my mind. When I decided to change career and country / quit, there were many who called me crazy. There were some who accused me of wanting to relive, or at least recall, the glory of my gap year, and who warned me it would never work. There were others who couldn’t believe I was swan-diving off the corporate ladder and into oblivion. Even I wasn’t sure what I was doing. Initially, all I knew was that I wanted to be in New Zealand for the rugby world cup, so I went…

Have you ever stuck to a decision that made other people call you crazy? Do you have a place of peace you can always go and find beauty / a boost? I’ll be back tomorrow – I’ve found ten years is too long to squeeze into one post (here’s the second) :p