Tag Archives: new zealand

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.

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

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