The Indie Author News Daily & The Bedlam Media Daily!

I’m stunned…

My little unassuming blog was featured on the front page of The Indie Author News Daily (Sunday May 6th edition) and for the second time, on the front of The Bedlam Media Daily (Monday 7th May edition)!

Wow, wow and wow!

Sooooo thrilled!

Check it out guys, it’s in both of the ‘Leisure’ sections:

http://paper.li/IndieAuthorNews/1333797472/2012/05/06

http://paper.li/bedlam_media/1315567686/2012/05/07

 

ūüėÄ xx

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New Zealand Odyssey Part VIII – Capital Blues and the Gateway to the South.

With a heavy heart, I dragged myself away from magical Lake Taupo and the wonders of the Tongariro National Park.

Leaving my rental car and the majesty of New Zealand’s active volcanoes behind, I grabbed a cheap bus ride and headed south towards the country’s capital, Wellington, the southernmost capital in the world!

Known as ‘Windy Wellington’, it certainly¬†lived up to its name! Situated in the latitudes of the ‘Roaring Forties’ and perched on¬†a range of steep-sided¬†hills that¬†run down to¬†the harbour and the sea beyond, Wellington is also particularly exposed to the coastal gusts that blow through the Cook Strait.¬†The city also¬†lies on an active geological fault line and has a high degree of seismic activity as a result, with several small earthquakes occurring every year, and was the sight of New Zealand’s most powerful recently recorded earthquake, in 1855, reaching a massive 8.2 magnitude.

Arriving, somewhat weighed down by my now massively heavy backpack, I got a room in a small B&B then set out to explore the wonders of Wellington.

I wandered amongst the harbour and quayside, a picture of city tranquility and civic pride. None of the dirt, litter and graffiti so prevalent in our own capital. Public sculptures and fountains jostled amongst neatly clipped lawns and perfectly manicured flowerbeds. Only the unpredictability of the sea reminded you of the wildness beyond the city fringes.

I took¬†the cable car and drank in the breathtaking views over the city as I passed Kelburn¬†cricket grounds and headed up the hillside to the botanical gardens above and the Carter Observatory and Planetarium.¬†Seeing the stars of the Southern Cross for the first time and a different night sky to one you’ve always known, is strange and thrilling.

The next few days whirled¬†by in haze of sightseeing, but there was always something dogging my tracks, like a whisper on the wind, a feeling of melancholia that I couldn’t shake…

Rarely in life do we realise that we are having the time of our lives while we are actually having them! Yet I was all too aware, as I reached the mid-point of my four-month odyssey, that I had never felt happier, freer and more contented, and that the experiences and memories I was making, would stay with me for a life-time and shape my life in ways I could never have predicted.

Booking my ferry¬†ticket,¬†I posted home some of the encumbering¬†weight of my backpack, before bordering the Interislander Cook Strait Ferry and saying farewell to New Zealand’s North Island!

93km and 3 hours later, for what has been deservedly described as ‘one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world’, I saw the stunning inlets and channels of the South Island’s Marlborough Sounds. A 4000km2¬†maze of coastal ‘sea-drowned valleys’, of heavily wooded hills and sparsely populated quiet bays at the far north of the South Island,¬†which evoke the best of ancient Scandinavian legends. A heady mixture of mystery, Maori mythology, spectacular landscapes and sweet solitude. Nature at her best!

I arrived at¬†the sheltered harbour of Picton, gateway to the South Island. Grabbing another cheap bus, I headed west through the glorious rolling¬†hills and vineyards of Marlborough’s famous wine region¬†to¬†the bohemian¬†city of Nelson, the geographical centre of New¬†Zealand. A small but wonderfully artsy feeling place, full of galleries, indie record shops and festivals, Nelson became my base for the next week.

Bathed in the highest amount of sunshine per year, making it the ‘Sunshine Capital’ of New Zealand, you can understand why it’s cerulean skies and dry heat are so perfect for making fine wines. And so, despite sadly not being a lover of wines myself (my immature¬†palate makes them taste as disgustingly sour, as when I tried sipping them at age 13), I¬†found myself getting lost down empty¬†country tracks,¬†picking grapes and macadamia nuts from the roadside! Bliss.

After happy days soaking up the sunshine and culture of friendly Nelson, I took my rental car and headed west, as I found myself aching once more for wild places. Branching off from the State Highway,¬†I took¬†the picturesque coastal road¬†past Motueka¬†and onto the pretty little town of Kaiteriteri with its sandy beaches and cafes…But still the wild beckoned me.

Following a twisting road, which can only be described as a single gravel track hardly wide enough for a car, with sheer drops inches from my wheels, I gingerly skirted the forested hills and cliffs towards my destination, Marahau, hoping against hope not to met a car coming in the opposite direction!

Crossing the Otuwhero¬†Inlet, I was¬†immediately amazed by the startling¬†azure of the Tasman Bay and the Pacific beyond and the almost ethereal white of the beaches. Sheer paradise. Marahau, a tiny inaccessible village, gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park and outpost for laid back beach bums, surfers, hikers, adventurers and those wishing to get lost, had the most magical feel to it. Artisan and bohemian in the extreme, with only one way in or out, its solitary grocery shop, cafe, post box and the few dotted roads, houses, caravans, water taxis¬†and kayaks, invited you to stay a while…and so I did.

THIS¬†was a place to live and breathe and write! Hemingway, Greene, Kerouac…if they knew this place existed, they would have packed their cigars, white shirts and shades and headed here on the first plane. Du Maurier too…but maybe without the cigars!

I splashed out, booking myself into the rather posh, Ocean View Chalets, self-contained wooden chalets perched on stilts and overlooking the sea. The view from my balcony was nothing short of spectacular. This¬†was the stuff of dreams. If you couldn’t be inspired here, then you couldn’t be inspired anywhere.

Wishing every minute would stretch itself and every hour would become a day, I spent the next three glorious weeks in a heightened state of happy delirium. No drugs needed, just utterly intoxicated on life.

Taking the Abel Tasman walkway and coastal track deep into the rainforest, I was astonished to see a passing group of little wild blue penguins casually crossing the path in front of me, as a cacophony of exotic birds cooed in the canopy above.

Abandoning shoes, I spent most of my days walking barefoot, hanging out on the beach as if it were a religion, beach combing, sketching and horse riding¬†along the surf…yes, as clich√©d¬†as it is, there is nothing like it! Writing for hours and hours as the sun hovered overhead, a guiding light for my imagination. Watching the sunset blaze into the ocean, or the drifting embers of a bonfire on the beach, sharing gentle conversation with strangers, all as blissfully happy as me.

Days were meant to be like this…

New Zealand Odyssey Part VI – Geysers and the Beating Heart of the Earth.

After weeks in the wondrous far north amongst the giant sand hills,¬†magical kauri trees¬†and golden¬†beaches of the beautiful Bay of Islands, I¬†left the car and took the bus, heading south to the pulsating heart of New Zealand’s North Island.

The landscape slowly changed from tropical to temperate, as I passed lush rolling pastureland, populated of course by lots of sheep! After a small stop near Hamilton to view the amazing glowworm caves, eerie and unsettling in equal measure, I continued on toward Rotorua.

Sitting on an intense geothermal ‘hotspot’, Rotorua is a sleepy kind of a¬†town with a relaxed atmosphere,¬†that¬†lies on top of a restless giant.¬†For someone who is normally so in tune with nature, I was utterly amazed and unprepared for what I saw – a living, breathing, bubbling planet, full of life¬†only a few inches¬†beneath¬†my feet!

I disembarked from the bus and explored the town on foot before hiring another car for exploring. The¬†smell of sulphur hung thickly¬†in the air, mixing with the exotic flowers that fill Rotorua’s many parks and its enormous pineapple shaped palm trees! I checked into the aptly named Tiki Lodge motel, and started my adventures.

First, a visit to the Whakarewarewa thermal village, a wonderful maori centre surrounded by hot pools, boiling mud lakes, lunar landscapes and shooting geysers.

Watching the maori craftsmen carving was inspirational but again it was the spectacle of nature that left me speechless. Travelling south to the Waiotapu¬†and Waimangu¬†valleys, I was faced by yet more steaming lakes, strange silicate formations, smoking vents and fumaroles¬†and the magnificent sight of Waiotapu’s¬†world famous,¬†‘Champagne Pool’, and Waimangu’s¬†amazing ‘Inferno Crater Lake’, apparently the largest geyser-like feature in the world!¬†I stood¬†at the edge of¬†the most¬†brilliant¬†ice blue¬†lake I’ve ever seen…but a lake made entirely of bubbling acid!

Waking¬†early on yet another gloriously sunny day, I strapped on my small day backpack and decided to go for some adrenaline thrills! Oh dear! Dangling from a chair lift some 100ft¬†or more off the ground, I¬†was hoisted up the side of¬†Mount Ngongotaha, giving the most¬†amazing views over¬†Rotorua¬†City,¬†Lake Rotorua and the surrounding area, including the distant volcanoes to the south.¬†Then, once I’d explored the summit, I found myself sitting on a piece of plastic which barely covered my bum, halfway between a sledge and a tray, and proceeded to throw myself down the¬† mountainside on¬†‘The Luge’! Whizzing down a twisting turning concrete luge track at startling speed is just about the most fun you can have…EVER! Suffice to say, I had to repeat the experience¬†quite a few¬†times! ūüėÄ

My next stop though was far more effort intensive, more contemplative and ultimately more rewarding.

Travelling south of Rotorua along the volcanic plateau I came to the dormant volcano, Mount Tarawera, which erupted in 1886 killing over 150 people and swallowing whole villages in its wake. Today, it was an uncharacteristically grey day. The mountain was shrouded in low hanging clouds which seemed to roll down to meet me as I nervously joined a climbing party heading for the summit. Lagging behind and gasping for breath, I used my camera as a good excuse to keep stopping for photos, but nevertheless, I pressed on.

Some 5 or 6 hours later, I eventually broke through the mists and reached the summit. Utterly exhausted but elated I took in the brooding atmosphere of the volcano and the breathtaking views over the Tongariro National Park to the south with its active volcanoes, Mount Ruapehu and the perfect cone of Mount Ngauruhoe in the distance.

With a mixture of excitement and a little trepidation, I followed the guide, from the summit down into the crater itself. Sliding down the crater sides, a mixture of scree and gravel, you could actually feel the heat of the volcano through your boots! I have never experienced anything so fundamentally powerful and primeval…a truly humbling experience.

After a few weeks around the wonderfully visceral Rotorua area, I continued my journey south into a whole new world and one which truly brought me to my knees…

New Zealand odyssey part III – heading north…

Hiring an old car, and with no destination in mind, my rucksack and I left the wonderful city of Auckland.

Letting the road take me where it would, I happened to go north.

Leaving the suburbs behind, I drove leisurely through beautifully changing landscapes, at once exotic yet somehow familiar – that hint of Englishness perhaps, in the rolling hills and little rivers, but not amongst the wild ferns and mighty kauri trees.

Lunch time beckoned as I drove into the magical Waipoua¬†Forest, a place I shall never forget. Leaving the car, I¬†initially followed the trail that wound its way through the forest, often rising several feet above the forest floor. New Zealand’s beautiful and ancient kauri trees rose up majestically, as if planted by the gods. The oldest of these trees, Te Matua¬†Ngahere, ‘Father of the Forest’, seemed to beckon to me through the tree ferns and undergrowth. At an estimated 2,000 years old, this colossal living organism had the ability to both¬†instantly humble and fill one with awe.

This was truly a place of tree magic…

The Maori believe in tree spirits and so do I. The ancient Greeks called them the Dryad. Whatever the name…this was a place of inspiration, a place to ignite the imagination!

My first novel, White Mountain, was still in its infancy at the time, and although I knew one of my characters, Wendya,¬†would have to live¬†in a colder climate,¬†her home, ‘The Grey Forest’, was born…