In the next couple of weeks, my book, Hangi, Haka and Hobbits: Notes from New Zealand, will have been with Amazon for three months. To celebrate this milestone, I’m having a free offer.
The offer is for two days, beginning at midnight (Pacific time), Friday 22nd July. Times can vary, depending on where you are in the world, so just make sure to check that before ordering.
For a free copy of the book, click here.
This week’s post is an excerpt from the book.
I’m at the Visitor Centre in Wanganui, on the west coast of New Zealand’s north island. A young woman offers me a brochure on the area’s attractions, one of them being the Durie Hill elevator. In 1910, the Wanganui Borough solved the problem of providing public transport for the residents of Durie Hill, a suburb overlooking the town, by constructing a lift through the hill itself. It was opened in August, 1919, and has been used by the locals ever since as a short cut down to the town.
I peer into the 205-metre-long concrete tunnel leading into the hill, not sure whether to continue. It’s like a railway subway, except I don’t know what I’ll find at the end, and I can’t see the end to get a clue.
I venture into the gloom. The further I go, the more I feel like a mole, going home after a day of foraging. The tunnel ends at a green door, locked and forbidding. On the wall is a sign: Please Ring Bell For Lift.
A button beneath is attached to a wire, running up the wall beside a folding door, its red paint peeling and the bottom of its panels corroded with rust.
This can’t be the elevator, surely. I strain my eyes back in case anyone else is on their way in. I’m not comfortable doing this on my own. No-one manifests, and I have to make a decision. I press the button. The door wobbles, and rattling, squeaks and an ominous rumble issue from behind it. I wait while the sound gets louder and louder. With a whoosh, the door folds back.
‘Hello,’ says a woman. The relief that I don’t have to work this monster myself is enormous. She waves me in and pulls the door shut. A little desk is in the corner with a tea cup on it. A phone and an intercom hang on the wooden wall, along with an array of buttons.
The woman pulls a lever and the contraption groans and starts moving.
‘This is a bit scary,’ I say, as we shake, rattle and roll our way up through the hill. She smirks at me, as if I’m one of the more idiotic people she’s met. ‘Well, you’d be used to it, I suppose.’
‘Yes,’ she says, ‘I’ve been doing it for a very long time.’ We leave it at that. Suddenly, the lift comes to a stop, she whips open the door on the other side and I’m out on the hill, with the wind almost knocking me over. I turn as the door is pulled shut. An orange tower sits over the elevator shaft, iron steps encircling it, leading to a lookout.
The wind is so strong, I feel sure, if I climbed up there, I would be at risk of being picked up and deposited into the winding Whanganui River below.
Hangi, Haka and Hobbits: Notes from New Zealand is book two in my Planning to the ‘Nth’ travel series. Click here.
The Edge of the World: Next Stop Cape Horn is book one in the series, describing my adventures during four road trips around the island of Tasmania. To download a free sample or to buy the book, click here.