I’m jumping around all over the place with my New Zealand memories, using those that particularly stand out in my mind. The night before heading down into Wellington, I stopped in the lovely art deco town of Whanganui.
Anyone who’s read any of my stuff would have realised I’m besotted with film sets and locations, so while in the north island of New Zealand I couldn’t miss out on Hobbiton, the location used for The Shire in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’ movies.
It was recommended, while in Rotorua, that I visit Whakarewarewa Living Maori Village, which is to say people here still live in the traditional way. As I arrived, a guide was explaining the enormously long, original name of the village, to a group of school children. ‘Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao,’ she said, slowly. ‘Three hundred years ago, a warrior chief named Wahiao, got together an army to get back at the people who killed his father. And so that’s what the name means: The Gathering Place of the Army of Wahiao.
I returned to New Zealand in 2014, this time to the north island. I’d been looking at photos of Rotorua’s thermal wonderland for years. This was my chance to see it for myself. Rotorua is a nice town, set around Lake Rotorua.
While preparing my book, Hangi, Haka and Hobbits: Notes from New Zealand, the second in my Planning to the Nth trilogy, for publication in print, memories are flooding back.
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.
Tourist information stresses filling the petrol tank before leaving. There are no service stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound and I know from this that I’m heading into serious wilderness. It’s a little daunting but I’m almost fearless, intrepid traveller that I’m becoming.
In Queenstown, I boarded the steamer, T.S.S.Earnslaw, for a cruise along Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak High Country Farm. T.S.S.Earnslaw is the last surviving of the grand steamships that graced Lake Wakatipu. It served the remote farming communities around the lake, transporting cargo, livestock and passengers. These days, it’s tourists.
In 2010, I spent two days in Christchurch, on the east coast of New Zealand’s south island, before taking the TranzAlpine Railway to Greymouth on the west coast. The next morning, I picked up my first-ever rental car and headed south towards Queenstown.
I’m not sure what gauge is used to determine travel times on maps but it’s certainly not mine. I was supposed to arrive around 5pm, but it was 7pm and I was on autopilot, as I pulled into Makarora Tourist Centre, in Mount Aspiring National Park.
My accommodation was a wooden, A-framed cabin, with a little pathway round a corner to an outdoor lavatory. It was surrounded by bush, which, in turn, was surrounded by mountain peaks, the one in the centre still snow-capped. They towered over me, protective and paternal, like giant guardians. I collapsed onto one of the single beds, breathing in the pure air.
In 2010, I ventured across the Tasman Sea to the south island of New Zealand. I had wanted, for a long time, to see what is described as one of the most beautiful places in the world.
It was also a good spot for a practice run at lone overseas travel. They speak English, of a sort, their money is similar and they drive on the right side of the road which, in Australia and New Zealand, is the left. I was planning to drive through the Southern Alps, which extend down the western side of the island but to get there, I had to catch a train across from the east.