New posts on the way about: . . .
*Northland, New Zealand
*Prague, Czech Republic
& from late June 2013: BORNEO, incl. the Rainforest World Music Festival, food, nature, jungle & orang-utans and much more!
Signup (on the right) to get these blogs emailed directly to you - no spam ever!
Street photography & Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson always had his camera with him “even when I don’t plan to take photos” he is reported to have said. I love authentic street photography – candid, life as it is, interesting, real.
I know many like to ‘photo-shop’ or use some other digital technology to manipulate, or enhance their photos in some way to make them more pleasing to their eye. I prefer to show you exactly what I see – including dull skies, power-lines, and other unwanted objects. I want to portray what’s in front of me – as a travel writer I believe that’s my duty: to tell you the truth about what I see and experience so when you go there, you will not be surprised.
So like Cartier-Bresson (but without his skills) I love to ‘walk and shoot.’ This sometimes means I will wait for someone to walk into a frame .. most people don’t know I have taken the photo even though I get as close to the action as possible. When it’s not possible, telephoto lens are wonderful for those candid, unnoticed pics.
So carry your camera, be observant, be patient, and recognise the derisive moment to push the shutter – after all, in photography the smallest thing can be a great subject. No wonder I’m excited to be traveling to somewhere new soon (Borneo) – where I’ll have lots of new, not posed, candid subjects to photograph – and no electronic manipulation.
As my tagline says,” real travel, real stories, real photos”
Ok … now I want to return to Ireland with this book under my arm.
It’s been many years since I visited the emerald isle and this book will make my next one even better. With three clear sections (Plan your Trip; On the Road; Road Trip Essentials) these 34 road trips will help you (me) pick the right route and get around easily with the clear maps and, even better, it shows detours, local walking tracks and ways to link the routes.
So whether searching for ancestors, history or have some Craic this Lonely Planet book is for you.
Craic means having fun, having a good time, while saying ‘what’s the craic’ is like saying ‘what’s up?
The trip suggestions range from a 2-day escape through to a week-long adventure: of course you could do them all and spend ages on this wonderful island!
The book also has the Irish road rules, many which are similar to New Zealand – drive on the left – but children under 12 are not allowed in the front seats and while some motorways allow 120k the speed limits change often over the island so be on the lookout for speed road signs.
So whether you choose a ‘classic trip’ to take in the well-known and much-loved sights or want to concentrate on a small region and really get to know the area, this book has it all – including accommodation, ancient monuments, traditional music, and good food ideas.
Wellington Writer and Auckland Photographer Scoop the Top Prizes at the Cathay Pacific Travel Media Awards
13 May 13
Wellington’s Sharon Stephenson won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award and Auckland’s Babiche Martens took the Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award, presented Tuesday 7th May at the Travel Media Awards Gala Dinner at the Heritage Auckland’s Grand Tearoom.
The Cathay Pacific Travel Media awards are organised by Travcom (New Zealand Travel Communicators) to celebrate excellence in travel writing and photography.
Stephenson took top spot with her story "Roman Holiday – Food and Flirting" published in the Dominion Post. Stephenson is a Wellington-based freelance writer, editor, copywriter and PR consultant.
The writing judge was William Fraser, based in Hong Kong, editor-in-chief of the six Cathay Pacific and Dragonair magazines and digital products, former editor of Qantas magazine, founder of Australian Financial Review magazine and Boss magazine. He is a former literary and food editor who has worked in magazines, newspapers, book publishing, radio and television. Fraser said “The winner of the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year award is someone I would relish setting out with. This is a writer who has clearly already done the necessary research to be knowledgeable about the destination. But is also prepared to go with the flow when necessary and surrender to the spontaneous opportunities that travel throws up. The writer also has the necessary joie de vivre so essential in a travelling companion. But more than anything else, this was a writer with a sense of humour.
“Roman Holiday is a con brio piece of writing that from the outset made me smile and then laugh out loud. While relatively concise, it is entertaining and amusing, and the exuberant verve of the writing and enthusiasm for the subject – her unabashed enjoyment of Italian food and waiters – propels the reader through the piece. It has enough information to allow readers to follow in her footsteps and is a welcome reminder that travel can, and probably should, be fun. She enjoyed her holiday and so did I.”
William Fraser judged all travel writing categories excluding the New Travel Writer of the Year award, which was judged by Metro staff writer Steve Braunias. Steve has won the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award three times, and he describes his latest book, Civilisation: 20 Places at the Edge of the World, as “a kind of gothic travel book, set in Mosgiel, Tangimoana and other destinations which are at once bland and amazing”. The winner of the AA Directions New Travel Writer of the Year Award is Brian Luby of Dunedin, for "Tunnel, Laughter and Giants". Braunias said “Brian’s story was about a hole in the ground. Writing about a tunnel was an ambitious task – it could so easily have been a small bore. But Brian’s genuine sense of wonder is infectious. He takes the reader with him, back to the 1870s when the 72 steps of tunnel were first dug, then to the present day, when he dares to compare it to the Grand Canyon. Who dares, wins. I loved every syllable of this witty and thoroughly engaging piece of writing.”
The winner of Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award is Babiche Martens, a photographer for the NZ Herald.
The photography awards were judged by: Bela Trussell-Cullen, a veteran magazine designer and art director, who has worked for many years on Metro and North & South and who is currently art director of New Idea magazine; Aaron K, an Auckland-based commercial photographer with over 13 years of industry experience. He’s also a past president and the current executive director of the Advertising and Illustrative Photographers’ Association; and Tony Bridge, a professional photographer, artist and photography educator based in Hanmer Springs. The Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year Award was judged on the entire portfolio of images entered in every award category.
Aaron K said “We chose Babiche Martens as the winner because we found her portfolio very contemporary and original. In a medium that can attract cliche’s Babiche’s unique vision was refreshing. She has been innovative with her choice of subject matter and composition, while also demonstrating excellent technical control and consistency. All of her images were perfectly exposed, resulting in strong saturated colours. We feel she has an educated eye that pushes the boundaries of the travel photography genre."
Stephenson and Martens each win a return economy class ticket, upgradeable on a space available basis, to Hong Kong travelling with Cathay Pacific plus three nights at the renowned Peninsula Hong Kong which is celebrating 85 years of Peninsula hospitality in 2013. The winners will also be hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board to experience the marvels of Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year:
Winner: Sharon Stephenson
Auckland Airport Award for the Best Magazine Travel Story
Winner: Venetia Sherson, for "Autumn in Tuscany", published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, Jan/Feb 2012
Runner up: Miranda Spary, for "Turkish Delight", published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, March/April 2012
Runner up: Steve Braunias, for "With the Springboks", published in Metro Magazine, January 2012
Westpac Award for the Best Newspaper Travel Story
Winner: Sharon Stephenson, for "Roman Holiday – Food and Flirting", published in the Dominion Post, August 2012
Runner up: Michele Hewitson, for "Gone to the Chiens in the City of Light", published in the NZ Herald, November 2012
Runner up: Venetia Sherson, for "High Rise Journey to the Dark Side", published in the NZ Herald, November 2012
Heritage Hotels Award for the Best Travel Story about New Zealand
Winner: Mike White, for "Old Gold", published in North & South magazine, November 2012
Runner up: Joanna Wane, for "When Wally met Sally", published in North & South magazine, May 2012
Runner up: Sarah Lang, for "A River Runs Through It", published in North & South magazine, April 2012
Interislander Award for the Best Story about a Journey
Winner: Steve Braunias, for "Great South Road Trip", published in Metro magazine, April 2012
Runner up: Robin Charteris, for "Travels with the Beast", published in the Otago Daily Times, March 2012
Runner up: Steve Braunias, for "The Train", published in Metro Magazine, June 2012
British High Commission and Tourism Ireland Award for the Best Travel Story about Britain and/or Ireland
Winner: Colin Hogg, for "A Writer’s Trail", published in the NZ Herald, June 2012
Runner up: Sharon Stephenson, for "Knocking on Heaven’s Door", published in the Dominion Post, March 2012
Runner up: Jill Worrall, for "Where Monks’ Memories Linger", published in the Timaru Herald, August 2012
NZ Maori Tourism Award for the Best Travel Story about a Maori Tourism Experience
Winner: Mike White, for "Once Upon an Island", published in North & South magazine, June 2012
Runner up: Pamela Wade, for "Parihaka: Keeping the Peace", published in the NZ Herald, January 2012A
Runner up: Liz Light, for "A Weekend in the Hokianga", published in North & South magazine, October 2012
Rhys Brookbanks Memorial Award for the Best Travel story published about Canterbury or highlighting Christchurch
Winner: Jane Warwick, for "Phoenixes and All That", published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine,November 2012
Runner up: Mike White, for "A Weekend in Little River", published in North & South magazine, March 2012A
Runner up: Paul Rush, for "Bridged Waters Troubles Over", published in the Dominion Post, November 2012
AA Directions Magazine Award for the Best New Travel Writer
Winner: Brian Luby, for "Tunnel, Laughter and Giants"
Runner Up: Linda Maser, "for A Bangkok Adventure"
Highly Commended: Hugh Blomfield, for "Sabah’s Turtle Island"
Highly Commended: David Patterson, for "The Brussels Experience"
Highly Commended: Karen Prebensen, for "Salt of the Earth"
Cathay Pacific Travel Photographer of the Year
Winner: Babiche Martens
Runner Up: Tessa Chrisp
Auckland Airport Award for the Best Travel Image taken in New Zealand
Winner: Joshua Windsor, for his image published in NZ Geographic magazine in November 2012 of a rock climber scaling the challenging Babylon Crag while on holiday in Fiordland.
Runner Up: Fay Looney, for her image published in Taranaki, Be Here, Be Surprised, September 2012 For her image of Opunake Beach, travellers mid-winter photo shoot
Runner Up: James Heremaia, for his image published in Our New Zealand, summer 2012 The Northern Explorer passenger train crosses the Waiteti viaduct south of Te Kuiti
FUJIFILM X Award for the Best Travel Image taken Outside New Zealand
Winner: Tessa Chrisp, for her image published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, Jan/Feb 2012 Vanuatu’s low lying Maskelyn islands, dug out canoe
Runner Up: Peter Graney, for his image published in the Rotorua Review in October 2012 Chickens arrive for slaughter by Moto at the Orasay markets, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Runner Up: Amos Chapple, for his image published in the Guardian, Tourists at Danyia Landform, Zhangyzi, China
AA Directions Magazine Award for the Best Travel Image with People
Winner: Tessa Chrisp for her image published in NZ Life & Leisure magazine, Jan/Feb 2012 Malekula Island Vanuatu, locals in a ute
Runner Up: Babiche Martens, for her image published in the NZ Herald in May 2012 A driver focusses intently on the rear vision mirror
Runner Up: Amos Chapple, for his image published in the Guardian, A Kurdish man guards road working machinery.
NZ Maori Tourism Award for the Best Travel Image Capturing the Essence of Maori
Winner: Peter Drury, for his image published in the Waikato Times in March 2012 Waka and crews salute international dignitaries at the 116th Ngaruawahia regatta held at the Turangawaewae marae
Runner Up: James Heremaia, for his image published in the Taranaki Daily Mail in May 2012 The tangi of the iconic soloist Hui Kahu
Runner Up: Liz Light, for her image published in North & South magazine in October 2012 Rod Penney and his horses on Mitimiti beach, Northland.
Heritage Boutique Collection Award for the Best Unpublished Travel Image
Winner: Lindsay Keats, for his image of boys playing soccer in Quarzazate, Morocco
Runner up: Liz Light, for her image of dawn beauty, Chilka Lake, Orissa, India
Runner up: Karin Charteris, for her image of a family group travelling to market in Udaipur, India.
For further information or to source winning photographic images contact Travcom administrator Helen DaviesPh: (09) 624 5707 or email email@example.comTo see the winners’ photographs and stories click on www.travelcommunicators.co.nz
Sand Safaris take me for a full day trip to Cape Reinga – driving along 90 Mile Beach, sand-tobogganing and I plant a native tree at the cape.
Classified as a main highway, 90-mile beach is not really ninety miles long and this is just one of the interesting facts given by our engaging driver, Senny, as we race against the incoming tide. These tours go up or down the beach one way, and the usual road route on the other.
We hear stories of cattle rustling; peat-land,large forests on sand dunes, lots of freshwater lakes; and the ultra-marathon and fishing competitions held on the this well known beach. we also see numerous birds, a cow, wild horses, and shellfish beds which the bus carefully avoids.
With no big river emptying into the Tasman the beach is free of the debris usually seen on beaches and it’s not long before we stop for photos before we head up a stream to the sand dunes and tobogganing.
we are given tips for the descent
.. and put them into action.
Lunch stop at Tapotupotu Bay … time for a very quick dip too
The top of New Zealand is Cape Reinga, and Te Ara, New Zealand’s online history encyclopaedia says "according to ancient lore, this was final departure point for the spirit of the Maori. It was said that the spirit, after travelling up the west coast to a spot a few miles south of Cape Maria van Diemen, continued overland to the western end of Spirits Bay and eventually reached the pohutukawa tree. There it descended the roots and entered the sea. (This tree is reputed to have been in position for about 800 years and is said never to have blossomed.) "
I take the 1km walk down to the lighthouse and the views are spectacular as I watch the waves of the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean currents.
While here I’m given the opportunity to plant a native tree to help assuage my travel-writer frequent-flyer carbon guilt.
If you too are ecologically minded, see the Seed for the Future website for more information about this local tribe (Ngati Kuri) initiative as part of their role of guardians of the sacred places around the cape … $NZ20 well spent and a living legacy of your trip there.
Leaving here we head south again, via the sealed road this time, we head home with the bus dropping us off at our accommodation … I get off at Mainstreet, pick up my rental car and head a little further south to Shipwreck Bay and Endless Summer Lodge.
How much of your travel dollar do you leave behind? Do you leave any for this woman or her relatives? Or is it all going to to multi-national companies?
I recently read something by Chris Ball that said “When you travel to less developed countries, you might think that just by being there you’re helping provide a better quality of life for the locals. You’d be wrong. Just $5 of every $100 you spend stays local.” I have often heard those figures but could not find his reference.
As he says, “Tourism is one of the most powerful change agents on Earth. And, “We as consumers must vote with our wallets and support local people with local businesses.” I totally agree and contacted him – he is the Adventure Honey founder and CEO Chris Ball said that in addition to supporting local travel operators, 25% of Adventure Honey’s proceeds are invested into their ‘Changemaker Program.’
“Our site is designed for independent adventure travellers who want to find not only the coolest things to do in the world, but also ensure their travel has a positive local impact – that the locals truly benefit from their adventure.”
He also tells us “When you buy adventure tours and activities through a website like Adventure Honey you help ensure a positive impact from your travel and have an incredible adventure at the same time!
After some searching I found the United Nations Environment Programme reference to the negative impacts of tourism here.
This is topic is something I blogged about (first published in a newspaper column) about some years ago and reprint it here.
What is an eco-tourist? Ecotourism?
Like Asians need rice, Italians love pasta, British their curry, and us Kiwi’s love fish and chips, I need to travel and being a traveller who writes means I get to visit where I want to go to rather than have to go the destination flavour of the month.
This means I’m often in places that are not on the tourist trail. As a slow traveller I can stay longer and get to know people, to absorb the local culture and flavour. This also means that although I don’t always sign up for an eco-tour, I practise many of the principles of ecotourism. But what is ecotourism – a word that’s often thrown around and frequently means nothing.
My understanding of the word and the concepts behind it are that’s it an activity that has minimum impact while providing maximum benefits to the locals.
I believe independent travellers are most likely to be the closest to being real eco travellers. They leave much of their travel money in the country while those who travel on tours often have paid for their whole trip before they leave home – giving very little to the country they are travelling in but adding huge costs – in water, sewerage, rubbish, roads.
Worldwide many places say they are providing an ecotourism experience but is that really so? It seems that as long as it has a nature component many claim it to be eco-friendly. That has not always been my experience.
Life on an Asian marine reserve sounds wonderful right? A great eco experience? Yes the natural sights and walks are fantastic; money spent on food and accommodation does remain with the locals providing it. Unfortunately, the big money is creamed the off the islands in diving lessons given by Europeans who come in for the tourist season then leave taking the money with them. Because of the lack of a robust infrastructure, the rubbish – that travellers complain about – is bought to the island by them: water bottles are not refilled, plastic bags and straws are left on the beach.
Have travel agents sold us too narrow views of places to visit? Given us a list of sights we ‘must see’ or activities to participate in? This produces problems all over the world with buses arriving in droves, disgorging visitors and fumes to see wonderful pristine or historic sights.
It reminds me of Lake Louise in Banff, Canada, where I too was a body disgorged from a bus to see the great views. I have proof that I was there – a photo of me sitting alone with the lake and mountains as the backdrop – it looks idyllic. However I know that beside me, waiting for their turn to have the moment recorded, is another busload of chattering travellers.
The problems of being poured into these tourist funnels will continue if we rely on unimaginative travel agents (and of course not all are) and the forceful marketing of those who have invested in areas. While it is more economical for planes and hotels to have us arrive together and stay in the same places it also creates problems for them – not the least is the strong chance of killing the goose that lays the golden egg such as the warning in the child’s story.
This is not a new problem. Read books written years ago and the same complaints are made. Tell others you are going to Bali (or Timbuktu) and immediately you will be told “you should have gone there ten (2, 5, 50 years ago,) before it was discovered.”
So, what can we travellers do? I don’t know what you will do – what I do is travel slow, travel cheaply, and use local products whenever I can.
So, by combining the universal codes of pack it in pack it out and take only photos, leave only footprints, along with getting off the well-worn tourist trails means I’m able to enjoy my travels with a clearer conscience.
Kaitaia is my next port of call in this two weeks travel around Northland ( www.northlandnz.com) and after leaving Gumdiggers Park (see my previous post) as I continue along the Twin Coast Discovery route to what could be called the capital of the far north.
This area has an interesting mix of Dalmatian and Maori history: it is also home to the originator of ‘nek minnit” , a phrase that has been heard on lips of skateboarders through to a member of parliament (and which no doubt spelt death to the saying among young people!) Nek minnit was made popular by a kiwi skateboarder who appeared in a video that went viral and which shows his scooter, apparently destroyed outside a corner shop, known as a dairy here – although the skateboarder made the video, I believe it was from one of his Kaitaia cousins he first heard it!
I check into Mainstreet Lodge a clean and friendly travellers lodge in the centre of town and where I meet Mike, the new owner and manager. Not surprisingly, I have just heard Mainstreet has doubled its occupancy over the past year under the new ownership and updating.
I believe this accommodation will also be a boon to people walking the Te Araroa trail – hike that takes people the 3000km (1864 miles) from the top of New Zealand to the bottom: of course it can be done in stages!
One of the unique points about this place is it’s the only place I know of that has a Whare - a Maori meeting house. This house grew out of a Maori carving school and some of the carvings were made at the school and so Whare Te Ohonga was born – the name means “The Awakening”.
I took a look around the new Te Ahu Centre on the corner of Matthews Ave & South Road which has some impressive design work. I’m told it houses a library, museum, cafe, i-SITE and the Far North District Council service centre as well as the Little Theatre, Te Ahu Cinema and Community Hall so can be well-used by locals and visitors alike.
More than 100 Perspex versions of one my favourite birds, the kuaka (bar-tailed godwits) hang from the atriums ceiling and the flight formation mimics the migratory birds amazing annual journey to the Northern Hemisphere – seems it likes a perpetual summer despite the huge journey twice a year.
Carvers working under the direction of tohunga whakairo (master carver) Paul Marshall have completed four, seven-metre pou (rather like totem poles) representing Pakeha, Te Rarawa, Ngai Takoto and Ngati Kuri.
They encircle the atrium and look down on a giant stingray etched in a polished concrete floor symbolising the seafloor and Te Hiku o te Ika – the tail of the fish. Three more pou representing Te Aupouri, Ngati Kahu and people of Dalmatian descent stand there.
A floor-to-ceiling fibre-glass kauri tree and swing bridge have been installed in the library where a wall mural evokes native bush and it’s well worth visiting this place on your travels especially as my photos do not do it justice,
What are your must-do and must-see suggestions to see in this provincial town? Of course it’s the jumping off place for trips up to Cape Reinga and that will be my next blog .. a day trip with Sand Safaris to Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach.
Northland has it all – you are spoilt for choice and today it’s gum diggers history, fish, swimming, and great accommodation. I check out the fabulous, add-to-your-list Kahoe Farms Hostel and head off to the historic seaside village of Mangonui – home of the famous Mangonui Fish Shop. Browse the little craft shops and walk the Heritage Trail around the village. ( for a map see here, or buy one at the little visitors centre.)
The walkway is dedicated to the men and women, Maori and European, who sailed vast oceans to make a new life. The Polynesian navigator Kupe visited the area about 900 AD and later, another canoe, the Ruakaramea, was guided into a harbour by a shark. The canoes chief, Moehuri, named the harbour Mangonui, which means ‘large shark’.
This was known as a safe harbour for whaling vessels by the late 1700s and in 1831 the first European settlers arrived. By the mid-1800s, Mangonui was a centre for whalers and traders with sawmilling, flax and gum industries flourishing.
Now, it’s better known as the home of the ‘world-famous’ fish and chip shop’ but I’m sad to say, for me, the tagline did not live up to its food on the day I was there – but as it gets many rave reviews perhaps I was just there at the wrong time!
Travelling alone it’s not always easy to go swimming: where do you put your car and accommodation keys? Mostly, in NZ, I just leave them with my towel, but when the keys belong to someone else I find it easier to pin them inside my swimming gear, or on a chain around my neck – what do you do when alone and wanting to swim at the beach?
I spend the evening, night and morning relaxing, reading, just soaking up the view and great accommodation before heading off for Kaitaia and the Mainstreet Lodge, taking a side road and stopping for lunch at the fantastic Karikari Estate. For wine buffs make sure you have a sober driver when you tackle the samples of tasting wines.
I continue along SH10 on to Awanui then turn right and head north for Gumdiggers Park , an authentic Kauri Gum digging site that’s over 100 years old.
Amazingly, 40,000 to 150,000 year old Buried Kauri Forests have been exposed by the gum diggers and the Gumdiggers’ village, equipment & recreated shelters brings the stories to life.
Newly formed tracks show extensive ancient kauri deposits and the bus tour tourists who were also visiting told me they too enjoyed the walk around the very natural park.
With the scenery around Northland, as I said in a earlier blog with other photos – no wonder TV shows like The Bachelor and Top Model have used this area for some of their programmes.