It’s satisfying to drive past the sign that says the road is closed. Although many people travel through the iconic high country Molesworth Station, not many get to experience it as I did – as a guest of the Molesworth Tour Company. No other vehicles, local information and good company – what more can one want? Leaving Blenheim, we head off on the old state highway, past the old port where the first local Europeans arrived as sealers and whalers, and on through the Redwood Pass.
It was around here that Lee and Geoff Swift (owner-operators of this tour company) were farming, and after his career in the air force, this teller of tales decided tourism was the next big thing in the area and they wanted to be involved. Its hard to summarise the three days but let me paint a little picture: Autumn colours, reds, yellows, the silver and white of tree trunks; past the Taylor Pass cemetery with graves dating from 1864-1909 them on to Alton Downs for morning tea with locals Judith and Trevor.
Meeting locals is an integral part of the trip – this is not just a quick drive through but also a chance to get to meet the people of the land; people who are passionate about their corner of New Zealand and happy to share it with others. read more
Getting off our free yellow shuttlebusthat provides tourist and locals an easy way around the city centre I saw a tuk tuk. Yes a genuine Thai three-wheeled, tuk tuk! I was immediately transported in my mind to Thailand.
I am sure this was exactly what Emirates wanted as the vehicle was a 3-wheeled bill-board to ‘celebrate the maiden flights of our Boeing 777-300ER to Bangkok.’ (and Koh Samui and Phuket)
Check if there are any seats left (which I doubt as they were at just over $800) on www.emirates.com/nz
What was even better – I got to ride in it. I rushed home, got my camera, then went for a little advertising trip on the yellow vehicle.
‘I’m pretending I’m in Thailand’
is what I told everyone as we waited at traffic lights. There is no doubt seeing the tuk tuk on their streets made local workers and shoppers smile.
I wish I too could take advantage of the cheap Emirates flights to one of my favourite cities on an airline I love to travel with. Oh well, it was great to be transported in my mind for a little while yesterday
NOTE: I have had articles published in the emirates in-flight magazine so check next time you are on board and see if you can find the kiwitravelwriter, Heather Hapeta contributing to your flight.
Laden with history and tradition, birthplace of religions, covered with ancient monuments and temples – which are often set in breathtaking scenery – full of pageantry, privilege and poverty, India is crammed with contrasts. Along with the droughts and floods, crowded cities and peaceful villages, fabulous festivals and varied food of India, in Gujarat I dance during Navratri (the longest dance festival in the world)and I’m shown a palace with its own golf course.
Golf is one of India’s best-kept secrets and this beautiful course is at the historic Lakshmi Vilas Palace Estate in Vadodara. In 1930 His Highness Pratapsinhrao Gaekwad developed this private course for his European guests, and sixty-five years later his grandson re-developed it and named it the Gaekwad Baroda Golf Club: using the British name for the ancient capital city, Baroda, a name that still lingers.
Set in the grounds of this magnificent royal residence we are told peacocks are often seen strutting around as if they owned it. Our guide also tells us the membership at this club is so full and desirable that a member had remarked to him, “If you believe in rebirth, you need to sign up for membership now then come and claim it in two more lifetimes.”
The lush green fairways set against the palace backdrop create a mini oasis away from the noise of the city. Golf continues to be a rich mans sport in India, with, only 200,000 players and about 250 golf courses in a country of over a billion,. The number of women golfers is probably no more than a few thousand. Most clubs are privately owned or membership-based and the sport is all the rage: Indian parents, like others around the world, hope to have given birth to a future Tiger Woods.
Built, by Maharaja Sayajirao in 1890, in a mixture of several different styles (Mogul, Rajasthan and western) it is still the residence of the royal family and has a remarkable collection of old armoury and sculptures in bronze, marble & terracotta. I’m also told a British architect was hired to design the palace, but there were errors in the structure and he suicided soon after it was finished.
It took an Italian master craftsman nearly a year to complete the mosaic tile floor in the ballroom – where club members are admitted to attend concerts put on by the maharaja.
I was with a group from India, a few from Europe and an American of Indian descent, and we have been given confusing messages about taking photos. I get a shock when a man shouts at us to stop taking photos in the ornate Darbar Hall. Too late. I already have some of the cattle heads mounted on the wall and of the stained glass windows through which a little light seeps through.
Earlier, standing on the edge of the greens we had been told more of the story of this dynasty. “In those days, under British rule, on the death of a maharaja, lands became the property of the British if there was no male heir. With no children, the Maharaja’s wife begged him to adopt a son and eventually he began searching for a suitable boy.
“Hearing this people began arriving at the palace to plead for their child to be adopted but no-one was suitable. One day a merchant took his three sons to meet the maharaja. The middle child stepped forward and said, ‘I’ve come here to become a Maharaja.’ Liking his attitude the maharaja and maharani adopted him.
“The young boy had never attended school and he soon had tutors in English, German, French, Sanskrit and Gujarat.”
From such humble beginnings, today almost everything in Baroda is called after him – the palace, the railway station, the museum, the university and the courts of law. He was also the first to send his daughters to school and even imposed fines on families who did not send their children to school.
The palace grounds also houses The Maharaja Fatesingh Museum, a building that was constructed as a school for the Maharaja’s children (with a miniature railway to take them there) and where a large number of works of art belonging to the Royal family are on display.
Also within the 700 acres estate there is a riding track, clay and grass tennis courts, cricket ground – home of the famed Baroda Cricket Club – and indoor courts for badminton and tennis, as well as the 12-hole golf course.
So, if you are fortunate to obtain an invitation to play here, be careful during the monsoon season, as along with the torrential rains, you could catch a glimpse of a cobra or other wildlife. Last night while dancing I saw no snakes at the Navratri celebrations.
This annual festival is devoted to the Mother Goddess – Maa Amba – goddess of Shakti or power.This festival is essentially religious and is celebrated with devotion in various temples dedicated to her, however for many thousands the nine nights of dancing take centre stage.
Garba and dandia-ras, Gujarat’s popular folk-dance, are performed each night in public squares, open grounds and streets. I too joined the festivities. Women wearing colourful, embroidered and mirrored outfits called Chania Choli surround me – all enjoying the all-night dancing and last night I am taught some of the more simple steps as we circle around earthen lamps which house the image or spirit of the mother goddess. From dancing to golf, Gujarat has it all: as their tourism department says: Vibrant Gujarat, where life is a celebration.
How to use a toilet – in a Thai train: from person experience
Inside a small silver-lined room, the floor wet and smelly from twelve hours of use, I finally need to use the toilet: it’s about eighteen inches above the floor.
Rolling my pants legs up to avoid the wetness, I clamp my knees together to stop the material falling back down, then drop the waist of my green, Thai fisherman pants.
Climbing up onto the shining edifice – while keeping my knees together – I place my feet either side of the hole, and, with the train rocking alarmingly, hold on. Moments later I reverse the process and leave.
I’m relieved I haven’t been cursed with the travellers disease; the trots, runs, dheli belly, or whatever common name is given to dysentery and diarrhoea, that so, I’m sure I won’t need to come back into the throne-room – well not for a while anyway.
Keen on travel – like to write? As travel editor of newspaper (now defunct so please don’t send me stories J ) here is a list of what we wanted from people who wanted to send us submissions. I hope some of these will be helpful as good tips for you travelwriting.
Here’s what we asked for: Firstly we required authentic travel articles from people with a passion for travel.
In other words, you have actually been there, done that. If you haven’t actually got the T-shirt, you at least have real experience to write about, not information gleaned (plagiarised) from the internet or travel book. They are great for research before you go – we want to hear about your adventures after the trip; good and bad.
So what makes a good travel article? The goal is to transfer the emotional experience to the reader.
Avoid long scenery bits and a day by day, sight by sight, blow by blow account of your journey.
Tempt with flavour, use weather to create atmosphere. Encourage with imaginative language, and resolve doubts with facts.
Take an unusual viewpoint and offer practical advice. Disabled travellers, parents with children and others need relevant information.
Who, what, how, why and when are always good to start with, and don’t forget smells, sounds, touch, sight and colour.
Tighten the focus of any story, don’t give too much detail, people want the feel of a place not all it’s history or each shop in a street. Aim for a free flowing narrative.
Try to keep the personal to a minimum – you, travellers and visitors are inviting words. Frequent use of the word “I” doesn’t encourage the reader to visit too.
Give a strong structure to the piece . . . beginning, middle and end. Set the scene, take the reader with you, and round off the story.
A fact file can be really helpful – airlines, flights, costs, best season, accommodation.
Sounds simple doesn’t it? Even though I write frequently, it’s when I concentrate on these basics that the story is better, the scenery brighter and the food tastier. Check out some of my stories on www.kiwitravelwriter.com
Often thought of as an English city, Christchurch, NZin fact started as a Maori village then the Scottish Deans brothers arrived in the 1840s long before the planned migration from England.
The Canterbury Burns Club in Christchurch New Zealand today commentated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet – perhaps the first in the world to do so.
With cicadas singing, temperatures over 25 degrees, kilts swirling, pipes playing, ladies and gentlemen dressed in the Victorian and Edwardian fashion, and a Maori blessing of the event, a procession of Scottish clans and descendants of our early Scottish settlers, (including this writer) the day was enjoyable.
They also used the occasion to unveil a Scottish Pioneers’ Memorial at Riccarton house and Bush. This was home to the Deans brothers when they left Scotland to start a new life in New Zealand.
Descendants of those brothers were present, including Austin Deans the celebrated war artist(now aged 93 and who is marrying next weekend) and Charles Deans, chair of the Riccarton Bush trust which protects the remnant of native bush that was preserved by the early members of the Deans family.
No Burns day would be complete without a haggis ceremony,
which was dramatically addressed by Dr Ron Macintyre – the bard would be proud of it.