Great train routes I’ve taken–have you?

I’m reading the 2006 book ‘Strangers in my Sleeper’ by fellow kiwi and travel writer, Peter Riordan, and it’s made me think of some of the many rail journeys I have taken, some return or multiple trips and, many in sleepers with strangers!

Off the top of my head they include:


  • Cairo to Aswan


  • Harare to Victoria Falls

New Zealand:

  • Christchurch to Arthurs Pass
  • Christchurch to Picton
  • Christchurch to Invercargill
  • Wellington to Auckland (and return)


  • Miami to New York
  • LA to San Diego
  • Anchorage to Fairbanks


  • Bangkok to Suratani
  • Bangkok to Changmai
  • Suratani to Georgetown (Malaysia)
  • Kota Bharu to Kuala Lumpur


  • London to Paris
  • Miami to Parma
  • Budapest to Prague


  • Delhi to Haridwar
  • Haridwar to Agra
  • Jaipur to Mumbai
  • Kerala to Indore
  • Mumbai to Kerala (Ernakulum)

What are your favourite rail journeys? And, have you done any on my list – what did you think of them?


My travel adventures: book discounted now for Christmas gifts (fear & fun on the road)

Print version was published in 2007

A  Smashwords  discount on my travel adventures book – especially for my blog readers

Buy the e-book here – for all e-readers

Promotional price: $3.74
Coupon Code: EB68W
Expires: December 25, 2012

Read a review here (and if you have already read it I’d really value a review on Amazon etc)

If you are in New Zealand I have a few hard copies left for $nz10 plus $5p&p

Lonely Planet names Christchurch 6th in the top 10 cities for your 2013 bucket list

Lonely Planet has chosen Christchurch as one of the world’s Top 10 Cities for next year in LONELY PLANET’S BEST IN TRAV2013, published today. This bookis Lonely Planet’s eighth eagerly-awaited annual collection of the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year.

Ranked sixth on the book’s list of Top 10 Cities 2013, Christchurch is “rising from the rubble created by devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 with a breathtaking mix of spirit, determination and flair,” Lonely Planet says.

Christchurch, with a unique opportunity to rethink urban form, is bouncing back with a new energy and inventiveness,” the book says. “2013 will be an intriguing year to join the rebirth of this proud southern city.”Lonely Planet’s placement of Christchurch at number six on its list of ‘Top 10 Cities for 2013’ is being hailed as game-changing news for the city’s tourism industry.

Arrive at the great international airport in Christchurch

“To have such a respected world-wide publication single out Christchurch as an exciting, vibrant place to visit is an incredible boost for Christchurch,” says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.

“It is priceless recognition of all the hard work that has gone on in Christchurch since the quakes and has the potential to make a huge difference to the speed at which our tourism industry recovers.”

Christchurch is the only New Zealand city to make it into Lonely Planet’s annual Best in Travel publication and was singled out by Lonely Planet for the way it was “bouncing back with a new energy and inventiveness”.

“New Zealand’s second largest city is rising from the rubble … with a breath-taking mix of spirit, determination and flair,” Lonely Planet writers say. “The recovery effort is well under way and 2013 will be an intriguing year to join the rebirth of this proud southern city.”

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker is thrilled Lonely Planet has picked up on all the exciting things happening in Christchurch and is actively promoting the city to the travelling public.

“The creativity and determination Christchurch people have shown since the quakes means we now have a city like no other in the world. There’s a real energy and buzz in Christchurch which will intensify as the rebuild ramps up so it is an exciting time to visit,” Mayor Parker says.

Associate Minister of Tourism Chris Tremain said “It’s a real coup to get Christchurch included in the list of top 10 cities for 2013. As a regular user of Lonely Planet when I am travelling myself I fully understand the significant value of this recommendation.’

“Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel is all about setting the travel agenda for the year ahead,” says Lonely Planet’s Asia Pacific Sales & Marketing Director Chris Zeiher.

“In making our selections, we focus on each destination’s merits and the unique experiences they offer travellers.”

“We believe 2013 will be a great year to visit to Christchurch and experience the amazing energy of the city in its rebuilding phase,” Mr Zeiher says. ( see many more photos and stories I’ve written about pre and post quake Christchurch on this blog)

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities 2013 are:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Amsterdam
  3. Hyderabad
  4. Derry/Londonderry
  5. Beijing
  6. Christchurch
  7. Hobart
  8. Montreal
  9. Addis Ababa
  10. Puerto Iguazú

✪ The Top 10 Countries to visit in 2013: Sri Lanka, Montenegro, South Korea, Ecuador, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Iceland, Turkey, Dominican Republic and Madagascar.

✪ The Top 10 Regions to visit in 2013: Corsica, The Negev; Mustang, The Yukon, Chachapoyas & Kuélap, The US Gulf Coast, Carinthia, Palawan, Japan’s Inland Sea and Campania.

✪More than 35 events mapped out month by month in the 2013 Travel Planner, from the Special Olympics Winter Games in South Korea to Fiestas de Quito in Ecuador.


  • 208pp, full-colour, 180mm x 145mm, paperback
  • RRP: $29.99
  • Available from all good bookstores

Buddhist Sand Mandala

One of my favourite travel books is Lonely Planet’s Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World – and I have just quoted from it again in a  blog about Taiamai Tours … a Maori cultural tourism activity that enables travellers to learn how to be part of a waka tau (war canoe) commemoration of New Zealand’s’ national day  – Waitangi Day 6th February.

Here is another quote from the book


Secret: Accept and celebrate the transience of life

Tradition: Buddhist sand mandalas

Date: Any time

Celebrated in: Tibet

I took these mandala  photos at WOMAD – New Plymouth NZ

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“No matter what we do, no matter what we leave behind, time sweeps on: one day we’ll all be dust.

Tibetan Buddhists illustrate this inescapable truism in a particularly lovely way, by making incredibly intricate, brightly glowing mandalas from grains of sand.

Yet when the mandala is finished, the whole fabulous creation is swept into an urn. Half of the sand is distributed among the audience, to disperse its healing through the room; the other half is fed to the nearest river, to carry its healing throughout the world.

Celebrating transience is strangely comforting. Spend an afternoon drawing chalk pictures on your front path, then watch them be worn away by time or rain. Lie on the grass with a friend making outlandish creatures from the clouds, observing as they change from dragons into ducks. Make a sand castle. Accept the inevitable truth that nothing lasts – and savour the peace that comes with it.”

These are edited extracts from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25.

New (not travel) book by Heather Hapeta – suicide grief

A new booklet (21,000 words) about suicide deaths 

Surviving Suicide: a mother’s story is available on Amazon for e-readers ( also on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc)

Print copies available directly from the author

Travel memoir – a great read on how to travel solo

BUY  YOUR DIGITAL COPY NOW ( check out the first 10% FREE)

BUY Naked In Budapest on Smashwords

BUY Naked in Budapest on Amazon

BUY Naked in Budapest at Barnes and Noble

Print version was published in 2007

It’s getting better and better on my Northland road trip

Is it possible that the north gets better and better? Today ( and yesterday) have been one out of the box weather wise , just as I recall the north in years gone by, and when I would tease my husband about Northland, and the Hokianga in particular, was the Texas of NZ where every thing was bigger and brighter than the rest of NZ.

Well, today I have fallen in love with the North as never before – I’m into new territory and its stunningly, breathtakingly beautiful – if you have not been it’s time to come. No wonder the TV shows The Bachelor and Top Model use the area for some of their shows!

Delay no longer – grab a  rental car from  Rental Cars New Zealand, look up  Destination Northland  make some plans and get moving – maybe stop off at the Mangonui Library and check out my book, Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad, as I just donated them a copy – I’m a great supporter and user of libraries Smile

IMG_9163 (768x1024)IMG_9203 (1024x768)IMG_9214 (1024x768)IMG_9238 (1024x768)IMG_9278 (1024x768)IMG_9288 (768x1024)IMG_9308 (1024x768)IMG_9344 (1024x768)IMG_9345 (1024x768)IMG_9351 (768x1024)IMG_9357 (1024x768)

I’ll tell you about these places very soon … bookmark this page and come on back ,, in fact, even easier, sign up for an email when ever I blog – right now daily, but usually 2 or 4 times weekly. Now just few more pics …IMG_8863 (1024x768)IMG_9123 (1024x768)IMG_9125 (768x1024)IMG_9155 (768x1024)

Little Blue Penguins and Skiing Grasshopppers

The next time I go to Matu-Somes Island (or any other outdoor place in New Zealand) I will have this book in my bag.

Little Blues, lay your eggs here. Matu-Somes
Tuatara on Matu-Somes

I learn from this book (pg 44) that our ‘little blue penguins‘ are the same as the Australian ‘fairy penguins’, and that the giant weta (pg 281)are gravely threatened.

I also see we have six different grasshoppers in New Zealand. One is called the ‘skiing grasshopper‘ 9p.277) : “Instead of floundering about in soft snow, this grasshopper ‘skis’ from danger. using its legs as ski-poles and its smooth abdomen as a snowboard, ‘skiing siggy’ is an excellent downhill racer.’ How cool is that – what wonderful creature live here!

With 80% of NZ species being found only on these islands, this book helps us know more about our unique wildlife.

COLLINS FIELD GUIDE TO NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE Terence Lindsey and Rod Morris (Collins)

If uniqueness were a quality that could somehow be cubed, the result could legitimately be applied to New Zealand’s wildlife. But it has received a most fearful battering over the past century or two, and is now greatly in need of some tender loving care. Every little bit helps’ say this books author’s, Lindsey and Morris.

Evidently there are no island groups anywhere in the world that are comparable to New Zealand in size, latitude, climate and isolation. It seems we have around 10,000 species of insects, 2000 spiders, nearly 300 snails, and perhaps a further couple of thousand of all other groups combined.

This book is a completely updated edition and an extensive guide to well over 400 species of New Zealand fauna, including both native and  introduced species.  Each entry succinctly describes both habits and habitats, distribution, classification, breeding patterns, food and recognition tips to aid amateur identification.  The significantly expanded text also includes the latest research findings and changes in classification and nomenclature that have occurred in the past 10 years, along with many new photographs.

“It seems to me, far too few people — New Zealanders and ‘foreigners’ alike — are aware of just how extraordinary New Zealand wildlife is. For any animal enthusiast with a global perspective, it’s right up there on the billboard with its name in lights along with Hawaii, the Galapagos and Madagascar.” –  Terrence Lindsay (Zoologist and ornithologist)

Rod Morris’s stunning photographic work has also received widespread international acclaim. Previously a producer with Wild South, he is now a freelance natural history photographer.

This penguin washed up lost in NZ: On Peka Peka beach , north of Wellington 2011. He and his kind do not feature in the book of course! I'm using the photo is just because I like it. (see more elsewhere in this blog)

great new book for bird and nature lovers

Birds of New Zealand by Julian Fitter and Don Merton

Sad facts for New Zealand, and the world, is that since the arrival of  people in New Zealand (about 800 years ago), some 41 species of bird have become extinct.

Today several species are only surviving thanks to intensive conversation measures and thanks for people such as Don Merton QSM – who unfortunately died in April 2011 before this book was published. I only met him once, but I, and other NZers value the work he did for us and our wildlife.

While we have lost many species and the forest no longer echoes with wonderful birdsong, the bird life in New Zealand is still remarkable with much of it being not just endemic, but unlike anything elsewhere.

The Kakapo, the world’s largest parrot, and the Takahe, the largest member of the Rail family, are two flightless examples of birds unlike anything else in the world. Other good examples are the two wattlebirds, the Saddleback and Kokako.  All of these would probably be extinct by now were it not for recent intervention by dedicated conservationists, by people such the authors of this new book, Birds of New Zealand.

Takahe - at Zealandia Wellington


Birds of New Zealand (ISBN 1869508513)

is a beautiful photographic guide featuring all 350 species of bird you can possibly see in New Zealand, illustrated with over 600 full colour photographs with full descriptions of all native species and the regular visitors: it is a wonderfully practical book that no bird spotter or nature enthusiast should be without.

This book is not just a guide to identifying the native birds: it is also a wake-up call to look after them, to appreciate and protect them. As Julian says in his acknowledgements, ‘the real thank you has to go to the amazing native bird life of Aotearoa New Zealand, for being so special, and so different. My one hope is that this book will do just a little bit to help you survive and prosper. You have had a rough 800 years and you deserve better.’ 

Julian Fitter is a conservationist, naturalist and writer with a special interest in island ecosystems. He spent 15 years in the Galapagos Islands where he established and ran the islands’ first yacht charter business. In 1995 he was instrumental in setting up the Galapagos Conservation Trust which has grown to be a significant supporter of conservation programmes in Galapagos. He is the author of a number of books on birds and wildlife, including most recently, New Zealand Wildlife and Bateman’s Field Guide to Wild New Zealand.

Don Merton is a name that is synonymous with bird conversation, worldwide.  He started work with the New Zealand Wildlife Service in 1957 and retired from the Department of Conservation in 2005.  The survival of several species, including the South Island Saddleback, Kakapo and Black Robin owe a lot to Don.  The techniques he and his colleagues used to ensure their survival, are now in use around the world and have helped countless other species in the fight to prevent their extinction.

NOTE: Another new book worth checking out by nature lovers is the  COLLINS FIELD GUIDE TO NEW ZEALAND WILDLIFE Terrence Lindsay and Rod Morris 

travels with a passionate nomad …

Naked in Budapest: travels with passionate nomad, (AKA Heather Hapeta) will be broadcast from Monday, 16 May – Tuesday, 24 May, 2011 at 10.45 a.m. on Radio New Zealand National.

It has been adapted into 7 episodes and is read by the author.

It will be available to hear online at – as an MP3 file – and you can buy a hard copy at

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