Travel book of the year – a wonderful read!

Press release from Canterbury, New Zealand Society of Authors: from chair Heather Hapeta

Christchurch author Jane Carswell won the top prize at the eighth annual Whitcoulls Travcom Travel Book of the Year Award for Under the Huang Jiao Tree – Two Journeys in China (Transit Lounge Publishing).  Carswell picked up $2,000 cash plus $500 in book vouchers from Whitcoulls.  Auckland writer Justin Brown received runner-up prize of $500 in Whitcoulls vouchers for Bowling Through India – Five Kiwi Blokes Take on India at Cricket (Random House New Zealand).

The Whitcoulls Travcom Travel Book of the Year Award was judged by Owen Scott, Karen Goa and John McCrystal. Owen is an author, journalist and editor. An Island Calling, the film based on his book Deep Beyond the Reef won the 2008 Qantas Award for Best Documentary. Karen is an award-winning freelance travel writer and a previous finalist in the Whitcoulls Travcom Travel Book Awards, and John is a Wellington-based freelance writer and photographer with twenty non-fiction titles published, and in 2008 was Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the year.

Jane Carswell’s highly personal Under the Huang Jiao Tree – two journeys in China was the unanimous winner, according to chief judge Owen Scott.

“Once again the books and stories were compelling and original in their very different ways – often surprisingly so,” said Scott. “The range of entries was incredibly varied.  The honours, though, went to two books with that little something extra, elevating them beyond mere storytelling and above their competitors. They could not have been more different from each other. One has you reaching for tissues, the other for smelling salts and Imodium!”

Jane told me (Heather Hapeta) how the New Zealand Society of Authors helped her.

“When I found a publisher for my first book, I thought my work was done. Over to him now, I thought, sighing happily as I dusted off my desk. I imagined all the books I’d read, now that the MS was someone else’s worry. For so long I’d had to keep my eyes fixed on that stumbling, lurching— and often sulking—offspring.

It was suggested that I apply for NZSA membership and they made it clear that the NZSA could help me, not only with my contract, but with all my other needs as a writer.  And not only could the NZSA help me, it seemed that it wanted to.

Local Christchurch members encouraged me to respect my own part in the process. Rookie writer I might be, but I was entitled to an opinion about font, paper, colour and size. After all, who’d written the thing?

My writer friends had learned to be sternly realistic.  They gave me long lists of suggestions: strategies, timetables, contact details. I was moved by their generosity. Struggling to survive in a competitive profession, they were still happy to share their discoveries and experience.

My book’s now on the market, making its own way in the world. But my sub for the NZSA won’t lapse. There’s a disease ‘Writers Doubts’ for which there’s no known cure. Finding a publisher, and even respectable sales, do little to ease what at worst is an agonising doubt, at best a nagging unease: ‘Have I got it right? Am I worth reading?’ As I launch myself, with no less dread than enthusiasm, into the writing of the inevitable sequel, I need the encouragement and support that can only be given by those who know what it’s like.” END

Heather Hapeta Phones: 353 4677 / 021 158 2816

List of 8 travel quotes I love: add yours to the list

Check this - InterIslander and an Air NZ plane at Wellington
Both the InterIslander & Air New Zealand @ Wellington Airport!

Hope you enjoy some of these … from a  list of many I love

  • ‘The five reasons for travel, given to me by Sayyid Abdullah, the watchmaker: “ to leave ones troubles behind one; to earn a living; to acquire a learning; to practice good manners; and to meet honourable men’  Freyer Stark in A winter in Arabia 1940
  • Travel magnifies and intensifies life. It allows you the opportunity to recapture a feeling of wonder, innocence and youth and depending on how vulnerable you are willing to become, it can also deliver a profound experience of unreality that can rattle your most basic beliefs. Eric Hansen.  The traveller
  • “Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
  • “You will have more fun on your vacation if you maintain a mental age of 18 or less. Act just old enough to make your travel connections and stay out of trouble.” – Joe Schwartz
  • Continue reading “List of 8 travel quotes I love: add yours to the list”

Kiwitravelwriter takes a Lord of the Rings tours

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2010 book  says (pg35)  “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and last time we checked the land of Maori and hobbits certainly didn’t need repairing. Once again New Zealand has been put in the top ten countries which you ‘ought to put on your agenda in 2010”

Having Middle-earth right on my doorstep, it seemed I too needed to drop in on the land of the hobbits and check out the Lord of the Rings Edoras Tour ( to see what all the fuss is about.web i want to be in the cast

And here, I have to confess: until this trip I was a LotR virgin! True. As shocking as that may seem to some, I have not read the books nor seen the movies – it was almost a shameful secret – but now I know a little and I’m willing to share it with you. And, it seems these tours deep into Middle-earth are becoming more and more popular as time goes by.

The tour starts in Christchurch, and shortly after I was picked up in Cathedral Square, Rex, the driver and guide for the day, pointed out the school attended by the teenage murderers depicted in Heavenly Creatures

NZ has a great tradition of great movie making – The American Film Institute has called the New Zealand film industry “one of the wonders of the world… an unparalleled success story” see more here

It was appropriate to point out the school and site for some  of the shots used in the movie as that too was one of Peter Jacksons great pictures and Kate Winslet started her career in Heavenly Creatures:

As we drove out we watch a DVD about ‘the quest for the ring’ which gave someone like me a background to the day and the film. I also learnt Tolkien was born in South Africa ( to English parents) and that, as well as having to create a road to get to ‘Edoras’  and  the ‘rocky outcrop beside silver streams’ that Tolkien described in his books, Rex also tells us “the village took months to build, they were there filming for 3 weeks, then it was dismantled.”

So on we drove, past trout-filled lakes, through little country villages, over the Canterbury plains and glacial-formed braided rivers, passed tussock covered hills until we emerged in the ‘secret valley’; home of Mt. Sunday, 95 metres (over 600ft)  above sea-level and which was transformed into Edoras, capital city of the Rohan people for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As dramatic music soars in the vehicle we are welcomed: “Welcome to the Kingdom of Rohan in Middle earth” – our guide makes it a momentous occasion. read the rest of the article here

web we stop for a coffee on the wayNote: Hassle-Free Tours ( ) also run Christchurch city tours, and an Alpine Safari which includes a jet boat, 4×4 vehicles and the TranzAlpine train so check their website for up-to-date information.

by the kiwitravelwriter,  Heather Hapeta

excerpt from Naked In Budapest:travels with a passionate nomad

I’m keen to get to Thailand but I need a few days to relax and get used to the heat so decide to move onto Malaysia [by bus from Singapore] in the morning and prepare for another 12 months of travel. Did I really only get a passport when I was 40-something – I’m really playing catch-up now.

At the bus stop in Malacca I hire a man and a bike to take me to a hotel. My bag is only 14 kilos but Mr Ong, with his skin and bone legs, finds it difficult to get the bike moving. When we reach a small rise I offer to walk but he declines with vigour. He tells me he has been a cyclo for 50 years, he’s now 80 and has postcards from all over the world and will I send him one from New Zealand? (I did)

For over a week I explore, keep out of air-conditioned places and I’m now enjoying the heat; I’ve even stopped my arthritis medication – I’m sure I was meant to be born in a hot climate.

‘Selamat. Hari Raya Aidilfitri.’ I’d not expected to be welcomed with these words at the home of a Malaysian Cabinet Minister. Hari Raya, the celebration at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, is a time of reflection and thanks for the past year, gaining merits for the next life.

Over the past 10 days I’ve been reading, in the newspapers, the exact time of the beginning and end of each day’s fast that is governed by the time of sunrise and sunset. Yesterday was the last day of fasting and was announced in the newspapers and television by the keeper of the Ruler’s Seal, Engku Datuk Ibrahim Engku Ngah.

The days leading up to Hari Raya have been festive: special songs are blaring from giant speakers; houses are cleaned ready for visits from friends and family; new clothes are worn; festive fare prepared; and advertisements and banners in the streets proclaim ‘Our differences keep us together. Hari Raya Aidilfitri.’

During Hari Raya, Muslims give charity money (zakat fitrah, a moral tax or tithe, usually 2.5% of a person’s income) to the mosque for distribution to the poor and for building and maintaining mosques. ‘What happens if people don’t pay?’ I ask.

‘They will have problems when they die,’ James, the manager of the budget hotel tells me. His Chinese employer will not give him time off work to attend prayers today. ‘I will have a bad year.’

I wonder at the actual depth of the racial harmony that’s proclaimed daily in newspapers and on posters – although I am impressed by the apparent tolerance the different races and religions show each other. I meet Muslims who are Indian, Indonesian, Malay and Chinese. Conversely I also meet the same cultures practising many other religions in this country of numerous races and religions: Muslim is predominant, about 52% and television programmes are interrupted each evening for prayers.

Over the past two days huge crowds have swamped bus and train stations as people return home to celebrate with their family. James tells me to go to an ‘open house.’ ‘Of course you are allowed to go’ he says. ‘Everyone is welcome.’

Catching a bus, to follow his advice, I’m surrounded by brightly dressed people many carrying gaily-wrapped gift hampers. I’m on my way to the home of Deputy Health Minister, Dr Mohammed Ali Rustam even though my western mind is not totally convinced that I, a non-Muslim stranger, can attend the celebration.

Under a huge canvas roof beside the house I meet the Doctor and his wife, who welcome me, saying they enjoyed their trip to New Zealand: I sit opposite Janet and her mother who doesn’t speak English. Janet, an elegant Chinese woman, tells me, ‘I went to New Zealand. I was at Rotorua with the Hash Hound Harriers – the boiling mud and geysers were amazing.’ She’s not Muslim and is one of the few people dressed in western-style clothes.

A delightful young girl willingly tells me about the various foods. It seems the little cookies and cakes are made especially for Hari Raya while redang is a dish of meat cooked slowly in coconut milk, chillies, onions and a mixture of spices and served with lemang – a glutinous rice dish cooked with coconut milk and inside a bamboo stalk. Dozens of dishes are served and Janet’s mother encourages me. ‘Eat, eat,’ she says, giving me delicacies off her plate and to be polite, my usual vegetarian diet goes.

The bright yellows, greens, reds and other multicoloured robes and scarves make me feel dowdy in my casual back-packer clothes. I’m wearing a T-shirt and fish-covered long cotton pants I’d made two days before I left home. However, with all the laughter, greetings and smiles I feel part of the dozens of guests and I’m asked to pose for many photos – reversing the usual as the traveller becomes the focus. (pages 152-154)

NOTE: my ‘few days’ in Malaysia becomes three months!

See  above for readers comments on Naked In Budapest … buy a copy from

A down side to travel? Rich but cash poor

There is a down side to travel.

You may be destined to be rich in many ways but cash poor. You could be infected with a disease to which there is no known antidote; the travel bug. Friends and family will be unsure if you are crazy or courageous.

Travel also gives you, a new way of thinking. Long held “truths” no longer seem true when viewed from a different culture, a different perspective.

A simple example is eating. Most New Zealanders are taught to eat with a knife and a fork.  Knife, in the right hand, for cutting and the fork, in the left, for placing food in our mouth – in other words  the “right” way.

However in other countries this is not the accepted ‘right’ way. In the USA the fork is in the left hand; in Thailand food is cut to bite-sized pieces in the preparation process and a spoon is used to eat, other Asian cultures use chop sticks, another country their right hand.

To each culture their way of eating is the ‘truth’. But what about other ‘truths’.

For instance, how women, children, the poor or old are treated in the country you plan to visit? It’s often strange or difficult to accept or understand why certain practises happen.

Why, for example, are women second class citizens or paid less than men? And what of the practise of genital mutilation; of children being deformed so they are more effective beggars; of women needing to be covered from head to toe? What too of the long-neck women of northern Thailand with their deformed bodies- will you go there?

When in foreign places I’ve learnt to silently accept the cultural, political or religious attitudes of that place. If I can’t do that, for my own peace of mind, I prefer not to go to that part of the world.

Travel is intensified living, nothing can be taken for granted. It’s like having a new pair of glasses, we see often things, and ourselves, more clearly.

Nothing is familiar, we are constantly aware of, or curious about, what is happening around us. We watch the interaction between people and try to decipher it. Body language is different from place to place and our previous knowledge of the rules of interaction no longer apply. And that’s one of the reasons why we travellers travel.

So, do broad-minded people travel or does travel make one broad-minded? I suspect one has to have a degree of broad-mindedness to step outside our comfort-zone to travel, then the process of travelling does the rest. Unfortunately it’s not like that for all travellers.

I’ve met people who do want things to be just the same as at home. They remain close-minded and ignore local beliefs and behaviours. Insensitive women bathing topless on Malaysian beaches say it doesn’t matter, ‘because this is a tourist place’ despite signs asking them to respect local customs and not remove their tops.

Attitudes and behaviours we indulge in at home are not always appropriate in another country no matter what I, or you, think about the local norms.

I was really amused at the hypocrisy of these same women being upset, horrified and angry, about a tour being run in a tourist region of India.  Local men are offered trips to Goa to see topless western women – with a money-back guarantee if none seen.

A wonderful twist on us travellers who sometimes appear to use the world as a human zoo.

So the question “why travel” needs to be accompanied by asking what do you want from travel and what can you accept or ignore.

Choosing where to travel is just as important. There are as many places where topless bathing is fine or where its OK to photograph people as there are places not to do those things.

If you choose to go to different cultures, be prepared to change your behaviour and dress. That will help ensure you don’t come home with tales of being abused by offended people who believe your dress and behaviour is confirmation that ‘all western people’ are insensitive or sexually available.

So, having decided to let go of the safe and familiar, what is to be gained from travel?

Travel is alluring, it allows you to be exactly who you are at that time. As if a nom de voyage is given us and we respond to the circumstances instead of being circumscribed by our past or the expectations of people who know you.

Shedding our past as a snake sheds its skin: the same but different, our boundaries pushed. Inventing ourselves, not defined by others or our past – emotionally baggage-free – as if the centre of personal gravity changes. Thoughts and images of home change, diminish as memories are overlaid with new experiences.

Why travel? Why not! Traveller or tourist, armchair or plane, life will be richer rather than poorer, enriched not impoverished, colourful  not dull.

However, the last word on travel must go to Rolf Waldo Emerson. who said, ‘Although we travel the world to find the beautiful, we must find it in ourselves or we find it not at all.’

check out my book about travel ( NOTE I am rich but cash poor)

kiwi travel writer confesses it’s difficult sometimes

Every traveller I meet is going to write travel stories: well every second traveller. They know they are good writers- everyone loves their letters and emails – and now they will give up their day job to become a famous writer.

According to my unofficial, and unscientific, gestimated research, 99.5% will never write. Why? Writing is difficult. It’s solitary; requires self-discipline and concentration. (if you want to be a travel writer see here for how to become one)

I know one hundred and one ways to avoid writing. When I sit at a blank screen, with a deadline looming, it’s amazing how creative I can be. I have developed the skills of evasion or procrastination to a fine art.

Confronted by a pristine sheet of paper – or my well-worn notebook – I suddenly need a coffee. The urge is imperious and no matter what I tell myself – write a hundred words and then you will really enjoy it I say – I don’t believe it, nor do I listen to myself.

Next comes the need, well not a need, but a desire, a craving, for a cigarette, or at least the nicotine in a cigarette. I would have thought after all this time that would have disappeared but no: every time I have to write- as opposed to wanting to write- the old addiction dragon rears up. It tries to tell me I could write if and when I have a white tube of dried plant in my hand.

To date I have been able to remember that I smoked to relieve the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal: not for pleasure as I had always imagined.

So, to quell that imperious urge and the thought that I can’t write at all without a nicotine fix I decide to dice vegetables for minestrone or some other time-intensive soup. Other writing-avoidance-ploys including sorting photos for some possible future story, having a bath, another coffee (at the Arts Centre) pruning my bonsai trees or responding to answer-phone messages.

However once all those have been attended to – or pushed down – I finally sit, pen in hand and start to combine my letters and postcards home with my on-the-road notebooks and record my experiences. Translate the hours, days, weeks, or months in a place into a story that will give you some of the flavours of a place.

I’m happy I am not a travel writer -in the usual way. It is so much more fun to be a traveller who writes about my experiences – rather than travelling so I can write about places. There is a world of difference. I don’t have to record where I stay, what restaurants I ate at, what activities I indulged in or visit any of the iconic must-see places that so many travel articles comprise of. I just travel; record highlights, then later decide on which to write about.

Travel writers who are bought to New Zealand hit the must-go-to places such as Rotorua, Milford Sound and Queenstown, while trampers hike the big name walks, Milford, Routeburn, Tongariro.  Unless they do some deeper research many do not realise that much of the real New Zealand lies in places that are off the well-worn trail. That’s why I like to write of experiences, people I meet and public transport, rather than tours of a country.

One of the saddest T-shirts I ever saw was on a young woman in Athens. 32 countries in 30 days it proudly proclaimed. Not the type of trip I want, but one that could produce a travel article on the highlights for the next persons race though the continent in a bus with others. If you just want the highlights and want others to do the planning that’s fine and I understand it too.

One of the difficulties of living down-under is it takes so long, and costs so much, to get ‘upover’ that we are tempted to cram in as many places as possible. I recently spent a few days with a group of Americans who had two weeks to explore and hike in New Zealand and they too had a tight schedule for the same reasons. New Zealand is a long way from anywhere- geographically speaking.

However if you want to be tempted to try somewhere different, (or be one of my many armchair travellers) and I  hope my stories encourage you to do some research and explore this wonderful world.

See what happens when I finally just start writing – eventually the page is full.

travelling for free?

Found this on I dont agree with all of it … esp’ about  staying for free  which sounds like using people  – doing a few chores does not help buy food!   anyway read a few of the tips and then go and check out the whole article if you want more!

cheers from the kiwi travel writer AKA the passionate nomadhapeta kiwi sign

How To Travel The World For Free (Seriously)

Embrace the Simple Joy of Travel

Travel frees you from the grind of daily routine. You will explore new places, meet new people, try new foods and learn things about the world – and yourself – that you never imagined were possible.

The joy of new experience is the most wonderful thing about travel – and new experiences are free. Walk the streets of a city. Stop and chat with a local. People watch in a public park. Climb to the top of a hill and watch the sun set over the ocean.

The simple joy of being in a new place is just a matter of…wait for it…going someplace new. No tour package required.

2. Keep Your Needs To A Minimum

Themodern American economy is built on the false premise that people need to buy new goods and services all the time. Again, I call bullshit.

People need fresh air, healthy food, clean water, exercise, creative stimulation, companionship, self-esteem and a safe place to sleep.

All of these things are simple to obtain. Most of them are free.

For fresh air, go outside. For exercise, take a walk. For creative stimulation, go somewhere new. For companionship, make a friend. For self esteem, turn off your TV, breathe deep and open your spirit to the basic goodness of the world.

Things like food and shelter are much cheaper once you get outside the United States. See # 5 below for ways to obtain food and shelter for free.

3. Go SlowWEB naked-front-cover
Cambodian Coast . photo by Ryan Libre

If you live in New York and want to take a 2 week vacation to Africa, it will be very difficult (though not impossible, see number eight) to travel for free.

Indeed, as long as you believe that time is money, you will spend money all the time.

Time is not money. Time is free. You have all the time in the world.

Instead of buying a plane ticket, catch a ride out West, or remodel an old sailboat, or just hop on your bike and ride away from town. The slower you travel, the less money you will spend.

4. Leave Your Possessions and Obsessions Behind

When you travel, you don’t need to pay rent. You don’t need a car. You don’t need an oven, a washer-dryer, electricity, Cable TV, a gym membership, a sofa and loveseat or a closet full of clothes.

You don’t need a suit and tie to wear to your job because you don’t need a job. You don’t need to worry about paying the bills, because there are no bills to pay.

You are free.

travel writing tips – what not to do

Good tips to take note of: if you know what makes bad wrting you will know where youa re going wrong.

Sure, you could write a compelling story. But why, when you could just as easily write a snoozer? David Farley explains.

Despite popular belief, becoming a travel writer doesn’t always require moving to a village in Provence or restoring a villa in Italy. In fact, it doesn’t even mean you have to write good travel tales with a deep sense of place and an intriguing angle or storyline. See, you can simply write bad travel stories.

Here are a few tips on how to do just that.

● Let’s start with the intro, or, as it’s called in the biz, the lede. The lede in a bad travel article should usually open up with you, in general, and you and your husband Larry, in particular. Example: “My husband Larry and I marveled at the lush landscape surrounding the cottages at our overnight lodge, even though it was winter in the Southern Hemisphere and dry season in East Africa.” Your goal here is not to write an intriguing, attention-getting lede, but to mention Larry as soon as possible. Goal achieved! READ MORE

travel and fear: can a woman survive a year on her own?

Traveling a breeze? Not always!

Fear raises its ugly head and sits beside me. I’ve been fed, watered, had a nap, and now fear demands I re-worry about how to get from Los Angeles international airport to its domestic terminal. Once again I doubt my ability to complete this journey. Am I capable of travelling alone, for a year?  Will I find a bed each night? map worldWith my lack of other languages, how far will miming get me? My mind has a long conversation with itself until I finally push these concerns away, practice living in the now, staying in the moment and leaving the future to arrive, and be worried about, when it is due.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to land in Los Angeles. Please fasten your seat belt and ensure your tray table is upright and your hand luggage is stowed under the seat in front of you.”

My heart beats faster, I’m here. My big adventure is really starting. Deep breathing, I brace my back squarely against the seat while the pilot completes the most dangerous procedure of any flight, and within moments we land smoothly, as smooth as I hope my travels will be.

Customs. Despite having nothing to declare I would love to declare the world is wonderful place or some other such facetious remark. Luckily I don’t as I meet the customs woman from hell. She is a well manicured, big haired, beautifully made-up Mexican woman.

‘Next’ she yells. I walk forward. Continue reading “travel and fear: can a woman survive a year on her own?”

how to be happy


Don’t worry, be happy….find out how!

What is happiness? And how can we achieve it? The Rough Guide to Happiness is the ultimate ‘how to be happy’ handbook. Discover how to effectively improve your work/life balance, increase self-esteem, and nourish your mind and body while nurturing relationships with the ones you love. The Rough Guide to Happiness will help you navigate your way through all parts of modern day life, offering a practical and effective range of happiness-building techniques. Rely on realistic suggestions from Dr Nick Baylis, a practicing therapist and former Dr Feelgood for The Times Saturday Magazine, who has worked with everyone from young offenders to stressed airline pilots! Are some people genetically predisposed to be happier than others? Can money or technology make us happy?

The Rough Guide to Happiness explores all these questions and more going beyond facile tips to offer a deeper understanding of what happiness is with easy solutions for you to implement in your daily life. Drawing on the best ideas from every field, from Hypnosis and Energy Therapy to Positive Psychology and Buddhism, The Rough Guide to Happiness provides a wealth of inspiring insights on how to relieve stress and achieve lasting contentment.

I love Rough Guides – they treat me like an adult!


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