Heather Hapeta lives in Aotearoa-New Zealand: real travel, real adventures, real stories, real photos. Recent destinations Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and Hong Kong – now NZ destinations due to COVID travel restrictions
The time has come for me to hang up my blogging pen and camera.
With Covid-19 ruling the roost and very little or no international travel on the horizion, I’ve decided to stop blogging – soon.
I have an IT professional collating my 1200 plus blogs into one file so I can keep them for future family fun. (and proof of my copywrite should any plagerisim happen and I want to persue the culprets) I suspect I’ll stop at the end of this year … but I will continue writing in some other way.
My next blog will be about my travel writing career which started in 1998 with a magazine story about canoeing down the Zambezi river.
Hopefully you will enjoy my last blog posts about travel – for now anyway. 😀 let me now if you have questions or requests re topics you would like me to write about.
If so, where to? I wonder if I will ever again have a year like this letter home wrote about! Is there anything here you would like to do? Or would never do?
Dear family and friends, over the past year ( pre-covid) I have swum in the Nile and Mekong rivers, in the South China and Aegean seas; in swimming pools in Egypt and Thailand; Scuba-dived, and snorkeled off the Perhentian islands in Malaysia;
I’ve studied Islam, Buddhism, Hindu and Chinese religions; was silent for ten days in a Buddhist forest temple and took a cooking course in Thailand.
Learnt to say ‘no problem’ in four languages, read junk novels, inspiring stories and travel tales as well as keeping copious notes for my own writing.
Been offered jobs in Thailand, Malaysia and Laos, and worked for 5 weeks in Athens, Greece. Had a proposal of marriage, a few propositions and some foxy flirtations.
Celebrated four New Years. The calendars for Christian, Islam, Buddhism religions and the Chinese one, currently the year of the rabbit
Stayed in little villages, large cities and small islands.
Climbed: up into Buddhist temples and down into tombs, up to sacred caves and over narrow planks onto boats.
Traveled on planes, camel, horse, bus, songthaew, cars, trishaw, bicycle, dingy, fishing boat, felucca, truck, river taxi, train, and cargo boat.
Slept in beds, bunks, hammocks, fleapits and 4 star hotels, on a concrete slab; on a mattress on the felucca, and on the roof of a hostel in the old city of Jerusalem with 29 others!
I’ve danced on beaches in Malaysia and Israel, in a Cairo hotel, on the banks of the Nile, as well as in Hindu and Buddhist parades.
Experienced monsoon rain and dessert dry; from 48 degrees centigrade in the Valley of the Kings, down to 12 degrees in the hills of Malaysia and where I needed a blanket for the first time for ages
Been blessed by monks and had water thrown over me by school children, ladyboys and farangs. I’ve played volleyball, frisbee, backgammon, scrabble, cards and petanque.
I’ve eaten pigeon, fresh fish, fruit shakes on the beach, coconut straight from the tree, and copious amounts of rice and noodles. Drank water from a tap everywhere – including the streets of Cairo and am still waiting for tummy problems! Had my hair cut in men’s and women’s shops, by people who spoke no English, as well as under a palm tree in Malaysia and in a garden bar in Athens, by an Aussie hairdresser.
Made music with bongo drums, spoons, sang Pali chants and both Thai and Egyptian love songs as well as playing drums in a traditional Malay cultural band.
Taught English and swimming; became a grandmother while in Malaysia and a mother-in – law when I was in Thailand. I’ve been called mum, sister and auntie, renamed Hedda, Hezza, fox and H, as well as Pouhi. Chubby in Thai)
Ate at night markets, street stalls and fancy restaurants, in people’s homes – including the Minister of Health’s’ home in Malaysia!
Prayed in mosques, temples and churches of many religions and on beaches. Chatted with monks, children, tourist police, street people and shopkeepers.
Witnessed funerals in Malaysia, Thailand and Egypt.
Swam with turtles and tropical fish and the most poisoness snake in the world! In clean water, clear water and polluted water; warm and cold water, calm and rough, blue and green; fresh, salty and chlorinated.
Been to the toilet watched by kids, on swaying trains, in smelly dirty rooms, off the back of boats and developed good thigh muscles on the Asian squat toilets (which I missed when I arrived in Egypt.) Learnt to forgo toilet paper for months and use my right hand for eating and greeting!
Sold beer and bananas on the beach in Malaysia, served pancakes, nasi goring and BBQ on the same island and cooked countless meals in Athens.
Been offered hash, opium, and marijuana and changed money and brought cigarettes on the black market.
Met people from all over the world, was proud to be a Kiwi, ashamed of many westerners attitudes and behavior. Joined the inverted elite snobbery of being a traveller and not a tourist.
Gave blood in Malaysia, broke a toe, and had an allergic reaction and apart from bites have been disgustingly healthy.
And have kept developing courage and resilience despite fears!
how to make your travel blog sing? Here are a few tips to help.
It often helps to make a basic outline before you start writing.
Talk to locals. How else will you learn about the place?
Find a fresh angle to the story. Most places have been written about before so find something original that will grab a reader’s attention.
Take notes, ask questions, get quotes and jot down the little details of your trip. How much did it cost? What’s the name of the district it’s in? Always be specific.
Avoid clichés! Lose the “best-kept secrets”, “city of contrasts” and “unspoilt gems”. Why do lodges always “nestle” at the foothills or “perch” vulture-like atop a mountain with “breathtaking views” over a “rustic” village?
Lose the unremitting good cheer. Among all the stories I had read about Egypt before I went, nobody had prepared me for the filth, the cruelty to horses, the stray dogs and starving camels eating cardboard from rubbish dumps. Be more realistic. Tell the truth!
Read, read, read: Rinse and repeat. Only good reading can make you a better writer. Dip regularly into your list of 25 favourite travel writers. You will never develop a voice and style without reading in the style you want to write – travel.
Add historical or political context to assist the point you’re making in your piece.
Good travel writers understand that times have changed, and in an age when everybody has been everywhere (and when there is a Travel Channel for those who haven’t), it is not enough simply to describe a landscape, you must now interpret it.”
Seek to entertain, and educate, your reader in a light, breezy way.
Write, write, write: You have to write even when – especially when – you don’t feel like it.
Paint with words: Take the reader on an armchair journey. Include sensory details. What did the place look like? Feel like? Smell like? Taste like? Remind you of?
Develop a speciality: If you want to stand out, it pays to be an expert on something that you’re passionate about.
If you can’t afford to travel abroad: write about new activities in your local area. Become a travel expert on your own city. Does it have any unusual landmarks, remarkable museums or attractions? How about festivals?
Show. Don’t tell: Loose the adverbs and flowery descriptions. Choose the perfect verb instead.
End with a punch or at least ensure the ending captures the point of the story. Don’t dare to say you can’t wait to return to wherever you went – that’s been done to death.
When your piece is finished, read it out loud to find that parts that don’t work.
Its caused a roadblock in my international travel writing days. Luckily New Zealand is relatively free of the virus ( except for kiwis returning home and who are put into quarantine for 2 weeks) so I can travel freely in a country known as a fantastic travel destination – save your pennies and one day you too will be able to visit us 🙂
A three week holiday (vacation) in Samoa, Tonga, and Hawaii saw me instantly have to stop at this roadblock. We had had other warnings too.
Kīlauea is an active shield volcano in the Hawaiian Islands that last erupted between 1983 and 2018. (I was there in ’94) It is the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaiʻi. Located along the southeastern shore of the island, the volcano is between 210,000 and 280,000 years old and emerged above sea level about 100,000 years ago.
It was amazing to see, in the dark, a river of red lava pouring down the side of the volcano.
Things have changed while you have been away, so thought I could help you get up to speed in our post-Covid lives. (Post-COVID as in ‘since it entered our lives’ as opposed to before we knew about COVID.)
I don’t know what team you used to be in, or which team you supported (I’m a one-eyed Cantabrian actually) but since you’ve been away we’ve actually formed a huge team – most of us joined it and we call it the Team of 5 million. Our aim – to stomp out Covid-19 in New Zealand
We’d love you to join our team even though you haven’t been through our initiation into the team – but more of that later.
Your experience while overseas will have been totally different from ours, and possibly even scary. Your shutdowns or lockdowns, will have been different too, or perhaps even non-existent. I understand you wanting to come home to be with friends, family and a supportive social welfare system. If I’d been overseas, I’d want to get home to this safe bubble too.
Sadly, there will be no jobs awaiting you, you will be safe from Covid-19, but you may find you will have to stay in friends living rooms or their back shed, as housing is in short supply too. I also suspect, if you don’t have a job you will be at the bottom of the waiting list to rent a flat, house, or apartment. So welcome home, but remember New Zealand still has a low-wage economy and this will continue for quite some time.
We at-home Kiwis have been, and still are, using all our excess dollars to support wages and businesses in the hope that we can get our economy going as quickly as possible. We are also having to use many millions to track and trace those with Covid-19, as well as helping support you too, our returning Kiwi. Sadly, some reporters are searching out the discontented returnees and getting their stories on the front pages. Of course, people are upset they can’t get to see loved ones who are dying, or to funerals. What we are doing is keeping you, and all New Zealanders, safe from coronavirus.
Our team has collectively accepted that ‘we’ are more important than any ‘me’. We understand your hurt and possible anger but that can’t, and doesn’t change our determination and plans.
Luckily, we have a Labour coalition that had put many cents back into our community moneybox, and because of this prudence, we are in a good position to borrow at low rates: because of their excellent fiscal management, our credit ratings are high.
I’m not holding my breath about the fast returning economy though – although it is already improving at a faster rate than expected. As a travel writer, no one needs my skills right now, we’re travelling nowhere – except within our own beautiful backyard, Aotearoa New Zealand – which of course I will be writing about and some off-shore stories for armchair travellers.
So, as I said welcome home, please join our team, a team that was formed with love for our country, a team that daily turned on TV to get 1pm updates from Dr Ashley Bloomfield and Prime Minister Jacinda Arden.
We all knew the daily infection numbers; if another cluster had formed, or increased; and we all were sad when one of ours died. This may seem strange to you, especially if you have come from regions with thousands or millions of infections, and hundreds or thousands of deaths. Perhaps because our numbers were so low, we took pride in those low numbers and how we were all adhering to our lockdown restrictions – we were being ‘kind’ and concerned about ‘us’ not ‘me’. We put teddy bears in our windows for children to hunt for them while on their daily walks.
Of course, a few did not ‘obey the rules’ and were promptly outed on Facebook!
Come on … please join the team
So, you may think our restrictions are over the top, or unneeded, but our team wants them to continue – we want to keep our island bubble safe. Of course, we miss travelling, but we don’t want to join any other bubble unless that bubble is safe too.
Hop into our bubble, join our team, watch our regular updates and be grateful that we appear to have dodged a bullet by having a great team leading us, and one we trust. It seems most countries do not trust their leader’s actions about this coronavirus – and I can see why – no doubt you can too.
Are we perfect? Hell no, we’re human and every mistake is being used to improve our system. Systems that appear to be sadly lacking in many other countries going by the numbers. As I said: welcome home.
In this time of Covid-19 (coronavirus) and racism and riots in the United States, it sometimes feels the world is going mad and we’re powerless to stop it. Only one thing is certain, I am powerless to do anything to stop it.
The sadness this has caused me is because I’m a traveller. I’ve been to so many of those places, perhaps have even talked to people who are now dead or dying from the virus, or are in jail from protesting, and it reminded me of a column I had written when I was the travel editor of a newspaper in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Christchurch Citizen)
These weekly columns, which I’d planned to be monthly, gave me space to write anything I wanted about travel – stream of consciousness travel writing was easy for someone who loves to travel – albeit someone who was a late starter to travel.
However, with wall-to-wall coverage about this latest new virus, and the ongoing racism that resulted in yet another death in ‘the states’ I remembered a column I had written some 18 years ago. I believe it still has currency now.
I’m feeling sad. Once again I see the dangers of travel. Not the rare physical danger of airline or vehicle crashes; not the occasional danger of being robbed or becoming sick, but the every-day common danger of your heart getting to know people and places. People we would not usually meet. This week, hearing of train accidents and even more deaths in the Middle East, I am very conscious of that emotional danger.
Geography was always of more interest than history at school. One could have a stab at answering questions if I knew a couple of other facts. Distance from the equator would give clues as to temperatures and climate. Mountains, plains, rivers all added up to some understanding of a place that dates and historical facts didn’t – well for me anyway.
Now travel has given me a different perspective on places. Geography remains important, history helps with understanding people and the two, combined with travel experience, gives me a sense of, not exactly ownership or belonging, but something rather like kinship, I’m attached. I leave a bit of me in every place, and take some of the places away with me
To me this feeling of human-oneness is particularly acute at times of high emotions; small countries achieve a goal; overcome an obstacle; a national team wins; and in particular, really acute in times of national pain.
My first real experience of this came after I’d been to Ireland and then shortly afterwards ‘the troubles’ began again. I was devastated that the wonderful little city of Londonderry (or Derry, depending on the map consulted) was yet again the centre of violence. Streets I’d walked down were now dangerous. Those people I had maybe spoken to or walked past were now dead or injured had me crying in front of the TV or newspaper.
Turkey and Greece had earthquakes, people in Israel and Palestine killing each other, London had rubbish bins removed from the street for fear of terrorism, New York and the New Yorkers I love have been devastated and traumatised, monsoon floods happen in Asia, and now Egypt, fabulous country and generous people, is grief-stricken with a train tragedy.
With all these, I think of the diverse people whom I have come to know, love, judge and compare and empathise with their pain. Yet what can we do to ease that pain? Nothing. The one thing that would help – having loved ones alive again – is way beyond anything we can do.
However, maybe travel-writing that gives the texture, flavour and smells of a place helps bridge that gap between us and them. After all the scenery and monuments are the same in everyone’s photos. It’s our experiences that provide the difference.
Travelling, or reading about travelling, help us realise people are not like those presented in the headlines of our papers or in the sound-bites of radio or television. Young or old, male, female, Christian, Pagan, Muslin, or freethinker as a Japanese friend describes herself, we’re all part of the human family and when a family member is in pain we feel it.” Travel editor” First published – Christchurch Citizen Feb 25th 2002
Scientific discovery and hands-on experimentation take centre stage at the state-of-the-art Rutherford’s Den in the Arts Centre, Christchurch, where New Zealand scientist Ernest, Lord Rutherford started his scientific career in these very rooms.
Rutherford, the moustached man on the $NZ100 note, discovered what the inside of an atom looks like, found out about radioactivity, discovered and named alpha and beta particles, and was the first scientist to change one element into another.
As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is being used to tell his story, says Arts Centre CEO André Lovatt.
“We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.
“You can literally step inside an exhibition that illustrates what atoms are or use your own movements to learn about renewable energy sources. In the actual space where Rutherford conducted his research on radio waves, there’s a projection of him that includes original voice recordings – making you feel as though you’re in the same room as him.”
The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie that was commissioned by the Arts Centre.
“So much of what Rutherford discovered led to the technology we enjoy today and we want visitors to learn about this in fun and exciting ways. We want it to be a place where people of all backgrounds are inspired to believe that everyone has the potential to achieve greatness.”
Before the 2010/11 earthquakes, Rutherford’s Den was popular with locals, tourists and the schools that participated in its curriculum-linked education programme and te popular education sessions are now once again being offered on-site at the Arts Centre. Bookings and further information can be found on www.rutherfordsden.org.nz
Rutherford’s Den is located in the Arts Centre’s historic Clock Tower building at 2 Worcester Boulevard, adjacent to the Great Hall.
For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
I feel the same way about my photographs. I’m never bored as going through them I get to travel the world yet again and for that, I’m really grateful.
I feel sorry for those, in these times of the Covid -19 pandemic, who have saved and planned for years and who have had their one big dream travel trip cancelled – mostly with their money down the drain. I too have had trips cancelled, but at least I’ve had years of travelling the world, mostly solo, and have accumulated numerous memories. My photos are merely prompts – I even have a box of photos for friends and family, or dementia ward staff, to use to prompt me. Just a little forward planning for something I don’t think will happen is luckily for me, there has been little cognitive degeneration and my family. Here’s hoping that continues.
I look at my walls and my living area and see photos of, the salt plains of India, a Buddha in a tree trunk rubbish bin, sunrise over a river in central India, a promiscuous monkey at a national park in Malaysian Borneo, and finally, post 2010/11 quakes in Christchurch, a huge bronze bull on top of a bronze grand piano. The stories behind each of these photos, like Oscar’s diary, give me sensational memories.
Here are some more photos, each which have a story behind them, and right now, in fact, especially now – in lockdown, I can write a story in my mind as I wandered down my memory lane of travels. I’m grateful for the life I’ve had, the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve seen, and all my memories.