Travels around our land
Celebrated writer Bruce Ansley has a deep love of New Zealand and its people. In Wild Journeys, his latest book, this is reflected in every absorbing page. It’s a book of stories spanning the most remote to the most populated parts of the country.
We asked Bruce some questions:
What is your favourite place to travel through in NZ?
That’s a tough question. I’d rather travel through New Zealand than any other country. But if I had to choose, it would be Central Otago. One of my favourite journeys is a search for the country’s highest church in the ruins of a gold-mining town.
How did you select the stories for Wild Journeys?
They’re all stories that I know well; that I’ve been involved in, either by doing the journeys myself, or following the steps of someone exciting.
This is your 10th book and many of your previous works have been about NZ, too. Why do you enjoy travelling NZ so much?
New Zealand is unique. It runs from plains to mountains, rivers to deserts, rain forests to tussock-land, volcanos to fiords, lakes to endless seascapes. Every city, every town has its own character. You can drive through it, or walk, or cycle. It’s so accessible, and so free.
Are any of the stories in Wild Journeys personal to you?
Yes, several. I was a commercial fisherman once, and almost missed my wedding because I was locked in a sinking boat. (Decades later, I’m still married; a long relationship is the most mysterious adventure of all).
Did any particular character in your book appeal to you more than others?
I’ve always been fascinated by George Wilder, and his uncanny ability both to escape from jail and live off the land for months at a time. Some of the ways he did it are revealed in this book for the first time. He was always a folk hero, but I was amazed by how many people genuinely liked him, even policemen.
You always travelled alone when writing this book. What advantages are there to travelling solo?
The question is, who would want to come with me? Adventures are uncomfortable things, far better viewed from a safe distance. The reality is, you often wonder just what you’re doing, why you’re here in the first place and sometimes — such as when I was dangling above a flooded river with no hope of rescue, or so I thought — you think there must be better ways of passing the time.
You’ve built your own house in the back blocks, been a commercial fisherman and deer farmer but have also lived in several major NZ cities. What drives you in your work and life?
I’ve done all of those things but first and foremost I’m a writer. I can report that it’s often a precarious living, it’s very hard work, and sometimes it’s no fun at all, but it’s hugely satisfying and there’s nothing I would rather do.
Bruce Ansley is one of New Zealand’s preeminent storytellers.
Wild Journeys by Bruce Ansley, Harpercollins, $45