Trav­els around our land

Whangarei Report - - BOOKS -

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.

Photo / Jane Ussher

Bruce Ans­ley is one of New Zealand’s pre­em­i­nent sto­ry­tellers.

Wild Jour­neys by Bruce Ans­ley, Harper­collins, $45

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