Highs & lows
Having our small, flimsy tent surrounded by a family of hippos on the banks of Lake Turkana in northern Kenya. (We didn’t realise at the time hippos are the deadliest large land mammal on the planet.)
Ignoring the no-camping sign at Lake Turkana. We were trying to save money.
Changing our minds and visiting Ko Phi Phi in early rather than late December 2004. If we’d stuck to our original plan, we’d have been on the island – with our two young children – on Boxing Day when the Asian tsunami struck.
Most unusual offer
Three camels for my wife, in Alexandria, Egypt.
Most embarrassing moment
Being passed by a group of blind trekkers on a trail in Nepal.
32 hours on a bus from Bangkok to Singapore. A bottle of Thai rocket fuel known as Mekhong proved a useful anaesthetic. The most amusing ride was on a camel in Pushkar, India. It farted every few strides.
Squeezing up the Devil’s Chimney in the Cango cave system at Oudtshorrn, South Africa. Not recommended for the claustrophobic. Like me.
Most chilling reminder
Seeing piles of skulls during a visit to the Killing Fields of Cambodia, and the photographed faces of the countless thousands tortured and executed in a former secondary school in Phnom Penh.
Most bizarre ceremony
Lowering of the flags at the border of India and Pakistan between Amritsar and Lahore.
Most painful wildlife experience
Being attacked by ferocious ants on the shore of Lake Malawi. The only way I could get them to let go of my leg was to jump in the lake.
Brightest light bulb moment
Playing football with kids on Likoma Island in Malawi – one of the poorest countries in Africa. They’d made the ball from newspaper and string.
Made me realise why football is so universal… the beautiful game.
Most amusing incident
Most awe-inspiring sight
First view of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
On a bus full of Egyptian soldiers near Sharm El-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. The driver pulled over, vomited on the side of the road. When he got back on, a fellow traveller starting singing Always Look On The Bright Side of Life from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. We soon joined in. The bemused looks on the faces of the soldiers were priceless. You had to be there.
Most authentic meal
Pita bread baked on a hub cap by a Bedouin in the Sinai mountains. Tea leaf salad in a village in the Shan Mountains of Myanmar was pretty special too.
Greatest taste sensation
A kulle chaat from a street vendor in Old Delhi, India. Stuffed with masala spices, black sulfur salt, lime juice, boiled chickpeas, pomegranate seeds. Explosive deliciousness.
A toss up between the lime tart at Casa Luna café, Ubud, Bali, and the cardamom and pistachio kulfi at St Anthony’s Teahouse, Goa, India.
Most forgettable after-dinner experience
48-hours of raging diarrhoea and vomiting after eating kingfish and rice cooked in dodgy water on an Arab dhow off the coast of Kenya.
Flat white made on the espresso machine at home, using dark-roasted organic Peruvian Arabica beans, sipped from a Crown Lynn cup from the second-hand shop in Mayfield, New Zealand.
Mumbaiwala, Christchurch, New Zealand.
Yellow Flower, Ubud, Bali
Most unlikely drinking experience
Being invited, as a young Kiwi hitch-hiker, for a Guinness in the members’ bar of the Dáil (parliament) in Dublin, Ireland.
Most secure drinking experience
A bar in a bomb shelter on a kibbutz near Israel’s border with Lebanon.
Old Jerusalem gets the nod narrowly over the ancient city of Luang Prabang in northern Laos.
Worst hotel experience
A bed bug-infested room in Manila, Philippines.
Whitcombe Pass in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
Favourite road sign
LEFT IS RIGHT (approaching a roundabout in Rajasthan, India)
Greatest academic achievement
Highly commended in vegetable modelling, Gilberthorpe’s Primary School, Christchurch, New Zealand.
I prefer listening to Kiwi artists. Teeks, Maisey Rika, Nadia Reid, Paige, Tarn PK, L.A.B, to name a few.
Growing up, I was enchanted by Richard Adams’ Watership Down, captivated by Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, inspired by Leon Uris’ Trinity, amused by everything from Roald Dahl. I’d rate Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Trent Dalton's Lola in the Mirror the best novels I’ve read in the last 10 years. For crime fiction and thrillers, I’m a fan of Michael Connelly, Gregg Hurwitz, Mark Gimenez; closer to home I’ve enjoyed reading Kiwi writers JP Pomare and Michael Bennett. For historical fiction authors I can’t go past Robert Harris, and for non-fiction Naomi Klein and Yuval Noah Harari.
Te Kðngahu, Waitangi, New Zealand.
Favourite art gallery
Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland. Features works by artists from the fringes of society – schizophrenics, loners, lost souls. Awesome.
Most frustrating conversation
Hitching a ride to Inverness in Scotland with a local guy in a kilt. Neither of us could understand the other’s accent, even though we were both supposedly speaking English.
Favourite live show
Watching my daughters perform in musicals at the Rangiora Town Hall, NZ. Jersey Boys on Broadway wasn’t bad either.
Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.
‘Tis all a chequer-board of nights and days
Where destiny with men for pieces plays;
Hither and thither moves, mates and slays
And one by one back in the closet lays.’
Life in a nutshell, I reckon.