Book Review: Trial of Strength, by Shona Riddell

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_trial_of_strengthThe Auckland Islands are part of New Zealand’s subantarctic islands, wild, desolate, uninhabited except for a few hardy plants and wildlife. Despite their isolation, these islands have seen many visitors including Māori, Moriori, whalers, optimistic colonists, and today, conservationists and nature enthusiasts.

The history of the islands is fascinating, sometimes cruel and brutal in the case of whalers and shipwrecked sailors, and sometimes unfathomable – stories of the attempted 19th century colonisation of these islands remain incredible to us today. At its peak, the Auckland Islands Hardwicke settlement had 30 buildings and 150 residents, but farming was impossible, the weather was constant cold, rain and fog, the people grew depressed, and the temperature rarely rose above 10 degrees Celsius. The settlement lasted less than three years.

History and tales of the remote Auckland Islands far south of New Zealand have long been a personal fascination, ever since I read Joan Druett’s brilliantly told true story of shipwrecked sailors in Island of the Lost.

Trial of Strength, by Shona Riddell, kept me glued to the pages from beginning to end with its collection of gritty tales of the people who attempted to live there, those that exploited its resources, and the unfortunate shipwrecks that landed there through no choice of their own. The author has thoroughly researched both human and natural history of the islands and unearthed some ripping good yarns of people and events which she shares throughout the book.

The book also delves into stories of Macquarie and Campbell Islands, and The Snares islands.  Four unfortunate men from a sealing ship were left on The Snares in 1810 by a sea captain who decided he didn’t have enough provisions on board the ship to go around. They were given a few handfuls of rice, some potatoes and an iron pot and abandoned. The men were stranded on the island for seven years, but survived on the planted potatoes, local birds and seals before being picked up by a passing whaling ship. Only three survived; the fourth having lost his mind in the isolation.

The author’s inspiration to write Trial of Strength was that her great great grandmother was born on on the Auckland Islands in 1851. This inspired a personal pilgrimage to the islands to discover more about a land that few people will experience in their lifetimes, and a land of unforgettable wild beauty and fascinating in its differences.

Each chapter follows a loose chronological period of the discovery and human imprint on the subantarctic islands and also touches on the tourism and conservation on the islands today. Full colour images accompany the stories, the historical portraits, documents, and maps are interesting and useful, and the beautiful shots of the rough and wild landscape are a treat.

This is a great book to take away on your Christmas holidays, to read inside on those rainy days or enjoy in the warmth of the sun as you imagine those early settlers making a life in the howling gales and tough conditions of New Zealand’s Auckland Islands.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

Trial of Strength 
by Shona Riddell
Published by Exisle Publishing
ISBN 9781775593560

Book Review: Epic Hikes of the World, by Lonely Planet

Available at bookshops nationwide.

cv_epic_hikes_of_the_world.jpgThis is the hiker’s fantasy book – packed with mouth-watering mountain, forest and coastal trails that have you dreaming of that next hike and holiday before you can figure out where you last put your boots.

Epic Hikes of the World profiles 50 hikes from around the world, spending quality time with each trail showing us luscious full colour photos, general maps, and details on how and when to go, and how difficult the trail is. What I really like about this book is how the main trail description is written as a story from a hiker who did it – similar to how we hikers share tales with one another of the great trips we’ve been on, picking up on how word of mouth often inspires our next hike.

The Lonely Planet writers/hikers are good at relating tales just the way you’d tell the story at a dinner party – how you planned to do the walk in 3 days but it took you 5 days and why: how you ran into those Swiss tourists and shared a brew overlooking a stunning mountain tarn, or the views you saw when you hit that summit and marvelled at the sheer drop of hundreds of metres.

I’d actually really like to read these trail stories in a small paperpack format and take it on a hike with me, to ponder and delight in those descriptions when I’m out in the mountains and bush.

A few New Zealand hikes make the list – the Routeburn, the Abel Tasman Coast track, and the Cape Brett track. I’m not really sure about the latter, but I guess that a sheep, farmland and lighthouse walk is more appealing to the visitors to NZ rather than for us locals, who see this kind of view most days.

Some of the hikes are more about the history (Hadrian’s wall in the UK), or taking a different approach (heli-hiking in the Bugaboo Mountains in Canada), and there’s even some city walks (Sydney’s Seven Bridges). It’s not always about the mind-blowing views (Four Days on the Alpine Pass Route in Switzerland)… Who am I kidding – it’s always about the mind-blowing views, and the challenge of getting there and having earned it.

It’s nice to see the “More walks like this” follow up detail that accompanies each trip. If you like South African Day hikes, it’ll tell you about 3 more, if the challenge of coast-to-coast hikes is more your thing, they’ll list 3 more you can consider looking into. It’s a nice touch to a nicely put together book. This is one of my favourite Lonely Planet books to date, but that’s because hiking is one of my favourite things.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

Epic Hikes of the World
by Lonely Planet
ISBN 9781787014176

Book Review: The World’s Best Bowl Food, by Lonely Planet Food

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_the_worlds_best_bowl_food.jpgThe World’s Best Bowl Food is a salute to comfort food found the world over. Bowl food is undergoing a revival. You can spot a million #powerbowl posts on Instagram, and for many people it’s all about what superfoods you can pack into the bowl.

A little research from Lonely Planet found that the original bowl food is all about comfort – there’s a reason why each ingredient finds its way in there, and it’s because it’s delicious, reminds us of home, or tradition. As the Foreword says, ‘some of the world’s most beloved dishes – macaroni cheese, Vietnamese pho, and Japanese ramen have transcended their local roots and become transcontinental comfort foods.’

I’m a foodie and I loved this book. There are lots of different takes on old favourites of mine (nasi goreng, ceviche, chilli con carne), recipes I’ve always wanted to try (pho, jambalaya, any Asian flavours in a soup-food-bowl), and loads of exciting new recipes with flavour combinations or ingredients that tickled my fancy.

I tried my hand at the intriguing-looking Chia Pudding from Central and South America.  Chia seeds have a delicate, nutty flavour and have a great capacity to absorb liquid. They’ve now made their way into kitchens and supermarkets around the world, and this has to be the easiest recipe out there. Mix 2 cups of natural yoghurt with half a cup of chia seeds. Leave for 4 hours. Serve cold with maple syrup or honey, and toasted flaked almonds and berries – or whatever you have to hand.  Delicious!
Chia Pudding.jpg

I also tried the Quinoa Stew. I liked the look of all the flavours, as well as the fact it didn’t take long to cook on a week night. It was super-tasty and the leftovers froze well for delicious work lunches.

The book layout is great – an attractive photo for each recipe, an interesting note on origins and history, and essential for the foodie – tasting notes. The book is sectioned out into bowl food types: breakfast bowls, dessert bowls, soups, salads and healthy bowls, stews and hearty bowls, and rice, pasta and noodle bowls. There’s also a difficulty guide for easy, medium or hard which is handy for the time-conscious, or when you miss that part of the recipe that says simmer for 3 hours and its 8pm already.

Quinoa Stew
Food and drink is a huge part of the travel experience and the memories we have of our adventures overseas. Travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet launched this new ‘Lonely Planet Food’ imprint in 2016 and it’s great to see such a quality range of books for the foodie or the keen traveller.

The imprint houses titles from the Lonely Planet World’s Best series such as The World’s Best Brunches, The World’s Best Spicy Foods, and The World’s Best Superfoods. The Lonely Planet Food logo can also be found on the From the Source series which introduces food lovers to local dishes from around the world and to the cooks that have perfected them.

We raise our bowls to you Lonely Planet Food, keep these books coming!

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The World’s Best Bowl Food
by Lonely Planet Food
ISBN 9781787012653

 

Book Review: The Hauraki Gulf: An Iconic Kiwi Playground, by Jane King

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_hauraki_gulf.jpgThe Hauraki Gulf is a stretch of water east of Auckland, dotted with a unique array of islands treasured by those who live there and nearby. Author Jane King explores these islands and surrounds in her book The Hauraki Gulf, as a celebration of the area’s unique geographical landscapes, natural beauty and resources.

The land and sea is beloved by locals, but many of these islands will be unknown to New Zealanders. The Hauraki Gulf is an easy and visual way to get to know the islands, the people who live there and how the island is used now. New Zealanders will also enjoy the stories of ‘how it used to be’, bringing back memories of growing up in small town New Zealand.

The book touches on a brief history of each island as a chapter, exploring current use and conservation as well as reflecting on early years. Islands featured include Great and Little Barrier Island, bird sanctuary Tiritiri Matangi Island, Rangitoto, Waiheke Island, as well as the lesser known Motuihe, Rotoroa and Pakatoa islands. The book is pictorial with large colour photos throughout, highlighting the islands and people then and now.

Local people share personal and historical yarns about the land, people and events in The Hauraki Gulf. These short, local insights are fun to read and great to have documented, even if you wonder if the yarns haven’t grown larger and more colourful over time.

One of my favourites is the local legend of early emergency flights to Great Barrier Island. Back in the 1980s, a pilot would volunteer to fly to Great Barrier Island to pick up injured or sick locals to take them to the mainland. It was dangerous, as the island was pitch black with no electricity supply and it was difficult to locate the airfield with no lights to guide the pilot. The airfield was just a paddock and often boggy, and emergencies often happened at night. At one point, locals were rounded up to drive their cars to the airfield where they would park their cars in two straight lines, opposite one another, to create a runway by headlights. You feel such things can only happen in small town New Zealand.

This is a nice coffee table book, easy to read and touching on many features of the islands and people. A visual map showing the Hauraki Gulf and the location of the islands featured in the book would have been a nice addition.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The Hauraki Gulf
by Jane King
Published by David Bateman
ISBN 9781869539504

Book Review: Surviving 7.8 – New Zealanders respond to the earthquakes of November 2016, by Phil Pennington

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_surviving_7pt8.jpgLast year’s Kaikoura earthquake was one of the most powerful we’ve experienced in recent years, and there have been a few startlers since Christchurch 2011. But it’s an environment we choose to live in because New Zealand is wonderful, and New Zealand is home.

Each major earthquake we have, we learn more about how to react and what to do, but deep down we know we may never be sufficiently prepared for the aftermath of a really big earthquake.

What we can do is continue to learn from the earthquakes we have experienced, study how the days after play out, what’s important and what’s not, and what we need to stay safe and be there for one another. Being brought to think about this is one of the main reasons I enjoyed reading this book.

Surviving 7.8 is Radio New Zealand (RNZ) journalist Phil Pennington’s account of the immediate aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake. As one of the first people on the ground in Wellington, then in Kaikoura, Phil shares a fascinating account of the results of a complex earthquake.

Phil walked the dark streets of Wellington shortly after midnight on the 14th of November, reporting live as he witnessed the glass littering the streets and confused and upset people milling outside apartment buildings. The RNZ team found helicopter transport to Kaikoura, only to come across empty main streets, land ripped apart, giant slips cutting off main highways and every road out of Kaikoura rendered impassable by boulders and deep fissures.

Phil found the heart of the town with the people gathered together in local marae and open domains, he talked with many of the city’s inhabitants too shaken to return to their homes. Surviving 7.8 covers many interesting personal accounts of the earthquake and there are plenty of heart-warming stories of people who stepped up and helped with food, water, transport and care.

The book isn’t a definitive study of the Kaikoura earthquake, it’s an excellent account from Radio New Zealand journalist who found himself telling the stories of the people affected to the nation and the world they were cut off from. Surviving 7.8 is a very interesting read, and well-recommended.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

Surviving 7.8 – New Zealanders respond to the earthquakes of November 2016
by Phil Pennington
Published by HarperCollins NZ
ISBN 9781775541103

 

 

Book Review: The Kiwi Pair, by Hamish Bond & Eric Murray, with Scotty Stevenson

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_kiwi_pairWe really only know what we hear through the media about the gold-medal winning Kiwi Pair of Hamish Bond and Eric Murray: the genetically gifted, unparalleled winners in their field, Olympic champions.

In The Kiwi Pair, you’ll discover a fascinating insight into the strained relations, the coaching styles, the epic levels of training, and the scant financial situations of New Zealand’s rowers over the last decade and more. It really shows what rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray had to power through to become NZ’s cherished Kiwi Pair.

The lads start their stories as alternating chapters, first using rowing as off-season fitness for rugby, then both discovering a coaches who would build and then cement their interest in rowing as their primary sport. Both made their way up the junior ranks of NZ Rowing’s age group teams, Eric a few years before the younger Hamish, both fighting hard for their spots in the Rowing 8’s and 4’s and sometimes the pairs, with other rowers. Then one fateful day, Hamish suggested to Eric that they become a pair with the 2012 Olympics as their goal. NZ Rowing & Olympics campaign coach Dick Tonks was in agreement, and there began the record-breaking partnership we know today.

Hamish Bond struck me as the ultimate competitor, unrelenting in his goals to push himself to see just how fast he could row and how far he could get. Eric Murray is a more relaxed personality, but provides the strong engine to glide the thin fibreglass boat through the water – and match the levels that Hamish Bond would set.

The relationship between the two could never be described as close, and they say themselves that their deep respect for the other and their abilities is what firstly comes to mind when asked to describe their relationship. Both acknowledge they are different personalities but they are so complementary on the water; it shines through their descriptions of absolute flow and connection as they win each race.

It’s interesting to read of the sour tensions between the Kiwi Pair and their initial Olympics rowing coach Dick Tonks, before they moved onto better relations and different training styles with their 2016 Olympics campaign coach Noel Donaldson. The book touches on some of New Zealand’s other top rowers including Mahé Drysdale, Rob Waddell and the Evers-Swindell sisters.

Eric and Hamish also touch on the difficulties in maintaining family life when required to tour overseas to race, and spend many hours training on the water. Hamish Bond also speaks of his growing interest in road cycling during his rowing years, a sport which he is now attacking with vigour in 2017.

The Kiwi Pair is a great read for all sports fans and anyone who has ever trained competitively. Written with the assistance of knowledgeable sports commentator Scotty Stevenson, the book contains insight and bucketfuls of inspiration and is just a good story of a great journey that deserves to be set down on paper.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The Kiwi Pair
by Hamish Bond & Eric Murray, with Scotty Stevenson
Published by Penguin Books NZ
ISBN 9780143574361

Book Review: To the Ice and Beyond, by Graeme Kendall

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_to_the_ice_and_beyondIn 2005, New Zealander Graeme Kendall set out on a solo 28,000 mile journey to circumnavigate the world in his yacht. To the Ice and Beyond tells the story of his amazing journey, the planning, the execution, and what he saw and experienced along the way.

The intrepid New Zealander was 60 years old when he set out, and it had long been a dream to sail around the world. Becoming financially secure early on in his working career, he was able to custom build his yacht, the Astral Express, for the journey and pay for the trip himself.

Graeme was happy to finance the dream, “Money should buy you time – it’s no use having one without the other. Money is always there to be made, time isn’t. Money should give freedom, not be an obsession. Make a little and spend a little, that’s my philosophy.”

Graeme plotted his course with much forethought, intending to set out from New Zealand over Australia to the Indian Ocean, round the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, up the length of the Atlantic Ocean through the Northwest Passage in Canada, dropping back down into the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, back down through the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. The toughest parts would be navigating the notoriously stormy Cape of Good Hope and the ice-prone waters in the Northwest Passage.

Preparations included a gun in case of a polar bear attack, weekly packs of dehydrated food prepared by a nutritionist, 140 litre tank and several bottles of emergency water, with a plan to capture rainfall along the way. Graeme used GPS, ice charts, satellite communication, and regular weather reports – modern technology that gives modern sailors a reduced risk advantage over early explorers.

His company in the wide blue oceans would be migrating birds flying alongside the boat. He saw a blue whale and a large 1.5m turtle in the waters. Huge 50,000 tonne container ships would silently glide through the waters transporting unknown product from China to America. He would be wary of pirates around Angola and sail well out into the ocean to avoid trouble. One of the best nights of the trip was seeing a group of 30 dolphins around his boat, with luminious phosphorescence clinging to their outlines – a lightshow to beat all light shows.

Graeme grabbed snatches of sleep where he could, sometimes a couple of hours nap, sometimes a 5 minute catnap, and 6-8 hours when he needed to. He would always set his radar and weather alarms to wake him up should trouble be approaching. Graeme kept exercise in the programme to keep the legs fit, with yoga and squats.

The Astral Express was caught up in Hurricane Harvey off the coast of the United States, and it makes for chilling reading as Graeme describes trying to keep the boat from rolling in the gale force winds and huge choppy swells. The power of the ocean and Mother Nature is terrifying as you imagine yourself out there. It makes you realise solo sailors need guts of steel to survive such encounters.

To the Ice and Beyond is a great read for adventure lovers, the detail behind organising such a mammoth trip is interesting and Graeme answers all the questions you might have over the course of the book. It’s a great book to have on the bedside table as the adventures he faces as he sails around the world channel into lively and limitless dreams for the reader.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

To the Ice and Beyond
by Graeme Kendall
Published by Mary Egan Publishing
ISBN 9780473353278