Sunday, December 30, 2007

Go Camping in Nude Zealand

Somehow nudity and camping seem to go hand-in-hand. I guess it makes sense to be getting back to nature, au naturel.

Anyway, I've just learned of a campground here in New Zealand with a clothing-optional policy. It's called Wai-natur, and is located near Blenheim, in the beautiful Marlborough district. They offer bed and breakfast, caravans or camping. They claim that several of their tent sites are secluded, in case you're feeling a bit shy.

The campground is run by Kay and Brian Hannam, naturists who are heading off to a big tourism trade show in the Netherlands in a few days to promote New Zealand as a great place to get 'yer kit off.

If you want to find out more about going nude in New Zealand, or about Wai-natur, check out their website.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Buy a Book - Save The World

Okay, you can only do so much about saving the world. But thanks to a new online book-selling site called "Good Books" you can pitch in a little more.

All of the profits from books sold on "Good Books" go to Oxfam, who set up all kinds of charity projects in developing countries. So instead of adding to the coffers of some online mega-corporation, your purchase is feeding a starving child, building a well for clean water, or some other such feel-good goal. Just when you thought shopping was self-indulgent!

And yes, they're selling Sex in a Tent - so feel free to make your purchase also contribute to the well-being of a struggling author in the wilds of New Zealand ;o)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

December's Delightful Dayhikes

Penn Creek near Otaki Forks

OK, so the plan was to go for a tramp last weekend. The near-perfect weather forecast seemed to practically demand it! But then on Thursday I came down with a cold, and by Friday G was also getting sniffly - so we decided to scale back and do a couple of day hikes instead.

Our first hike was to Field Hut in the Tararuas. A return journey up the ridge and down again. The second was a more subdued wander around the Rimutakas, along the Orongorongo and Big Bend tracks. We walked about 5 hours each day, so we're slowly getting our legs ready for more serious endeavours.
Slip along the Orongorongo Riverbed, and flowering Northern Rata tree above

No matter how often you hike, there are always new things to learn. So here are some of the things I learned last weekend:

You can't just rely on your map:
I had been eyeing what appeared to be a convenient loop route from Otaki Forks up to Field Hut, then down the Penn Creek Track to Penn Creek Hut, and continuing along the creek back to the start. I couldn't understand why I'd never heard about people doing this loop, when it looked so perfect for a weekend. When we arrived at Field Hut, however, we saw a big sign explaining that the Penn Creek Track was unstable in places and several people had recently been rescued from there. Aha! The map doesn't always tell t he whole story.
Field Hut

An ounce of prevention is worth your left foot:
My new boots are rubbing against my heels, which is annoying and potentially very painful. To prevent it getting too bad, I've been using some first aid tape on my heels whenever I hike. But when I put it on Saturday, I put it too high on my left foot, so the boot rubbed off all of the skin below it. Ouch! Needless to say, that had a lot to do with our choice of a flatter hike on Sunday. Uphill had become a rather painful prospect.
The Orongorongo River

Look out for lawyers:
Well at least in New Zealand there aren't any ambulance chasers. But there is a rather nasty plant I'm told is called "Bush Lawyer" (not its botanical name, but I can never remember those anyway.) As I was coming down from the ridge on Saturday, this thorny plant grabbed onto my pant leg and pulled several threads out of place. How rude!

I miss the ozone layer:
Down here in New Zealand the sun's rays are crazy strong. It seems no amount of sunscreen will completely protect my skin, especially once I start sweating from a big hike uphill in the heat! So most of the time I wear long sleeves and keep most of me covered up. It's a shame. I used to get such a nice tan in the summer. Sigh...

Anyway - ho ho ho and all that. Enjoy the sun or snow or whatever you're getting this holiday season!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Wildebeat, Society Hikers and NYC Booklovers

Apologies for my absence lately. I've just returned from a trip to Christchurch and Dunedin for research on my upcoming book Living Abroad in New Zealand. Just a quick update for the moment, and I promise more blogging soon!

The photo above is a friend of the family, Ariel Fenster, perusing Sex in a Tent at Barnes and Noble in New York City. It's great to find out where the book is sitting on shelves, so if you spot it in your corner of the world, let me know!

In other news, the interview I did with Steve Sergeant for The Wildebeat podcast is now available on their website. Here's the link. The edited interview runs about 10 minutes, and if you're a member there's an "adult" version available.

And a bit of surprise publicity - the American Hiking Society ran a story about my book on their blog a few days ago. Here's the link for that one.

I hope you've all got your last-minute gift shopping under control. Happy holidays, and I hope you get all of the new gear you've been hoping for - and a copy of Sex in a Tent of course!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Seasonal Book Publicity

I found out today that my book was mentioned on a list of Christmas gift ideas from The Times UK. It's not exactly a review, but I'll take it!

Thanks to John Hee, a UK hiker and blogger who let me know about it!

Also, over the weekend I was interview by Radio New Zealand for a piece they're putting together on "greener" ways to spend Christmas (like tramping)! Not sure when the story will air, but if I get advance notice I will post the info here for anyone with access to New Zealand radio!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Our Jumbo First Tramp of Summer

Summer has arrived, and somehow during the spring we didn't once manage to go tramping. Between me being out of the country for several weeks, and bad weather earlier in the spring, and let's face it, a bit of laziness on our part, it simply never happened.

So last weekend we were determined to get the season started right, and we did the classic "Jumbo-Holdsworth Circuit" in the Tararuas. Just a two-day tramp, but something that would have us doing a lot of climbing and getting those legs back in shape!

The weather was very nearly perfect on Saturday as we started out. Sunny, warm and calm. We started up the Gentle Annie track and immediately felt the results of not carrying a backpack for the past six months. But up and up we went, huffing and puffing our way to the Mountain House Shelter for a bite of lunch.
Then we continued on to Powell Hut (in the above picture, it's directly above my head but you can't see it), a large, newish hut just at the bushline. It was tempting to call it a day at this point and stay at Powell, since I was already tired and feeling my heels rubbing against the backs of my new boots. But it was only 2pm, and if ever there was a good day to cross the tops this was it. Clear skies and practically no wind.

No wind, that is, until you actually reach the exposed ridge! On our way up to the Mt. Holdsworth summit (pictured below), the "breeze" kicked in. I knew better than to complain. I've heard enough stories about battered trampers crossing the tops on their hands and knees because the wind was blowing too hard for them to keep their feet. But nontheless, the stillness was long gone and I was anxious to get through this part of the tramp as quickly as possible.

My legs had other ideas. (They so rarely consult with my brain on these critical matters.) It was a slow climb up Mt. Holdsworth, followed by a slightly wobbly descent to the main ridge (pictured below). Then the ups and downs along the ridge to Jumbo peak. Towards Jumbo, my left thigh decided to cramp spectacularly. It was the first time this has happened to me on a tramp, and I think may have been the result of not eating enough salt along the way. But we took a break while my leg recovered a bit, and moved on. After all, it's not like I was going to stop there. And it was a longer walk back to Powell Hut at that point than continuing to Jumbo Hut.
Once we reached Jumbo peak, we turned off and headed down a spur towards the hut. From above, the hut was a welcome sight! We arrived at the hut after 7 hours on the trails. We knew there were about 8 other trampers who had gone to Jumbo by the same route as us. (We were the last to get there, gotta get into better shape!) But you can also reach the hut from the valley below, so when we arrived there were actually about 18 people there! The hut sleeps 20 comfortably, and there were a father and son who had already decided to pitch their tent outside instead. So space was not a problem, and we settled in for the night, making dinner and relaxing.
The next day's route was theoretically much easier. A steep descent from the hut to the river valley below, and then following the track next to the river all of the way back to the carpark. Estimated time - about 4 1/2 hours. But that estimate doesn't take into account having overworked our out-of-practice legs the day before. So it actually took us 5 hours to get back to the car. Just getting down the hill turned my quads to jelly, which slowed me down for the rest of the "easy" part. The next morning, my quads were terribly stiff. Actually, they're not much better now!

On the way back to Wellington we stopped at a slightly toursity little town called Greytown. Strawberry season is in full swing here, and we picked up four plunnets of berries for $6! I've dehydrated half of them to use when we go to the South Island in February. I also bought some peppers (capsicums) to dehydrate at the same shop.

We had an overpriced lunch at a local cafe, then drove back to Wellington. All in all, a painful but successful tramp! And the weather didn't let us down, with just a few sprinkles as we finished up.

While I must say I haven't kept my conditioning up over the winter to the extent I would have liked, at least I'm in decent enough shape that when I do have an incident on the trail (a cramp, a twisted knee, etc.) my body bounces back right away. There was a time when a hike like this would have been followed by days of knee pain, and I'm sure glad I've managed to get past that!

Next week I'm off to Christchurch and Dunedin for a research trip (I'm writing a guide for migrants) but hopefully there will be more tramping soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Guest blogging in Oz!

Aussie couple Frank and Sue maintain "Our Hiking Blog", where they share their adventures, advice and even recipes! If you've ever thought about doing any backpacking in Australia, definitely check out their trip reports for some great ideas.

But they shone the spotlight elsewhere today, featuring an interview with me about "Sex in a Tent". You can read it here.

In other news Down Under, the book is now available for several online booksellers in both Australia and New Zealand. Check the websites for Dymocks (in Australia only), Angus & Roberston, Collins, and in NZ, Whitcoulls.

Now folks in the Southern Hemisphere can buy the book for those Christmas stockings too!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Zenn and the Art of Satirical Newscasts

This is a bit off-topic for me, but since so many of us campers are also greenies at heart, I thought many of you would enjoy it.

My cousin's husband (does that make him my cousin-in-law?) is CEO of a Canadian company called ZENN (Zero Emissions, No Noise) which makes - brace yourselves - electric cars! It seems reports of the death of the electric car were greatly exaggerated.

Zenn was recently featured on The Mercer Report, a Canadian satirical newscast along the same lines as The Daily Show (except that it's not daily.) Here's the link to the clip.

It's worth watching just for Rick Mercer's wonderful Newfoundland accent.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will Love Save You - Or Just Make You Stupid?

I've been seeing and hearing a lot of stories lately about wilderness survival. Most experts agree that the most lethal part of the equation in a life or death situation is panic. Most people can survive with very little, if they keep their minds clear and make the right decisions. But panic is all too easy when you're lost in the woods, or drifting out to sea in a kayak.

This all got me wondering whether your odds of survival are better or worse if you're with your life partner at the time. I think there are arguments both ways. On the one hand, as I say in my book, nobody is just going to stand around and watch while the person they love is being swept down a river, or falling off a cliff. On the other hand, love does tend to get in the way of logic. We've all done stupid things because we were in love. But if you're reading this, none of those stupid things has yet cost you your life!

Here are the positives as I see them:
  • You will give each other more support and encouragement than friends or acquaintances, so there's a better chance of keeping a positive attitude.

  • You are likely to know about each other's health problems, and also realize more quickly if your partner is not behaving "normally".

  • You won't have any issues about sharing body heat, or helping each other physically. And if there is any blood involved, you're not going to be concerned about HIV infection (unless you have a positive partner.)

  • You know your partners limitations in terms of fitness and skills, so you can make plans that are achievable.
Here are the negatives as I see them:
  • Partners are likely to over-sacrifice, so that one will give up too much of their dry and warm gear to the other, and end up hypothermic themselves.

  • You are unlikely to be willing to leave a sick or injured partner by themselves, even if going for help alone is the most logical thing to do.

  • Many survivors stay alive through their ordeal so that they can return to loved ones back home. If your loved one is there with you, do you lose that driving force to stay alive?

  • Some couples will spend so much time arguing over whose fault it is that their lives are in danger, they'll forget to try to get rescued!
What do you think? I'm fairly certain nobody has crunched the numbers from Search and Rescue to see whether couples fare better or worse. Would your partner be a saviour in a disaster, or a dead weight?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Starring on Starling

I stumbled across this today - a blurb about Sex in a Tent on the Starling Travel blog which features great places to visit in the US.

The blogosphere is a fascinating place. I love the way that things travel around from blog to blog and pop up in unexpected places. I've certainly learned not to put anything on my blog that I would want to maintain the copyright on!

Tomorrow I'm off to San Francisco, where I'll be chatting with Steve from Wildebeat. Then on Tuesday I'm hooking up with my friends at Wilderness Press in Berkeley. Ah, the jet-setting lifestyle of the first-time author...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gabbing on Gadling and Michelle's Book Launch

Today's "Talking Travel" column on is entirely devoted to an interview with me about Sex in a Tent. (Click the link above to read the whole interview.) Here's a peek at the intro:

Campers around the world have surely tried their hand at this
extracurricular activity before. But even seasoned adventurers may learn
some new tips or techniques in this recent release from Wilderness Press
dedicated to the art of outdoor love. Sex in a Tent: A Wild Couple's
Guide to Getting Naughty in Nature
is the first comprehensive guide to
getting it on outside, and a must have for couples looking to heat things up
during tent-toting travels.

Forget hotels and hostels for romantic getaways -- give Mother Nature a
spin! That's what writer and adventurer Michelle Waitzman set out to do with her

In other news, I had a launch party for the book in Toronto last night. Lots of friends and family came around to help me celebrate. As with most book signings by unknown authors, there wasn't a lot of "general public" there. But it was still great fun, and a nice opportunity to share my excitement. Thanks to everyone who stopped by!

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Boots - and they're made for walking!

It's a good thing that I pack light when I travel, because I can't resist shopping while I'm away from home. Being back in Toronto, there are just so many products available that I can't find down in New Zealand. It was inevitable that I would go home with my bags more full than when I left - even after off-loading a bunch of gifts.

Today's purchase was a new pair of hiking boots from Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC). I already made one trip there last week, and bought sunglasses and underwear. But I ran out of time and boots can't be rushed, so today I went back and tried on a few pairs.

The MEC house brand is probably not the best quality boot (far from it!) but the price was low and they were soooo comfy I couldn't resist. They also have a rubber cap over the toes, which is something I look for because I'm a clumsy hiker and I constantly bash my toes into rocks and such. That wears out the toes of my boots really quickly if they don't have that extra protective layer on the front.

So they may not last long - probably only one season - but as long as they are comfortable on the trail I think they were a good buy.

Tomorrow is my book launch for Sex in a Tent. I had an interview for CBC's Words at Large podcast today, and I'll be sure to post a link once they have it up on their website. It probably won't be on until December though.

And a quick note for those in the UK - Sex in a Tent is now available for purchase on again.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A New Chapter

Greetings from sunny Toronto! If you're in Canada, look for me tomorrow on The Weather Network between 3 and 4 pm ET.

I'm also excited to announce that the Chapters/Indigo website in Canada is now selling Sex in a Tent. The date for availability is October 31. I'm not yet sure how many of their physical stores will be stocking the book, but I'd like to welcome them aboard and I'm glad that Canadians now have another option for buying the book.

Those who pre-ordered it from should be receiving their books at the end of this week! (Just in time to have me sign them at my launch party next Tuesday.)

On a less spectacular note, I am no longer scheduled to appear at Marmot Mountain Works in Berkeley on November 13. Instead I'll be using my time in California to hopefully do several press interviews.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Two Days, Two Hikes, Two Seasons

This past weekend was Labour Day Weekend in New Zealand, which is kind of the unofficial start of the summer tramping season. We had been planning to go tramping, but a few things made us change our minds.

First, the weather forecast was a bit foreboding. Second, South Africa was playing in the Rugby World Cup Final so G was kind of keen to watch. And third, I've been so busy organising my trip to North America I didn't want to organise a tramp too!

So instead we went on two day hikes. Saturday, the foreboding forecast was pretty accurate. The weather was windy and cold, and for the last hour of our hike the rain slowly got heavier. We did a loop track in Kaitoke Regional Park, which gave our lazy, winter legs a good workout for almost six hours. Here are a few pics. The dead trees in the first one are probably due to possum damage.
Then on Sunday, we planned a shorter hike after the rugby ended. (South Africa won.) About half an hour north of Wellington, near the city of Porirua, is a scenic reserve called Colonial Knob. (I know, bad name!) That day the sun was shining, the winds were calm, and we could see clear across to the South Island! Here are some pics from that hike. In the first picture you can just see the snow-capped Kaikoura Range in the distance, and in the second there's a view of the Marlborough Sounds across Cook Strait.Monday we sat around nursing our stiff legs. And now that I'm off for the next few weeks, I'll be in no better shape a month from now! Gottta get my fitness level up before we head down to the South Island in February. Otherwise, those tramps are going to hurt!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Toronto Book Launch

For those of you in the Toronto area, I'll be heading your way soon for my hometown launch of Sex in a Tent. Here are the details:

Tuesday, November 6
6pm - 8pm
C'est What (67 Front Street East at Church Street)

I'll be there with copies of the book for sale, and happy to chat with everyone about camping, sex, visiting Toronto and all kinds of other stuff. And I'll sign your copy of the book if you're into that sort of thing!

I hope to see lots of you there!

And for everyone else, my apologies if the posts slow down a bit for the next few weeks while I'm on the road.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Milford Madness!

Come February, G and I are planning a wonderful 6-week trip around New Zealand's South Island, doing short (2-5 day) tramps in as many places as possible.

The most famous track in the country, without a doubt, is the Milford Track. It's known around the world, and as you can see from the picture, the superlatives are right up there. I know it will mean going on an expensive and crowded "Great Walk", but I just have to see "the finest walk in the world" for myself - just this once!

Since we finally decided on the dates for our trip, I went to book us onto the Milford Track straight away. After all, the finest walk in the world fills up fast during the all-too-short summer tramping season in Fiordland. But I figured four months ahead was pretty good planning on our part. Since you must do the track in one direction, and you must stay in the huts (no tent camping), they control the numbers of people allowed on the track at any one time. Basically, 40 independent walkers can start on any given day, because that's the capacity of the huts.

But when I looked at the booking page on our choice of dates, it was already fully booked out! In fact, the first three weeks of February were completely full. I'm sure that December and January are long gone too. In the end, I booked us in for about a week later than we were planning.

To add insult to injury, the huts (mandatory, remember!) on the track are obscenely expensive. It costs $40 per person per night, for a total of $120 to walk the track. But that's not all... You also have to take a boat to the trail head at $59 per person, and a boat from the end of the hike to Milford Sound for another $29 per person. In all, for two of us to complete the Milford Track, we have to spend at least $416.

All I can say is, this had better be the finest damn walk in the world!

We are only doing one other "Great Walk" during our trip - which will be the Routeburn Track. Thankfully there are no boats required to access that one, and only two nights on the track. Also, if you don't mind carrying your tent, you can choose to camp for $10 per person instead of paying $40 for the huts.

For anyone now second-guessing their plans to come to New Zealand - let me just stress that these expensive huts are only on the "Great Walks", and in fact these ones in Fiordland are more expensive than the rest. For a standard hut, you can buy a $5 hut ticket, and for a fancier hut it's $10. Only the "Great Walks" require bookings, and only during peak season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Blog Blitz

I've been guest-blogging like crazy for the last few days! (Does that make me a blog slut?) So I wanted to make sure I've got everything linked back here.

Go ahead and follow your links to go on your own little blog tour. Maybe you'll find a new second-favourite blog. (Because this one will still be your favourite, of course...)

Best Hike was nice enough to highlight some of my recent activities, including my story in October's New Zealand Wilderness Magazine and my podcast on The Outdoors Station.

Camping Coop introduced their readers to me and my book.

And Weird Darren ran an exclusive excerpt from the book on his White Spider blog. If you and your partner tend to have arguments in the wilderness, have a look at my words of wisdom on the subject. (The subject is covered much more thoroughly in Chapter 2 of Sex in a Tent, but you'll get a wee taste anyway.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Tour - HappieGrrrl Climbing gets sexy!

Thanks to HappieGrrrl Climbing, a blog by a rock climber who lives in New York, for hosting the latest stop on my blog tour. Just for the climbers, I wrote a post about why climbers are sexy. You can see it here.

Here's to you climbers - you look far better in spandex than I could ever dream of!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

New Location for San Fransico Area Event

Sex in a Tent - Doing it Marmot-style

The fine folks at Wilderness Press have found a new spot for me to do a live appearance now that the REI dates have been cancelled.

If you're in the Bay Area, come and join us at Marmot Mountain Works in Berkeley on Tuesday, November 13 from 5-7 pm.

If more live appearances are lined up, I'll be sure to post them here.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Too Hot for REI? Yes and No

What a difference a week can make. Just seven days ago I was here announcing my live appearances at two Bay Area REI stores. Sadly, someone in management has pulled the plug on those events. Seems the subject matter was just a little too risque for some.

However, I'm pleased to say that the book will still be avaible at REI stores across the country, so drop in on your local shop, pick up the book and tell them what a shame it is that I'm not there to sign it for you!

Hopefully, there will be another event organised for my visit to San Francisco next month. If you've got any suggestions, do let me know!

The book launches on Monday, October 15 - so the long wait is just about over! If there's no REI near you, you can always get it from Amazon. (For anyone who has tried the Amazon.UK site and seen their notice that the book is unavailable, I'm hoping that's a temporary glitch and it will be up again soon. There's no reason for it to be unavailable.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Outdoors Station Book Club explores "Sex in a Tent"

Yesterday I was interviewed about "Sex in a Tent" by UK Podcaster "Podcast Bob" Cartwright for The Outdoors Station. It was a lot of fun, and the results are already up on their website! Or you can listen to it here, by using the play button below.

Thanks for a great interview Bob! Here's a shout out to you UK campers. I wish you many rain-free days.

And if anyone else with a blog or website wants to post the interview, you can do it for free. Go to the above link for The Outdoors Station and follow the instructions from the "Copy MP3 Player" link beside the player.

In A Tent

Download MP3 File

New Zealand From Space

The Gadling blog recently featured this awsome shot of central New Zealand from space. Unfortunately, the view of my place is blocked that rod sticking up from the spacecraft. How rude!

Still, it's a great photo of the Cook Strait, with the South Island to the left and the North Island to the right. Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is the clear skies - after all, New Zealand is also known as Aotearoa "The Land of the Long, White Cloud".

Click here for the hi-res version of the photo.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Do The Wave

The Best Hike blog recently had a post about hiking "The Wave" in Utah. This hike was something I did as part of an adventure tour in Arizona and Utah in 2004, and I was blown away by the unique and fantastic (in the true sense) scenery there. This area, also known as Vermillion Cliffs, (The Wave only refers to the specific formation pictured below) sits on the Utah/Arizona border. While the crowds ooh and aaah over the Grand Canyon, I think this was in many ways even more spectacular.

It's difficult to imagine a landscape of red and white striped rock, so smooth that it looks like liquid. Pictures can't quite do it justice, but I've put a couple here to try to give you some idea. This has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth, and hopefully it will stay untouched and unaltered for many years to come.

Two other members of my group of four, heading down into The Wave.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Live Sex (in a Tent) Coming to Bay Area REIs

Tom Mangan over at Two-Heel Drive beat me to my own announcement, but at least I got to use the catchy title!

To help launch Sex in a Tent, I'll be visiting San Francisco in November and appearing at two local REI stores to sign my book and generally stir things up. So if you live in the area, write these dates on your calendar:

November 12 - Corte Madera REI
November 13 - Berkeley REI

Both appearances will be in the early evening. I hope I'll get to see you there (and sell you a book or two), and do let me know if you've been following my blog! It's lonely out here in cyberspace.

More details as the news unfolds...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sexy and Hitched

Hitched Magazine, aimed at inspiring and educating married couples, have just published a story on "Sex in a Tent" on their website. Here's the link.

Other than assuming I'm married (don't worry Mom, I'd tell you first!) it's a pretty good article. Hopefully the publicity will keep on rolling in! The book will be available later this month, and with all of the REI stores across the US carrying it, I'm keen to get the word out.

Also - if you are registered on Digg, please go onto the site and Digg the story! It's free to register there.

Thanks Hitched, married people rock!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Death by Day Hike - Part 2

Many on the Tongariro Crossing have never experienced scree before.This month's Wilderness magazine carries a short article that makes a good follow-up to my recent post about the Tongariro Crossing. It seems that the Department of Conservation is looking for new ways to convince people not to take this hike too lightly.

The country's most popular one-day walk is getting a name change to better
reflect the nature and terrain of the track. From October, the Tongariro
Crossing will be known as the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.
They go on to describe how serious the problem of unprepared and inexperienced walkers has become:

There have been 22 search and rescue events already this year. The track has a
high point of 1886m, but because people can drive to the start of the track
at 1200m, many people underestimate how tough it is and how quickly the
weather can turn.

In addition to the name change, they are adding signs at key points suggesting
that hikers turn back if their fitness is failing or the weather is getting bad.
They are also realigning a particularly tough climb called "The Devil's
Staircase" to make it less demanding.

Another option under consideration is allowing commercial guiding concessions on the track, as a way to ensure public safety. Of course that will only work if the people who are too inexperienced for the walk are aware that they need a guide - and most tourists unfortunately live in a state of denial about these things.

It's times like these I wish New Zealand wasn't so good at marketing it's great outdoors. A quite spectacular walk has now become more or less a tourist concession.

My First Magazine Cover

OK, I'm no supermodel, but as the launch date for Sex in a Tent draws near I am trying to spread the word by any and all means possible.
This month's New Zealand Wilderness magazine is running a feature I wrote for them on adding more romance to your tramps. I was thrilled to discover that it has been featured on the cover!

And for the those who are not as outdoorsy, I have also posted an article on a website called, featuring tips for outdoor sex.

Stay tuned for more shameless self-promotion, including a blog tour and in-person book signings.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Busy Week for Mother Nature

Living in a country with active volcanoes and multiple fault lines sure does keep you on your toes! This week in New Zealand, nature has been restless to say the least. Within a period of 24 hours, there was a volcanic eruption and a massive landslide caused by an earthquake.
First the volcano. Mt. Ruapehu is in the centre of the North Island, and even though it is an active volcano, it is visited by thousands and thousands of people every year. It sees hikers all summer, and skiers all winter. So when it got heartburn on Tuesday night and decided to belch up some black ash (and large boulders) it was a cause for concern. Of course, it doesn't compare with the major eruptions in 1995 and 1996, which were spectacular to say the least.

Luckily, the effects weren't felt as far down as the ski fields. There were two people at a hut near the summit, however, who were showered with debris which crashed right through the front door. One of them was pinned under a boulder, and has since had one of his legs amputated. The other was not injured, and ran down the mountain in the dark to get help.

As for the earthquake, that has resulted in New Zealand's newest lake! In Mt. Aspiring National Park on the South Island, a small earthquake and heavy rains caused one of the biggest landslides seen in these parts. It cut off part of a river, turning it into an alpine lake. The slip is thought to be about 70 metres high, with some boulders as big as a house. Nobody was hurt, but there is a hiking track reasonably close to the slip that people are being warned to avoid until things have settled. The pictures is from

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside! New Zealand's precarious relationship between man and the land got a bit of a shake-up.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Bridges & Boardwalks: Protection or Pandering?

Last weekend spring made a very welcome appearance in Wellington, and I went out with G to celebrate with a short daywalk in the Catchpool Valley. It's an area that is popular because it is easy to reach from Wellington (about a 45 minute drive) and has some easy tracks for children and older hikers.

We started our hike on the Orongorongo Track, which is the busiest, and easiest, of the routes. We hadn't been there in quite a long time, and I was surprised by the number of "improvements" that had been made to the track. There were more bridges over creeks, including a new suspension bridge. They are also building a boardwalk over one of the more eroded spots on the track.
The benefits are obvious. People were out with their babies in off-road strollers, having no trouble navigating the track. We came across a group of six seniors, probably into their 70s, enjoying the hike. These things don't happen on trails where you have to hop across streams or scramble up and down.

But how far should parks go in making their trails accessible? Every bridge takes you one step further from the land's pristine state. Many hikers prefer to have a more challenging route. The wilderness is where they want to be. If you don't like the wilderness the way it is, they say, go to a city park for your walks.

In New Zealand the debate about the extent to which tracks are "improved" has been raging for years. Many locals claim that popular routes are being turned into over-developed tourist attractions for the sake of international visitors, while robbing New Zealanders of their own land's natural beauty. Others say that without these extra precautions, the tracks will erode beyond use. That it's better to have 50,000 people walk on a boardwalk each year, than have 50,000 pairs of boots eroding the track.

There's no easy answer, since the balance between encouraging back-country recreation and preserving the land is a difficult one to find. Personally, I tend to breathe a sigh of relief when I come up to a feisty river I need to cross and find it's been bridged. But not everyone agrees, and I can see their point.
Meanwhile, the tourists keep coming in droves to discover "clean, green" New Zealand, and the wilderness purists get pushed farther off the beaten path in search of pristine bush.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Death by Day HIke - Tongariro Crossing

Every year there is controversy as the Mt. Everest climbing season results in several deaths. Climbers without enough experience or skills pay tens of thousands of dollars to tick it off their must-do list and they end up paying the ultimate price.

But what about the less obviously dangerous adventures? Who would be afraid of losing their life on one of the world's most popular day hikes?
The Tongariro Crossing is New Zealand's premier day hike. It is undertaken by some 60,000 people per year, from all over the planet. It's recommended by all of the guide books and glossy brochures.
The endless stream of hikers on the Tongariro Crossing over Easter.

Many people jump to the conclusion that something this popular and well-advertised must be safe. But any hike in an alpine environment carries risks, and the Tongariro Crossing has claimed a number of lives.
The Tongariro Crossing on a spring weekend. You just never know!

Last year, one couple brought inadequate layers of clothing for the bad conditions that closed in during their hike. (This is very common, with people trying to carry as little as possible for the 17 kilometre walk, and often wearing just a t-shirt and shorts.) When fog rolled in they got lost and disoriented. The seven-hour hike became an endless nightmare as darkness fell. They sheltered behind a rock, but the woman died from hypothermia before rescuers found them at 2am.

As outdoor adventures become more and more popular among vacationers, there is a risk that those without any outdoor experience will find themselves alone in the wilderness without the right gear or clothing. It may look good in the glossy brochure, but the environment has a mind of its own, and it doesn't care if you're just enjoying a nice vacation.

I'm glad that hiking is becoming more popular, but I wish that people would understand that walking over a mountain (or volcano) is not the same as walking around their home town. It doesn't have to be Mt. Everest to be dangerous for the unprepared.
Be prepared, and enjoy the view!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Chris Townsend Interview - A Solo Legend Talks About Coupledom

For those not familiar with Chris Townsend, he is a UK author/photographer who has written 16 books on the outdoors. Chris is best known as a long-distance through-hiker. His major walks have included the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and first-time continuous walks of the Canadian Rockies end-to-end, and the 517 Scottish Munros and Tops.

With all of these epic solo journies under his belt, it may surprise some people to hear that Chris has lived with his partner Denise for the past 12 years, while they first met over 30 years ago. Chris had a sneak peak at "Sex in a Tent" and agreed to chat with me about the joys and challenges of being an outdoor couple.

Was Denise experienced in the outdoors when you met? Was it part of what brought you together?

No, we met at a political meeting in a pub! We were both living in a big city at the time. Denise had a little experience of the outdoors but hadn't been wild camping or hill walking.

How did you introduce her to 'roughing it' without scaring her off? Were there any bad experiences at first?

Given how we were living 30 years ago going camping wasn't really "roughing it"! There were no bad experiences that I can remember.

On our first trip, which was in the English Lake District, I suggested a day walk from a campground up an easy hill as our first hike together. Denise found this rather tame - she liked scrambling, which she'd done on the coast - so for our second hike we went up a bigger mountain with some scrambling en route and bivvied out on the summit so we could watch the sunrise. That was our first wild camp!

Denise points out that the one bad experience she remembers was with packs, as this was before women's packs existed. None of the proper backpacks available at the time were comfortable and she ended up with a soft pack with added hipbelt, which was the best she could find. Women's packs made a huge difference to her.

What do you bring on your trips together than you don't bring on solo trips? Different gear? Food? Clothing?

All I remember taking that was different was a bigger tent and bigger pots.

Did you have different camping styles to begin with? Who has made compromises and what have they been?

I accepted that I'd walk less far than on my own (which applies to trips with friends as well).

What kinds of places do you like to go together? Is there a certain kind of>setting you consider more romantic for a camping trip with your partner?

We both like high camps in the Scottish Highlands, pitched near a lochan (small lake) in a corrie (bowl) backed by cliffs.

Have you shared any 'dream destinations' together? Or do you have places that you want to experience together?

I guess one dream destination is the Scottish Highlands - where we live!There are places we would like to experience together and which we hope it will be possible to visit.

What do you think couples can gain from exploring the wilderness together? What has it brought to your relationship?

I hope couples can gain an understanding both of themselves and the natural world and an appreciation of their place in it. Our shared appreciation of wild places has, I think, been deepened by wild camping. Being able to share my love of nature and wilderness with Denise is very important.

Do you behave any differently when the two of you are in the wild, compared to how you behave at home?

I don't think so. I do most of the cooking when we're in the wild!

Do you think you could be happy with a partner who wasn't comfortable in the wilderness?


Would you ever consider going on a long-distance walk with Denise?

I would love to share the experience of a long walk with Denise. We are still hoping it will come about. (She currently has shoulder problems that make it impossible.)

Chris maintains a website and blog at

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Sex in a Tent - Already a Bestseller!

Today I discovered that Sex in a Tent has already broken Amazon's top 100 camping books list. And it's not even out yet! Today it is sitting at #57, appropriately enough right behind Babes in the Woods. But they update the list constantly, so who knows where it will be by the time the book is released, or tomorrow for that matter!

I was delighted to see that it now has the "search inside" function set up, so people can take a sneak peek. If you've been curious about the look and contents of the book, check out Amazon and you'll get an idea of what you can expect.

Hooray for the bestseller list!

Monday, September 03, 2007

Glamping in Alaska

Me in 2003, looking glamperous in Alaska.

An acquaintance of mine just came back from an Alaskan cruise, which got me feelling nostalgic about the two weeks I spent there in 2003 on a camping tour. I suppose it's the closest I've come to "glamping", since it was a guided trip and not much hard work. We stayed at campgrounds and travelled from place to place in a van. But that was the only way to see a wide range of Alaskan scenery in a limited amount of time, so I have no regrets about not doing it "hard core."

This trip predates my switch to digital photography (yes, I was a late bloomer) but I did scan a few pics, so I thought I'd share them here:
A perfect mirror lake in southern Alaska

Our campsite in Valdez, next to a waterfall.

Me with our guide, Jay, at the top of a short hike.

Jay with another of our group on the same hike.

Jay preparing some fresh, Alaskan salmon

The top of Mt. McKinley (Denali) from the scenic flight I took. We saw a few climbers on the summit as we flew past.

Exploring an old gold mine.