Illustrated Epistle: Tramping in New Zealand

Hiking in New Zealand With Our Dog

I discovered that Oxford Forest allows dogs, plus the tracks take you through native forest (you can see photos on a previous post) with the sound of bellbirds all around.

It had been years since I had done an overnight walk and camp and I consulted my essential tramping list to make sure I didn't forget anything:



  • Down sleeping bag (I HATE being cold), silk liner, mat, tent
  • boots, lightweight shoes, walking poles (I used to scoff at these, but they really prevent you becoming tired)
  • cap, raincoat, warm hat, gloves, down jacket
  • lightweight towel, two sets of underwear, merino t-shirt, merino long shirt, two fleeces, trousers, leggings, (maybe) shorts, Buff scarf
  • glasses, contact solution, ear plugs, toothbrush & paste, deodorant (longer trips), medical kit, sunscreen, insect repellent
  • rubber bands, headlamp (I have one that takes rechargeable AA batteries), camera, phone
  • matches, fork & spoon, camp cookware, plate, penknife, cooker, gas, water bottle
  • book, notepad and pencil/pen, cards (if I'm going to be in a hut with other people)
  • tea, nuts & raisins (or trail mix, if I've been organised. Not on this trip.), crackers, salami, cheese, prunes, 2 minute noodles, tuna, chocolate, ginger nuts (the only biscuit that is nearly indestructible)

It was a nice short tramp, taking just over an hour to hike to the beautiful Ryde Falls where we camped for the night. The night was cold, but starry and we wore nearly all our layers and shared a lot of red wine (part of Duncan's essential packing list) to keep warm. Billie retreated to the fleece blanket in the tent.

Billie is much improved after last month's scare. He is still walking like a drunk and did fall down a small bank on the walk but he was happy and acted like he did on the Coast to Coast, barking at us to get going if we stopped for more than 5 minutes. Which was fine as the sandflies would turn up after that. Maori legend has it that sandflies were created to keep people from being idle and it feels that way when you are tramping.


This is an excerpt from my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). You can sign up at the bottom of this page, or here (and unsubscribe if you don’t like it, or even if you do):

Reasons to Be Cheerful: Fermenting

 My friend, Jane, introduced me to my latest fermenting foray (previously, I had only tried yoghurt and alcohol).

My friend, Jane, introduced me to my latest fermenting foray (previously, I had only tried yoghurt and alcohol).

After being inspired by Sandor Katz's "The Art of Fermentation" and coming back from my Mapua trip with a couple of cultures, the boyf tolerated the build up of various jars and crocks in the house (kombucha and sauerkraut) and kindly shouted me a ticket to a fermentation workshop, hosted by the Australian, Sharon Flynn of The Fermentary. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted half the photos on my phone this week, so these images are grabbed from Sharon's Instagram.

I went along to the workshop thinking I would learn a little, but came away with a lot of notes and a better understanding of fermentation, including some of the things I had been doing wrong (I'm surprised my kombucha has done so well - that SCOBY is bulletproof!). I don't think I'll be attempting milk kefir again any time soon, but there are definitely a few other things on my list.


New Zealand Diary: Christchurch Rebuild Post Earthquake

Most buildings were damaged in the 2011 earthquake that was centred around Lyttelton, near Christchurch. Many of these buildings were beyond repair and were demolished (including the old part of London Street, which my other half had run as a restaurant only a year before the quake struck).

Unfortunately, the worst affected buildings were the old ones, with the most character. This included the cathedral. I've never been a huge fan of Christchurch Cathedral. I preferred some of the other religious buildings around the city (most of which were demolished). There was a lot of discussion about whether it should be saved and I was firmly in the camp of "let's move on". The earthquake was a chance for the city to reinvent itself as one that looked forward, not back. But there are a lot of people who don't want to let that English heritage go, so it looks like it is going to be rebuilt, at huge cost.

Illustrated Epistle: Living in New Zealand With a Dog

Having a Dog in New Zealand

When my partner, Duncan, and our Jack Russell, Billie, headed off on our extended cultural sabbatical 9 years ago, Billie was 5 years old and packed full of energy. He travelled everywhere with us and, at the age of 9, he walked nearly 200 miles on the UK’s Coast to Coast. When we left Spain last year, we said we were moving back to NZ to settle down and for Billie to enjoy his retirement. I think if Billie had had any say in the matter he would have chosen to retire in the Basque Country where he had snacks on tap - going out four or five nights a week to stroll around the pincho bars was his idea of heaven. But, after a 24 hour flight and the shock of 10 days of quarantine, Billie adjusted to being back here. When we left New Zealand it was very hard to go anywhere with a dog. Coming back we found that things had changed. The 2014 Food Act made it legal for bars and cafes to allow dogs on the premises, which was something that has always been the case in the UK and much of Europe (though not in Australia). Billie fitted back in faster than we did and soon learned where all the best snacks were to be had (Spooky Boogie, Civil & Naval and Fat Tony’s).


At 14, Bill hasn’t lost much of his energy. He still wants to chase the tennis ball up and down the hallway after dinner and he goes nuts when the three of us head out on a walk. So it was a real shock last week when he fell off the couch, stumbled about and started hyperventilating.

We thought he might be having a stroke or may have been poisoned. 
We have a problem with trap-savvy rats and were going to poison them until a friend told us how rats can stash the poison to eat later and that stash can be found by your dog.  Also, New Zealand is the only country I know of that still uses 1080 poison. Because NZ has few native mammals, 1080 is left in areas of native bush to control rodents and possums, but many dogs get caught in the crossfire. 

We rushed Billie to the vet and she reassured us that he probably hadn’t been poisoned, nor was having a stroke. He was diagnosed as having geriatric vestibular disease. At 70 dog years old (x5 for small dogs) our Jack Russell is now officially old. His disorder is caused by build up of crystals in the inner ear. It can cause a range of problems including a loss of balance and, in his case, eyes flicking all over the place accompanied by general weirdness. It can resolve on its own in a couple of weeks so we have our fingers crossed.


This is an excerpt from my Illustrated Epistle, which goes out in the middle of the month. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a cartoonist (specifically, mine). You can sign up at the bottom of this page, or here (and unsubscribe if you don’t like it, or even if you do, though that would be a bit daft, as how many emails do you get that you actually enjoy reading?):

Arctic Circle Cartoon: The End of Free Range Childhoods

free range children are a thing of the past

I feel really lucky I was able to have a fairly free range childhood. I used to go out into the countryside and build dens with my friend when we were only 6 or 7 years old. As long as we came back for meals, it was okay. I rode my bike to the local shop without a helmet. And I climbed a lot of trees. As someone pointed out to me, the child hood mortality rate was a lot higher back then. Part of me thinks perhaps it was worth it.