I grew up in New Zealand, known as Aoteoroa to the indiginous Maori which translates roughly to the Land of the Long White Cloud, the second son of an accountant and medical typist. I was fortunate to attend Wellesley College, a private school for boys set amidst park-like grounds, forested hills, and sandy beaches. Halcyon days, I remember them. A big thanks to my parents who scrimped and saved to allow my brother and I such peaceful, nurturing surroundings at an early age.
Our family home was nearby and after school I would drag my windsurfer down to the beach and skim about on the blustery bay. Wellington is known as the windiest city in the world so we never had to worry about down time. When I wasn't windsurfing after school I would be at the local restaurant washing dishes or pumping gas at the gas station. Occasionally I might be found doing homework, but this was a rarity.
Sometimes as a family we would ski in the cold months of winter at Mount Ruapehu, a magnificent, glaciated stratovolcano set smack in the middle of the northern volcanic plateau, otherwise known as Tongariro National Park. This is the fourth oldest National Park in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ski resort was often closed because of high winds and blue ice, but on the odd blue-sky day when snow conditions were near perfect it was heavenly. In summer, we stayed at Lake Taupo and windsurfed and fly-fished on the lake.
By eighteen years I was bored by school so I took up flying. The Piper Tomahawk, or Piper Traumahawk as us student pilots disparagingly called it, was an unstable trainer, a deathtrap if you were unlucky to get caught in the lingering and invisible wingtip vortices of the large international jets that flew in and out of our island on a regular basis. The severe turbulence that rolled down from the local mountains and the constant high winds didn't help small aircraft either. I quickly became a nervous pilot.
Common sense finally caught up with me (after a long chase) and I enrolled in engineering school. A year after graduating, with eight months of sloshing around a construction under my belt, I was ready to see the world. I landed in Canada with a one year work visa and fell in love with the people and the country. I now proudly call Canada home. Where else in the world can you see grizzly bears foraging at the foot of the rainforest, or the dreaded rattler and six other different types of snakes on the desert, or leeward side, of the Coast Range in the Okanagan. Not to mention a small scorpion who lives amongst the tiny cacti, whose sting isn't much worse than a wasp. Mountain lion and elk also roam these dusty, dry hills.
I camped in the rainforest for three years to write my first novel. I'll never forget my run-in with a bull elk in the middle of the night, when I somehow found myself caught between him and his female companion partway through their mating ritual. Or finding my boat half-sunk at the dock the morning after a squally night. Or the oval eyes of that mountain lion reflecting the beam of my headlamp late one evening. That cat's thick tail turned up at the end occasionally appears in my dreams. At one point I was even stalked by a wolf. But this is why we live. To explore. It's what keeps many of us going. Here's to the next journey.
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