Globerovers Magazine talks to Jon Tindale about his new book: Squashed Possums – Off the beaten track in New Zealand. Squashed Possums is available at Amazon.com and there’s more information at www.jontindale.com
Squashed Possums – Off the beaten track in New ZealandAuthor – Jonathan Tindale
Globerovers Magazine talks to Jon Tindale about his new book…
I used to live in an old static caravan in a forest, up in the mountains of New Zealand. Ten years after I left my caravan and returned to London I received a mysterious manuscript in the post. It told the story of how I reversed off a cliff one dark night, my close encounters with the local wildlife and how I became entangled with the local Maori world. It was really very strange because it was my story, but the voice was not mine – the book was narrated by the caravan itself…
The book, Squashed Possums, is a non-fiction travel memoir and tribute to the New Zealand bach, or lone caravan, which is as much a Kiwi institution as the All Blacks and chocolate fish. It’s about how isolation has come to define New Zealand, from the evolution of its unique bizarre birdlife, distinct Maori culture and the Kiwi nack for invention. Did I mention that Michael Palin has a copy?
So, did you squash any possums?
Possums are a serious threat to the native wildlife and New Zealanders are urged to kill them at any opportunity. I didn’t kill one myself. I had one in my headlights once, but didn’t have the heart to squash it. As for the title, I was torn between ‘Wild Caravan’ or ‘Squashed Possums’ until music legend, David Crosby of the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills and Nash, suggested I go with Squashed Possums. Twitter can lead to quite unexpected connections.
I would have to say my caravan in the Maungakotukutuku valley and the nail biting drive I took each day to get home in one piece, with the majestic view of Kapiti Island. But I also loved Kaikoura for its whale watching and dolphin spotting – and my caravan had a serious crush on Nins Bin, Kaikoura’s no. 1 crayfish selling caravan!
I have fond memories of Whanganui, and in particular the dirt track route that follows the river up to Pipiriki and enjoying the most stunning views before a meth-induced madman threatened us away with a rifle. The epic volcanic landscape of Tongariro is quite extraordinary too, like walking across one of Jupiter’s moons.
And your favourite memory?
I would have to choose the simple pleasure of sitting outside my battered caravan at night, switching off all the lights and sitting in absolute darkness, and admiring the Milky Way splashed across the night sky. If I could bring one thing back from New Zealand to London, it would be that view.
It was awe inspiring in a way Netflix can never manage. Almost all of us live in towns and cities and something very primal is lost unless you return to nature, once in a while. Watch out though, too much time alone in the forest and your mind can start to unravel. And don’t forget your torch, I bumped into a tree or two on cloudy nights.
It is a damn long way away – wherever you live, which is why when you do go, you should stay for as long as you can. I was there for seven months and it still wasn’t nearly long enough. You should believe the hype around the South Island, the mountains and lakes are stunning, but don’t underestimate the North Island, for its Polynesian roots and breathtaking volcanic landscape.
My advice is to get out of the towns and cities as quickly as possible (sorry Auckland). Take some sturdy boots and a tent, or an old puckerood caravan and experience some of the last great wilderness in the western world. It might change your life.