A Maverick Traveller: The Podcasts of Mary Jane Walker
By Mary Jane Walker
This is the channel for the podcasts of New Zealand author, blogger and adventurer Mary Jane Walker ('A Maverick Traveller'). Mary Jane has published twelve books of travel memoirs, several of which are now audiobooks on Gumroad. For more, see her website a-maverick.com!
In this podcast I talk about a visit to Coronet Peak, a ski-field near Queenstown, New Zealand. Coronet Peak started out as a club field in 1947 but is now commercial. I talk about the old days when skiing was a way to get around and not yet a sport, and how it seems that back then the snow lay on Coronet Peak all year round. These days it's melting away, and the field has to use the largest collection of snow-making machines in the Southern Hemisphere. The cost of which is, no doubt, included in the inflated price of today's ski passes!
Russia is a country where opinions about the past are constantly changing. In the Communist era many old buildings were pulled down or neglected (though some were preserved), but now more of the old buildings are being done up. Even buildings once demolished have miraculously reappeared.
In the western suburbs of Auckland lies another slice of wilderness, the peninsula of Te Atatū and its two bush-clad estuaries, the Henderson and the Whau. Until 1960 the peninsula was almost cut off from the world even though it's close to the inner city, and it's kept some of its old, wild character.
In this podcast, I talk about Arrowtown, Queenstown's smaller neighbour, which has preserved its heritage as a tourist attraction while its bigger, brasher neighbour has relied on selling scenery. There's a lot of character in Arrowtown. But beware: it doesn't get much sun in winter!
NOW EXPANDED INTO A BOOK, 'CATCHY CYPRUS', ON AMAZON! I travel to Cyprus, a divided island nation in the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean, tucked up hard by Turkey and Syria. Cyprus used to supply the ancient Mediterranean world with copper, named after the island in English and other languages. I see turtles at the Alagadi Turtle Beach, visit Larnaca and Nicosia, the Paphos Forest and a monastery linked to founding president Archbishop Makarios, and the Kato Pyrgos resort.
This is the second of my two podcasts on Hatay. I talk about the old town of Antakya (Antioch) and its heritage, including the remarkable Moses Tree and a historic mosque. I discuss the Green Man, Hızır, who is said to have accompanied Moses, and how we visited the waterfall where the nymph Daphne is supposed to have been turned into a laurel tree to escape the pursuit of Apollo. We also travel up the coast, where the sun sets into the Mediterranean, from Samandağ to Iskenderun. (My first podcast on Hatay is here.)
After Istanbul, I went to the south-eastern province of Hatay to stay with a friend I'd made. We stayed in the historic city of Antakya which the Bible calls Antioch, and travelled around the province looking at its amazing heritage. Not many people go to Hatay at the moment because of the troubles in nearby Syria. This is the first part of a two-part podcast. The second part is here.
Finding not much snow up the skifields this winter, I go on a trip to the Matukituki Valley. This is a hidden gem below Mt Aspiring, up a 50 km road westward from Wanaka. It was the site of a famous 1949 expedition in which the elderly explorer and founder of the New Zealand Alpine Club, A. P. Harper, was accompanied by the poet James K. Baxter, the composer Douglas Lilburn and the photographer Brian Brake in the hope of making a great artistic production, which unfortunately never happened.
Just north-east of Auckland, New Zealand, lies the sanctuary island of Tiritiri Matangi, a high-value scientific reserve that is home to some of the rarest and weirdest creatures on the planet such as the kiwi and the tuatara. And yet you can go there, and even stay overnight. Tripadvisor has awarded Tiritiri Matangi its Certificate of Excellence and, as of the date of publication of the original post on which this podcast is based (June 6th, 2019), rated it at #2 out of 208 things to do in central Auckland! (This is continued in a separate podcast, Part Two.)
Cappadocia was a centre of Greek culture for more than two thousand years. For most of its history, the old-time Ottoman Empire had a strong Greek presence, and presence of other Christian minorities, now almost gone from modern Turkey. In this podcast, I talk about Cappadocia's history and cultural relics as well as its freaky natural landforms, formed by the erosion of volcanic ash over millennia and hollowed out to form residences, churches and even whole underground cities!
This post is about Bobs Cove west of Queenstown: a really interesting place to spend a day, with one of the most Instagrammable views in New Zealand from the top of Picnic Point, other attractions nearby, and a ton of local history!
Auckland, New Zealand, is a city that’s now almost 180 years old, yet which even most locals don’t seem to think of as having much of a history. This is the podcast of a post that touches briefly on the history of Auckland, with some colourful images and three videos. It talks about the degradation of a metropolis once dubbed the 'Queen City' by traffic and motorways, and asks if Auckland can get its mojo back.
I hike up Rangitoto Island, the iconic green volcano that dominates the approaches to Auckland Harbour. I swim on the far side of the beautiful island, where you can't see Auckland at all and could imagine yourself completely away from it all in the South Pacific. And all for the cost of a harbour ferry ride.
In this post I visit Auckland's Rotoroa Island, a refuge for alcoholics from 1910 till 2005, which missed out on being over-developed for tourism in the way that neighbouring Pakatoa Island was. Perhaps fortunately so! These days, Rotoroa Island is a nature sanctuary with lots of flightless birds running around under the developing trees. It's still pretty low-key, but there are places to stay.
I watch the sun rise from two of Auckland, New Zealand’s pretty green volcanoes and talk about their history and significance to Aucklanders. The second in a continuing series of posts about sunrises in Auckland, described as Part 2 in the audio.
Before the lockdown, I went to a number of spots in Auckland to photograph the sunrise. This is the podcast to accompany a post that includes some photos and a video from the city's eastern beaches, taken as I strolled from St Heliers to Ōkahu Bay via Kohimarama and Mission Bay, visiting the Savage Memorial at Bastion Point / Takaparawhā. This is the first of several posts that make up the total, and is described as Part 1 in the audio..
This is the introduction to the audiobook of Eternal Egypt: My Encounter with an Ancient Land. In this book, Mary Jane explores Egypt, a cradle of civilisation described by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus as the ‘gift of the Nile’. Mary Jane long put off going to Egypt for years before she finally went. She’s glad she did: there’s so much more to Egypt than the pyramids!
You can order the audiobook on Gumroad, and the Kindle or Print book on Amazon. The Gumroad audiobook includes a PDF with all the images in the print book and Kindle, in colour.
Amazon Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars Worth a quick read!
Reviewed in the United States on February 28, 2020
I liked this little book...its very short and like having an informal chat with the author. I was recently in Egypt for 3 weeks in January (2020!). I miss the country very much! I would never have traveled there alone, however. Some of the troubles the author ran into, would have never happened, and she herself said she should have planned ahead at the time. But, I think she got a much more personal and intimate view of the country than I did. If you're thinking about going to Egypt, GO! But book with a travel agency and not on the fly.
Here is a free sample chapter, 'The Hezbollah War Museum', from the audiobook of my 2019 book Lovely Lebanon: A Little Country with a Big History.
The audiobook is currently available on Gumroad, and the ebook and print book are currently available on Amazon. Here's its first Amazon review, from 27 April 2020 (Five stars out of five):
"Since I cannot travel myself, I enjoyed reading this book about Lebanon. I like the way the author brings in tidbits of history, along with discussions of the scenery. I am anxious to read other books by the author."
If you buy the audiobook on Gumroad, you get a PDF with all the pictures in the book (in colour) as well.
This is the Introduction to my tenth book of travel memoirs, 'Catchy Cyprus: Once was the Island of Love', which you can buy as an audiobook with PDF images on Gumroad, or also as a Kindle or paperback on Amazon.
A report from the front lines of the invisible war in New Zealand, a comparison with Mediaeval social distancing practices, and a visit to a secret oasis in the hills above Queenstown where you can still take your exercise and admire the views!
This is the Introduction to my ninth book of travel memoirs, 'The Scottish Isles: Shetlands, Orkneys and Hebrides (Part 1)', which you can buy as an audiobook with PDF images on Gumroad, or also as a Kindle or paperback on Amazon.
Will Queenstown revert to the animals? That's the question my editor sets out to investigate as the mountain resort town enters the second night of a four-week lockdown, with bewildered ducks wondering who will feed them, timid wild cormorants getting bolder and a little sparrow staking a claim to a streetlight!
In this post, I travel north from Oamaru to the similarly-named town of Timaru, stopping off at Waimate. If Oamaru is the 'whitestone city', Oamaru is bluestone (meaning basalt) and granite, courtesy of a nearby volcano named Mt Horrible. Perhaps the most remarkable attraction is the Te Ana Rock Art Centre, which showcases Māori cave drawings of the utmost amazingness!
My fourth blog post on the Chathams. From Waitangi I headed north again, toward freaky lonesome volcanoes and wandering cattle. And then down south and around, through Kōpinga Marae and listening to a lecture at Kaingaroa, marvelling at the landscape all the way.
This is my second post about the Chathams. I posted it a day after hearing that the New Zealand Government had done a deal to recognise Moriori claims. I visit the grave of Tame Horomana Rehe or Tommy Solomon, the 'last' Moriori who wasn't the last, and talk about the fascinating landscape of the islands.
New Zealand has a North Island and a South Island, but did you know that there's an east island as well? More precisely, an archipelago called the Chathams. I flew there in January 2020 and went exploring. It turns out that this place is far more historically important than people realise! (The first of four posts.)
This is a post about Oamaru, an amazingly historic town in northern Otago, New Zealand. It's the home of the famous writer Janet Frame, and a town that's obvously had a lot of community investment over the years.
The Pigroot, which I've also blogged about, runs south of a great wilderness. To the north, there is another scenic drive, which runs through the the Lindis Pass and the towns of Cromwell, Ōmārama, Otematata, Kurow and Duntroon. This is about that road trip!
Adelaide is famous for its parklands, but Dunedin should be too. In this post I explore the city's town belt, the great belt of parklands that encompasses its downtown area. I visit historic Olveston House, in the town belt. And I also climb to the top of Mount Cargill (north of Dunedin) for a view over the city.
In this post I describe spring travel along the 'Pigroot' road from Queenstown toward Dunedin. I stop in at the historic townships of St Bathans, Wedderburn and Naseby. In the next post I'll complete my journey, travelling south along the coast.
This is the second chapter of my book Iran: Make Love not War – Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll on the Silk Road. It describes where I went in Iran, and is a good overview of the book, which can be purchased as a Kindle or Paperback on Amazon (ASIN i.e.shopcode: B07W4W7FXR) and as an audiobook on Gumroad, at https://gum.co/dyrAC. The book has 283 images, viewable in colour for free on bit.ly/IranMLNWFlipbook.
This is the Introduction to my book A Maverick Cuban Way, first published in 2017. You can listen to it for free.
The whole audiobook is for sale on Gumroad for US $9.99 at https://gumroad.com/l/Ouhrj.
You can also see the photos in the book, 247 images in total, on this widget: bit.ly/MavCubanWayFlipbook.
A Maverick Cuban Way is also for sale on your local Amazon website as a paperback and a Kindle.
In this podcast, based on a November 2019 blog post, I talk about the artistic and scholarly culture of Persia and its contribution to the survival of Persia, or Iran, as a nation over many centuries. Surprisingly enough, carpet weaving seems to have played an important part!
In this podcast, based on a November 2019 blog post, I travel to Raukkan in South Australia to pay my respects to the memory of David Unaipon, the polymath who appears on Australia's $50 bill. I also talk about David Unaipon's life and achievements, against the odds, in an early-twentieth-century Australia where the lives of aboriginals such as Unaipon were often strictly controlled.
Adelaide, South Australia, is a very charming city. But sometimes you want to get out into the country. In this podcast, of a blog post I put up in November 2019, I go to the German-Australian town of Hahndorf, and then to the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary, to the Fleurieu Peninsula, and to the seaside towns of Port Elliot and nearby Victor Harbour
This podcast combines the fourth and fifth of my posts about travel in New Zealand in springtime. I visit Doubtful Sound / Pātea in south-west New Zealand on the 19th and 20th of September, 2019, taking an overnight boat trip and describing the things I see and do along the way. An overnight boat trip is a really good way to see the fiords of south-west New Zealand, as the weather is often changeable . The blog post is dated 22 December 2019 in the audio; part two, which I added to the first post to complete the podcast as part two is shorter, came out on the 29th.
This is a further podcast in my Iranian series. It concerns the way that Persia, or Iran, has often suffered a form of cultural condescension at the hands of the West, for instance in the relative virtues of the Spartans and the Persians in the '300' films. Iran has also been invaded and occupied many times by outside powers, most recently in the course of World War II: a little-known episode which set the scene for the Battle of Stalingrad. The prickly attitudes of the present-day Islamic Republic can partly be traced to these humiliations. The series is also posted, with images, on my blog at a-maverick.com, and on Medium.
In this podcast, I talk about the serious global problem of phytophthora species being spread from one country to another. Phytophthora is a Greek word meaning 'Destroyer of Plants'. It refers to a kind of fungus or blight organism that thrives in damp soil. There are many species of phytophthora and when a new species is introduced, it is often devastating to the local plant community. Local phytophthora can also wipe out imported plants. The Irish potato blight, which caused a famine in the 1840s, was the result of a species of phytophthora. In this podcast, based on a blog post on my website, I talk about the destruction of native eucalyptus trees in Australia and native kauri trees in New Zealand, by what are probably introduced species of phytophthora brought in on things like muddy boots and imported plants in the days when biosecurity wasn't as strict. Other native species in Australia and New Zealand are affected as well.
This post is one of a series that I'm putting out this southern summer, 2019/2020, about the pleasures of travelling off the beaten track in New Zealand. Off the beaten track in terms of place, and time of year. For it's about a trip I made in spring, when when the weather's improving but there aren't many tourists about, to a place called Wanaka, on Lake Wanaka north of Queenstown. Among other things, Wanaka's the site of an oft-photographed willow, #ThatWanakaTree. So maybe it's not that far off the beaten track after all! But still, it's interesting to visit in the off season and to take some side trips to the alpine Matukituki Valley (which IS off the beaten track) and to the Snow Farm cross-country ski facility, which still has some snow to farm at that time of year.
New Zealand is a young country, but a country with a lot of history all the same. This includes the amazing lake steamer, the TSS Earnslaw, launched in 1912 and still going strong under steam power. This podcast is based on a blog post of the same title, on my website, which includes photos and videos.
I talk about how Adelaide is a supremely walkable city, ‘Designed for Life’, thanks to a farsighted early plan. I walk around the downtown and visit the old gaol, and talk about threats to Adelaide's livability as a result of road construction and loss of heritage buildings.
It had been really hot at Alamut, and the mountains semi-arid. So we went through green forests to the shores of the Caspian Sea, the strange inland ocean of central Asia, where people from Tehran go for their holidays.
Perhaps you've heard of the 'Old Man of the Mountain'? Hassan-i Sabbah was the real-life inspiration for the game Assassin's Creed. I visit his stronghold in the Alamut Valley, part of a historically rebellious and frontier-like part of Iran northwest of Tehran.
This podcast is based on the first of a series of blog posts on Adelaide (the capital of South Australia) and the region nearby. Adelaide is a spectacularly attractive city with massive inner city parklands, though many historic buildings are at risk. The region nearby is where nearly everyone in South Australia who isn't actually from Adelaide lives. It includes the aborignal community of Raukkan, historic settler towns and numerous nature parks.
In this post, I visit the ski resorts of Perisher and Thredbo in the Snowy Mountains area of the Australian Alps. The area's quite famous and historic (as in 'The Man from Snowy River') and the skifields are huge. I give out some practical tips about where to stay and how to save money by booking ahead, and share heaps of photos and videos and stories gleaned by talking to local people.
In this episode, I cross the border into Iran and travel to Tabriz, then on to the Alamut Valley. The first thing I see at the border is people smuggling cigarettes! In a small town on the border, I get told with a throat-slitting gesture that I must wear a hijab in Iran or be killed. This advice was overly dramatic for places like Tehran, which are fairly cosmopolitan (though you'd still get in trouble with the morality police). But it might have been true locally and I certainly wasn't going to offend anyone. Leaving the wild frontier with its smugglers and dire warnings behind, I had planned to head toward the Caspian Sea shore and see some old castles there, then travel along the beautiful, green shore of this inland sea to the Alamut Valley, stronghold of a legendary Mediaeval guild of assassins founded by Hassan-i Sabbah ('The Old Man of the Mountain'). But the roads in the north were too bad. Instead, we travelled along the main highway leading to Tehran, a road lined with pictures of people killed in wars defending Iran's Islamic Revolution: war dead who the Iranians called martyrs. The pictures were decorated with red tulips, which are the Iranian equivalent of the Flanders poppy.
This podcast is based on the first of a series of blog posts I'm putting up about a trip I made to Iran, in the Autumn of 2018. I describe where I went in the country and some of the issues it faces. I crossed overland from Turkey, and made my way to Tabriz, and from there to the Alamut Valley, the home of a famous guild of Mediaeval assassins, who took on the oppressors of the poor. From there I travelled to Tehran, with a side trip to the resort town of Chalus, on the Caspian Sea. Then I went on to Isfahan, a famous planned city; and then Shiraz, home of poets and (before the Islamic Revolution) of Iran's wine-makers as well. The Shiraz area is also where Iran's ancient capital of Persepolis and the associated tomb-complexes of Naqsh-e Rostam and Pasagardae are found. And from there, to the famous, Star Wars-like desert city of Yazd, with its wind-catcher towers that drag air through people's houses in a natural form of air conditioning, and its Zoraostrian 'towers of silence', where the dead were laid out for vultures. I talk about Iran's problems with drought and various forms of oppression and enmity, and its amazing ancient culture that comes through in spite of all that.
This is an experimental upload of the first half of an audiobook of A Maverick Traveller, prepared using Animaker and Amazon Polly. A Maverick Traveller is the first of Mary Jane Walker's travel memoirs, first published in 2017 and since updated The Kindle and print versions contain 93 images and you can go to the sales link here. This audiobook episode follows on from Part 1, beginning at Chapter 25, 'Dictators and Dracula''. See also Mary Jane's website and blog.
This is an experimental upload of the first half of an audiobook of A Maverick Traveller, prepared using Animaker and Amazon Polly. A Maverick Traveller is the first of Mary Jane Walker's travel memoirs, first published in 2017 and since updated. The Kindle and print versions contain 93 images and you can go to the sales link here. The audiobook ends at the end of Chapter 24 'All Roads Lead Around Rome' and the second half begins at the start of Chapter 25, 'Dictators and Dracula'. See also Mary Jane's website and blog.
The world's largest ecological reserve behind a pest-proof fence lies south-east of Cambridge, New Zealand, close to Hobbiton and the Waitomo glow-worm caves. It's the Maungatautari Reserve, also known as Sanctuary Mountain. All kinds of ancient and endangered species now have a chance to thrive on this island in the sky, rising up above the intensively-farmed plains of the Waikato. I went for a ramble on the mountain with the Auckland meetup group, Feet First.