The Map: North Island

Photo Mar 22, 8 14 26 AM

Some might suggest investing in a larger sketchbook, but to them I say: no, invest in a creative solution. The original New Zealand map is much smaller, though it depicts both islands. Here is my biggest and most complex trip-map to date. It requires a bit of origami to properly fold and unfold, but it fits neatly into my sketchbook and that’s all that matters. This map highlights the 28 hikes that I completed during my 23 week stay on the North Island. It fails to express how much time I spent driving on winding New Zealand highways, especially the cross-island thoroughfare Highway 1. I traveled from the island’s northernmost tip (Cape Reinga), to its southmost point (Cape Palliser), and to many, many, many places between.

Brownbook No. 17

Liner pen, brush, marker, watercolor, and thread



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tui Tui

highway 1_0002 (1)

Less iconic overseas than the awkward kiwi bird, the tui is nonetheless beloved in New Zealand. These chatty featherheads seem to be the only bird that thrives despite invasive predators. Tuis can be found everywhere from the remotest forest park to trees lining city promenades. They are loud and boisterous, and easy to pick out in the bush due to their distinctive chatter. One Dutch backpacker dubbed them the “R2D2 birds” in honor of their quirky warbling. Take a listen, then do sound rather robotic!


Brownbook No. 17

Liner pen and watercolor


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Windy Wellington

highway 1_0001

New Zealand’s capital is notorious for its wet and windy weather. At the peak of summer it was chilly and damp and gray there. The bay was frothed to a frenzy by a driving wind, and not even the bravest open water swimmers dared to go out.

Brownbook No. 17

Liner pen and marker

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

River Journey

The Whanganui River begins in the rugged volcanic foothills of Tongagriro and flows in a long sweeping curve down to the south coast, meeting the sea in the town of Wanganui. According to Maori legend, the river was formed when Mt. Taranaki stormed off to the southwest after being snubbed by volcano maiden. He gouged a trail in the earth in his anger, and this trough filled with water to form the river. 

We survived a trial by fire on the first day, thrashing through numerous rapids on our way into the more placid gorge. Traffic on the river was minimal, and we opted to stay at less frequented campgrounds, offering extreme peace and quiet. 

On our last day we saw a whio (blue duck) as we set off. These rare ducks live only in fast flowing water and have rubbery “lip” on their beak that acts like the suction nozzle on a vacuum, perfect for sucking algae off rocks. 

These drawings document four of our five days on the river. 

Brownbook No. 17

Brush, liner pen, and watercolor

Posted in New Zealand | Leave a comment

The Story of Pirongia 

A co-worker told me about the Pirongia Traverse, and showed me photos from an article about improvements to the trail. In the article I saw beautiful mountain views and a boardwalk crossing a bushy ridge. 

What I found upon arriving was something else entirely. 

The forest parks of the North Island are known for being muddy, but Pirongia was in its own class. For four hours we hauled ourselves up a sheer lattice of roots and rocks, feet and ankles hidden by boots of mud. The air was close and humid, the trail vertical and littered with false peaks. 

The only reward was a beautiful hut at the summit. After a night’s rest in a warm bunk house, we set off down the opposite shoulder of the mountain. This side was slightly less steep and slightly less muddy, but you’d only know that in comparison. 

Brownbook No. 17
Brush, liner pen, and gel pen

Posted in New Zealand | Leave a comment

The Northern Circuit

Nothing about the weather was promising, but I set out anyway, hoping I’d be lucky and the weather would clear. My first day on the Tongariro Northern Circuit was a long slog in wind and driving rain. I traveled anti-clockwise around the circuit, hoping for better weather when I reached the Alpine Crossing. I didn’t stop much that day and certainly didn’t take any photos, but for 5 hours I trekked through the same muddy tussock-scape, and it engraved itself in my mind. 

On the second day I set off early, finding the first section of forest warm and quie, but that didn’t last long. Soon I was plodding along the great gravel foothills of Ngauruhoe (better known as Mt. Doom). The wind eventually found me, howling down from the mountain, trying to push me off the steep rocky slopes. The wind battered the exposed Oturere hut all day and all night. Eventually the gale drove away the clouds, offering spectacular views of Mt. Ruaphru and Ngauruhoe as the sun set. 

My desicion to do the circuit against the flow turned out to be a good one. Sun, wind, and blue sky saw me through the harsh volcanic valley, up the rocky spine, and onto the Tongagriro Alpine Crossing. Gale force winds still howled over the crater lip, but that was an improvement over the previous days. Plus there was no rain, and clouds were intermitten. After staggering over the windy summit the way down wasn’t so bad. 

Below the mountain the wind was minimal and sunshine ample. I finished the circuit in three days, crossing the plain between Mangatepopo and Whakapapa Village in beautiful weather. The white summit of Ruapehu seemed a void cut from the blue sky. Mt. Doom remained cloudless, showing its perfect conical shape and a stubborn patch of snow at the summit. 

Brownbook No. 17

Brush, liner pen, marker, and watercolor

Posted in New Zealand | Leave a comment

Duke’s Nose

It was overcast, the sea was still as glass, and the view from Duke’s Nose was magnificant. The hike up was shorter than expected so I had time to pencil this sketch at the summit. 

Brownbook No. 16

Liner pen and watercolor

Posted in New Zealand | 1 Comment