Thursday, August 13, 2015

Guest Post: Brydie Walker Bain

Quests & The Secret of Sinbad's Cave

© Corin Walker Bain  
I hate to admit it, but when I became a grown up, I forgot about the joy of treasure hunts. I stopped believing that dragons could live behind tall grass. And worst of all, because I was so busy being an adult, I lost hold of the idea that anything is possible.

Luckily, children much cleverer than I gave me a master class in imagination and adventure.

I landed a job as an adventure cave guide for The Legendary Black Water Rafting Company in Waitomo Caves, New Zealand. As a guide I met people from all over the world, jumped off waterfalls and abseiled/rappelled underground. But the best part was always the kids.

Black Water Rafting offered schools programmes for children aged 7-17. We'd take young students through open, flat caves where glowworms hung at eye level and freshwater crayfish lurked. For those a little older, we'd take them on Quests.

A Quest involved a series of clues given to a team of kids. They had to work together and solve the clues to find treasure. The course was set out alongside a river that rose and fell drastically from season to season. At the end of the school year it would be ankle deep. In spring the river was full to the brim, sneaking up among the ferns and trees.

The river was in full flood when I met Sean. We had to cross in a huge truck tyre.
© Corin Walker Bain  

'Let's go,' I said, easing myself onto the tyre.
Sean looked at the dark waters of the river and shook his head.
I reached out my hand. 'I'll help you.'
He contemplated his classmates, already on the far side of the river, and me, who he'd known for twenty minutes. Then he took a huge leap of faith and took my hand. Balanced on either side of the tyre, we both pulled ourselves across the river. As Sean scrambled up the bank he glanced back at me.
'That was awesome,' he said. 'There must be massive eels under there watching our every move.'

After the river crossing, we'd scramble through the rainforest. I remember one girl looked around with wide eyes.
'I bet there are tigers out here,' she said.

I loved those statements. For me, they were the key to thinking like a child again. I looked around with new eyes. If there were tigers out there - what else could there be? The possibilities were endless.

The next Quest clue sent the children into a small cave to find 'a source of light' - a candle. We'd then charge up a hill and descend into a deep cave with a fantastic scenic entrance. Using the candle they crept deeper into the cave and around a corner. Then I'd lean in and blow the candle out.

What happened next was always fascinating. I learned to take several quick steps back before someone grabbed me. I'd stand in the dark, listening. The first reaction was almost always panic - the only light was from the glowworms, far above. But someone would take charge, call to hold hands, and usually in less than a minute they'd be on their way. In another minute they could see daylight again, and they'd be off.

© Corin Walker Bain  
One day a boy waited in the shadows while his classmates raced upwards. When I emerged, he said proudly, 'That was a real adventure.'

I would often return from Quests covered in mud, soaked to my armpits and weary. But none of that mattered. My head would be full of new ideas and I couldn't wait to scribble them down.

My book The Secret of Sinbad's Cave could be described as Treasure Island meets Famous Five - with a mystical twist. Nat Sheppard and her friends find a series of cave maps that leads to ancient jewels, but they are pursued by ruthless treasure hunters that will do anything to stop them.

The following is a brief excerpt. I think you’ll be able to see I was drawing on real-life experiences.

            ‘What is it?’ asked Jack, staring at the paper.
‘It’s our next clue,’ said Elijah.
Jack screwed up his face. ‘A giant bird? How is that going to help us?’
‘We’re obviously on the right trail,’ said Riki. ‘Something used to be kept in that room. Figuring out what this is will help us find the treasure.’ She rolled up the rubbing and put it in her bag.
‘What’s the plan from here?’ asked Barnaby.
‘We need a smooth exit,’ said Elijah. ‘Into a boat.’
‘He’s right,’ said Riki. ‘We could sail out and down the stream.’
            There were three boats resting at the edge of the glowworm grotto. Each could seat about twenty people.
‘Jump in,’ said Elijah. ‘I’ll steer.’ He stepped aboard and grabbed the wires above the boat. Barnaby and Riki followed.
‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ asked Jack.
‘Of course,’ said Elijah. ‘I pull us along on these.’
Jack shook his head. ‘I don’t trust your driving.’
‘Hurry up,’ said Barnaby.
Jack placed one foot on the boat. It drifted out from the dock.
‘Hold the side!’ called Elijah.
‘Got it!’ said Nat. She crouched down and pulled it in. But as Jack moved, the boat lurched, and Nat was yanked forward. Before anyone could stop her, she pitched straight into the freezing black water.
The cold knocked the breath out of her lungs. She gasped, and swallowed a huge mouthful. As she sank into the darkness, her muscles screamed in protest. Desperately, she forced herself upwards and burst into the air.           
‘Grab this!’ Jack held out an oar. She reached for it but missed.
‘Nat!’ yelled Barnaby. ‘Hold on!’
Nothing in Nat’s head made sense any more. The cold water slapped her face and she could feel something slimy around her feet. She watched the oar rise up again and swam clumsily towards it. Then, almost in slow motion, the oar came down. She didn’t have the strength to do anything. It crashed onto her head and everything went black.

© Corin Walker Bain  

The Secret of Sinbad's Cave is available from:
and other usual ebook outlets.

Contact Brydie:
brydiewalkerbain at

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