Elisabeth Easther meets the head tour manager of Haka Tours.
My family is very sporty and we love getting outdoors to go surfing, fishing, skiing and camping — so growing up, I was very lucky. In summer, we’d go to my grandparents’ bach up in Northland, and in winter we’d go to Whakapapa where we belonged to Te Horonuku Ski Club.
My first time overseas, I was 4 years old and we went to Singapore and Thailand. While we were there, Mum was hospitalised and somehow my sisters and dad lost me on the streets of Bangkok because I’d just wandered off. They had thought about buying me a leash and keeping me on a string — but eventually they found me in the last place they’d seen me, in a gaming parlour where I was watching a guy play video games. They didn’t tell Mum. And I’ll never forget being on a boat on the rivers of Bangkok and seeing kids brushing their teeth in the river water. That was an eye-opener.
After I finished my degree in outdoor education I travelled to Canada with a girlfriend. We started at Prince Edward Island on the east coast and drove right across the middle of the country in winter, sleeping in our car in -35C. I don’t recommend that. To sleep in the car, we’d turn the car on till it was up to 32C, then we’d turn it off and fall asleep. We had amazing sleeping bags, but even so, our noses would get so cold they’d wake us up.
It’s a huge country and we drove a total of 96 hours from one side to the other. We saw wolves, coyote, buffalo and bison. I’m gutted we didn’t see any moose.
I’ll never forget driving around the northern end of Lake Superior with the sun rising, it was just so beautiful. On that trip we went to 15 different ski resorts and my favourite was Fernie, it had the deepest snow I’ve ever seen. It was so deep, you almost needed a snorkel.
Me and some mates bought a Chevy 350 van and drove the entire west coast of Mexico — but it’s not for the faint-hearted, and there are some dodgy towns with bullet holes all through them. On the first day we broke down, but we were really lucky to meet some amazing locals who helped us get the van fixed. Each region is so different; the Baja Peninsula is like the wild, wild west and some little villages are just dirt with a paved line running through the middle. We went right off the beaten track, and using Google Maps, we’d find these secluded beaches with amazing waves. Little taco carts would pop up out of nowhere and you could get a fish taco and cerveza for less than $2.
We went game fishing off the coast of San Jose del Cabo, which is on the migration route of the humpback whales. We stopped fishing and watched as all these whales
When I became a kayak guide, one of our instructors put together a 12-day trip to Fiji around a place called Kadavu which means “eat and lie down” — which was pretty fitting. We stayed at about eight different villages and four resorts and they were the most hospitable people. I took my surfboard, and one day I got checked out by a tiger shark. He kicked me and I pulled myself up on to my surfboard and when he swam off into the blue, I could see he wasn’t small. I was shaking so hard but eventually, paddling with just my fingernails, I got back to the boat.
For me, life is an adventure and having the right attitude is a huge part of it. If you have a really optimistic outlook on life, you’re going to have a much better time. I’m passionate about adventure tours, and I love taking people skiing and snowboarding, swimming with dolphins in Kaikōura and white water rafting in Rotorua. I also love taking people through the Tekapo region, and showing them those azure lakes.
The West Coast from Haast all the way up to Abel Tasman, that’s one of the best parts of Aotearoa. There are rainforests, glaciers, mountains and it sits on one of biggest fault lines and has lots of geographical phenomena.
Future planning is so important for New Zealand tourism. Looking to the future, what will our landscape be like 20 or 100 years down the track? Tourism is one of our biggest industries but if we don’t look after what we’ve got, we’ll lose it. The biggest thing for me is, how do we manage our land and resources, the people and the places, so we can move forward harmoniously? Aotearoa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and we need to look after these environments for future generations.
Further onformation: see hakatours.co.nz
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