Elisabeth Easther talks to the director of MoaTrek and MoaTours.
I had a happy childhood in Auckland, in Kohimarama. The yacht club was just down the road and I sailed a P class there and Dad used to take us fishing and sailing in his dinghy. It's still a great place: the waterfront and Rangitoto. For our holidays my aunt had a bach at Lake Rotoiti, we used to go over to the hot pools there. Today our clients visit them. They're called Manupirua and are not so different from back then, very simple, right on the lake and only reached by water. Our groups sail there with a catamaran company, they have a swim, then we open the sparkling wine, it's a relaxing way to end the day.
When I was five, my mother did some funny maths and decided it was cheaper to take my brother and me to visit an aunt in Sydney than join Dad at a conference in Dunedin. We went by ship and Sydney was fantastic. We went to the beach a lot, mainly Bondi and Manly. And the zoo, you can't beat Taronga Zoo.
When I was 19, a friend and I drove her VW right around the South Island. We walked the Milford Track, went apple picking at Upper Moutere, worked in Christchurch for a while and skied at Broken River. I just love New Zealand, and even at that age I couldn't get enough of it
The Heaphy Track, within the Kahurangi National Park. Picture / Greg Bowker
and I really wanted to drive the Haast Pass and walk the Milford Track before I went overseas.
In Europe I was attracted to Scandinavia, I wanted to go above the Arctic Circle, to see Norway which seemed somehow similar to New Zealand. We hitchhiked all the way to the Lofoten Islands. And if I thought New Zealand was remote, this was even further afield with 24 hours of midnight sun and in wintertime they lived in darkness for most of the day.
For 17 years, I've been designing tours for MoaTrek, providing itineraries for people coming from offshore. Twenty-three days is the longest tour and four is the shortest; they're small groups specifically geared to people visiting for their once-in-a-lifetime trip. We show them as much as we can, to help them feel the essence of New Zealand.
My favourite thing to do in New Zealand? For me it's the great walks. Not the hard-out tracks, but just staying in DoC huts, taking your own pack, taking your time. I love the Heaphy Track, I've done that twice and I'd like to do it again. It changes with the seasons. Everything is different in different lights. I really think Kiwis should get out and see their own country.
And there's our beautiful coastline too - Northland and Tawharanui, that beach and the peninsula are stunning. And everyone has to go to Fiordland.
People seem to enjoy travelling to the edge and we can't underestimate the pull of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - for a lot of people that's the reason for them coming here. In their minds, New Zealand is already a special place and the wonderful thing is, when they do come here, we deliver.
The best thing about my job is the connection to the countryside and getting to know the locals. Everyone is doing their best to ensure visitors go away with great memories. Our scenery is fantastic, but it's meeting the people that gives our travellers the most pleasure.
Travel light, that's my advice. It's so much more relaxing travelling with a carry-on size bag, even for a couple of months. It just dawned on me one day that luggage is a pain. It's easy to travel with less, you can cope with it yourself.