Elisabeth Easther talks to Luke Taylor of Go Orange
I'm a good Christchurch boy. Growing up in the 03, we'd go on classic Kiwi family holidays, piling everything into the car, mountain bikes on the back, more stuff than you'd think humanly possible. I remember these really epic, long-distance car rides, although on reflection they were probably not that far away. We'd go to places in the South Canterbury foothills, to the West Coast, Abel Tasman ... On one tragic Taylor family adventure, we drove our beaten-up Mitsubishi Sigma from Christchurch to the Coromandel. It was a classic mum-and-dad navigation exercise. We drove up the wrong side of the Coromandel Peninsula on an old metal road. The sedan was packed and I think the muffler fell off, but we made it to Whitianga. Once there, we fished off the beach for snapper, played cricket on the beach and it was awesome.
At the end of high school, my friends all headed to university with defined ideas of what they wanted to do, but I wanted something more adventurous so I joined the Navy. Becoming a sea-going officer was my first exposure to foreign travel. We were actively deployed from China to Russia, the Pacific to Vietnam and it was the best of both worlds. Not only were we in paid employment, we'd rock up to exotic ports and have a few days to explore, disappearing with friends, hiring cars or bikes, flying to places and having backpacker experiences. I explored the Great Wall of China and hiked through the Malaysian jungle.
In Vietnam, we sailed up the Ho Chi Minh River. It was the end of monsoon season and the water looked like chocolate milk. It took forever to sail up-river, it was raw and dirty, but it stood out as the place I had the most amount of fun. The local people were amazing, and the food was fantastic. I also remember being chased by monkeys in Malaysia, visiting orangutan sanctuaries, and having awesome food experiences. Any time we could eat insects on sticks we'd do it, because you have to take those opportunities.
In 2009, I was on an Antarctic mission onboard Tangaroa, the Niwa research vessel. At that time the Japanese were saying they had to kill whales to do scientific research and we went down to prove that you could study them without killing. That was the longest time I'd ever spent continuously at sea, 58 days, and it's the most inhospitable maritime environment on the planet. It's vast, empty and absolutely spectacular from an environmental perspective. There were whales everywhere, including killer whales, penguins on ice floes doing crazy things, seals, and elusive birds you don't see anywhere else, snow petrels, storm petrels. And it was completely devoid of anything human, just huge expanses of water and ice and nothingness.
They were the roughest seas I'd ever seen - waves up to 15 metres high. With different bands of latitude, from the Roaring 40s, which people experience around Stewart Island, to the Furious 50s, then the Screaming 60s further south. With no landmass to take the energy out, these unabated storms circle the globe and they're impossible to avoid. As a mariner and navigator I loved it. The only thing to do was to pull directly into the sea and heave to, slowed to a walking pace. And credit to the chefs who work on ships like that because, while some people disappear for a week, someone will always want a plate of haggis or fried kippers.
After the Navy, I wanted to work in an industry that was important to New Zealand, so I was attracted to tourism. Real Journeys - and its recently formed adventure company Go Orange - share my values; they have a sense of stewardship, connecting people with the environment, sharing some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Like Fiordland, it's a place most people know about, and it fully meets people's expectations. The kayaking in Dusky and Milford Sound; I can go there over and over again and it never loses its magic. To me, travel is all about experiences, not just about looking at things out of a window.
Further information: see goorange.nz