Elisabeth Easther talks to Lois Mulvihill of Bike It Now, Clyde.
I grew up on a farm that bordered the Waitaki River in South Canterbury and I never went as far as Christchurch until I was 10. For holidays I'd go to Waihaorunga and spend a week on the farm where my mother was born. At Waihaorunga we did things like ride cabbage trees towed behind the landrover, or dam the creek or slide down hills on cardboard. Our farm was on the flat so we had completely different fun at their place. Kids never get to do those things these days.
After school I worked to save up for travelling and a friend and I went on a 61-day Contiki tour around Europe. We had three nights in each place, one day with the group then one day free to explore. We went to 12 countries and old Yugoslavia was a highlight. Our bus driver took us off the beaten track and all these kids in rags ran out of tin shacks, wanting food and cigarettes. They would've only been about 10 years old. Walking in to the Grand Bazaar in Turkey, men would chase us saying things like, "You are the love of my life". For someone off a farm in little old New Zealand, it was quite out there.
Barcelona was great, we spent a night on the beach drinking sangria out of a bathtub. Going through borders was scary as there were guns galore and one time, driving down a hill in Spain, we lost a bus wheel. It rolled past us and the driver said, 'Ooh look, there's our wheel'.
We spent four months working for a very wealthy family. In 1984 he was the fifth-richest person in England, and they had a farm in Liss, an hour south of London. We took the train to their mansion where they had their own fire engines and all the paintings were alarmed. We met the lady of the house in the kitchen. She was getting soup out of a pot on the stove and was dropping it everywhere. It turned out she was an alcoholic and, as she came to shake my hand, I thought what have I let myself in for? But she was lovely and her husband was horrible.
We were domestic help — maids — and they also had a butler, a driver, cooks, farmhands. Our second night there, they threw a cocktail party for 300 guests and they also did lots of hunting parties. But he was not nice — he didn't learn our names the whole time we were there and sometimes he'd run his finger along a surface and say, "Girl. Girl. Dust." When the children came home they ate in a separate room to their parents, and they'd cry when they went back to boarding school. It made me realise that money means nothing and love is everything.
Now our kids have grown up, I love to travel and I'm very fortunate that my husband Peter is an engineer. He works for a dam company and is on a world committee that holds a conference somewhere different each year. Over the years we've been to Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Vietnam, Bali, the States, Brazil. We've been to some amazing places and we always tack on a week either side to explore.
This year we went to Vienna and after the conference took a train to Passau and cycled the Danube. It's a beautiful ride but I lost my husband there. We were in a little place called Wachau and it started to rain so I said I'd stop and put on my raincoat. I pulled into an alleyway and Peter said he'd carry on and I'd catch him up which was fine, he doesn't cycle that fast. But I completely lost him.
The unfortunate thing was, I had his cellphone and we were entering a city of 40,000 people. All I knew was we had to get to a vineyard that night and we had to cross a bridge to get there. Then I turned around and saw him ahead of me, stopped at a red light but too far away to hear me yellling. When the light turned green he cycled away and I was stuck at another light miles away. Eventually we found each other at the bridge. In future we'll always carry our own phones.
Working as an itinerary planner for Bike It Now, I love when people come into Clyde and say, "Wow look at this place". And I love meeting the people because they're happy to be on holiday. One of my favourite things is creating itineraries for families where grandparents have organised trips for their children and grandchildren. It's a great achievement for kids and to see three generations spending time together, making beautiful memories: that's a wonderful thing.