Retiring from work as an orchardist was not easy for Brian Smith. He had to tell himself he wasn’t going to sit around and wait to die. So he booked a multi-day cruise to an incredibly remote area in New Zealand - a Discovery Expedition to Dusky Sound in Fiordland. ‘’I don’t remember where I read about it but it appealed to me.”
That was over ten years ago.
Since then, almost every year, Brian leaves his home in Hastings, catches a coach to Wellington, then the ferry to Picton followed by another three coach trips to Christchurch then Te Anau before finally reaching Manapouri. It can take him up to a week just to get to Fiordland and then another week home again.
“If you just fly over the top of it all you miss everything! But yes, the most difficult part for me is getting here and getting back. Once I’m on the Wanderer – heavens - they look after me.”
Brian’s first trip was not memorable. “It was the slightly shorter trip to Dusky and it rained the whole time. I wasn’t overly excited about it, I have to say, but I thought oh well I’ll give it another go. And then of course - I really enjoyed it.”
So much so, Brian books his annual trip a year in advance. “You need to have something to look forward to.” The 78-year-old tells his doctor to make sure he lives long enough. He laughs: “I tell him we need to work together on this because I’ve paid my deposit!”
Brian with the crew of the Milford Wanderer
Brian paid the deposit on his tenth Discovery Expedition that leaves next April (2021), before even completing his ninth trip in October.
“I really like the Milford Wanderer – it’s a lovely ship. I like being taken here and there - and all the walks. I’m well looked after, they provide very good meals, nice accommodation, everyone’s friendly and it’s just a really restful holiday.”
The slower pace of Fiordland is part of the appeal – along with the lack of television, phone and the internet. “It’s a place that’s virtually the same as it’s always been - like going back in time. This year I just couldn’t wait for six days without COVID-19, six days without our election and six days without Donald Trump!”
Although he now knows what to expect, Brian says every trip is different. “It’s dominated by the changeable Fiordland weather. There’s plan A,B,C,D or E and they always do interesting things - even if it’s raining.”
These days he likes to check beforehand which of the two Discovery Expedition crews he’ll be travelling with. He knows both teams “pretty well”, but diplomatically says he has no favourites. “I admire them all. Some have been there a very long time.”
As for his favourite Discovery Expedition – the answer is similar. “I saw a whale on my last trip. Maybe it’s because I can remember it the best - but my favourite trip is always the last one I’ve been on.”
Tsehai has been a journalist for over twenty years and loves interviewing people and telling their stories. She’s been part of the Wayfare whanau since 2014, and finds the best part of the job is being able to get out of the office (and out of range) to write or film in the stunning deep south of the South Island.