Travel is a big part of life for the founder of the Cardrona Distillery, Desiree Reid-Whitaker, whose new book The Spirit of Cardrona is out now. Photo / Anna Allan
The founder of WÄnakas Cardrona Distillery Desiree Reid Whitaker shares her best vacation memories
What do you miss most about traveling right now?
Come home straight away. We have a small team in the UK and I had to travel there for six weeks earlier this year which meant a two week stay at MIQ. The MIQ team that took care of the arrivals was nice, but I missed the luxury of going straight home.
What are your strongest memories of your first trip abroad?
Mum and Dad were named Farmer of the Year in 1988, and we took the prize money to the United States and the Ecuadorian jungle in South America. I remember the size of the United States – upstate New York, Niagara, Texas, and California. I remember the giant beans in South America – wild jungle beans about 1m long and there was a sweet fluff in the pod that covered the large seeds – nature’s cotton candy.
What did a normal family vacation look like in childhood?
Our holidays were modest but wonderful. We camped religiously at Glendhu Bay on Lake WÄnaka every summer, and then, from the age of 6, we stayed in my grandparents’ holiday home in WÄnaka. Summer in the scorching summer heat of Central Otago is the heart of my childhood memories.
Who has inspired your travels the most?
Not who, but what. Whiskey.
What was the greatest trip you have ever made?
Probably the greatest thing was traveling alone with my backpack when I was 21, from Latvia to Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Italy and down to Sicily. See mind-altering places like Auschwitz, the Baltic States, ancient cities like Gdansk, Vienna, Verona, Assisi, Florence and Cava de Tirreni.
And the worst?
Arrival in Venice in the evening by train. As I was arriving late I had booked in advance and given my ETA to the receptionist. When I arrived my reservation with the backpackers had been given away. It was a learning experience.
How do you tackle a big trip?
Lay out whatever you want to take with you. Cut it in half. Then cut in half again. Take two separate cash cards (of any kind) and separate them, the second as a backup if your first is stolen.
Which travel destination surprised you the most – good or bad?
I visited the Baltic States in 2000. I was surprised by the extreme poverty paired with wild national pride. The Baltic States had only regained independence from the Soviet Union nine years earlier. I flew to Riga to visit friends who had worked for me in a pub in London, and from there I backpacked through Lithuania. The feeling of independence was palpable in Latvia – the people were incredibly poor, but proud of their independence and nationality. In 2000, the Baltic States still felt the remnants of the Soviet Union’s covert attack – the ticks in the fields were infected with meningitis, that is, if you took a walk in a field and got bitten by a tick, you immediately had to go to the hospital for treatment. This happened to one of my friends when I was with them. Phosphorus had been dumped into the Baltic Sea so that it rolled onto the beaches like natural amber. The Baltic Sea people traditionally collect amber from the beaches and they would be badly burned if they mistakenly picked up the phosphorus instead of the natural amber.
Where was your most memorable sunrise / sunset?
Erice, in Sicily, a medieval mountain village with a view over the whole island.
What do you miss most about your home when you travel?
These days, my children. I travel a lot for work. Ritchie is 6 and Reid is 4.
What do you like most about traveling?
Learn the things you don’t know. Getting to know the similarities and differences of different national cultures.
The Spirit of Cardrona by Desiree Reid-Whitaker. Published by HarperCollins NZ. MSRP $ 60.