Bas in South America | Bas Kruisselbrink
Two of our key values at Adventure South NZ are creating connections & passion. These values are shared by our guides and our team and HQ and are a main ingredient in the success of our trips.
When we talk about passion, and making connections, one of our long-standing guides instantly springs to mind. Bas Kruisselbrink has been guiding for Adventure South NZ since 2001 (it's quite likely he's even guided your tour!). It's fair to say his passion for the outdoors is contagious and his ability to connect with new people is something only few people hold.
With experience, comes a bucketful of stories, so we caught up with him to hear about his travels over the years as well as a message to travellers as we begin to face a changing travel scene.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself & how you first got into guiding?
I was born in the Netherlands and cycling was and still is the thing. I remember getting my first (second hand) bike and the world opened up for me. Suddenly I could ride and travel so much further then ever before. A most liberating experience! There were bike lanes and cycle paths everywhere which made cycling rather safe. Together with my younger brother we also used our bikes to get to new and further away fishing spots. Our bamboo fishing rods strapped to the top tubes, a plastic bucket on the handle bars of our bicycles and a rattly box with all our fishing gear and sandwiches on the carrier. Sweet memories! My first real bike tour was to Luxembourg together with a friend. Lots of rain, a leaky tent but a huge amount of fun and a real adventure. I was only 14 at the time but obviously had very fearless and liberal parents.
Every year I went further. To France, Italy, Spain and Morocco, often running out of time and hitching a ride back with trucks or trains. Europe eventually became too small and in the early nineties I quit my corporate job with Audi/Volkswagen and embarked on a world tour per bicycle. Initially thought out to be a two year adventure, it resulted in a 44 countries, almost 7 year Odyssee. That changed my life as I virtually became a nomad. Life after that never returned to normal.
The country that impressed me the most was New Zealand. I just had to go back. I applied for residency, at the time a relative straight forward and easy exercise as The Netherlands had a long standing relationship with New Zealand and more than 200.000 Dutch immigrants already emigrated over the course of decades. After a year in the North Island and work at a local bike store in Hamilton I ended up in Christchurch with a strong desire to do something in the outdoors. At the time Adventure South NZ was owned by Geoff Gabites and John Gooding. We had a handful of older buses and vans and all our bookings were made through agents.
Can you remember your first trip with Adventure South NZ?
My first tour was a 10 day Milford Wilderness Trip with John Gooding as lead guide. This tour ran via Fairly, Tekapo, Lake Ohau and Wanaka to Queenstown. Then after a free day there, we went to Milford Sound and returning through the Von valley and a boat ride on the “Earnslaw” steamer back to Queenstown. This second half of the tour is a trip that we nowadays still run virtually unchanged.
Despite a number of technical issues and some challenging weather it was a great experience and tour. John Gooding showed me the ropes and I remember the sheer excitement of travelling to all these wonderful places and sharing this with people who were there to have a good time. On the other hand, the responsibility was large and challenging.
What really appealed to me was how you really needed to be a jack of all trades. I was always very adept at solving mechanical issues and from an early age I tinkered around with anything mechanical, but mostly bicycles. To be a successful tour guide you needed to be a driver, (bike) mechanic, psychologist, first aider, host, cook, etc.etc. That challenge was something that really kept me engaged and interested. The year after a number of these clients on this fully booked Milford Wilderness tour came back for more. Most inspiring! My love for tour guiding was born and I never looked back.
Is there a particularly funny moment that stands out?
In almost 20 years of tour guiding there were many many memorable tours and actually very few issues or mishaps. Interesting enough I often had clients on bike tours with little biking experience. Sometimes even no experience at all. I remember a young client from Hong Kong who was super keen but could not really ride a bike. We used pretty well a whole first aid kit on him as he kept falling off.
After a number of days he was all bandaged up and covered in band aids. It never really dampened his enthusiasm and every time he fell off he immediately jumped up, all bloodied up and threw his arms up in the air proclaiming “I’m OK.....!! “ His surname was “Wai” so everyone asked him “Why Nick, why?” which he thought to be very funny! But he got the hang of it eventually and when we tackled the downhill from the Homer tunnel to Milford Sound, he begged me to let him take this on (I remember being a bit reluctant about a 16 km downhill for such a novice cyclist) and gave me his Sony Handy Cam (times have changed!) and asked me to film him so his family in Hong Kong could enjoy his New Zealand escapades.
I waited for him in a corner with a great background view. He came around the bend, was going way too fast, lost it on the gravel and then completely disappeared in the thick bush. Luckily he wasn’t hurt badly and he came storming out of the bush with his hands up in the air shouting “I’m OK, I’m OK!!” I got it all on film and everyone had to have a look later when we were on the overnight boat. Hilarious! Mr. Wai returned the year after for yet another tour and came prepared with a BMX outfit including elbow and knee pads. That wasn’t really needed as he obviously practiced a lot at home!
What inspires you most about guiding?
Many memorable tours come to mind from almost twenty years of Adventure South NZ tour guiding. One thing I take away from all these countless interactions is the realisation that everyone in life at some stage faces a tragedy or difficulty. Regardless of how much money you’ve got, there is no escape from tough times. I remember many inspiring stories of clients who overcame illness, serious accidents or the loss of a partner or family member.
One of the real positive sides of tour guiding were the many wonderful, tragic, hilarious, touching, unbelievable or beautiful stories I heard. It helped me to reflect on my own life and certainly was useful when there were moments that life was not treating me well and I felt perhaps a little sorry for myself. These tours always seemed to bring the best out in people which explains why there are hardly any bad memories or tours that I regarded as being under par. It is just a great and most rewarding business to be involved in. Challenging and demanding at times, but rewarding.
Adventure South NZ has therefore always been an important part of my life. Next year I will be 60. Just a number but I cannot deny feeling the years sometimes. I am still fit and healthy but am shielding away from the full-on 6-8 hrs a day walking tours. During the New Zealand winter I move back to Europe and over the last couple of years I have build an alpine chalet in the Bavarian Alps with my German partner. But New Zealand is my first love and I will always continue to come back.
What is one message you have for travellers as we begin to face a changing travel scene.
I believe that in the end tourism in New Zealand is not only going to survive but we will come better out of this than we were before. I think that for some years the focus of Tourism New Zealand was more on quantity than on quality. At some stage I was worried that this ever evolving and growing tourism in New Zealand was about to destroy the very thing that attracted people to New Zealand in the first place.
I think that if you decide to book a tour now with Adventure South NZ, next season the experience will be even better. There will simply be more space and less people and vehicles. This crisis was a wake up call. Tourism in New Zealand will be redefined and will be different. The focus will be on quality and on the experience. That was always the trademark of Adventure South NZ but we had no influence on what was happening and changing around us. New Zealand obviously has leadership, hence the way our government so far dealt most successfully with the COVID-19 crisis.
I hope you support us in our quest to be the best and book a tour with us for next season. We cannot wait to show you around and let you experience this magical country!
From all of us at Adventure South NZ and our travellers thank you for delivering so many phenomenal experiences to our travellers and constantly going above and beyond.