The Kiwi actor, TV presenter, singer and comedian on his favourite travel memories.
Pio Terei Tonight screens on Māori Television, Tuesdays, 7.30pm
What do you miss most about travel right now?
I miss warmer weather because normally I take a week or two out of winter so I have been praying for the Cook Island bubble to open up. Travel is all about people and people are so much nicer in warm weather with a cocktail and a bowl of raw fish.
What are your strongest memories from the first overseas trip you ever took?
It was 1974, with the Rutherford High School first XV, on a DC 10 to Fiji. We stayed at a Catholic hostel in Suva and because I love to sing and play I used to get extra helpings of kai from the beautiful Fijian ladies. Maybe they were tone deaf but I wasn’t complaining. I took my dad with me and that was his first time on a plane too. He would have been about 60 then and I think he was even allowed to light up a smoke on the plane. I’ve fallen in love with Fiji ever since then.
What was a standard family holiday like when growing up?
Our standard holiday was West Auckland’s Whatipu Beach out at Manukau Heads. It’s a hugely dangerous beach so we swam at the fresh water river. We had the old-school, square tent with the pole in the middle and we’d live in it for weeks and meet other families there. My dad would catch fish, Mum would bake bread in the camp oven, we’d take a big box of granny smiths because we’re West Aucklanders and we have great apples. We just played all day, caught eels, told stories at night. We had the richest childhood for a family with not a lot of money.
Who has most inspired your travels?
I think as New Zealanders we all love to travel because of our isolation and now our isolation is our ace card. I love people and love finding out about people who are different from me. I love going to places where I’m a minority like China, Vietnam and India. But I never ever leave NZ in summer, our summer is just so stunning.
What is the greatest trip you’ve ever been on?
In NZ, Rakiura (Stewart Island). It’s like moving back in time there. And overseas, it’s India. It was a wonderful place, wonderful people and wonderful architecture and they know how to make good tea and beer.
And the worst?
I try and find the best everywhere I go. People rubbish Palmerston North or Invercargill but I’ve had wonderful times there and I’d never run down another man’s turf. I once got terribly sick from food poisoning in Fiji but I still love it there.
What’s your approach to packing for an overseas trip?
Very loose, just the basics especially if we’re going to summer. I always go to the doctor first if I’m going somewhere like Asia and get the stuff for the puku and the mozzies but I’m not worried about clothes. I once took a mini George Foreman grill to Europe when I was working on a show there where I had a per diem allowance. In the morning I’d do a toasted sandwich, in the afternoon I’d get fresh fish from the market and cook that on the grill and save my per diems to buy the clothes I didn’t pack.
What is the destination that most surprised you – good or bad?
Probably Vietnam. It was talked up to me but it still exceeded my expectations. I went with my cousin, who was 60 and had never left the Hokianga and had some pretty old-fashioned beliefs and we just fell in love with the place. The people are incredible and so hard working and the food is amazing.
Where was your most memorable sunrise/sunset?
The sunsets are best on the west coast, Hokianga North. Going down on a summer day with a little snapper fillet sizzling away next to you on the camp cooker, it’s hard to beat.
What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a long trip?
Eat our kai. I always look forward to a good steak and kai moana. And I watch our TV, the news, a bit of footy, talk to whānau and settle back in.
What do you miss most about home when you travel?
We live in the Henderson Valley surrounded by bush. After the recent rains, I can hear our creek, there are a few sheep out front. Travel reminds me how lucky I am that my whānau live in a place like this. I miss the miracles we’re surrounded with in this country.
Where is the one destination you must see in your lifetime?
There are two. I want to see Machu Picchu in Peru. But probably most of all I want to go to Taiwan because of our whakapapa with the Polynesian gene. I have heard stories about people who look like just like us (Māori) there.
What’s your favourite thing about travel?
It has to be the people. People make places and when you make an effort to smile and try their food and their language, you’re going to have a good experience.