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To the average person, Murray Reedy s
travel experiences might seem exotic,
even risky: journeying through Iran, or
tracing the tea route in Vietnam, or
following the footsteps of Marco Polo
through Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and China.
But this seasoned West Coast-born outdoorsman
and co-founder of Silk Road Adventures insists it
is not so different from travelling anywhere else in
comfortable way, simply because we know the place
so well," the retired DOC West Coast manager says.
"We ve got 30 countries and we ve got partners
in every one of them. We know these people
personally; they re our friends. at makes it quite
Of course, there was that time about 13 years ago
when he and his wife Pat were locked up for
entering Khazahkstan without the proper
" at was amusing. It was slightly 39 Steps -ish."
e Reedys had left a group of tourists in Pakistan
with their friend and fellow world traveller Bob
McKerrow, who also worked for a short time for
DOC on the West Coast, and they were going to
stay in his flat in Almaty; but he neglected to do all
"We ended up being locked up there for three
days, not in prison but in a secure facility. We
basically had two people in urban camo with
machine-guns guarding the doors while we
occupied the secure section of the overseas
departure lounge for three days."
In the end, they were bundled on to a plane to
Pakistan and told, "Have a nice trip and don t come
Murray Reedy was born in Greymouth in 1948,
to lifelong West Coasters, Marion and Campbell
Reedy. His father was a railway engineer, while
his mother, currently aged 90, worked in the
Greymouth Taxis office until she retired.
"She s a bit of a character in her own right."
Murray has one brother, Peter. By the time Murray
attended high school he was known for his love of
the outdoors. He and several of his friends were the
youngest members of the local tramping club and
they even took over management for a while. From
then on, his interest in conservation, travel and
landscape architecture shaped his career.
He joined the National Park Ser vice and went to
Lincoln College, in Canterbury, where he studied
for a diploma in national parks and reserves
management, equivalent to a modern degree.
His first major role with the National Park Ser vice
was working as a ranger at Mount Cook, where he
was instrumental in setting up the Tasman Glacier
"It seemed an important thing to have," he said.
"When I was there it became more accessible, and
became possible for people to get a ski plane, fly to
the head of the Tasman Glacier, have a day s skiing
and be picked up some point lower down the glacier
later in the day. But this all happened without any
sort of safety precautions being in place."
By this point, Murray was in a relationship with
his childhood sweetheart, Pat, who like him was a
keen skier. ey lived together at Mount Cook until
1969, the year they got married. Soon afterward he
took a leave of absence and they moved to Canada
to live on a ski resort, returning to New Zealand in
For the next 17 years the Reedys moved back and
forth between Tongariro, where he established the
first professional ski patrol, and Franz Josef Glacier,
where he became chief ranger.
When the Department of Conser vation was
established in 1987, Murray became the district
manager for South Westland, based in Franz Josef.
By 1990, DOC had been restructured and
Murray was working in Hokitika as operations
He and Pat lived in Greymouth, where she ran
the Regent eatre and the information centre for a
number of years.
But it was a trip to Pakistan in 1996 that brought
the Reedys current career into focus.
"My interests in landscape architecture were
related to Persian water garden design and
construction, so all the Persian water gardens are of
course in Asia," he said.
"Some of them are still there, magnificent
examples of that form of landscape architecture."
He and Pat took a tour of the country, which
proved to be a fascinating, beautiful place, not the
alarming destination portrayed in today s headlines.
Suspecting that other people might be interested
in the experience, they began developing itineraries
for a tourism company called Silk Road Adventures,
offering independent small group journeys around
the different regions of Asia.
Fortunately for their new enterprise, New
Zealanders have a reputation for being adventurous
A few decades ago, before geo-political tensions
made it impractical, there was a trend of young New
Zealanders going to the United Kingdom, hopping
on a bus or buying an old Land Rover, and driving
overland through Europe, the Middle East and Asia
to get back home.
More recently, older travellers from New Zealand
have become a solid market for tourism companies.
"Mature travellers are romantics. ey like to see
the places they read about when they were kids and
couldn t get to," Murray says.
Sixteen years later, the company has a long list
of satisfied customers, about 30 employees and
business associates, a second office in Australia, and
a network of partners and guides in every country
As for the risk factor, Murray says places such as
Pakistan, Iran and China are more accessible than
they appear in the media.
"It s all about what you know and who you
Some countries can be paranoid about tourists
travelling independently and require meticulous
planning, and others have places that should be
avoided; but with their knowledge and resources,
Silk Road Adventures navigates these obstacles with
"People write lots of stuff about travel, and some
of it s funny, but it s all slightly embellished in order
to make it readable or appealing to people.
"I m sure people do get caught up in dangerous
situations, but I couldn t say we ever have. We re
pretty risk aware."
For example, he had a group of tourists in
Pakistan when the country went to war with India
"It seemed like a very very stressful situation if
you weren t there, but the fact is that when you re
there you don t even notice it. If there s a riot in
Islamabad, it s only occupying one street of that
huge city. If there s an earthquake in China, it
doesn t mean China s falling down. ere s always a
way around these situations."
With the business going strong, Murray retired
from DOC five years ago and today divides his time
between travel and enjoying life on the Coast.
He and Pat run the company out of their home
near Paroa, surrounded by a water garden that he
designed and shrubs and trees they planted, many of
them from cuttings collected during their travels in
In their spare time they ride bikes, go skiing and
visit their two sons, Nick and Matt, their daughters-
in-law and three grandchildren.
"It s been good fun," Murray says. "We still enjoy
what we re doing."
New Zealanders are known for being adventurous
travellers, and Greymouth-born Murray Reedy is
certainly no exception. e former Department of
Conservation manager and Silk Road Adventures
co-founder talks to CHRISTINE LINNELL about
some of his journeys through New Zealand and
around the world.
Murray Reedy at home in Paroa.
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