After Robin’s visit in November, it became clear to us that the motels that allowed dogs were just too grim. We would spend a wonderful day, touring beautiful New Zealand, and then come back to really depressing accommodations with rough and scratchy sheets. Tiffany’s Motel in Napier was the last straw. Not only was it as bad as it sounds, we had to beg to be allowed to take Sam into the room.
We talked about the problem with Robin (who has lots and lots of car experience) and we all agreed that a campervan was just the thing. As we drove Robin to the airport, we stopped to look at a classic Commer campervan. It had charm and it had style. It also was very large and I just couldn’t imagine driving it along twisting, turning, hilly, back roads. We all loved it, but unfortunately it didn’t make the short list.
We started our search visiting several used campervan lots and we met with individuals selling campervans through Trade and Exchange (like The Want Advertiser). We learned a lot. We looked at vans that had been rental campers (and smelled like locker rooms) and vans that were highly personalized to make sleeping room for the kids. We looked at one that had gold trim on every surface and a hanging crystal chandelier.
We looked at one that was being built by a man in Whitford, a pretty fancy suburb. He had thought about the arrangement a lot and come up with a plan that put the cooking items out the back door. We saw this van on a cold and raining dayfrequent weather in parts of New Zealandmaking the flaw in this arrangement quite clear.
We went to the North Shore to see some vans that had the advantage of being very, very cheap. The owner of the company told Steve over the phone that they were being built by Italians, implying fine Italian craftsmanship. With some difficulty, we found the shop in an industrial area. One of the Italians showed us through the campervan he was building. If you can imagine a tree house built by a six-year-old, you’d be pretty close. It was all rough-cut plywood, bungee cords, and plastic bottles. Turns out the craftsmen were Italian surfers financing their vacations to New Zealand surfing spots.
As is often the case in our life, we ended up going back to the first place we had visited, a small used campervan lot with a nice owner. We made him an offer on one of the first vans we’d seen. It was less than he was asking, but he accepted it. We complained about the shocks, and he had them replaced. What more could we ask for? A “free” gift? Well, yes. He included a handy glove-box first-aid kit marked with the logo of his yard, Gypsy Wheels. We thought that was a good name, too.