Sunday, 25 March 2018

Going up in the world!

Ah, it's that time of year again.  It hardly feels as though there has been a respite from it, yet here we are already, dealing with our favourite nightmare - the dreaded Van Damp.  What made it all the more distressing was that we weren't even out of February yet when we first started getting damp and mould in the mattress.  At least last year it wasn't a problem until April or May, but come on, give us a break universe, this was still summer! 

The only good thing about us noticing it so early was that it gave us time to do something about it before things got REALLY bad.  We discussed all sorts of solutions, from installing vents in the roof (both an expensive and daunting thought at the prospect of cutting holes in the roof of our 'house') to installing a fan in the base of the bed, to provide continuous air circulation and keep the mattress dry.  'What we really need is something with lots of holes in, that we can put between the mattress and the timber, so that we're not sleeping on a solid surface.  Something like a plastic pallet', I said wistfully.  But where were we going to find one of those?  There was nothing for it but to keep racking our brains for ideas and try to come up with a possible solution. 

Recycled plastic pallets - just what we need!

Just two days later however, the universe provided.  Or to be specific, a very helpful bloke called Dave.  'Bevin says we can have one of these', grinned Gareth, heaving something over to the van and plonking it down in front of the door.  Many motorhomers use wooden or plastic pallets, or indeed whatever else they can find that will do the job as a front door step.  It stops the ground by the door getting trampled and muddy and prevents dirt and grass from getting traipsed inside.  Our wooden step had recently given up the ghost and in its replacement we had just been given a large, square plastic pallet. 

Immediately my eyes lit up.  'Are there any more?'  I asked, hopefully.  'Yeah, there's a whole stack of them, Dave brought them home from work', Gareth said.  Dave was Bevin's son, who when he wasn't working could often be found at the campground, renovating his bus.  'Ohh, you're thinking we could use them on the bed?' Gareth said as I nodded enthusiastically.  'Good idea, I'll go and ask!'  I couldn't believe our luck.  Here was exactly what we needed, right when we needed it - and for free!

Trimming the pallets to size

We waited impatiently over the next few days for the weather to be fine and dry enough to turf everything out of the van, then Gareth set about measuring and trimming the pallets using a handsaw to make them fit.  It took three pallets in the end, which we fitted together like a jigsaw until they covered the entire base of the bed.  Then we made up the bed as usual and admired our handiwork.  As an added bonus, we now had some handy storage space in the pallet to pop our shoes and other bits and pieces in!

The jigsaw is complete

Our new, very comfortable and totally free bed frame!

'You've gone up in the world!' laughed Bevin, when he saw the finished project.  He wasn't wrong there.  Having the pallet as an extra layer had elevated us up a good few inches!  On the plus side, we were now closer to the insulated ceiling, so as long as we didn't bang our heads getting in and out of bed we would be warmer!  I was worried about how comfortable it was going to be, sleeping on top of the plastic pallets but to my surprise we were way comfier than we had ever been sleeping on the timber.  I feel like the Princess and the Pea, tucked up snug as a bug in our big bed of layers!  Only time will tell as the air gets colder, whether we have finally beaten the demon damp but for now things are looking quite literally, up! 

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

All work and no play? Not quite!

Who in their right mind would try and write an entire book during the height of summer, in a campground crawling with people?  As it turns out, me and is the main reason there haven't been any blogs for a while.  Let me tell you, it's not easy writing to write uninterrupted for eight or nine hours a day in a tin can on wheels when you have to keep stopping at what seems like five minute intervals and showing campers where to pay, how to use the laundry and direct them to the dump station!  But I thought it would be good to follow Marian Keyes' example.  She writes all her books in bed so I figured if I wrote mine in the same way (well - sitting on the bed, not in it!) then it might bring me luck.

First draft of the book!  I felt the title was appropriate :)

I couldn't have done it without Gareth; for weeks he took care of almost everything from looking after campers and doing all the cooking, to trying to fit in his own work too.  It was hard to stay on task and watch him rush around like a mad thing, doing all the jobs we normally shared together single handedly.  But we got there and the result is a 300-page book, which hopefully people will enjoy reading.  The feedback I've had from our proofreaders so far is that it has made them all cry!  I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not!  But it's made them laugh too, which is a good sign.  Hopefully it will invoke a similar response in the publishing houses we have sent it to and one of them will like it enough to print it.  If not, well we'll have to come up with another way to get it out there!  For now, we have to play the waiting game, which can take up to four months just to see if it gets accepted or not.  And we already have a second book planned to get written over the winter!  But for now, I'm enjoying having my life back for a bit and enjoying what's left of the golden weather.

We still get out there adventuring!

Today's blog is just a bit of a catch up.  We still have heaps to share from our travels with Liam, which was a crazy six weeks ago now.  I have no idea where the year is going!  We've also managed the odd day trip, which has been lovely and I look forward to telling you about them.  It amazes me how much there is to learn about our beautiful country.  We've visited some places with wonderful, intriguing and often sad history and I've learned more about Maori tales and legends in the past two months than in my whole 26 years in New Zealand!  Some of the stories are truly beautiful and really make you think, I look forward to sharing those as best I can too.

Milford Sound is steeped in history and legend

You may have seen from our Facebook page that I've been doing a lot of writing about freedom camping too, mainly for news website Stuff.  It seems the media can't get enough of freedom camping at the moment and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not.  There's so much propaganda, the whole issue and the public's perceived scale of freedom camping - what it is and their imagined idea of how bad it is, compared to the reality - has been blown way out of proportion.  All I can do, both as a writer and a responsible camping individual as try to counteract each negative story with a positive one and use our experiences of life on the road to show how things really are.  To date, in 18 months on the road we have never witnessed any campers using the outdoors as a public toilet or intentionally dumping rubbish.  The only people we ever have to clean up after are locals.

People think of freedom campers as being only young travellers from overseas.  If they knew how many pensioners were also out there living the lifestyle, they may not be quite so quick to accuse us all of making a mess and leaving nasty presents in the bushes!  Just the thought of it makes me laugh.  I'm not saying it doesn't have its problems, there are always a few bad apples in every box but it is just a few, not every one.  It's one of those subjects that nobody will ever agree on.  The only thing they all agree on is that the current system needs to change in order to work for everyone and allow the thousands of us who live on the road to preserve and continue to enjoy the lifestyle we love.  I've written about it so much lately I'm even dreaming about it, so that's all I'm going to say on the subject here!

It may have been almost 'all work and no play' around here lately, but fortunately not quite.  When we haven't been working we've been having a very sociable time of things!  Once the school holidays are over it was time for the Kiwi motorhomers to come out and play, and what a lovely, friendly bunch they are too.  The last few weeks have been a neverending stream of invitations, happy hours and pot luck dinners and we have had the pleasure of making many new friends from all over NZ, as well as more far flung places like the US, UK and Germany.  Some afternoons there will be just four of us for drinkies, others you can find 16 or even more of us sitting out in the sunshine sharing stories.  We have a lot of laughs and it's such a great way to learn about different parts of the country or indeed the world, places to visit (or not to visit!) and generally just be around good people.  I can't think of any other way of life where you get to socialise with a whole bunch of new and likeminded people every day.  So to finish today on a warm, fuzzy note, here are just a handful of the new friends we've made lately.  If you've met us recently and there isn't a photo of you here, you'll just have to come back and see us again so we can take one!

Blowing the 'bad freedom camper' reputation out of the water, we had the pleasure of the company of these awesome Americans for several days.  Left to right we have Madi, TJ, Greg and Haydn

We had a wonderful afternoon of laughs with these travelling Kiwis!
Left to right: Corrine, John, Brent, Sue, Barbara and Wayne

Us dressed up for a change, celebrating the wedding of fellow road dwellers
Fiona and Steve, along with new friends Andrew and Annie

When John and Lynette came round for a coffee, we didn't have enough mugs or 
chairs in our van, so they brought their whole bus with them!

It's Happy Hour again!  With John, Wayne, Leanne, Lynne
Ross, Mark, Toni, Clive, Yvonne and Jan