What do Wisdom and Campervans have in Common?

In our preparation for Christmas, Auckland roads are fairly fully to say the least. People scurrying here and there, amongst them a group called “Grey Nomads”. This is a group I briefly joined the ranks of not so long ago.

It is said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That may be true but sometimes I am not sure that I have learnt the lesson completely. I know it in my head but do not always act upon this piece of information; evidence of this is possibly best represented in my recent interaction with campervans. Specifically our latest campervan holiday. Now it must be said that campervans are not my favourite vehicles on the road. I do not always think kind thoughts about the “Grey Nomads” if I get stuck behind a campervan for any length of time, but I digress!

I must in my own defence say that I have not had a lot of driving experience with the above mentioned vehicles, in fact only two! Unfortunately both were incredibly stressful and not at all relaxing until the wretched thing was standing still at the end of the day. My first experience was in England in 2003. England is a country of small lanes. A and B roads and then very fast and wide motorways – not always a great combination for a novice. We did not have a “sat nav” so we managed to get lost in very tight country lanes, as well as trying to negotiate very small village roads, which is not always helpful for a positive family atmosphere in the vehicle. Small roads were not the only problem. The motorways also had their inherent challenges like how do you get a 7-metre campervan onto the motorway while semi-homicidal truck drivers are bearing down on you at 70 miles (112km) an hour. Which is not always conducive to relaxed travelling!

So let’s fast forward 13 years to 2020 and finally being let out of lockdown in Auckland. I’m thinking our roads aren’t that narrow. I drive on the Auckland motorways so all should be good. Well I may have thought too quickly! I should have been warned when I first got in the campervan and there was a sign above the driver’s seat that said “Dangerous to drive in wind and rain!” But no and because I was full of bravado we had the 7-metre-long, 3.5-metre-high version. The 3.5-metre-high part was the bit that was about to bite us.

We were travelling from Taupo to Napier on the second day and we stopped for gas in a Taupo petrol station. When I got out to fill it up with diesel, I noticed with some angst that the roof of the forecourt was probably only about 3-centimetres from the van roof. So when I had gassed up, I gingerly backed it out. That was a close one, but it would get closer. On the way to Napier my wife wanted to stop for coffee so we pulled into this lovely looking café surrounded by trees. You guessed it, one of the trees jumped out and made significant contact with the top part of the van. So significant in fact it punched a hole through the top part of the van. Ouch!


In Napier I spent the first part of the visit going to Mitre 10 to get a tarpaulin and gaffer tape to patch it up. The rest of the North Island leg was uneventful until we hit Lower Hutt where we went to a camp and parked up to sign in. I was standing around looking and realised that there was a designated area to park at reception which was under a forecourt. Upon reading the sign on the wall I realised that forecourt was 3.44m high and our van was 3.5m high. We had finally dodged a bullet or we might have had patches on both sides!

Upon crossing the Cook Strait it was a beautiful day in Picton but as we headed towards Christchurch things changed. So you remember the sign in the campervan about high winds and rain, well you guessed it we had both in abundance. I suppose it is good for your prayer life and the strength you develop in your hands as you grip the steering wheel really tightly. I can’t say that I was sorry to give the good old camper van back and replace her with a Toyota Corolla for the rest of the trip. In fact I was so pleased I think my next car will be Toyota Corolla. The other thing I was grateful for was that we paid the extra money to have no excess on the full cover insurance!

So my simple advice to you is that when you say “I’ll never do that again” remember it and DON’T CHANGE YOUR MIND!

Paul Monahan

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