Road Tripping New Zealand – How to beach a Motorhome

Here’s an idea for a new reality show. Stop me if it’s already been done.

Get a family of, say, 5 people. Different ages, but make sure there’s teenagers involved. Put them in a camper-van and tell them to drive across a country. Video it.

That stuff is psychological dynamite. Guantanamo has nothing on torture like that. It will rate the hell out of KUWTK (whatever that is). There’s thesis by the dozen in it too – just make sure I’m credited.

I’m not mentally equipped at this point to embark on that story. I still have ten sessions with the therapist. However, I can relate one event without curling into the foetal position.

On these trips, I’m usually the driver. Not always, but usually. There is definitely a different mindset between myself and my wife. I haven’t yet figured out whether it’s a male/female thing, or a passenger/driver thing.

The difference is that once I have a destination in mind, I want to get there, quickly as possible, no stops, hold your bladder.

On the other hand, there is a much more relaxed attitude from the passenger. Stop here. Look at that. I’m hungry. I need to vomit.

One such event occurred on a recent trip in New Zealand. As a country, it always reminds me of your bimbo cousin – gloriously beautiful but slightly dim-witted. (As an aside – I don’t actually have a cousin that fits this description – please stop the litigation). We were on our way from Lake Taupo (yes, do visit, the stars are incredible) to Mt Cook.

We were driving an oversized motorhome. It was a tired old grandma of a thing, broad about the beam and with the wheelbase of a panzer tank, without the agility. It was just hanging in there for one final tour of duty, I believe, before the pension kicked in.

The road to Mount Cook was gorgeous. We marvelled at the beautiful countryside, the mountains reared up before us, the road ran along the banks of a bottle-blue lake. I had been driving for 5 hours or so, and fatigue was setting in. I wanted to get to my destination – having been there a decade previously I knew a fireplace and a well-stocked bar beckoned.

My wife had other ideas. She wanted to stop and take photographs. Maybe stretch the legs. Breathe some non-foetid air – the current batch had been recycled through three teenagers and their socks, and hence was probably not an unreasonable request.


But I really wanted that drink. I tried to distract her, saying that there would be plenty of scenic vistas at the destination, and besides, there was very little room on the side of the road to pull up this lumbering behemoth. However, her sentences shortened and her lips began to purse. I knew that the continued happiness of the journey (such as it was) depended on my compliance.

Up ahead I noticed a large open patch of gravel off to the right, big enough for a u-turn once the photography was done. There was no traffic on the road in either direction, and I judged that I could make a safe, slow turn into the area without difficulty. I executed the manoeuvre and parked the machine.

The wife jumped out with the camera and snapped off a dozen or so quick shots, while the children bitched about the lack of wi-fi and/or the proximity of each other’s feet. I took the opportunity to get outside some crisp clean air and stretched my legs. I had to admit: the scenery was spectacular – sheer, snow covered peaks, jagged and impenetrable.

After ten minutes, we were ready to get underway for the final push. By my reckoning, we were only about 30 minutes from liquid refreshment. I coaxed the ancient contraption into life. As planned, I drove the vehicle into the clearing with a view to performing a U-turn.

The space was wide and flat, covered in gravel, and plenty big enough for the job. The only blemish was a slight divot, containing, curiously, a few boulders in its base. If I had better powers of observation and deduction, it might have given me pause.

I blithely commenced the manoeuvre, bumping down into this small incline. All of a sudden, the vehicle let out a grinding groan like a quarry rock-fall and halted. Naturally, I thought that I had struck something, but I was at a loss to think what it was. The area had been clear.

We got out and inspected. The issue appeared to be the aforementioned apparently insignificant dip. The wheel base of the truck was so long that the back wheels were no longer touching the ground, and it was resting on the front wheels and rear bumper.

We were beached, rendered immobile, possibly permanently, miles from a major city, and, apparently, phone reception. The bar receded into the distance like my hairline.


(Next Week – The Conclusion – Road Workers – Police – I fear for my deposit)

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