When I was growing up our family camped, first in a tent and then in a camper-trailer that we bought secondhand on a day trip from Port Pirie to Adelaide.
I remember that trip well because that morning I woke with a headache that felt like I was having knives stabbed through my head and a heaving guts. I did actually throw up when I got out of bed, but we had barely left the seventies behind and parents didn’t let a little thing like their child’s stabbing headache and squelching nausea get in the way of a trip to buy a secondhand camper-trailer. My dad did make a makeshift bed for me by taking out the backseat and putting the lounge cushions across the back so that I could lie flat–this meant that my brother and I travelled without seatbelts but again the seventies (you know sometimes you see those memes on facebook our toys were sticks and SHARE IF YOU AGREE, okay, yeah, sure the seventies sure were great LOL hahahaha).
Anyway, we bought that camper-trailer which was one of those arrangements where it was a fancy trailer with beds that pulled out from each end and keeping it stable was a pair of rather insubstantial legs that wound down and — if you remembered — back up again when you were making the trip home. It was like this only significantly less fancy.
My holiday dream was to stay not in a camper-trailer on a windswept west coast beach dragging a spade into the sandhills whenever I needed to go to the toilet (west coast of South Australia), but in a caravan parked in a caravan park. My goodness, the number of hours I spent daydreaming about those neat rows of caravans all within walking distance of a flushing toilet. Also, I was fairly convinced that I would meet a boy and we would fall passionately in love and spend the year writing letters before we met the next summer at the caravan park again.
I’m sure I brought some of this childhood longing to my decision to book our potential final family holiday in a campervan that would tour the South Island of New Zealand. Now, usually when I book things I spend countless hours researching every possible angle of every possible option before I finally hand over my cash. This time, I was booking in a bit of a rush because it was a last-minute decision to go and I know that New Zealand books out at this time of year. Also, I suppose because I’d spent an entire childhood lusting after a caravan, any caravan, please god just let me sleep in a caravan that it did not occur to me a van is not a van is not a van. Reading that this 4-berth van is “ideal for two couples or a family” and was available for the time we needed it, I just pressed ‘Book’ and paid the deposit. After nine nights I can say that as a family we worked it out, but deadset any two couples who can successfully negotiate a holiday living in this particular van are unknown to me (no offence). The two beds are bunks one on top of each other. During the day the top one gets lifted into the ceiling and the bottom one–through a feat of engineering and design–becomes the table. At night, the people on the bottom bunk have approximately ten centimetres between their noses and the bunk above them. Remembering that this is New Zealand so it is going to rain about eight percent of your holiday, this is not an experience for the faint-hearted and I think the word “ideal” should definitely be left out of the description of this particular van.
Other people had clearly spent more time researching the layouts of the van because we did not see another family with teenagers spilling out of the doors in this model van in any of the places we stayed. Do you know that strange thing when an emotion you haven’t felt for many years resurfaces in your body and it is immediately a touchpoint to a different time and place? Each time I saw one of the vans with the layout I should have booked I felt exactly as I had felt when I was a child in a yellow commodore dragging a camper-trailer behind it and we passed a caravan or a caravan park.
Somehow or other though, this was one of the best holidays we’ve had together. I will tell you more about it tomorrow, but in the meantime please enjoy the accompanying image which is at 7am on the final day of our time in this van. Ha! You think living together in it is tricky, you should try packing. At least one of those bags came to be resting there after it was thrown somewhat, um, energetically from the doorway.