The fight was long, it was a life for other people, but the plus points of a campervan won, writes Trevor McKewen
They were a tribe - and one that I'd never wanted to join.
I'd seen them before, of course.
They gather regularly at the base of the Thames Firth. They call it the Seabird Coast and there are always a heap of them parked alongside the Miranda coastline.
I'd see them up north too. Out west. Out east. Congregating, chewing the fat, comparing sizes.
I had resisted joining them. Somehow it was an unagreeable nod to advancing years that I did not want to make.
Campervan people. Mobile nomads with silver hair. Jolly geriatrics leering over giant steering wheels.
They seemed like a mob I should avoid at all costs. To join them was a concession to a ticket on a bus that I didn't necessarily desire riding in.
All my senses were screaming to run. Join a lawn bowls club, play bridge, visit museums - anything but this!
It was my own fault, of course.
I revealed a weakness when the annual campervan show showed up at Greenlane in Auckland and two free tickets crossed my desk.
I mentioned it to the Second-Time-Around-Bride and she said we must go. We should keep an open mind, she said. The golden years are coming faster at us than you can say 'zimmer frame'. We should check it out, she advised.
So check it out we did. And there we were, strangely tempted.
Enter the folk from
The Pukekohe-based company has made an art form of importing Mercedes vehicles and adding their own Kiwi-inspired touch.
Take a vehicle for four days they said. Try it out, they said. So we did. Reluctantly.
To be honest, I was concerned I might like it. I needed to rage against the storm. My hair might be silver but I didn't have to join the tribe.
I saw a picture of myself driving one. I remembered the scorn I'd typically reserve when I'd see the same picture on the road, especially when stuck behind one of them on a decent hill climb.
I must admit the size daunted me. It didn't help as we drove out of the Pukekohe yard in a seven metre beast that initially felt like piloting a Ritchies bus.
This was always my fear. These things are so bloody big. How would we cope?
The answer was 'surprisingly well'. By the time, we had cleared the Harbour Bridge heading north I was driving the thing like it was a passenger car. A five litre engine reduced the anxiety element. They are not as slow up a hill as I believed.
We drove around State Highway 16 to get an initial feel before doubling back down to Puhoi for our first night away. One immediate benefit was sitting up much higher than in a passenger car. I'd travelled the picturesque SH16 many a time in the past. But somehow being higher up on the road offered a fresh perspective.
The rain bucketed down but it was a surprisingly comfortable night despite the incessant pounding on the roof. A great pub meal and more than the odd ale preceded a gentle 50 metre walk across the river bridge before tucking into a comfortable double bed.
The convenience of it all sat well.
Where's a campervan when you need it after a big night on Ponsonby Road?
Some tiki-touring around Mangawhai, Waipu Cove and Ruakaka followed the next two days. The ease and comfort continued to surprise.
My worry was driving off the beaten track. I surf, so I do that all the time. Disappearing off down this road and that, seeing where it might lead to, whether there was a wave about.
But this wasn't a vehicle that looked like it would be at home down nooks and crannies. I feared heading down a narrow road, finding out it led to nowhere and then facing a 23-point turn to get out.
The bottom line is you do have to be smart. But the van is surprisingly easy to navigate.
Reversing cameras are surely one of the best devices ever invented.
The bride's other concern was my time-honoured ability to listen to instructions and then ignore them. She knows I'm a world champion at nodding that I've got it when absolutely nothing has actually sunk in and therefore will not be retained.
Given that the run-down from the TrailLite people on everything from emptying the loo to co-ordinating the satellite TV took almost an hour, her anxiety was well placed.
Yet within a day it all become rote. What had seemed a tad intimidating just became habit.
Everything else got our seal of approval. We cooked a couple of meals inside, watched some satellite TV, found the shower surprisingly large and user-friendly and enjoyed the way the driver's and passenger's chairs swivelled around to make for indoor get-togethers.
We met other members of the tribe. We got on. Some came over for a drink and complimented our mobile home on wheels.
I'd see other members of the tribe driving the other way. Suddenly there was a bond between us. A friendly wave, a knowing wink.
I found myself comparing awnings with a guy in Puhoi. Next thing I'm discussing the merits of bike racks with some guy in Marsden Cove. Some guy in Warkworth gave me a tip on toilet chemicals.
I began to worry.
By the time we returned the vehicle to Pukekohe, I was in a cold sweat.
We'd both enjoyed it.
We should think about joining the tribe, said the bride.
"Dammit", I muttered under my breath. "The bastards have got me."