Encounters in Karamea

By: Jill Malcolm


Crusader caravan 1975 The three-metre Crusader caravan Crusader caravan 1975
Ruth and Pierre Kuntz Ruth and Pierre Kuntz Ruth and Pierre Kuntz
the interior Indeed, home is where you park it the interior

Encountering new people in Karamea inspires a taste for caravan renovation and lifestyle change

Motorhomers and caravanners tend to be adventurous by nature and we come across fellow travellers who have done some amazing things.

Recently, in Karamea, a diminutive caravan towed behind a larger Mitsubishi Pajero pulled up alongside us. A tall man unfurled from behind the wheel.

"I think we will park just here right next to you," he says, his eye twinkling. The rest of the yard was empty. They moved away, of course, but we became friends over the next few days.

Ruth and Pierre Kuntz had rented their Lower Hutt home and been on the road for the last few months; the start of an odyssey around New Zealand, which will take them "as long as it takes".

Ruth, who is English, and Pierre from France transferred their lives to New Zealand many years ago. They are no strangers to adventure. In 2009, they packed a few belongings and a tent into a small trailer and for three years rode a Suzuki V Strom 650c motorbike around Australia.

Back in New Zealand, they bought the old three-metre Crusader caravan (1975) in which they are now travelling. It needed attention and so Pierre, a joiner and woodwork teacher, spent two years coaching it back to its prime.

He constructed a false ceiling, raised the beds and the kitchen sink, added insulation, and fitted a new vent. Then, he ‘spec’d it up’ with a 30-litre water tank, a hand pump, a solar panel, a fridge, and gas heater. Pierre also built two beds in the back of the Pajero so they would be able to go where the caravan couldn’t.

Ruth -relaxing -IMG_2840

The couple has now been on the road for four months. So far, so good. Living in such a small space needs tidy minds and a good routine.

"There is a lot of packing and re-packing," Ruth says. "The very thing I need is often right at the back of the cupboard or the bottom of the box. Another frustration is that Pierre’s and my personal timetables differ, especially around going to bed and getting up.  Because the space is so small, we are forced to do everything at the same time."

Despite these blips, the couple is in love with their new lifestyle.

"The lack of time pressure is marvellous. We go everywhere without an itinerary and are making some wonderful discoveries," Pierre says.

The little caravan is named Quatre Cinq Minutes. Travelling with family in the past, our children’s persistent cry was: "When are we going to get there?" Our answer was always the same: "Forty-five minutes." Now, we try to drive no more than that every day.

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