Meeting Rosie & Nick and their 1970's Oxford caravan

By: Elisabeth Easther, Photography by: Rosie Rogers

For this couple, an oversized Oxford named Nancy is a home away from home. Elisabeth Easther catches up.

Rosie Rogers owns The Experience Collective and, with partner Nick, runs visitor experiences at Tui Brewery in Mangatainoka and Monteith’s in Greymouth. They live an hour from the Tui Brewery in the Wairarapa and regularly travel to the West Coast for work. But instead of flying or staying in motels, when in the South Island they reside in Nancy, a generously proportioned 1979 Oxford caravan.

Rosie and Nick in front of their beloved Nancy

What drove you to buy a caravan?

We spend a lot of time on the road, and when we work in the South Island, we didn’t want to stay in motels. I want my favourite pillow, my own coffee in the morning, and when in Greymouth we didn’t want to be tied to one spot. We wanted to make the most of the West Coast, so we decided to buy a caravan.

Did you have prior caravan experience?

Not at all. We had no idea what we were looking for, or what made for a good experience.

How did you go about your search?

We looked on Trade Me and had a bit of a laugh. "Ooh, that one’s big. That one’s a nice colour." We really should’ve done more research, but we had other things on the go. And on Christmas morning 2016, we said, "let’s get that one as our Christmas present to ourselves". And we bought our caravan without having seen it and not knowing what to look for. But she ticked all the boxes.

What were those boxes?

Keeping the kids entertained

A reasonable price. And space, as we knew we’d be spending a lot of time in it. We also wanted room for the kids. Nick was drawn to the fact that it was massive. He’d never seen a caravan so big - almost 10m - and he thought that was awesome. It also had a kitchen and a bathroom. That was the extent of our criteria.

What’s she like?

She’s a 1970s Oxford, teal blue on the outside with matching furnishings, and she has yellow stained-glass light shades.

First impressions?

She was out by the prison towards Arthur’s Pass. The owners had her near Wanaka for years and were selling - their kids had moved on, and some of their friends had, too. It hadn’t been used for years. We did a walk-around. The lady of the couple was very emotional because the caravan meant a lot to them, so we felt pressure to be the rightful owners.

And it was so large. We got the giggles wondering if we were about to make the biggest mistake, but we also knew we needed to be respectful of the previous owners’ feelings. The woman was called Nancy, so we told her we’d name the caravan Nancy for her, which made her even more emotional.

Then you just drove off?

Yes. She was roadworthy, and we headed to the Christchurch Top 10. Then we had to figure out how holiday parks work, how to plug in, how to use all the different bits. We went to Mitre 10 Mega at least eight times in 48 hours.

What was the first trip like?

We picked up the kids from the airport and went to Hanmer when a massive storm hit. Trees were falling in the campground. Then we drove from Hanmer through the Lewis Pass to Greymouth, and a window blew out on the way to Reefton. It was quite an ordeal.

Have you had to do much to her?

The plumbing and electrics have been redone. We’re continually making improvements, but that’s what you get with an older caravan. But we want to look after her so that she survives. When she’s in Greymouth, we have a handyman down there, and he’s put in new lighting and built a new bed.

What are some of your favourite spots?

Parked up in paradise

We love Punakāiki Beachfront Holiday Park. We park right by the beach, and the sunsets are amazing. We take bikes and ride to the blowholes, or we kayak up the river. Kaikōura is incredible, as is The Rainforest Retreat in Franz Josef. The past two summers we’ve spent a month at Riverdale Beach on my parent’s property, which is where I grew up.

We plug into the neighbours’ power and water and set up a couple of tents. Nick and I can still work, and the kids swim and have fun. In Greymouth, we mostly stay at the Top 10 on a spot right by the beach. All the Top 10 are fantastic.

What’s she like to tow?

She’s so long you have to swerve a little to see out the back, so Nick does a jiggle to see what’s behind us. When Nick was younger, he drove a milk truck, so he’s good at backing. But it is a test of a relationship to be in a public campground with the biggest caravan anyone has ever seen, trying to help Nick navigate, shrieking in what could be another language, while also trying to act cool.

How did you outfit her?

It’s so easy to save a buck here and there and fit out a caravan with old stuff from home. But for me, it makes such a difference to have nice sheets, pillows and towels, a good duvet and proper utensils. In our first year, we spent more than 80 nights in Nancy, so it’s worth getting nice things.

One luxury is to have the brewery cleaner wipe it down before we arrive, open up windows and freshen her up for us. And if we leave in a hurry, we take the linen to the laundry.

What have you learnt along the way?

A good routine is crucial, as is determining the places in which things should live. With lots of people in a small space, proper storage is critical. Having things you can easily take in and out to create outdoor space is useful - collapsible chairs, a good table. It was good to go into it with no knowledge or expectations.

What’s the community like?

At 30, I’m quite young for caravanning, so I do bring the average age down, but it’s fantastic, and it’s cool to talk to your neighbours. We went for an older larger caravan but you can find a smaller cheaper one. It’s such an easy way to create that Kiwi dream holiday. I would encourage younger people to do this and explore your own backyard.

Do you have a caravan philosophy?

Take your time and chat with people. Never try to go anywhere in a hurry because you’re towing a big house behind you. When things go wrong, or they break, roll with it and be grateful you have a caravan. 

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