Camper van fans

By: Elisabeth Easther

John and Nicci Weild loved motorhoming so much that they turned it into a job. Elisabeth Easther finds out how.

Christchurch’s John and Nicci Weild are happy campers. They are currently living in West Melton, just outside of the city, having moved there from Sumner after the earthquakes. They make the most of their life on wheels, often joined by their two sons, daughters-in-law, four grandchildren and dog Molly.

John’s pride and joy

Their four-berth Dethleffs motorhome features swivel seats, a light and bright lounge and a separate spacious bedroom with en suite. A former sales agent, John is now his own boss and works from home, hiring out four RVs through Mighway, and managing a fifth for a friend.

Molly loves to travel too

How did you enter the motorhome scene?

My wife Nicci had always liked the look of motorhomes, and we bought our first in about 2008. We started with a two-berth Toyota HiAce, but pretty soon we got a bigger vehicle. After the earthquakes, we lived in our camper at the bottom of the driveway for a while.

We were in Sumner, and it was the only place we felt safe. Because of the earthquakes, we decided to live life to the full, so then we bought a six-berth. Also because I’m into motocross and powerboat racing, we needed something bigger for all the gear. We travel with dirt bikes, mountain bikes, a jet-ski and inflatable kayaks. 

Did you ever have any reservations?

To begin with, we thought we might feel a bit out of place - thinking we were younger than most motorhomers. But there are lots of young people now, many with families and we’ve made plenty of friends since we bought our motorhomes, including several groups we go away with at Christmas. We meet people everywhere we go. With the dirt bikes and a race boat, people often come over to have a chat, maybe a beer. Sometimes we’ll take people for a ride. 

What are some of your favourite spots?

John at Otematata

We love the lesser-known lakes down south - Aviemore, Benmore, Dunstan. At Dunstan, you can park right on the water’s edge. In Cromwell, you can also stay right on the lake, just a metre from the water and sit on a deck chair and fish. Nicci enjoys fishing. 

In winter we love Tekapo and Twizel. In Twizel, you can park above the lake, up on the hill. It’s perfect for self-contained vehicles. It’s so beautiful, looking out to the mountains above the lake. The NZMCA has a beautiful lakeside camp in the forest in Tekapo.

What a view...

And in a motorhome, if the weather turns to custard, we drive on till we find nice weather. Twizel gets bad fog at certain times of the year, so if it rolls in, we just shut the doors and go somewhere better. You can’t do that if you’re booked into a motel for a week. And you don’t meet people in a motel the way you do in a motorhome. 

Is there anything you miss about motels when you’re in your motorhome?

Camper, bikes, jetski... all the toys!

No. When our boys raced motocross, we’d stay in motels 30 minutes from the venue. But with a motorhome, you ride the trails, come home all dirty and muddy, have a hot shower then go riding again in the afternoon. I have a friend who’s into rallying, and when we first got the motorhome he said, "You’re joining the bloody oldies club". Then we went to Twizel together, and two weeks later they bought their own motorhome.

I believe You’ve bought a few motorhomes?

Along the way, we started hiring a vehicle out, owning one and hiring one. Now we have five motorhomes that we hire through Mighway. We have a lot of repeat business, and we’re booked out almost till March. We’ve had a few problems, but they’re the exception. Some people aren’t used to the length of the vehicle and reverse into a post at a campground.

Or they take a corner too tightly and scratch the paintwork. But everything is covered by insurance and Mighway takes a bond so, if there is damage, it’s not an issue. You’ll never get rich renting RVs, but it provides a good lifestyle, and we have all winter off to go powerboat racing.

When people look longingly at your set-up and say they might like to buy one, what do you suggest?

Loaded up and ready to go

If you’re thinking of buying a motorhome, it’s a good idea to rent one similar to the one you’re looking at. Does the bed configuration work for you? How are the toilet and shower set up? Our motorhome has a separate bedroom in the back with a Californian King.

We have a full-size fridge-freezer, a lounge that seats six and a second electric bed that comes down at night. And there’s a garage in the back for all the toys. Because my wife likes sleeping in, I can get up in the morning, shut the door to the bedroom, and the dog and I do our thing. She’s a little Westie and goes everywhere with me.

It sounds quite lavish. What power system do you use?

We have three-way gas for water-heating and cooking. If we plug into power, which we don’t usually do, it turns onto the house battery and when we’re driving it switches to the car battery. We have huge solar panels on the roof that charge the house battery. It was -4°C at the last boat race we went to, there was ice outside, but we’re double-glazed and insulated with central heating, so we were as warm as toast. We hire out one motorhome that even has underfloor heating. 

Any last thoughts?

The great thing about all the toys is that if we stay somewhere for, say, five nights, we can fully unpack, set up the awning and, because I have the adventure bike, we jump on that to get food, or go for a cruise. Motorhomes are great. We wouldn’t be without ours. If we’d known what it was like earlier, we’d have done it ages ago. 

If you’d like to be profiled in our People pages, please email us at Tell us a bit about yourself and your RV history, perhaps mention a few of your favourite spots — we’d love to share your story.

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