A while ago, I spent three days in a six-berth motorhome. It was for WOMAD, New Zealand’s World of Music and Dance, a three-day open air festival. We’d booked three nights in the adjacent campground, a racecourse-turned-city-of-tents in the shadow of Mount Taranaki, and, well, having a motorhome makes camping a lot more pleasant.
It turned out we were even more glad of having a motorhome than usual. Heading towards New Zealand, due to strike the very weekend of the festival, was a massive cyclone.
All week leading up to the festival, New Zealand lived in fear of Tropical Cyclone Lusi. It had already caused human death in Vanuatu, so everyone here was battening down the hatches. We made sure all of our garden furniture was secure before driving to the Wendekreisen motorhome depot. We also made sure we had umbrellas, even though we feared it would probably be too windy to use them.
The motorhome we had was a six-berth. Although the furnishings were a little worn, we had everything we needed and more. I was impressed that it had a solar panel on the roof, not that it would be of any use to us this weekend. In fact I was a little worried about how long the battery would last, seeing as we would be using it for three days and not staying at a powered site. Well, we’d see.
Another thing I liked about the motorhome was that the toilet/shower door doubled as a full-length mirror. This was something I sorely missed when my family spent two weeks in a motorhome in the South Island! It also had a proper oven, complete with a grill. Other motorhomes I’ve been in only had hobs. The oven trays made a right racket rattling around when we were on the move, but I suppose we could have storied them with tea towels to cushion the noise. There was heaps of cupboard space.
I was amazed at how many bugs got splattered on our windscreen on the drive down to Taranaki. It took us seven hours of occasional lurching to get there from Auckland, including a long lunch break. During this break, I appreciated just how convenient it was to have a motorhome. Here we were at the side of the highway, sitting round a table next to a nicely stocked kitchen with a fridge, grilling some ciabatta and boiling water for tea and coffee.
My boyfriend had a funny moment when he tried to turn on the toaster. Of course, it didn’t work, as we weren’t connected to a powered site. In the past, we’d laughed at people doing just this and complaining – how silly we felt now. It’s so easy to forget! We didn’t need the toaster anyway, as we had the gas-powered grill. This is what the inside of our motorhome was like.
By the time we’d got to WOMAD and settled in at the campground, it was dark. I had no idea what to expect. As we walked towards it, the sound of African drumming heightened my anticipation. Then we entered: I hadn’t expected it to be beautiful, but it was. WOMAD takes place in a large park. The trees around the edge were lit up all different colours, and the main stage was on a lake. Next to the main stage, upon the lake’s surface, were some statues of elephants and the illuminated letters of WOMAD. They looked amazing reflected in the water.
Now as you can imagine, WOMAD is a haven for hippies. There were signs everywhere that told you not to smoke, but let’s just say the night-time air was laced with something else. It wasn’t unpleasant – far from it – and if you felt you needed a detox, there was a stall selling shots of wheatgrass juice.
As well as the various stages, there were many stalls selling hippie clothes and exotic foods and, best of all, if you crossed the lake behind the main stage, you came across a light trail through the forest. All around the edge of the lake and through the trees, different coloured lights were strung up. It was enchanting. That first night, I only did half the walk, but I promised myself I would do it all the next night.
Amazingly, it hadn’t rained yet. It was muggy and cloudy, but that was it. As I made my tired way back to the motorhome, I passed a tent that had a thick halo of pungent smoke around it… The campground had a very mellow atmosphere that night. It also a very decent toilet and shower block, which saved us using up the water in our motorhome.
The First Night
The wind picked up during the night. We barely noticed it, sleeping snugly in our motorhome, but other people’s tents were flapping around like mad. By the time we got up in the morning, it was raining slightly. I was very glad we had a motorhome as we drank our tea and coffee all warm and dry. The cyclone’ll be here by the evening, we thought.
It wasn’t. Throughout the day, we barely needed to put our coats on. Far from the mud bath the media had predicted, the grass was fine to sit down on. With evening came almost scorching sunshine. Then sun set and I headed back for the light trail. This is what I found:
The Second Night
The second night was even windier. Other people’s tents were bending down onto their faces and snapping back forth so loudly they couldn’t sleep. Our motorhome didn’t even rock. In the morning, the sky was so dim we had to turn on the lights to make breakfast.
It was the last day of the festival. The weather got a bit wetter and windier, but in the park, which is a sort of natural bowl, you hardly felt it. It was a case of, “Cyclone? What cyclone?” All that panic for nothing.
The Third Night
I have to admit that I left the festival early. I was very tired and my feet were blistered. Because of this, I had the lights on in the motorhome for a long time while I waited for the others to get back. I was worried the power would run out, but it didn’t. Not until we had to go to bed anyway. And we had torches. The only bad thing was the fridge went off.
Again, it was a windy night, but even sleeping in the space above the cabin, I was snug. I had expected it to be far noisier. As it was, I hardly heard anything.
In the morning we had breakfast as usual, toasting the bread and heating the water with the gas oven. The milk was fine even though the fridge had been off all night. Still, it was good we were going home now.
The drive back to Auckland didn’t seem to take as long as the drive to Taranaki. Again, we stopped to make tea and coffee. In my opinion, all vehicles should have tea-making facilities!
We made it back without any problems, with the motorhome or otherwise. We returned it very satisfied customers. As for the festival, I’d go again – as long as we had a motorhome.
Article by Abigail Simpson, author of Poms Away: A British Immigrant’s View of New Zealand