1300 miles in two cars over a period of a week, we happily concluded that this was indeed an economical means of seeing the country.
Once the cash situation had been settled, it was then a matter of working out what we would need to take. Having two cars and a caravan, there was a ton of room for everything we thought we might need. A fact carefully noted by the women folk and capitalised on to the full. Naturally we took twice as much clothing and equipment as was actually used. Incidentally, we took two cars as we intended to run a 16 m.m. movie of the trip and it was decided that a “camera car” would be essential, a decision for which we were very thankful as the tour progressed, especially from the point of view of shooting movie film.
The general confusion and disorganisation preceding the day of departure was something to behold:
“Has the ﬁlm arrived?”
“Which pots are you taking?”
“I’ll take the electric fry-pan, you take the electric jug. My goodness, I don’t suppose caravans have electricity.”
“They must have. Otherwise why did the caravan we looked at have a three-point plug in it?”
“Is your car wired up for caravans?”
“We’ll have to ﬁt extension rear vision mirrors?”
“I haven’t got the tow-bar ﬁtted yet, let alone worry about rear-vision mirrors.”
“What’s the speed limit towing a caravan?” – who said that?
But, as always happens, everything fell into place. The cars had been serviced, the Oxford Carribbean picked up the night before departure and loaded with clothes (including suits which were never worn), bedding (including blankets which were never used), gas and electric heaters (both used frequently), and all the necessary paraphernalia of cooking and eating; along with jars of pre-cooked soup, half of which was tossed out because it didn’t keep long enough. Oh yes. There was the 5” plug-in TV. set hired from Firman’s too (why rough it?).
ON OUR WAY
And so it came to pass that we were eventually on our way at least my wife and I, towing the caravan (with a car), were, for our trusty photographer Bruce MacConnell, had discovered that he didn’t have any film loaded for the 35 m.m. cameras, so as we towed the caravan out of Napier, some two hours late ourselves, Bruce was still in the dark room preparing for departure.
Now, I thought, we will discover just how much truth there was in Fred Firman’s grand statement that, “You won’t know the caravan is there.” Well, while we knew it was there, we made the happy discovery that, from a driving point of view, the 15-feet home on wheels hooked onto the back made very little difference to our rate of progress (allowing always for the restriction of the legal speed limit, which we found to be a reasonable and prudent one). It was only when we reached the “Taupo Hills” that we noticed any appreciable drag, and then it was only a matter of “dropping down a cog” to maintain a reasonably average speed comparable to the normal speed with which one traverses a winding road. Downhill grades were no problem at all as I had taken the precaution to fit £17 worth of power brakes, a piece of equipment which I now believe should be standard on every car, caravan or not.
We had agreed not to dally too much on the way north, and so we made good time from Napier to Taupo, arriving just over three hours after we had left Napier. Even so this was the slowest stretch, both ways, of the total mileage travelled. Driving along the lakeside promenade of Lake Taupo it felt good to be alive and although we had just spent three hours more or less battling across the Taupo hills, we decided to press on for Rotorua without stopping. Bruce had still not caught up with us. As far as we knew he was still in the dark room back in Napier.
From Taupo to Wairakei the truth of hauling a caravan over a road surface which gave one the impression of being out in a small boat in the middle of the ocean during a storm dawned on us with spring testing vigour, we slowed down fast. From Wairakei on, it was plain sailing, One and a half hours later we were pulling into Rotorua past the Maori Village and Whaka, both of which points of interest we were to visit on our return trip.
A few miles south of Rotorua I had picked up Bruce’s roof-racked Peugeot in the mirrors of the Roadscope (a device which fits onto the roof of the car just above the drivers seat, curving down in front of the windscreen, at the top, to give a perfect view of the road behind, through the landscape front and rear windows of the caravan itself).
A brief conference on the outskirts of Rotorua resulted in the decision to press on to the northern outlet where we would stop, have a cup of coffee, and plan our next move. 0n through Rotorua to Ngongotaha, where we pulled on to the side of the road for our ﬁrst break of the journey. The time was 4.15 pm. and it was about time we decided on where we were going to spend the night.
The two Margarets. Margaret H. on the left, and Margaret M. as they bring over lunch at the Orewa Motor Camp.