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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

When Travel Gets Real: Getting Lucky DownUnder in a Typical Kiwi Camper

Lucky VanLife in New Zealand

The Kiwi Camper holiday dream is out of reach for most people on a budget. Once the flights, rental, fuel, insurance and camping fees are added, you are better off to rent a little clunker and stay in motels. It is not ideal. At least you will be able to say you were there.

New Zealand is probably one of the most popular destinations to explore by camper. The weather is good (mostly), the roads are safe (mostly), camping spots are everywhere and many of them free or at a nominal fee. How does the term "freedom camping" sound? New Zealand may not have invented the concept, but they are working on perfecting it. You freedom camp and they actually encourage you to do it (mostly).


Unfortunately, parking a camper by the ocean or on the beach comes at a price. It is in high demand with the retired older folk and affluent German tourists. A few large operators dominate the market. And as it goes with a service in demand, it usually comes at a higher price.

The alternative, for younger people, is to buy a cheap Van, fit it out with the necessary amenities when you arrive, and build more into it as you explore the country over several months. You are looking at the cost of around $5,000 to $10,000 for a reasonably conditioned Japanese imported passenger or trade van. The rest is for inexpensive planks to build a bed and some shelving, cooking gear, portapotty, mattress and bedding and water tanks. Budget around $2,000 for that. Give it a good mechanical service when you set out. Insurance is cheap from the AA. A warrant of fitness (WOF) will last you the duration of your trip. The good thing is, when you are done you will be able to sell it to the next eager student explorer at the same or even better price.

There is another choice if you want to dip your toe into the water of budget camping travel NZ-style. You can get Lucky. Seriously, Lucky Rentals arrived in NZ. If you are on a budget and want to give Vanlife DownUnder a try, you can get into a Lucky Van (or camper) and see what the great land of the Long White Could have to offer for a short 2-3 week explorative journey. It won't break the bank, thanks to Lucky. If you go longer, then it is better to buy a van.

The name Lucky Rentals rings more accurate than we thought. Look at their nice website. Make a reservation, and you cannot believe your luck to get such a sweet little camper for less than the hire of a small passenger car. The pictures conjure visions of adventure, comfort, utility and confidence. In their own words, "This 4 sleeper boasts a cooker, a fridge and a kitchen. That’s pretty much everything you’d ever need from a camper. Trust us, this thing is the goods."

Lucky Rentals squeeze the last of the life left out of end-of-life Ozzie Lucy rental campers, for what appears to be a song if you are willing to put up with all the "luckiness" that comes with it. Don't get me wrong. We think it is an excellent concept, if only they can pull it off (a little better). It operates in a market sector where there is a big demand. However, you need to know what you are getting into when you rent a Lucky.


In our three weeks during November we rented three vans from Lucky Rentals and ended up with four. Our experience started with friendly staff at 08:00 in Christchurch on a typically miserable rainy Canterbury morning.

Our reservation was for 08:00. At 09:10 we were informed that the unit we were to get had some electrical troubles. They were looking into it. Two hours later, and terribly late for our appointment in Dunedin, we finally were on the road with our 566,000 km, 20-year old Lucky Roadie that looks like it's seen the Outback! The condition of the vehicle is a shock. But hey, it is an adventure, isn't it?

Credit where it is due. Everything worked, sort off, except for the air conditioner, and we couldn't get above 80km/hour. Truth be told. We didn't want a higher speed given the risk. We were surprised by the damage security hold of $2,500, which we thought a little excessive considering that the vehicle was probably not even wort that. Less is available if you are prepared to bump the insurance to almost the daily rental fee, which doesn't make sense. Nevertheless, we persevered and after a few days actually fell in love with our Van. Yes, it was slow, noisy, dirty, damaged and full of character. It worked. Thankfully!

Our next Lucky rental was in Auckland. Same routine. Booked for 10:00. Got it passed 12:00. By now, we were into Island time and knew what to expect. This one needed tyres apparently, which they only discovered when we arrived. It also needed more diesel tax. This was also quickly arranged while the hours ticked by. Finally, on the road, we discovered that the unit overheats in the hills of the Coromandel and there is funny hissing sound from the right rear tyre.

Seemed the new tire also acquired a brand new nail as we left the Lucky parking lot. It caused a slow puncture. We made it to Whangamata to get the tire fixed (our cost) and found that there were almost no oil or coolant in the engine. Topped her up. The overheating continued. Spent the weekend and took her back the next Monday to Lucky in Auckland.

Let's just say we had to remind Lucky of their customer service obligations under the consumer protection act of New Zealand. We managed to get a replacement "upgraded" Rover unit with a portapotty for the remainder of our journey. A few days later we also picked up a Rookie with a leaking sunroof and bald tyres. (The other Cowboy refused to continue bunking in the same Van - that's a story for another time.) By now, I think you get the Lucky picture.

We were Lucky to get a van from Lucky that is in a reasonable working condition, for the money we paid. Are they safe on the road? Hell no! After all our good luck we asked ourselves if it is worth the risk and trouble to get a Lucky van again. We think not.

Stay longer in New Zealand, buy an older model passenger or trade van. Fit it out during the first few days. Hit the road and sell it when you leave. At least then you know it is your own good luck that makes your adventures possible in New Zealand, and you can only blame yourself. Enjoy the ride!

P.S. Should you do VanLife in New Zealand. Hell, Yeah!! We cannot get enough of it. So, if there is an entrepreneur out there in Kiwiland that can make the business case work and provides a decent vehicle at a fair price. Let us know. We will jump at the opportunity.

VanLife Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.



Getting Lucky!

Waiting for Lucky 
More Waiting for Lucky

Really Lucky

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Foam In Our Seats Please Air New Zealand - It is a Travel Safety Issue for the Two Cowboys

Hard Landings

Sitting on planks for fourteen hours straight should be classified as cruel and unreasonable torture and be illegal. If it is not felonious, it is immoral.

Air New Zealand squanders thousands of dollars on pc-perfect hard-to-follow and frankly, ludicrous rap safety videos, while they fail to recognize a growing disgrunt amongst their most loyal long-distance economy-class customer hoard. 

We want foam in our seats, please!

People like me, who are trapped in Air New Zealand’s reigning monopoly on long-distance direct routes from places like Vancouver to Auckland are fed up with our seats. Air New Zealand appears to be distracted (as usual) by the sizzle of flight and is completely oblivious to a simple crucial detail required for reasonable fourteen-hour travel bearability - the padding in a seat.

In their case there is none!


It is gone. Taken by the arse-grinding of the masses that frequent the aeroplanes every day. Fuel is restocked, food loaded and staff refreshed. What about the seat cushions? When do we get those serviced and replaced?

We are budget travellers like normal people. Like normal people, we have a simple expectation to depart and arrive relatively intact from point A to point B. That is our first priority. This means that before the beef bourguignon is served with croutons and freshly ground (at the hanger back in Welli.) pepper, and the latest Villa Maria chablis is broken out, we expect the simple good fortune of at least having a reasonably adequate seat.

Note, I didn't say comfortable, large, spacious, plush or feature loaded. I simply used the word "adequate seat". After hour three we've crossed the line of all comfort anyway with the Asia-standard seat dimensions that are prevailing on their long-haul flights.

I mentioned seat and not bench or stool, which usually comes with a wooden platform for your behind. Fourteen hours of endurance on the plank should be something relegated to the torture chambers of the Middle Ages. Guess what! It's back!

A seat, one would reasonably expect, has some level of padding that helps you endure fourteen hours of wedged cramped vibration and shaking. Did I mention fourteen hours of agony?

Come on Air New Zealand. Fly and seat, then food and drink. We are not asking for much. You can do it. Our horse hardened foundations will be eternally grateful.

Flying Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too. Air New Zealand need not call.

Torture Tube!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

May the Wors be With You in the Land of the Long White Cloud, South African Shop, Auckland, NZ

Wors Immigration Proliferation

Warning: "A Boerewors is like no other wors (sausage). Once you've had one, all others fail your expectations." The best Smokie, Bratwurst or Vienna doesn't come close to this South African Boere delicacy.

New Zealanders (Kiwis) are quite liberal and progressive in their outlook. They've generously accommodated immigrants, cultures, dispositions and wors preferences from all walks of life, and corners of the globe.


They tolerated one group in particular - the South Afrikaners. Despite a fierce and violent (rugby) history between them, this group has been singled out above others to the degree that some may consider it unjustified favouritism. We believe it is for one, and only one reason. It is because of the wors. South Africans came to New Zealand with their Boerewors, and the New Zealand wors palate expanded, never to be the same ever again.

This is where it gets tricky. With its famed history of apartheid and segregation, wors families have taken great care to keep their particular version of wors pure, perfect and dare we say it, segregated. Even today, years after liberation, recipes remain fiercely guarded and kept confidential within families. You have to be part of the inner circle of Afrikanerdom. Even then, you may still end up with inferior wors.

The Boere avoided cultural and culinary contamination to claim wors flavour supremacy. The implication is that while you can get many attempts at the great wors, not all are born equal. Some are, dare we say it, better than others'.


We have our favourites because we don't have time to make our own (yeah, right). When we are in New Zealand, we get our Boerewors from Oom Kallie at the South African Shop in Howick. Until we find something better, Oom Kallie will be assured of our undivided loyalty and devotion. We forgave him for inbreeding sosatie. As long as he keeps our wors separate and fresh, we will be back for more wors supremacy, every time we are in Auckland New Zealand.

Long may the good wors live in the land of the white (cloud) and may the wors be with you.

Beer Cowboy

We earn our livelihood by producing great content and supporting inspiring people, businesses, and communities. Please book us here so we can tell your story too.