First Night in the Van

So, here it is. After forking out a wedge of cash, I have found myself the stunned owner of a 1997Nissan Serena people carrier. It has almost everything I need for this jolly jaunt, mattress, bedding, pots and pans. The previous owner, so I was told, was a female doctor from Australia and judging by the curtains that have been jury rigged up, she was a cat fanatic.

I suppose I’ve been putting this bit off, parking up in the middle of nowhere all by myself and kipping down for the night. It has just crossed my mind that I’ve never been camping in a tent or otherwise, outside of an organised campsite. That could be why this night, I’ve copped out a bit. Strictly speaking, I’m not in the middle of nowhere. I’m in the hills above and about five minutes away from my friend’s house. I’m just feeling really paranoid at the moment. I thought I’d picked a spot away from most people, but no sooner did I get myself settled than this big black BMW with four lads pulled up at the other side of the road. They stayed for a while, drank, not being noisy or even looking my way, then went away again. They were probably just cruising around but, why here? It’s a dead end, a cul-de-sac even.

After the last big earthquake, most of the centre of Christchurch has been destroyed. In some of the surrounding hills, the home owners suffered from landslides and had homes swept from their foundations. This has also made it more of a place people travel through, staying for one nig

ht rather than spend a few nights getting to know the people in the hostel with you. The area I am parked now, most of the homes are deserted. Don’t worry though, there isn’t so much as a crack in the road here, and the street lights still work.

The lads in the Beemer go after about twenty minutes, I had been sat in the drivers seat, key in ignition and ready to scarper in case they even sneezed in my direction. I climb back into the cozy little cocoon that is created after the curtains go up and the seats fold forward, and surprisingly fall quickly to sleep…

The morning greeted me as a washed out watercolour landscape painting of Christchurch; nestled in it’s valley surrounded by mountains, fronted by the rooftops and chimney pots (yup, chimneys). I yawned, stretched and came across problem number one. No facilities whatsoever. Being a bloke, a full bladder can be relieved easily enough behind the nearest trees. I had heard that there was a campaign against so-called ‘freedom campers’, which is basically what I was doing. This is because the dirty little sods, when encountering ‘problem number one’, simply dropped their trousers and went at the side of the road. When there is a toilet at every petrol station in the country, that sort of behaviour is uncalled for. I went at the McDonalds, and got free wifi too! No, I didn’t do both at once. After problem number one came problem number two (for comedic value these should have gone the other way around, but chronologically this way is accurate). No easy way to brew tea for breakfast. I did have a small gas hob, but waiting fifteen mins for that to heat up is something I will leave when I find myself really in the middle of nowhere. That reminds me, I must buy a cigarette lighter. For now; I had been invited around to my friends house to show off the motor, so I’ll get a tea fix there.

In many ways a camper van is a lot like a nuclear fallout shelter, everything you need must be contained with in. Water, food, bedding, fuel, can opener and a copy of ‘War & Peace’, should get you through the long nuclear winter. You could do with fitting a toilet in your shelter though. When you start moving things between your van and the hostel, things go missing. When you start moving things between shelter and ‘above ground’, you get eaten by radioactive mutants. Obviously a small camper van is no replacement for a proper nuclear shelter; should the balloon ever go up, and should’t be used as such. There are probably many other things that the brave and intrepid post-nuclear war survivor needs, like the last of the V8 Interceptors and a small dog with a red neck-kerchief. I wander why the stereotypical traveller, with their long dreadlocks and wispy beards look like extras from Mad Max?

The point is, it is best to keep your kit together and not go splitting it up. At some point I forgot to pack my towel, which I had left hanging by my bed in the hostel to dry. Those of you who have read ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ will know that your towel is the most important bit of kit to have. When I went back the day after, they told me it had been binned because “it was damp and for health and safety reasons we can’t keep them long.” This on a day where the cleaners were throwing bed linen over the mezzanine rail onto the floor below. A great big pile of washing just waiting to be slipped on by an unsuspecting inmate.

I’m going to try a campsite next, a quick look on t’internet shows that they have the same facilities and are cheaper as well. They have the added bonus of not needing to move your kit around, you just park up and it is all there. When you do leave, you can easily tell if you have left anything behind as it will be on the floor where you parked. Onwards!

On a different note, I’ve been trying to post this on the blog for some days now. Wifi is only free at McD’s, and is not very good. I think the more I head away from the main towns the harder it will be to find a connection. Someone told me the public phones have a wifi capability so I’ll have to keep an eye out for a box with an aerial on top.

Going around Christchurch is a lot like watching a classic car rally. Old cars don’t rot and are still in use, from Bedford trucks to American Mustangs. I like watching out for classic Mini Coopers, so I’m keeping a count.

Mini count so far, 5.


About Steven R Harrison

Greetings! Thank you for having a look at my blog. On here you will find my epic adventure around New Zealand that I undertook in 2011-12, now available to buy with more pictures and in hard back entitled 'Blogs, Bikes & Jelly Beans' from and Amazon. Since returning to Blighty I have been writing my next novel, Attack of the Atomic Airships, which will soon be available to buy from all the usual channels. For now though, since my travelling days are 'on hold' for the time being, I hope you will enjoy some 'Flash Fiction,' that is, fiction of around 1000 words or less. The subjects are varied, but usually gravitate toward SF. The first one is called Continue? Yes / No. I hope you enjoy it!
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