Compact, comfortable, cozy and convenient, that was our home on wheels for one month in New Zealand’s south island. To top it off, our ride had a pretty cool name to go with it, “Stormtrooper” to be exact. This new concept of Spaceships on the road, essentially a modified MPV was totally foreign to us. We’ve heard of chunky caravans fully equipped with kitchenettes, a bed, sitting area and a roof tall enough for an adult to stand upright in the vehicle. Spaceships seemed a bit far fetch when it promised all the features of a caravan intelligently fitted into a drivable, easy to manuever, non-threatening, lady driver friendly MPV.
We drove “Stormtrooper” for a whole month around the South Island, starting at Christchurch moving north to Kaikoura, Nelson, covering the west coast stretch stopping in Frank Josef, into busy Queenstown, all the way down south to Invercargill and Bluff, then back up to gorgeous Mount Cook before bidding farewell to our trusty ride back in Christchurch.
We travelled with our baby son, Seth throughout the trip and so when it came to choosing the ideal vehicle for sleep and travel, safety was of utmost importance. “Stormtrooper” came fitted with a baby seat, upon request and a small additional charge. It was snug, easy to clean and very secure. Additionally, the MPV had many compartments for diapers and other baby gear and curtains to block the sun out when Seth was having his morning and afternoon naps. The spacious luggage storage at the back of the vehicle was also big enough for us to put away a medium-size trolley bag, a 60-litre backpack and other baby paraphernalia, and still had extra space for at least one more bag.
Cooking was a breeze. “Stormtrooper” came equipped with a full set of kitchen utensils including a pot, pan, chopping board, knives, cutlery, plates, bowls and detergent and sponge for washing. It also came with a portable stove and a gas canister but we barely used the stove since most campsites where we parked for the night also offered basic kitchen facilities minus the utensils. The Spaceship has a small fridge fitted in and we were able to store raw ingredients for cooking whenever, wherever. The kitchen gears are neatly packed into two box compartments under the bed and you won’t even guess it was there if you peered into the vehicle!
Comfort was essential since we rented the vehicle for a month. Being Asian, we reckoned any queen-size bed would fit us, two adults and a baby, snugly. The bed in our Spaceship stretched out nicely and sleeping came with two options, indoors – inside the car or outdoors – with an extension of the bed stretching out of the booth with a cover over it. The outdoor option was perfect for warmer nights and the outdoor cover has two windows with a protective mesh to keep the insects at bay. Since it was summer, we could try both options, and both were equally comfortable. We never woke up with any cramps or backaches despite Seth sleeping between us.
The best and most sensible feature of the Spaceship was its cost effectiveness. Renting the MPV trimmed our budget significantly. It’s not a fuel guzzler and takes just about the same amount of fuel as a sedan. It gave us the option of cooking our meals and reduced our accommodation costs. We still had to pay camping fees, but it was a fraction compared to paying for a hotel room. Plus, all campsites in New Zealand are very well run and maintain with basic comforts such as hot showers, shared lounges, basic kitchen facilities and laundry rooms. Although we didn’t sleep in our “Stormtrooper” for the whole month, we spent 20 nights in the car and every few days we took a break, gave ourselves a treat and booked into a hotel or B&B.
Also since it was summer, hotel rooms were often fully booked and if it weren’t for our Spaceship, we would have to worry about securing a place to stay way ahead of time. We love the freedom that our ‘home on wheels’ gave us.
Spaceships was more than a cool modified MPV, it was a community. We had the thrill of waving at other Spaceships and receiving reciprocal waves back when driving on the road. The feeling was mutual, kind of like seeing another family member on the road. There wasn’t any need for formal introduction or awkward handshakes. We naturally made friends, swapped DVDs and exchanged stories of road tripping in beautiful New Zealand.