New Zealand’s mountain parrot, the kea, would be in heaven if Garry Smith’s mobile home parked within its harsh, alpine environment. It’s a kea’s dream – shiny with lots of novel metal parts. And just like Garry, this home on wheels is unique and full of character.

“That’s Garry, spelt with two ‘r’s, like Larry, Barry and Harry, not one ‘r’ like Mary.” That was how Garry introduced himself to me, the first of many interesting snippets of information he shared during our conversation.

Alfresco dining

I first saw Garry’s house-truck parked at Mapua Leisure Park over Labour Weekend and like many people, I couldn’t help but be drawn to this extraordinary home on wheels. Although not huge, its quirkiness attracts people.
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An assortment of hand tools hanging along one side of the truck was the first thing I noticed. The other side has an exterior kitchen. Two old-fashioned metal radiators hang on the outer walls absorbing heat to warm the water. Even the roof is intriguing with what looks to be a garden springing into life. Garry has provided a charming addition to the outside table and chairs using children’s gumboots as footings.

This unique home on wheels not only attracts people’s attention, it’s a dream playground for keas

Garry was born and raised in Motueka. His secondary education was at Nelson College and after college he gained an auto-electrical apprenticeship. In his twenties he married, bought a house and became the proud father of three children.

After his marriage ended, Garry wanted to be mortgage free. “The Latin meaning of ‘mort’ is ‘death’,” Garry informed me. “I didn’t want to spend my life being tied to a mortgage.”

By the beach, near the sea, what a magic place to be

During a trip to Australia, Garry happened to come across an elderly couple who had travelled across the Northern Territory in a six-wheeled motorhome. This sparked a longing to sell his home, move to Australia and purchase an off-road motorhome equipped to roam the Northern Territory. However,  eager as Garry was to pursue this new adventure he was torn between moving to another country or staying near his children.

After many discussions with his mother, Garry realised he couldn’t leave his family. Instead, he focused his energy on creating a home to roam around New Zealand, and being a ‘Jack of all trades’ he put his skills and knowledge to use. Using several Internationals he created his new home.

The view from inside ‘Hoam’ is framed by stable-type shutters

Garry’s 300-horsepower, Ford V8-powered, International Harvester house-truck is based upon a 1967 chassis with a 1964 chassis supporting the second level. The bonnet of the truck comes from a 1967 International. It’s been a labour of love. Over the last 10 years Garry has imagined, designed, welded-up and created a home on wheels that he proudly calls ‘Hoam’.

‘Hoam’ is lined with sheep’s wool for insulation while a modest wood burner assists with warmth during cooler months. It’s also used for cooking if the weather discourages use of the alfresco kitchen.

Novel footings are a charming addition to the outside chairs

Some fresh produce for meals comes from the potted garden that sits on Hoam’s roof. Chives, mint, lettuce, spinach, silver-beet and broccoli are some of the vegetables that grow on the rooftop garden. To access the garden, Garry opens a hatch in the ceiling above his bed. During warm, summer nights he often leaves the hatch open and drifts to sleep with a view of the stars above.

And speaking of views – when I was given the grand tour of ‘Hoam’, the view from the lounge/kitchen, framed by stable-type shutters, opened out to a panoramic scene over Ruby Bay. With a slight stretch of my arm I’m sure I could have touched the jewel-blue waves rolling in to shore.

The bonnet of the truck comes from a 1967 International

With a million-dollar view, an accompaniment of native birdsong and the murmuring of waves, it is little wonder Garry adores his lifestyle.

“The only thing to beat it would be to explore the outback of Australia and be amongst the wildlife.”

It’s a dream that Garry hopes one day will come true.

The view from inside ‘Hoam’ is framed by stable-type shutters