For my annual holiday in New Zealand, this year I decided that I needed to seek a new challenge and change my approach to travelling about the country. Part of my agenda has always been to attend the motor races starting at Hampton Downs in early January and progressively travel south week by week until finishing up at what is probably the southern-most circuit in the world, Teretonga. As a result I have become familiar with the airport terminals at Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Invercargill. I have also become familiar with the whine of those turbine engines on the Air New Zealand ATR aircraft. During last year’s races I became aware that a number of my friends travelled about in motorhomes – or RVs, depending on one’s description – and when my friend Rob Lamplough, well-known racing driver and warbird pilot, showed me over the example he and his companion Wendy were renting, I began to think this might be something I could try.
As soon as I was back in Auckland I took myself off to the Iconic Motorhomes depot to check out the costs (not insubstantial) and the exact technical specs, after which I decided I would give it a try. The idea of renting a nice hotel room, but taking it with me instead of dealing with all the hassle of checking in and out of places every few days, had considerable appeal. When I was a teenager racing in New Zealand, we went from home to the race tracks and home again, so although I had covered most of the country I never had time to take it all in – sightseeing is not really a teenage racing driver thing anyway – and in more recent years much of what I’ve seen has been from an aircraft window.
So now I committed to five weeks of rental travel, with a schedule to take me from Auckland to Invercargill. My plan was to have three days at each race meeting, play golf on every nice looking course I saw along the road, and become a real ‘tourist’ in between. I also decided that five weeks’ travel by oneself might not be the most fun so I needed a companion, one who could navigate (I know Allan Dick has his ‘Navigator’), play golf, share the cooking, enjoy the racing, and cope with RV life. Fortunately, I knew just such a person, and so the lovely English lady Joy agreed to join my expedition.
We arrived into Auckland on my favourite airline, Air New Zealand, on January 8, but were not scheduled to collect the RV for another week so we stayed at the once-wonderful Formosa Golf resort – now sadly neglected and looking as if it is awaiting the arrival of the property developers. We filled in our time by playing golf at Clarks Beach (nice little course), and Whitford, a very nice course. We also drove out to see the old restored lighthouse at Manukau Heads, the scene of New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster, when in 1863 the Orpheus struck the bar and foundered.