Thursday, July 18, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 5)

One of the "must visit" place in the North Island is Hobbiton, the location for the Lorad of the Rings / Hobbits movies. The site was chosen for it's rollong green pasture land which devoid of any tall, modern structures. The orginal hobbit shire was built out of styrofoam and plywood, which was completed demolished when the Lord of the ring movie trilogy was completed. When the movie "The Hobbit" commenced shooting, the production crew rebuilt the entire shire with permenant structures which tourist can visit today. It was all nice except for the entrance fees, each person is charged a whopping NZD75.00 for a 2 hours guided tour. With 5 members in my family I have to forked out NZD350.00 just to buy the tickets, this has to be the most expensive visit on our road trip in NZ. However, in the face of 3 teenagers who are enamoured with the LOTR and The Hobbit movie, I was in no position to object!
The Green Dragon Inn from a distance, in the movie it most appeared in closed up night view. However in daylight, with the rolling green hills as backdrop, it has a different surreal look to it.

The hobbits family!

This hobbit hole belong to Bilbo in the movie "The Hobbit". The door looks like it leads to a cosy hobbit abode, but it is fixed, there is nothing but a shallow void behind the door. The rest are just a facade. All the interior scenes were shot in studios in other locations.

Not all hobbit holes as impressive looking, this must have belong to a poor hobbit family.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 4)

Our first day on the road ended at a small town called Lichfield. Our destination is a small farm which is one of the New Zealand Native Park's campsite. Our host are Rob and Nancy Flavell, who own and run the farm. One of the limitation of touring NZ during the autumn/winter season is the shorter length of day light. After taking it easy on the first half of the day I found myself pressing for time as the sun started to settle into the horizon at around 4:30pm. At this in Malaysia, I would be having my teh tarik break instead of looking for a place for the night! As I got nearer to Lichfied, the surrounding land was mostly residential area, like what you would see in any suburb rather the rolling pastoral landscape that I have expected. Just when I was questioning the navigational reliability of the GPS, the scenery suddenly changed from sub urban housing division into farm land.

When we finally reached the Flavell's farm, it was already 5.00pm and it getting dark. By prior arrangement the Nancy will also be providing dinner for us in their home. I was initially a bit concerned about the cost of 100 NZD, but my wife urged me not to miss an opportunity to dine with our host. It turned out to be the best dinner we would have for the whole trip. It was not just the food, which was a sumptuous three course dinner, but Rob and Nancy also received us like we are their old friends in their home. Both Rob and Nancy are not full time farmers, they have day jobs and look after their farm with their spare time. Their farm is stocked with cattle and sheep, it is not a full scale farming operation but the place is beautiful, something that city dwellers would dream about.

Our campervan parked at Rob and Nancy's homestead at their farm

The leafy drive way leading to the homestead

The more view of the farm land

Rabbits in the barn

Our children feeding the cattle with carrots

I sign the guest book at the Flavell's dining room

Our gracious host, Rob and Nancy and their house cat.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 3)

After a night's rest at the airport campervan park, we were finally ready to hit the road. Our first destination is to the south of Auckland. Through the NZ Native Park membership, we have a arranged for a night stay at a farm. Problem is we woke up really late in the morning, by the time we have had our breakfast it was already 10am, then I have to do my sewer service duty to empty the camper's black water tank which was almost full form all the night calls ( we were too lazy to walk to the common toilet in the middle of the night ) and also to drain the grey water tank. That took another 30 minutes. I am beginning to learn that campervan trip requires certain advanced time planning and chores like these need to be taken into consideration.

Just 10Km out of Auckland, I was stopped by a police road block! This is not so different from home is it? Anyway, the police officer was more interested in testing for drunk drivers, in the morning! I guess some locals here starts their drinking early. He was waving a breathalyzer as he gestured me to stop. He took one look at me and decided that testing me would be a waste of time, he put away the instrument and asked for my driving license instead, it was good thing that I have an international driving permit (the alternative is to get a official translated document on our Malaysian license). The officer looked happy with it and said "Welcome to New Zealand sir and have a great holiday!". No worry officer, I surely will.

Scenes like this is common theme around Auckland, the city is mostly surrounded by water.

We stopped by a historical site. According to the sign board the site was a stronghold during the Maori War. I later read up about the history of the Maori War (also known as New Zealand war) found it to be a fascinating tale of British colonial land grab, inter Maori tribal rivalries and their attempt to stem British expansion. This particular place used to house a British garrison, ironically it was named after a Maori officer who served in the Bristish Colonial army.

I have made it so far without any incidents!

The site of redoubt was on a knoll, the highest point in the area that provide a commanding view of Waikato river and area surrounding it.
Today, the surrounding area is a beautiful little township.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Road trip at NZ (part 2)

The campervan rental company strongly advised us to take a least 8 hours of rest before embarking on a road trip. I think it make sense, especially after a 9.5 hours flight, I was exactly in the best of condition to take on driving an unfamiliar vehicle on unfamiliar road in an unfamiliar country. One thing about day light during autumn/winter season is that it gets dark at 5pm. By the time we collected out campervan and stocked up with our supplies, it was already 3pm, which means we only have 2 hours of day light left for the day, so we really can't go anywhere anyway. It is good thing that Auckland Airport also operate a campervan park. So we have to spend our first night near the airport The booking was done on line, costing NZD 29 per day with credit card. I have expect the place to be a dreary airport car park type of place, but when we arrived there, I was pleasantly surprised by the site, it was a superbly equipped and maintained site. Nothing fancy mind you, just what cempervaners need, like common hall, cooking facility, showers and toilet and a coin operated launderette. The site was right next to a golf course so the surrounding was pretty nice as well, with plenty of greenery. One thing that really impressed me is the cleanliness of the showers and toilet and common facility, what is more amazing is that there is no attendant there, everything is self service and the airport operator expects the users to have a level of civility to keep the place clean as well. If there is anything I need to remind myself that I am far from home Malaysia, this is one of it, I am sad to say. If this is any indication of the standard of facilities that we can expect for the rest of our journey, then New Zealand as a country has to be given credit for it's level commitment towards developing their campervan tourist industry.

Our camper parked at one of the lot, with power and water hookup box.

This building housed the common facilities.

The cooking facility at the common hall, with electric stove and oven. the place is spotless!

The launderette, with washing machines and dryers.

The mirrors at the washing basins has no waters marks on it. The washing basins are brilliantly white.

The shower cubicle

Can you find any public toilets in Malaysia that even approach this standard of cleanliness?

The power and water hookup box for the cameprvans
We had our first afternoon tea here.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Road trip at NZ ( part 1)

We were greeted with brilliant sunshine at Auckland after a 9.5 hours flight. The first place I dived into is the toilet after the long flight with Jet Star from Singapore to Auckland. At the airport, we dialed a toll free number provided by Wenderkreisen, the campervan rental company, to inform of our arrival so that they can send a van to pick us up at the airport. The toll free number is a small but very important detail, it make it easy for customer to quickly get in touch in a convenient and painless manners.

At the arrival hall we were greeted by a giant dwarf (is that an oxymoron?) from the Lord of the Rings movie which was shot on location in NZ

Waiting for our campervan rental agent to pick us up at the airport
The driver who showed up is a friendly Maori lady by the name of Sila, who also happened to be the customer service manager of that day. In fact Ms Sila was the only staff working that day. since it was a Sunday.

This will be our home and transport for the next 8 days in NZ
The campervan is a 6 berths type, the largest in the fleet, while I was pondering how am I going to handle the behemoth on the road, Ms Sila led on a crash course on how to operate the sanitary system, gas heater and the power supply system. I was reminded to be careful not to forget the caps for the fuel tank, water tank, black water holding tank, flushing water tank and grey water holding tank. All together there were 5 caps that I should look after!

The camper is based on a Mitsubishi Canter truck with a 3 litre turbo diesel engine, the unit assigned to us is about 5 years old but it is superbly maintained and the interior is spotless. The engine only revs to 3500rpm and it will never win any race, however the moment I drove it out of the depot, it becomes apparent that it is built to pull rather than rev. The first gear is a super low ratio for crawling, for normal driving you can take off in second gear and it will happily waft along in fifth gear all day.

A 9kg LPG tank to supply the stove, water heater and air heater. In cold weather, this fuel is absolutely critical. I was told that a full tank should almost a month. WRONG!

Electric hookup cable for powered site.

The toilet is the cassette type, with slide out black water holding tank and a flushing water tank. Guess who is assigned the duty of disposing the family sewage.

Clean water tank filling hole. This camper can hold 130litres. The grey water tanks has exactly the same capacity, so what goes into this tank will eventually ends up in the grey water tank. Which means when I fill up with clean water, I must also drain all the grey water out, otherwise there will be over flow in the cabin!
Waste water is contained in a holding tank, which need to be emptied when it is full.

The hot water heater air vent. It is powered by gas so that we can have hot shower anywhere!

Our first stop is at the super market located near the airport to stock up on our food and supplies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My campervan road trip at New Zealand

In few days time I will be embarking on a campervan road trip at New Zealand. The land of the long white clouds has been a dream campervan destination for me. This journey has been in the planning for almost a year, after all the hunting for cheap airfare, the right time to take leave, to coincide with my children school holiday, find the best campervan hiring deal and the planning.May happens to be last month of autumn and many camperver rental companies offer low season prices, some give as much as 50% discount compared to prices in summer, which is consider peak season for the industry.

Initially I looked for the lowest price for cameprvan hiring, but then I found out that the cheaper campervans are mostly equipped for the warmer season only. With the colder season, you will need one with proper insulation and equipped with a gas/diesel heater, otherwise it will be too cold live in! Then there is question of camping site. In NZ, there are sites which are on public land, gazetted for wild camping and free of charge. The condition is that the camper must self contained, with waste water holding tank and sewage holding tank, it must also carries a certification sticker to shows that it is licensed to camp at these gazetted public campsite.

I booked a Koru 6 berths camper for my family of 5. This will be our home for the 10 days journey there!

The all important sticker if you planned to camp on public land gazetted for camping

Since the destination of my flight at Auckland, my road trip will be on the north island. I planned to explore the southern part first and then travel up to the north and then back to Auckland complete the journey, 10 days in all. I will strive to update as much as possible when on my road trip there.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Trailer camper anyone?

Trailer camper is a good alternative to full sized caravan due to its lighter weight and more compact dimension that made it easier to handle and more feasible for smaller car to tow. If you are one who like to camp at some off road location, trailer camper is definitely for you. They are very popular in Australia, unfortunately we have yet to see any in Malaysia. The good news is that there are a lot of manufacturer in China that build this type of camper and they don't cost that much, but the challenge is to bring it into Malaysia.

The JPJ rules for such trailer is not too complicated:
  1. Trailer will need to be sent for Puspakom for one time inspection and to be issued with a registration card from JPJ. It need a number plate like a car, the road tax is around RM50/year, and I think it also need to be insured according to its value.
  2. The registration card will identify the number plate of the vehicle that will tow it. This means  it is matched to a designated vehicle only. On the trailer there will be two registration plate, the trailer's own and the towing car. If there is a change of towing vehicle, the registration card will need to be updated.
  3. The towing car will need to have a tow hook and electrical connection jack for tail lights and brake lights. 

One problem with ordering such products from China is that the manufacturers usually set a minimum units before they entertain any orders. Wingmotorhome is offering to import it in batch and to provide services to send them to Puspakom inspection and JPJ registration, insurance and ready to be on the road for RM8899. If you are interested, please register your interest in the reader's comment for this article with your name and contact number, if we can enough people who wants it  it will feasible to import them.

 This model is fully equipped with all the amenities, you only need to fill up the water tank, throw in your luggages, hook up to your car and you can go.

  • Surface finish: fully powder coated finish
  • Suspension: independent suspension
  • Wheel: 3 three new off road 235/75R15 tires with 6 studs steel Ford rim,
  • Jockey wheel: Heavy duty style
  • Protection: All access doors are lockable and water/dust proof
  • Tent: High quality 13OZ canvas roof and side walls. Sand fly & midge proof window screen
  • Cooker system: Stainless steel kitchen top and stainless steel sink
  • Water system: Stainless steel water tank and electric water pump

Detailed description of trailer parts:
  1. Coupling: loading capacity: 2000KG, in accordance with Australian Standard Handbrake: hand braking with coupling
  2. Wheel & tire:15 rims and 235/75R15 tires, stud hubs (include 1 spare tire), in accordance with Australian standard and DOT standard
  3. Axle: 45mm solid round axle
  4. Hub: with electric brakes
  5. Suspension:6 leaf spring,45*6mm eye to eye
  6. Jockey wheel: heavy duty solid steel jockey wheel
  7. Trailer plug: 7-pin round or flat plugs as per Australian standard
  8. Led taillight
  9. Water tank: 60L stainless steel water tank
  10. Electric water pump: use for water tank
  11. Kitchen: kitchen top and stainless steel kitchen sink
  12. Winch: PP webbing 8m used to wind camper closed, loading capacity:1000KG
  13. Gas strut: lift up bed base to hold open
  14. Tool box: 1160 X550X485mm (LXWXH)
  15. Lock and key: all access doors are key lockable, seals for all doors
  16. Drawer: two drawers
  17. 1xGas bottle holder: Standard 9KG gas bottle holder
  18. 1xStandard 20L Jerry can holder
  19. 2X wind down rear stabilizer legs

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Carryboy campervan

The name Carryboy is almost synonymous with pickup truck canopy in Malaysia. However very few Malaysian knows that Carryboy also make campervan in Thailand.

The base chassis is a Toyota Hilux single cab pickup, at 5.48m in length it is about the same length as the standard pickup body, but it is towers at 2.93m in height. With clever packaging, Carryboy managed to create a camper capable of providing sleeping berth for 5 adult size person. Amazingly they also managed to fit it out with self contained amenities like bed, aircon, bathroom, toilet, kitchen, TV, oven and water tank.
All in all, it is a very complete and impressive campervan package. The camper body is made from fiberglass based on German technology and comply to German TUV standard and Euro standard.  Carryboy also re-engineered the base Toyota Hilux to feature adjustable suspension to compensate for the load or the terrain where the camper is parked, to ensure that the camper cabin is level. This is a very important feature when you are living in the camper. With my old camper, I often have to choose my camping spot very carefully, it no fun when the camper is not level, it just make movement inside the camper so uncomfortable.

Being our ASEAN neighbour country and also part of AFTA, why is this campervan not sold in Malaysia?

The camper body fully integrated, providing in-cab access to the cabin, it also have cab-over sleeping berth for two.

The camper is only a little longer than a standard Hilux pickup, but it  is much taller, however with lightweight fiber glass the center of gravity is not as high as its stature suggest.

The airbag suspension is adjustable from the driver cab to ensure that
camper body stays level under load or when parked on uneven terrrain
The bathroom is fully equipped with shower and a potty toilet
The bathroom also has a small basin and cabinet.

The site aircon is an important feature for tropical countries like Thailand and Malaysia.  

The cab-over body provide sleeping berth for 2

The bench seat and table for day time use
The bench seat and table can be converted into a 3 berth bed

It is fully equipped with TV and DVD player

The power  panel provide control on power source selection,  on-board battery, genset power or site plug in  power. It also has battery capacity indicator water tank indicator

The camper does not have a fully fledged kitchen, but it does have a microwave oven and a  fridge.  To some campervan users, this may be a serious drawback, but in countries like Thailand and Malaysia known for great hawker food, cooking in the camper is probably rates quite low in terms priority

The toilet is the cassette type, the black water tank can be pulled out from outside to be emptied.

On-board power is provided by 2 battery, the water pump is located below the battery

The generator sits on a swing-out tray. It need to be deployed in swing-out position to operate safely.
The camper  is equipped with grey water tank, this is important for keeping the campsite clean .