Camper-fans and their customised creations



Carlton Pezaro made his homemade teardrop caravan from recycled wood for his wife Sarah.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/STUFF
Carlton Pezaro made his homemade teardrop caravan from recycled wood for his wife Sarah.

From painstakingly restored cabinetry to plush furnishings and handpainted interiors, Canterbury camper and caravan owners are putting their unique stamp on their beloved travelling companions. 

While few go to the lengths that Cashmere furniture designer Carlton Pezaro did, constructing a bespoke teardrop camper entirely out of salvaged wood, there are plenty of others adding their personal touches to create the ultimate home away from home. 

Caroline Atkinson and her husband Simon shipped their renovated caravan over from Australia when they relocated.
CAROLINE ATKINSON
Caroline Atkinson and her husband Simon shipped their renovated caravan over from Australia when they relocated.

Addington residents Caroline Atkinson and Simon Curtis have had their caravan, 'Francesca', since 2003, and have extensively renovated the 1968 Viscount Ambassador over the years. 

They even shipped it over to New Zealand from Australia when they moved here several years ago. 

"We had to bring her over with us, there was no question really," Atkinson said. "We've made her so bespoke and suited to our tastes aesthetically, we'd never find another one like her."

READ MORE:
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* Freedom camping: Australia versus New Zealand
* Adventures in a Woody Teardrop caravan

Along with replacing the roof, back wall and flooring, they have made practical additions like a new gas cooker, 12 volt fridge, wiring, lights and water pump.

Touring in a New Zealand winter meant adding insulation and a diesel heater, especially now with baby Ada in tow. 

"Some of my favourite adventures have been in the New Zealand winter, because even though it's cold we can still do what we want to do," said Atkinson. "Going to places like Texas Flat, on the approach to Mt Cheeseman, and enjoying some mid-winter skiing has been quite awesome."

Insulated and heated, Francesca allows the family to travel in all weathers.
CAROLINE ATKINSON
Insulated and heated, Francesca allows the family to travel in all weathers.

A replacement chassis means their caravan has a uniquely high clearance, so they have been able to go lots of places in both the Australian outback and remote places in New Zealand.

"We don't have to plan or book because we are self-sufficient enough to stay at free DOC campsites. It gives us so much freedom."

'Freedom' is a word that keeps cropping up when talking to camper-fans.  

Pezaro built his glossy wood teardrop design for his wife post-quakes, so they could get away in a hurry if they needed to. 

Restoring the original interiors is a painstaking process but means travelling can be done in style.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF
Restoring the original interiors is a painstaking process but means travelling can be done in style.

James Imlach, national policy and planning manager for the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, said that recent years have seen more and more people wanting to get off the beaten track and explore the country.

"Where people used to buy a bach and holiday in the same place every time, now they want the flexibility to see more, at a more affordable price," he said. 

The association has 86,000 members, including 10,000 in the Canterbury region. The vast majority of them own a certified self contained motor caravan, and membership is increasing.

"We've had really positive growth for the past ten years at least," he said. "Last financial year we had a 10% net growth. It's definitely a growing movement."

Genevieve Robinson's motorhome has plenty of charm thanks to cute interior details and of course, son Freddy.
Genevieve Robinson
Genevieve Robinson's motorhome has plenty of charm thanks to cute interior details and of course, son Freddy.

Canterbury researcher and activist Genevieve Robinson used to have a converted Bedford ambulance with "literally no headroom", which has now been replaced with a much more reliable VW LT35 ex-rental.

She's made several additions to it, including a retractable awning, a solar panel and a hammock for her three year old son Freddy to sleep in.  

"I love adding different cushions and hanging decorations each season," she said. 

The family often take it for short trips away, mostly to Banks Peninsula.

"I'm a keen Hector's dolphin defender, so it's my accommodation when I head out photographing them," Robinson said. "It's also used heaps for heading away four-wheel-driving on the West Coast, as a tow vehicle, and cost-effective accommodation."

Georgina Skinner travels around the South Island selling homewares and photographic prints from her renovated caravan Gigi.
GEORGINA SKINNER
Georgina Skinner travels around the South Island selling homewares and photographic prints from her renovated caravan Gigi.

While it's a newer model, the interior is still charming with brightly coloured cushions (including, of course, a dolphin) and wall decals.

She also rents it out and it's "a favourite" with Share-a-camper's clients. 

But Robinson says one of her fondest memories was made the very first night after collecting it in Blenheim. 

"We spent the night in a DoC camping ground at Marfell's Beach," she says. "We reversed the van up to the very edge of the beach, and slept mostly with the rear doors open. I'll never forget that sound of the sea hitting the pebbles."

STUFF
Carlton Pezaro created the teardrop caravan for his wife, Sarah.

 

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