Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ode to The Van

Now that our time in New Zealand is quickly coming to an end, it's time to pay tribute to our trusty stead, THE VAN.  Anyone who reads this blog may remember my post about 10 months ago that suggested the stead was less than trusty.

It turned out that all of our troubles were related to moisture in the connection between the control module and the injector pump. Moisture in New Zealand?!  Once we got that fixed (and everything that it damaged), all was good.  We assumed that our streak of bad luck would continue, but it didn't.  We've come to trust and even like our van.

What follows will probably be quite boring for most people.  It documents how we manage to live quite comfortably in a 17 x 6 x 5 foot box.

Increased size alone was a big deal.  The box in Australia was 15 x 5 x 4.5 feet. Also, our van in Oz was a cargo van--no windows. This van had a massive number of windows, enabling us to enjoy the New Zealand views while eating and hanging out.

One of the unique and surprisingly useful features were the custom mini-awnings.  We call them "Sylvias", after the previous owner who invented them.  They are absolutely ESSENTIAL for ventilation while it is raining.

Next, is the little gem of a water heater that runs off propane and heats water on demand.  This type of water heater is typical for motorhomes.  It provided HOT showers for us even while the temperature outside was near freezing on the mountain.  I'll never have another van/motorhome without one.

Other van-living luxuries I won't be able to live without are a fridge and a little sink.  Previously, we used a cooler for our food.  Hunting down ice was a never-ending battle in Australia.  We never thought a sink would be worth it, but it sure was nice to be able to clean dishes inside while the mosquitoes buzzed around outside.

Things we could live without are the microwave (never used), toilet (never used), and the king-sized bed.  Funny enough, we've never owned a king-sized bed except for in this van!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Swell Bent

by Scott

It's a bit of an understatement to say that I've been hell bent on surfing the last couple years. After breathing, surfing has been second on my priority list. Eating? I can do that when I take a break. Sleeping? I can do that when it's dark.

Any time we get near the coast, I start doing research on surf spots and checking the swell forecast. Then, just in case the forecast is wrong, I have to go to the beach to check it out myself. Heather hasn't quite shared my enthusiasm.

This wasn't "the spot"
After a few good days in Australia, I decided we were ready for shortboards. We switched from a 7'10" and 7'6" to a 6'6" and 6'5". Both of us struggled, partly due to lack of skill, but also because we didn't stumble upon the right place at the right time.

Our nomadic lifestyle is actually not conducive to surfing. It takes the right size swell, from the right direction, at the right beach, with the right wind...and we need to be there when it happens. A better approach would be to stay at a spot known for good conditions, but patience is not one of our virtues.

In New Zealand, we have even shorter boards that we can store in the shower--a 6'4" for me and a 5'6" for Heather. Despite the small boards and our lack of skill, we finally got lucky and stumbled upon several days of good surf at a remote spot. I'm not even going to disclose the location for fear of spoiling it. It was so good that we don't even have pictures.

On the last day, conditions were perfect--head high waves, no wind, and no people. Just me, Heather, and a friendly local named Dennis. I was the first one to paddle out. I caught the first wave and rode it 100m all the way to the beach. It was the best wave of my life. The second wave was bigger and better. It was the new best wave of my life. This trend continued all day, as I watched from the back side as Heather caught the best wave of her life. She still doesn't quite share my enthusiasm, but she's getting there.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rock Gym

by Scott

In our previous life, after a day of sitting on our butts in a cube, we would head to the gym for some exercise. Even during our year-long trip in North America, we kept our 24-Hour Fitness membership active for the occasional workout and shower. In Australia and New Zealand, there is no big chain fitness center with locations outside the cities, so we've been forced to get creative.

It's easy enough to work the legs: jogging, biking, hiking, stair steps, and our favorite, running up sandy dunes. It was a little harder to figure out how to work the upper body. Sure, we can do push-ups anywhere, and playgrounds are good for pull-ups, but both get a little boring. Attending a few strength training classes with Heather's Mom inspired us to try some new things.

For a mere $15, Heather bought a set of elastic bands. These things are great for the traveling fitness fanatic. There are 3 different bands, each color coded to indicate resistance level. With some discarded PVC pipe, I made an extra set of handles so we can work out simultaneously.

We've also realized that a rocky beach is like a free gym with an infinite variety of dumbbells. The downside is that the dumbbells aren't labeled, but it doesn't take too much effort to find a reasonably matched pair. The upside is that we never have to wait for someone else to finish using them, there's no nasty gym smell, the views are to die for, and we can take a refreshing dip when we're done.

UPDATE:  Comments from our Scottish Highlander fitness consultant inspired the driftwood caber toss -- thanks Doug MacChilders!