Travels in the Land of the Long White Cloud

Brixham Kiwi By Brixham Kiwi, 31st Mar 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Oceania>New Zealand>Central North Island

How we became the proud owners of a bus called Brixham Bertie

How it all began

In 2007 Jeremy, my husband-to-be (although neither of us knew that at the time...) decided that we would go to New Zealand on holiday. Actually New Zealand had never been on my wish list of places to visit but hey – nine weeks holiday? Nine weeks off work? I could do that. So, Jeremy spent hours on the Internet looking at motor home rentals (How Much????!) until one day he came across a site arranging motor home swaps. Well, we had a smallish, oldish motor home in U.K. – we called it Cosi Van Tutti... and we put it up on the site with the dates we were looking for in New Zealand and waited for a match. Several people approached us but either the dates were wrong or the motor home wasn’t what they or we wanted until David and Joyce got in touch from Mosgiel (Mozgill), near Dunedin in the South Island. Everything fitted, they wanted to come to U.K. in June/July, we wanted to go to New Zealand in December/January and they seemed like nice people – very important! Emails flew back and forth; things were arranged like insurance and breakdown cover. It amazed us that the insurance company wanted to load David up on the insurance in spite of the fact he came from an English speaking country whose road rules and signs are very similar to our own AND drove on the left hand side of the road, because he wasn’t from the EU (where they speak a different language and drive on the right.....). There was much discussion about who would be liable for what such as if Cosi broke down then we would be responsible, if they broke something, they would be responsible etc etc. However, things were finally sorted out and we awaited David and Joyce’s arrival.
They arrived in June and we knew we would get on with them immediately. We put them up for a couple of nights whilst they got acclimatised (they had been to U.K. several times before) and they set off. By all accounts they had a great time – even getting to Ireland, which is more than we had done. The weather was appalling and in fact half way through their holiday they flew to Greece for 10 days of sunshine! We put them on the train to Heathrow at the beginning of August and began to look forward to our holiday.
David and Joyce picked us up at Dunedin Airport and drove us to their home in Mosgiel where we spent a couple of days acclimatising. We were introduced to “Fitz Us”, their 6 metre converted Mitsubishi Rosa bus. Yes, bus. We were a little sniffy at first but after driving for a couple of days realised that tourists drive camper vans and Kiwi’s drive converted buses! I have to say that this is no longer as true as it was but there are still many absolutely beautifully converted buses on the road.
We had a great time from the moment we set off; everyday there was a "WOW look at that" moment, from the Moeraki Boulders to Mount Cook; from flying around Mount Cook in a tiny plane to driving up and down mountains with hairpin bends and no guard rail. And Kiwi’s are so friendly and helpful. If you stop at the side of the road, they stop and ask if you are lost and can they help (this also happens if you are on foot and looking at a map). A visit to most shops elicits a “How are YOU today”, to which the answer is “I’m GOOD, and you?”
It didn’t take too long before Jeremy was saying “if this was my bus...”, “if I converted a bus...” and ultimately “we could buy a bus...”
So we began the search. We looked at buses in bus importers all over New Zealand, we saw a few that we liked very much but couldn’t afford and we saw lots that we could afford but wouldn’t want to! Taste seemed to have gone out of the window for many people – lots of dark wood, gilt fittings, highly patterned carpets, tiny beds – we began to despair.
Then, whilst in a camp site at New Plymouth, we got talking to another camper and spoke to him about our quest. The next day he came up to us and pointed out an advert in the local paper. It was for a 1985 7 metre converted Japanese Hino Bus, lots of extras and sounded just what we were looking for. We phoned up, made an appointment to view. I still couldn’t quite believe we would buy a bus but when we drove into Mike’s driveway and saw the bus I knew we would have it; Why? Well, for a start the registration number began with UK and, when I walked around the back I noticed it had what I call Jeremy’s shed on the back (in reality it holds the barbeque and essential tools). Inside, the layout was more or less what we had drawn out as being desirable; a permanent bed at the back over the engine, the cupboards were all white, the flooring was a shaded bluey/greeny vinyl – much better than carpet – think of sand, mud, leaves, dry grass.....!
It took us a few days to sort out the finances and a couple of weeks before we were able to pick the bus up, but finally everything was sorted out. We drove out of New Plymouth with two buses – me driving the Mitzi and Jeremy driving the Hino – christened Brixham Bertie.

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