Touring In A Camper Van

We toured South Island New Zealand for 2 weeks in a camper van. It was our first time doing a camper van holiday and I must say, it was quite an experience.

So I thought anything with a ‘camp’ in it sounds like roughing it out and thus must be cheap, budget and economical, no?

Apparently not.

Our first revelation was a few years back during a camping trip to Charmonix in France when a motorhome pulled up right next to our 2 man tent.

While we struggled to pitch our tent and cook over a portable stove, our new neighbor extended out his awning from their van, set up some outdoor chairs and a picnic table, ready for a BBQ cookout. We realized that camping comes in different grades and classes.

These days camping come with all the comforts of home. Our home for 2 weeks was a 6 berth camper van that could sleep 6 people and comes fully equipped with a bathroom, fridge, kitchen, TV and even a DVD player. And a camper van like this doesn’t come cheap especially during summer time, at least not in New Zealand.

Apart from the basic campervan rental, there was the diesel for driving the behemoth around and heating (yes, we needed heating even in summer), LPG gas for cooking which cost about $3-4 per kg to top up, and highway use tax based on mileage, as well as campsite fees.

Besides the campervan rental, the campsite fees worked out to be the most significant. It went by the number of people staying in the camper van although they usually charged half price for children.

The cheapest we paid was NZD $13 per adult per night for an unpowered campsite. Without A.C. power, we couldn’t use our kettle for boiling water and we ran the risk of not been able to switch on our lights at night if we ran the van’s battery flat. So on days when we freedom camped or camped at unpowered sites, we had to ration the amount of electrical appliances we used and we were always keeping an eye on the battery meter.

When it comes to bathing, there were public bathrooms where we had to pay a dollar or two to get hot water for a limited time of 5-10 minutes. Our van came with a heated shower. But on days that we needed to shower in the van, we worried about running out of water, power (for running the water pump), and even overflowing the potty and waste water tank!

For the better campsites, we paid about NZD$20-25 per adult which worked out to about $70-80 for the whole family PER NIGHT. These campsites were powered sites, so our camper van could be brightly lit at night. We could refill water and there were shower facilities with unlimited usage of hot water. I swear, having basic things such as light and water(HOT) were luxury!

On top of all these, we paid a premium for a camper van which was relatively new as the last thing we wanted was to have a break down in the middle of nowhere!

So if you do the maths, touring in a camper van actually doesn’t come cheap. It may be even more expensive than renting a car and staying in hotels. If you really want budget and cheap, pack a good old tent in your backpack and hitchhike. Or, if you have a couple of weeks or months to spare and are so inclined, pack all your essentials (including a tent) onto a bike like this, battle uphill slopes, freezing rain, relentless sun, and insane 30-40 km/h winds.

Some say touring in a camper van is like paying a small fortune to live like a homeless person. I agree.

For 2 weeks, this diesel powered truck was where we ate, slept and did our business. It was our shelter, our transportation, our home.


This entry was posted in Travel.

The Season For Giving

December month, my favourite month of the year, there is so much to love about this month. The cooler weather, the annual family vacation and the beautiful Christmas light up everywhere you go. It’s a month for shopping, feasting and merry making.

I have to admit, it’s hard not to be sucked in by the commercialization of Christmas where gift buying and fancy Christmas decorations has become the focus of the holiday and it’s even harder to teach our kids that Christmas is not all about ticking items off their wish list.

But we try.

Our home decoration has been kept simple for the last couple of years. Our Christmas ‘tree’ is made from some fallen branches collected from the park or a dead tree we found in the backyard

Apart from our very simple tree, we also re-use most of the Christmas craft ornaments we’ve made over the last couple of years. We love the simplicity of it all and are pleased that we have helped to save another young fir from being decapitated.

This year, apart from recycling our ‘tree’ from last year, the boys did a very last minute fund raising project by selling their handcrafted Harry Potter wands.

They learned in school that some of their classmates have to rely on financial aid for their daily meals during recess and that led us to Straits Time School Money Pocket Fund.

From their website,

Straits Time School Money Pocket Fund provides pocket money to children from low-income families to help them through school. The children can use this money for school-related expenses, such as buying a meal during recess, paying for transport or using it to meet other schooling needs. The financial help also eases the burden of the many parents who are already struggling to feed their families on their meagre incomes.

The boys made some of these wands to sell at their school’s charity flea market and found out that they were a hit with the kids. They decided to make more wands during the school holiday. The initial plan was to make 100 wands for our charity project and sell them at $5 each.

Unfortunately, we ran out of time as we had to fly off for our vacation. We only managed to make 64 wands and raise SGD 400.

However our friends at SimplyLampchops continued the project while we were away and together, we managed to raise a total of SGD 605, exceeding the initial target of SGD 500 that we have set!

Here’s a heartfelt thanks to friends and readers who helped spread the words and bought the wands. With your help, this holiday is a little more meaningful for our children. They have learned that with enough effort, even the wee little ones can help make a difference and experience the joy of giving. Hopefully they will continue to do so not just this Christmas but throughout the year!

Have a very Merry Christmas!







The Finale Run that We Shouldn’t Have

My husband and I took part in The North Face run over the weekend.  It was a 25 km trail run where runners have to carry at least 1 litre of water. It was my first time doing a run on gravel trails, navigating over tree roots, climbing up slopes and charging down hills while carrying a water bag. And boy, was it tough! I am still suffering from severe muscle soreness 3 days after the run and I just found out that there may be a name to this, DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

It took me 4 hours to finish the 25 km run! That was 1.5 hour more than what I took to complete a 21 km run on pavement. The maths just didn’t add up! I swear I wouldn’t have put myself through this if I knew it would take me this long to complete the run!

So my husband had ranked this as the most enjoyable finale run of the year. It was a run that he looked forward to the past few years and having completed my 3rd half marathon, he thought I was ready for this. It was just 4km more than a half marathon, surely I could do that extra few kilometers. But he forgot to mention that he took an hour more to do that extra 4km!


Since I got my all singing all dancing trail shoes 2 months ago, I have been running regularly in them every week. On average, I clocked about 20-30km per week. My plan to drive to the nearest nature reserve to test out those shoes never happened. I guess I never felt comfortable running alone in jungle routes that were totally unfamiliar to me.

Then my husband did a trial run about a month ago and came back with a swollen ankle. He had slipped, fell, twisted and bruised his ankle. That accident put him out of action for the whole month. A week before the event and he still couldn’t run. I was quite sure we were going to sit out the race day. I made plans for our charity project and the kids and I decided to sell our wands at our estate’s flea market on that morning instead.

Unfortunately, my husband didn’t quite give up. Two days before race day, he decided that he should still run and run we did.

It was bad. Apart from feeling under trained (I had yet to run with a water bag! Sheesh!), I wasn’t mentally prepared. With both of us away, the kids had to do the flea market themselves. I had spent the night packing the things they needed for the stall and going through with them what needed to be done. They assured me that everything will be A-ok.

I couldn’t sleep well and in the morning woke up feeling nauseous. I was edgy, tired and felt like giving up even before running. Alas, we met up with our running kakis, the horn was blown and the race began.

It was hard to complete something when you have half given up even before you started.


I wasn’t familiar with the route, much less the terrain. The run took us into the forest of MacRitchie Reservoir passed Tree Top Walk, nestled our way to Rifle Range Road, onto the Green Corridor down to Rail Mall and back into the forest.

I couldn’t find a comfortable pace and my eyelids felt like closing less than an hour into the run. I started feeding myself energy gels in a bid to regain some energy. It was my first time taking this horrible tasting ‘food’ during a run. I was so close to giving up at the half way point.

We were running along the old railway track along Upper Bukit Timah when I finally saw the road! I told my husband that maybe I should hail a cab and meet him at the finishing point. He told me he would follow me. We could either take the cab back together or finish the race together. Knowing how badly he wanted to do this race, I let out a sigh of resignation, bit the bullet and stayed on the trail.

The rest of the run was a mixed bag of emotions. At times, I felt that I could continue and complete at a slow and easy pace. But every time we hit an uphill, my mind wandered back to wanting to just give up. In fact, I have never walked so much on a race before. I walked on almost every upslope. The ground was slippery from the rain the night before and there was loose gravel everywhere. It was too easy to lose your footing or trip over a rock. Miraculously, none of that happened.

It was almost 3 hours into the race when I finally found my pace. Maybe the energy gels helped. Or maybe I was just too fatigued to feel any more pain. All this while, my husband was keeping pace with me, bearing a mild pain at his ankle area. The injury from his fall a month ago had yet to fully recovered.

The pain got worse at the last 2.5 km and I was ready to walk with him to the finishing line but this man couldn’t give up. He kept moving even though his leg was hurting badly. He was running yet limping at the same time. I have never seen him exert that hard when running with me. It has always been a walk in the park for him! For the first time, I had to slow down for him. I was amazed by his unfathomable will to complete the race.

We couldn’t have been happier when we exited the final forested segment and the usher ahead shouted ,”JUST 1 km MORE!”. I actually felt that I could accelerate and complete the last kilometre until I reached the last 400m. Drats! Uphill! I felt like crying. Trudging my feet up the final hill, I finally crossed the finishing point and the clock showed 4 hr 1 min.


My legs still hurt and I am still limping down steps and staircases. But I did feel like I achieved something. Half the time my husband was cheering me on. Never thought that I would be the one cheering him at the later part instead.

Never ran anything more than a half before. Never thought I could complete this distance on the trail, not while carrying my own water bag. I guess this is a good grand finale race for 2016.



This entry was posted in Fitness.
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