The van and vanlife dairies
New Zealand Stories

The Van and Other Preparations (a.k.a. Vanlife Begins)

February 2, 2018
Van improvements

A man doing manly stuff (or Algirdas is fixing bench that hurt me)

Funny enough we are now starting to realize we’ve spent our first weeks waiting for the trip to begin and then to start shooting videos, taking photos and writing this blog. This was in the meaning of ‘when we will get the van, then the vanlife and it all begins’. And now it is a bit pity we do not have more of the material from the beginning as it was an experience on itself. Not to mention that when we finally got the van it wasn’t exactly set up as we had expected, therefore, the first week in the van was spent once again on home improvement projects. I guess we did not really focus on photos and videos at all. But let’s get back to the Sunday!

Puhutukawa tree

New Zealand’s Christmas tree (a.k.a. Pohutukawa tree), which blossoms in red sometime around Christmas

On Sunday (3rd of December) morning we finally got our van which still needed some ‘sprucing up’, so we set on a shopping spree once again (being quite fair, I’m a bit afraid to look into my bank account, so I do avoid it for now). After that we’ve spent the week moving around from campsite to campsite, working on our little home on wheels and waiting for our self-containment certificate to arrive (as it has not been completed when we picked-up).




Meet the Van

The van and vanlife dairies

Our lovely gal at the Huia point lookout

Anyways, it is time to meet our lovely van – Toyota Hiace, 2000, automatic transmission, diesel. What a wonderful gal she really is. However, after 2 months she is still nameless as none of the names really stick. I guess we just keep calling her ‘HIACĖ‘ as in Lithuanian spelling. I guess only time will show if there will be a name that will finally fit. Maybe you have any suggestions?

Update: So we finally named her!!! We call her Gigi, as she’s a beauty loved by cameras and decorated with the plate of GGH. 😉

Our Hiace is lovely, though loud van in an old-school white color. When we picked her up, she was scratched all over pretty bad and we had already bought some spray paint ready to cover it all up.

magic of 'Doktor Power'

Before and after ‘Doktor Power’

Lucky for us (and her), we came across a wonderful thing called ‘Doktor Power’, which can pretty much clean anything and everything (to the point of white, therefore, I am not sure how it would work with colorful materials). This thing works like magic, just ‘poof’ and it is like new! Well, of course, including lots and lots of scrubbing.


The living room

Kitchen, bedroom and living room all in one

After two months and all the work we have put in it,  it is fully set up. It has a kitchen with gas cooker, all the utensils, a sink, a fridge (well, more like a thermoelectric cooler) and a trash bin. There’s also a bedroom to chill and rest including comfy bed with hand-sewn ‘Star Wars’ mattress covers. And what’s so amazing is the bedroom can be easily converted in a living room with sofas and a table for up to 5 people to chill at. Well, the table might not be the most comfortable for eating (for my height at least, as it is pretty much up to my chin, well, ok, I might be exaggerating a bit), still better than none for those rainy days. Lucky for us, we had very few of those during our time here so far. So, as you can see, our home on wheels has everything one might need, even bathroom, though we haven’t used it and prefer to keep it that way (fingers crossed).

Oiling the floor

Floor staining in progress

Our home can accommodate three adventurers, though is more suited and is self-contained only for two. So, the third seat might come into use when one of you decide to come and visit us or for a friendly hitch-hiker along the road. 😉


 Preparing for Adventures

Muriwai beach campsite

Admiring sunset at Muriwai beach

During this week we got to enjoy a sunset and stargazing at the secluded Muriwai beach, exploring empty Whatipu black sand beach, where I took a chance at topless sunbathing and finally started these notes while Algirdas was so mesmerized by flying his drone, he wouldn’t have noticed me even if I was hilariously running by the shore naked (which I’m not saying that happened, but I guess you’ll never know).



Selfie with allergy

I’m catching a selfie while Al is having allergy episode

Last Friday we have finally received our self-containment certification and decided to join NZMCA and buy DOC/NZMCA campsite pass, due to what we would have to come back to Auckland on Monday and then finally get to the road and head down south. While still around Auckland we have spent Friday night at Hunua Falls (booking campsite through Auckland council is a pain in the ass by the way, which takes approximately 20min waiting on the line listening to the soundtrack from the 70’s).

The van at Whatipu campsite

All set up at Whatipu campsite

The falls are beautiful and very close to the carpark. Just if you decide to spend there a night, keep in mind you will be sleeping in the carpark. Even though max. 2 vehicles are allowed at once and the night seems calm and peaceful, hikers and tourists start gathering around from 6 AM next morning, so peacefulness is disturbed early enough, and you do not feel that comfy getting out in your pajamas when the rest of the people around you are armed in hiking gear and cameras.

Therefore, for the rest of the weekend, we had decided to come back to Whatipu, where we had yet to explore the caves and go on a few hikes. So here we are this lovely Sunday morning, waiting for our van’s floor to dry (Algirdas has been staining them) and finally go to explore some places. I can already feel the adventure coming. This is us and our vanlife!

Running on black sand in Whatipu beach

Algirdas challenged himself to run barefoot past the burning black sand beach in Whatipu to the shadow. It was painful enough doing it with flip-flops, so I can only imagine how hot it was for him.

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1 Comment
  1. Reply


    January 27, 2019

    Wonderful! How did you find a van to buy?


Ruta & Algirdas

We're Ruta & Algirdas - storytellers, world travelers, photography, and filmmaking enthusiasts. Our best days are spent admiring planet Earth - exploring, tasting, breathing in all it has to offer. Let's spend a year living vanlife in New Zeland, a winter enjoying Saigon's culinary hem gems, or a weekend exploring contrasts between urban jungles and mountain peaks!

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