When I told my friends I was going to spend three weeks travelling in a Spaceship, they first looked surprised, and then worried. But I wasn’t becoming an astronaut or going crazy – I was merely heading out on a uniquely Kiwi roadtrip in a bright-orange campervan.
I’d been put off travelling by campervan after far too many hours of being stuck behind slow-moving vehicles on New Zealand’s winding roads. There was no way I was going to be that person! But a Spaceship isn’t like your traditional campervan – it’s small rather than big, manoeuvrable rather than unwieldy.
For larger groups the 4 Berth is ideal
Each van is a converted people-mover – a large car such as a Toyota Lucida or Estima. The rear seats are replaced by a customised bed base, with plenty of storage space underneath, and the middle row of seats can be rotated to face backwards or sideways. This means that you can fit up to four people in the car while driving, unlike many similar vans which are set up for only two people – only the front two seats remain.
Because Spaceships are really just large cars, they are extremely easy to drive. They are all automatic, and you can park in a regular parking space with no troubles. Acceleration is good – you’ll overtake more often than you’ll be overtaken!
The design of the car is extremely well thought-out. Instead of a full, solid double bed, the bed base is two-thirds the length of a regular bed. To prepare your sleeping area, you pull out support poles from under the base, and place a plank and extra squab on top of the poles. The bed can be extended in this way either internally or externally – turn the seats around to face inwards if you want to be inside, or open the boot and set up the awning for the outdoors effect. Pillows, sheets and duvets are provided, so you don’t need to bring your own.
More of a car than a campervan
Under the bed there are several storage areas, one containing the fridge. This and the DVD player are connected to a separate battery so you don’t have to worry about the car not starting in the morning. Another storage area holds the cooking and eating equipment – and your food, but you have to provide that for yourself.
When you pick up your Spaceship, you’re provided with a wealth of information about where to go, what to see, and where to sleep. But the support doesn’t end there. You’re encouraged to keep in touch with home base, and to drop into the Space Stations dotted around the country. This is quite different to many other car-hire companies, who can’t wait to see the back of you.
There’s a really nice community around having a Spaceship – fellow Space Travellers wave wildly when you drive past, and you can swap DVDs when you run into other users. It helps that the vans are so distinctive!