7 January 2017

No Place Like 'Hoam'

New Zealand’s mountain parrot, the kea, would be in heaven if Garry Smith’s mobile home parked in their alpine environment. It’s a kea’s dream - shiny with lots of novel, metal bits. And just like Garry, this home on wheels is unique and full of character.

“That’s Garry. Spelt with two ‘r’s, like Larry, Barry and Harry – not one ‘r’ like Mary.” Which was how Garry introduced himself to me. It was the first of many interesting snippets of information he shared during our conversation.

I first saw Garry’s house-truck parked at Mapua Leisure Park over Labour Weekend. Like many people, I couldn’t help but be drawn to this extraordinary home on wheels. Although, not huge its quirkiness draws people to it.

An assortment of hand tools hanging along one side of the truck was the first thing I noticed. The other side has an exterior kitchen. Two old fashioned, metal radiators hang on the outer walls attracting heat to warm water. The roof too, is intriguing with what looks to be a garden springing into life. Garry has added a charming addition to the outside table and chairs, he uses children’s gumboots as footings.

Garry was born and raised in Motueka. His secondary education was at Nelson Boys College and after college he gained an auto electrical apprenticeship. In his twenties he married, bought a house and became the proud father of three children.

After his marriage ended, Garry wanted to be mortgage free. “The Latin meaning of ‘Mort’ is ‘death’” Garry informed me. “I didn’t want to spend my life being tied to a mortgage”.

During a trip to Australia, Garry happened to come across an elderly couple that had traveled across the Northern Territory in a six-wheeled motorhome.

This sparked a longing in Garry to sell his home, move to Australia and purchase an off-road motorhome equipped to roam the Northern Territory. As eager as Garry was to pursue this new adventure he was torn between moving to another country and being away from his children.

After many discussions with his mother, Garry realised he couldn’t leave his family. Instead he focused his energy on creating a home to roam around New Zealand. Being a ‘Jack of all trades’, Garry put his skills and knowledge to use. Using several Internationals he created his new home.

Garry’s 300 horsepower, Ford V8, International Harvester house-truck has a 1967 chassis as the base and a 1964 chassis to support the second level. The bonnet of the truck comes from a 1967 International.

It’s been a labour of love. Over the last 10 years Garry has imagined, designed, wielded and created this home on wheels he proudly calls ‘Hoam’.

‘Hoam’ is lined with sheep’s wool for insulation. A modest wood burner assists with warmth during cooler months. It’s also used for cooking if the weather impedes using the alfresco kitchen.

Some fresh produce for meals comes from a potted garden that sits on Hoam’s roof. Chives, mint, lettuce, spinach, silver-beet and broccoli are a few vegetables that have been grown on the roof top garden.

To access the garden, Garry opens a hatch on the ceiling above his bed. During warm, summer nights Garry often leaves the hatch open and drifts to sleep with a view of the stars above. 

And speaking of views – when I was given the grand tour of ‘Hoam’, the view from the lounge/kitchen, farmed by stable-like shutters, opened out to a panoramic view over Ruby Bay. With a slight stretch of my arm I’m sure I could have touched the jewel-blue, waves rolling in to shore.

With a million dollar view, an accompaniment of native bird song and the murmuring of waves, it is little wonder Garry adores his lifestyle.

‘The only thing to beat it would be to explore the outback of Australia and be amongst the wildlife’. It’s a dream that Garry hopes one day will come true.


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