28 February 2017

Delightful 'DORA'

Last weekend the NZMCA (New Zealand Motor Caravan Association) held their 61st Rally at the Richmond showgrounds. And in amongst the sea of white motorhomes was fairytalelike ‘Dora’ the caravan.

Dora is proudly owned by Deidre O’Flynn (Dee) from Carterton in the Waiarapa. She has every reason to be proud – she renovated this pocket-sized camper herself.

Turn back the clock to April 2015. Dee a retired school principal was searching on Trademe for a 1960’/70s caravan. The criteria for the caravan was simple … it had to be a rounded shape, structurally sound, no leaks and cheap! Dee had a tight budget she wanted to stick to and was determined not to break it.

As luck would have it, a 1976 Sprite was listed in Auckland. Dee asked her niece, Sharon, to view the caravan, as Dee felt Sharon was more knowledgeable in that area. It turned out the caravan met all the criteria. Once the purchase price was agreed on, Dee traveled to Auckland from the Waiarapa to collect her new project.

Although Dee had never towed a caravan, she wasn’t fazed. Even when the weather turned sour and it poured with rain, Dee still wasn’t put off.

Carterton is Dee’s hometown, which is an eight hour drive from Auckland. To break the journey Dee decided to spend a night in Taupo, ‘I made sure I found a spot to park that didn’t require any backing’.

Once safely back home Dee began renovating. Her grandchildren, who are fans of the animated T.V. series ‘Dora the Explorer’ named the caravan ‘Dora.’ It seemed the perfect name.

Dora’s makeover started with the exterior. The original colour of the caravan was white with a dark green trim along the base. Dee chose an aged white colour for the upper area and for the lower trim she picked the Resene colour ‘Morning Glory’ (a pastel aqua blue).

To compliment the caravan’s cheerful appearance, (and to cover some minor imperfections) bright, colourful flower decals were added. Dee spent hours strategically placing them to create a contour of gentle swirls. A few have been placed around inside and even the towing vehicle has been included, it too has some flower decals.

Being a 1976 caravan, Dee wanted to stay with colours from that decade. Green, gold, orange and yellow were popular colours of the 70s. Dee decided on turquoise. She chose the curtain fabric first, then matched everything else to that colour, give or take a few shades.

Although it doesn’t look like it, the interior paint is actually ten times lighter than the exterior. When Dee was trying to find the right shade of paint for the interior, she began with ‘Morning Glory’ and kept lightening it. Eventually, with the help of Resene, the right shade was created. That particular shade had never been made before, and therefore didn’t have a name. Dee had the privilege of naming the shade ‘Dora’s Delight’.

Fortunately the ceiling and walls were in excellent condition, so were kept original. For the flooring Dee chose black and white tiles which she bought from Mitre 10, ‘’A bargain for $35’.

Dee has done everything herself. She’s sewn curtains, designed and created an awning, crocheted blankets and cushions, made cushions from scrap material, scrubbed, sanded and painted. She even removed all 30 hinges and gave them a clean up, painted them and then reused them.

Anything Dee was unsure of doing she researched and taught herself how. ‘The web site ‘Pinterest’ offered all kinds of ideas and inspirations’. When it came to electrics, gas and plumbing Dee got professionals to help.

After seven months of hard work ‘Dora’ was transformed. She looked like a prop from an enchanted fairy tale scene. And incase you’re wondering if this charming caravan is self-contained…the answer is yes. Hidden away, beneath one of the dining seats is a portable cassette. Plus all requirements necessary for self-containment certification have been meet.

When traveling Dee usually goes two days without being plugged into power and then stays at a campground for a night to use power. Her fridge, which is the original, is cooled down using frozen water bottles. After two days freshening up using a flannel and warm water, Dee looks forward to a long shower at a campground.

Now, fast forward to 2017 and Dee has been traveling and exploring the South Island in Dora for just under a month. The adorable Dora is easily towed by a 2L Rav4 - Dee is mindful of what she carries to keep the weight at a minimum.

Unloaded the caravan weighs 400kgs and anything that isn’t useful isn’t included. However there are a few special exceptions … such as some of her grandchildren’s artwork, a favourite cranberry-red cushion and a treasured framed fabric painting gifted to her by the B.O.T (Board of Trustees) when she left Central Takaka School.

This special little caravan is full of treasures on the inside and a visual treat to come across. Wherever Dee and Dora go, they leave a sparkle in their wake. You can’t help but smile when you see them.

Dee always had a dream to own a caravan and go camping before she turned 70. And she is now living her dream. Dee turns 70 later this year. She is proof that age and gender are no barriers to achieving your goals!

26 February 2017

The Original Gypsy fair

Imagine traveling and getting paid to do so… wouldn’t that be ‘living the dream’?

Well, that’s the life of the gypsies traveling with ‘The Original Gypsy Fair’. For nine months of the year, members of the Gypsy Fair travel from town to town selling their wares. They arrive at a set destination on or before Friday to set up stalls for the weekend. The rest of the week they do as they please while making their way to their next port of call.

The Gypsy Fair originally began back in 1991 when Jill and Rob Romain, an English couple, arranged an opportunity for traders in their handcrafted house-trucks and house-buses to get together to sell their wares and display their extraordinary homes. They started with 10 house-trailers taking part in a 10 week tour of the North Island and it’s progressed from there.

Since 2001, Jim ‘Chappie’ Banks has kept the fair running smoothly. Chappie joined the Gypsy Fair in 1993. He and his wife Venus ran the hot chips and burger bar. Nowadays, they no longer travel with the fair but instead take care of the logistics required to keep the fair going.

It’s not simply a matter of turning up at a town and setting up. There’s council by-laws to abide by, venues to find which are suitable to host the event, promoting and advertising, arranging where stalls are placed, collecting rent, meeting new people keen to come on board plus many other aspects needed to keep this iconic fair running smoothly.

At each venue Gavin Mackenzie takes charge of where the caravans are parked and how the stalls are positioned. Mackenzie has been traveling with The Gypsy Fair since 1995. ‘I started in 1995 at Orewa, in an Isuzu Elf "cabover" camper.... what was meant to be a one off market for me is now 22 seasons and 633 fairs in the past.’

Gavin exchanged life as a sergeant in the Royal New Zealand Air Force for life on the road. This enchanting lifestyle obviously suits Gavin, he’s happy-go-lucky, self-effacing and care-free. 

‘What you earn in the weekend lets you enjoy yourself during the week’. It isn’t about chasing the money – it’s about traveling, exploring new towns, discovering places along the way, meeting people and simply doing what you love.

Last weekend the fair held their 23rd event for the 2016 – 2017 season at the Richmond show-grounds. This season there are 23 different stalls selling an exclusive range of handcrafted products and entertainment. Some of the stores were; a shooting range, tattooing, glass blowing, freshly brewed coffee, an inflatable obstacle course, body piercing, soaps and oils, incense and enchanting handcrafted flowers, embroidery, fork art, hand made jewelry, wood craft, Segway rides, tye-dye creations, hot chips & burgers, candy floss and sweets, children’s clothing, wind chimes, funky boho chic clothing, lead light creations, bubble toys and juggling supplies, hair braiding, hair extension and hair accessories and sea shells. All this accompanied by Karloss’ musical talents performed on a captivating handcrafted stage.

Magical and masterful Karloss has been living a nomadic life since he was 15 years old. Initially he started off in circuses working with horses and then began entertaining with music in his twenties. This free-spirited man has traveled for many years with this colourful entourage in what is perhaps New Zealand’s largest fleet of privately owned heritage buses and wagons.

Part of the convoy is a distinctive, hand painted campervan owned by Sean Woods. It’s his second season as a gypsy. ‘There are three things that make this way of life a success. One, you have to be passionate about what you sell. Two, you have to enjoy traveling. And last but not least, you’ve got to enjoy people’.

Recently, Louise Wilkins left a corporate world in busy Sydney to join her partner Sean on the road. Leaving behind a hectic working life to begin a carefree life on the road. Louise happily said ‘I wouldn’t have it any other way’. Sean and Louise make and sell tie-dyed clothing. 

Another couple, Ross and Robyn Simpson are enjoying their first season. They travel in their 1984 Isuzu bus with two dogs and two cats. Ross operates an inflatable obstacle course, while Robyn runs a coffee caravan. What a great way to make a living doing the things you enjoy while seeing the country.

To join the fair you need a skill, trade or product that‘s unique (ideally handmade) and one that won’t compete with others. Having a range of merchandise guarantees a variety of goods and assures an equal opportunity to make sales. The Gypsy Fair prides themselves on their craftsmanship. 

At the end of day, after the crowds dwindle away, the Village Green is the place where the gypsies socialise. ‘It’s neutral turf and there’s no exclusion’. While staying in Nelson the gypsies enjoyed a champaign breakfast in the Village Green as a birthday celebration. Next up is ‘homemade dessert’ night. 

Although members of the fair spend each weekend together, they don’t live in each other’s pockets. Just like an extensive, caring and supportive family they go their separate way during the week.

If you’re interested in touring with the gypsy fair you can contact Gavin Mackenzie via their Facebook Group page ‘The Original Gypsy Fair’. Or, email: