When will I learn????

I keep telling myself that I have bad luck. Bad things seem to follow me around. Since deciding to venture around the world, the universe has for some reason decided to conspire against me. Right on cue when arriving to New Zealand my bags were delayed for 24 hours. On the bright side I got 50 dollars for my troubles. Today leaving New Zealand I was charged an extra 30 dollars for forgetting to apply for my Australian tourist visa on top of a $130 dollar fee for not booking my guitar on the flight as additional baggage. Yes both my fault, but painful all the same. These unfortunate things seem to happen to me far too often for my liking. I reckon I could pick up a cheap car with the amount I have had to pay in fines & fees. I hate ranting on about it but want to see if anyone else out there has shared a similar experience. It’s a common understanding that negative events which have occurred in the past claim a higher priority in your long term memory than positive ones. I guess it is a trait that humans have inherited through evolution. A tool of survival. If we give more worth to negative events then perhaps we will learn from them, preventing a reoccurrence. I wonder..maybe I never inherited this “learning” part. Perhaps I am going through a phase of “bad luck” as this hasn’t always been the way with me. I’ve always considered myself to be a relatively lucky person. In reality I’m not actually that unlucky but rather incredibly naive. Overlooking small details, not planning, making silly assumptions, winging it too often and just being totally laid back about most things. As much as it can sometimes suck, I don’t think I’m going to change any time soon. Simply put, I like not giving a shit.

lake hawea perfection

I’ll give a few examples, some of which are rather hilarious looking back now. Others which cost me a lot of money and involved some pretty harsh verbal abuse directed at myself. When first arriving in Wanaka at the beginning of the winter, I decided to do some Wwoofing (working in exchange for accommodation) in Base hostel. Upon securing a job at Fitzpatricks Irish bar, I decided to discontinue the Wwoofing in order to free up some time during the day for activities. With my accommodation now gone I would be living in the Fargo indefinitely. Refusing to pay money for accommodation, I could work less and have more free time to enjoy. I had the option of either paying a small fee to stay at a campsite in Albert town nearby or alternatively parking/camping at a friends place for nothing. Instead I thought to myself that it would be a fantastic idea to freedom camp in a public park for my first night in the Fargo. Needless to say I woke up the next morning with a freedom camping infringement fine slapped on my camper windscreen to the sound of $200. Absolute bullshit I shouted in disbelief while furiously attempting to rip out my hair. I promised myself that I wouldn’t pay it. 10 minutes later I was sitting in the county council office filling out an infringement appeal form in vain, hoping to have my fine rescinded. I’ve paid the fine since of course and luckily haven’t gotten another. Freedom camping, or camping in a public area in NZ without a self-contained vehicle, is strictly enforced. In Wanaka/Queenstown there is a warden that patrols the area at night and usually shortly before dawn. In my head I was sure that I would get away with it. My naivety getting the better of me once again.

The Fargo in its prime! Taken at French Pass

Or the time in Gisborne when I had just bought a secondhand, near new Al Merrick quad fin, semi-gun surfboard 6’10”. A precious thing. It was a step up board for me and meant a great deal to me. I had to buy a new board because my last one had been dinged, banged, dropped and abused before ultimately being brutally destroyed after it had fallen out of a moving pickup truck for the second time. I had gotten to the stage where I was feeling incredibly comfortable and confident when surfing this new machine. A few weeks after buying the board I was out surfing with friends. Catching some amazing waves and having heaps of fun. After catching a wave and prematurely wiping out, I looked up to see Rob begin his paddle for the next wave that was rolling in. I began paddling out of the firing zone. He was approaching me at an alarming pace, much faster than I had originally thought. He somehow failed to see me paddling in his line. Before both of us could do anything, we had a massive collision. Thankfully nobody was badly hurt. That is, except for my board. A couple of surfless days later and a couple of hundred dollars poorer, I was grateful to have my board back and fully repaired. I took it out for a surf session and had a great one. I quickly forgot everything that had happened. We went to a party that night, rocking up in our campers. Playing music by the fire and having a bit of banter with the locals, we had a great night. That is, until the unspeakable happened. Ryan was exhausted, wanting to take shelter from the rain and quite rightly deciding to sleep in the back of the Fargo. To do this he first had to remove the surfboards, placing them behind the van so as to make adequate space for himself to rest. A short time later I hopped into the drivers seat after we had collectively decided to call it a night. Unbeknownst to me the surfboard were still sitting behind the van. Ryan was still asleep so he couldn’t warn me. Content with having had a great day up to that point I slowly reversed the Fargo. A sickening crunch was heard by everyone. Both the Fargo and our hearts came to a sudden halt. Something horrible had just happened and I somehow had a premonition that it involved my board. I got out of the car to assess the damage. All of the boards were fully intact apart from mine. It was bad. Real bad. It was a tragedy. The damage was worse than I thought. All four fins were broken. All of the fin plugs had been pulled out of the board. There were tire marks across the board and it was now oddly disfigured. It looked horrendous, something from a nightmare. I was on the verge of tears, barely able to contain my anguish. A few hundred dollars later and it was one again fixed. I reckon that board was cursed. Ryan took it out for a surf a couple of weeks after it had been repaired to give it a try. Almost as if a malicious spiteful act, the tip of the board directed itself at his face after he had finished on a wave. He walked back up to where we were all sitting while watching the waves. We were horrified when we saw what had happened. Blood was oozing from his face in several places. We had to bring him to the hospital to get multiple stitches. It turned out that the board had left its mark and had somehow lodged a couple of shards of fibre glass into his skull. Gnarly. Somehow my terrible luck had been absorbed by the board and subsequently transferred itself to Ryan’s face. I’ve since sold the board. I can only hope the next user has a tad more luck with it than I did.

Surfing the cursed Al Merrick at Waniui beach
The first board I got in NZ. A real beauty.


I’ll never forget Lucie, our beloved motorhome. I don’t think I’ve ever loved and hated something so fiercely at the same time. A temperamental beast, she could turn on you any second. We spent hundreds on it, firefighting one problem after the next. I was driving it around Auckland one day, hoping to have it sold and wash my hands of it by the coming weekend. I had just fixed the indicators myself after they had spontaneously decided to stop working. While driving around town, somehow the exhaust had come loose and a frightening scraping sound could be heard from underneath the camper. I walked to the nearest hardware store and picked up the necessary materials to do a DIY Job on it. Later that day, me and Lucie were cruising down one of the many hilly Auckland streets when I noticed a peculiar pong. I looked back to investigate. The grey water from the camper had somehow escaped from the shower drain and was now seeping into the carpet and causing an ungodly mess. The grade of the road had obviously caused this disaster. A short time later the thermostat decided to fail and we had to have it towed to a mechanic for a $600 job. Surely that was the end of it. As a matter of fact, things were only getting started. Twice the camper ran out of petrol due to a faulty fuel gage. The first time on a long hilly climb in Auckland. The second time on an Auckland motorway en route to a storage facility where it would be kept until such time as we had it sold. The worst memory I have has to be when myself and Rob decided to drive Lucie to Auckland for a second attempt to sell it. A young couple had expressed great interest in buying it and convinced us to make the 7 hour trek from Gisborne for hopefully one last time. We agreed to have the camper looked at by a mechanic, which would apparently take the best part of the day. We spent the day hanging out with the couple sharing some of our more positive stories travelling with Lucie. We were all very excited. This was going to be it. We would finally have it sold. Although making a significant loss, we could wash our hands of it. Hours later, as the sun was beginning the final part of it’s descent for the day, we were told that the inspection had been completed. The couple reviewed the results of the inspection with the mechanic. In the meantime, Rob & I gave 2 other groups of viewers a tour of Lucie. One guy outright offered us the asking price, having looked at it for no longer than 5 brief minutes. Tempting as it was we would have felt terrible giving the camper to this guy after the young couple shelling out that money to pay for the inspection. We reviewed the results of the inspection with them. They offered us slightly less than the asking price in light of a few small issues that were noticed during the comprehensive 9 hour check. We informed them of the offer we were just given. After some reluctance they both decided that they would go ahead with the purchase and match the offer. We handed the keys over and agreed to have the money transferred the next day. I was sceptical of this and had a funny feeling but eventually agreed to it. The next morning I tried to contact them but was having no luck. I was starting to worry until I got a call from them at lunch time. “Sorry but we won’t be taking Lucie. My girlfriend doesn’t like how it drives”. I gave them a piece of my mind on the matter before telling Rob. As terrible as it was at least we had the other buyer still interested. Or not. He had apparently bought another van later that evening. He just wanted somebody to take his money and get a camper as fast as he could. We fucked up. We were miserable. As a cherry on top, I came home later that day to find a letter addressed to me. I had another bad feeling. I was getting good at this. A $120 fine for speeding the week before. Classic Steve. We drove back to Gisborne, mostly in silence and decided that we would never make the same mistake again.

Rob & I sorting out some Lucie problems
A familiar sight


I have lost more than a few of my belongings over here in NZ. There’s definitely a few lucky kids out there. Newly bought hiking boots falling out of the back of an open boot sucked. A bag of my dirty clothes stored in a bin bag thrown out accidentally by my camper mates was unfortunate. Leaving my expensive longboard leaning against Lucie before driving off, never to see it again, left me miserable. Mysteriously losing my mobile phone while camping out at Rere falls made me doubt my memory. There’s nothing I could do but shrug it off and accept it. They’re only material possessions I told myself countless times. At least I still have my  health.

Flashback to the picturesque sunsets of the East Cape


As a last hurrah, the Fargo decided to act up right before I had planned to sell her. The egine couldn’t cool itself down and was overheating after driving for only a few kilometres. I brought it to the mechanic to have the thermostat replaced and the fan speed looked at closely. To my dismay this didn’t solve the problem and it was back in the hands of the trusty mechanics at Action Automotives once again. I was told that I would to have the radiator removed and sent to Dunedin to be cleaned and unblocked. Funnily enough it somehow got lost with the courier on the way there which added a week to the lead time. Apparently the mechanic over there got it all unblocked and when he was putting it back together the whole thing fell apart in its heavily corroded state. There was no other option but to custom make a core for the radiator as this was a less common model of car in NZ and parts were not readily available. Another week and a half later, I breathed a sigh of relief to hear that the van had been fully repaired and would be back with me that night. The only problem was that it would cost me all of $1,000. I wasn’t in the mood to feel sorry for myself. I had my van back and I was ready to move on.

Rob Roy’s glacier in Mt Aspiring National Park

Unfortunately my time in NZ has come to an end. Today is the day that marks one year from when I left my home in Galway. I am currently on my way to Melbourne where Robyn & I will be spending the next 2 weeks before heading onto Indonesia and Thailand for 2 months. I’m sad to leave NZ but also bursting with excitement for what is to come. Here’s to better luck and one hell of an unforgettable adventure.


One thought on “When will I learn????

  1. Steve, that camper van could tell a story or two. Steve if you wrote a book about your and robs adventures it would be a best seller. I started to laugh, you forgot the surf board under your eye. You should definitely go and do journalism you way of telling a story is bfilling. Enjoy the travelling


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