Motorhome life is all about multi-tasking, but NZMCA members Stefanie and Scott Steven (#57669) take it to the max, using theirs as a permanent home, a mobile recording studio and even as an HQ for top sporting events.
Listen carefully to one of Stefanie Steven’s songs and you may hear the sound of the wind, the drum of raindrops, a few notes of birdsong, and even some sizzling from the stove as her husband Scott gets dinner ready. While it’s a given that none of us know what the future holds, if a decade or so ago you’d told singer-songwriter Stefanie that one day she would be recording her own songs in a tiny travelling studio, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. Back then, she was travelling the world with her music and enjoying a prominent career. The passion for writing and recording remains, but these days Stefanie and Scott are literally ‘living the dream’. Stefanie’s latest album Ahipara Time was released on the very last day of 2018. It’s the follow-up to 2017’s Rolling Home, with many of the songs telling the story of the couple’s life in a motorhome.
After a decade living in Stefanie’s native Germany, they decided to return to New Zealand in January 2015. “I said to my husband, ‘I’m going to show you your country and the best way to do that is by motorhome’,” says Stefanie. The couple bought a Swift Bolero in Christchurch and decided to travel the country and settle down in the place they enjoyed most. Four years later, they’re still travelling, with no plans to settle in one place. They love the spontaneity of life on the road, and literally not knowing what is around the next corner.
“We are both the sort of people who come to a crossroad and say, ‘Shall we go right or left?’ It is an unbelievable freedom I must say,” says Stefanie. Thanks to the wonders of mobile technology, Stefanie can record her music wherever they are in New Zealand. Scott says the NZMCA Wireless Nation data deal makes it even easier. “Thanks to that we are connected all the time, or we can be,” says Scott. Once recorded, the music is available via Stefanie’s website (stefaniesteven.wixsite.com/music) and iTunes (tunes.apple.com/us/ artist/stefanie-steven/id1107738833).
“It’s amazing to be doing this in such a small environment,” says Stefanie. “I don’t have to go into a big studio and I enjoy having the rain and the wind and the birds in the background.” While the couple has a storage unit in the Bay of Plenty, it’s seldom visited and they love that they have pared life right back to the basics. “We have virtually nothing, “says Scott. “It’s a minimalist existence that means you can focus more on happiness.” That happiness doesn’t just come via the freedom of life on the road and musical fulfilment. Both Stefanie and Scott are very keen tennis players and while in Germany competed at a very competitive level. Stefanie sometimes used to joke that they should return to New Zealand and travel from tournament to tournament.
“But we actually did this,” she laughs. The motorhome made it very easy to travel to various tournaments. It was another dream come true when in the 2018 National Championships Stefanie became the New Zealand national champion for her age group. “It was a major achievement, “says Scott. While they’ll still continue to play tennis, they may no longer compete at the same level, and are enjoying sitting back and seeing what their next challenge will be. Stefanie says it’s possible to sum up their lifestyle in a few words. “We are travelling philosophers, going by our feelings, and always thinking, ‘Ok, what are we going to do next?’” Here are some of Stefanie and Scott’s greatest hits from their travels around New Zealand:
Whakaipo Bay Recreation Reserve
This bay sits at the top end of Lake Taupo, between Taupo and Kinloch, and DOC have very kindly allowed freedom camping at this wonderful location. If you want an isolated spot to enjoy a few days away from it all, while still within half an hour’s drive of a main city, then this is it. After a slightly challenging road into the park, you enter a huge field full of sheep where you can park, and the lakefront is a short walk through a few trees. There is a bike trail through to Kinloch, part of the Great Lake Track, which starts at the north-western end of the bay. Whakaipo Bay Recreation Reserve (TD #3333), Mapara Rd, Kinloch.
Ray’s Rest, Miranda
We have probably visited Ray’s Rest a dozen times over the past three years, and we noticed on the last trip a few weeks ago how popular it has become. This was the first time there was no room for us on the waterfront, so we parked in the field next to the access road. Nevertheless, it has always been a pleasure to wake up to such a glorious vista that the bay offers with its various moods, a view east over to Thames in the distance, and at low tide, an incredibly flat desert-like experience as the mudflats dry out before the next incoming tide. A walk along the beachfront over the millions of white shells crunching under your feet is always refreshing, somehow an instant re-connection with nature. Rays Rest Reserve (TD #1218).
People who know the area have always told me that if it’s not raining there, then it’s about to rain, and it’s a rare day when you actually see the whole mountain. As we were approaching the mountain, it looked as though this was true, until we were just past Stratford. The clouds simply vanished and there it was in all its magnificence. We drove all the way up to the top park. Once we got there, we were totally alone, not a soul around. The weather looked OK, the sun was setting, so we set up for the night. We had a walk around the area in the twilight, there is a great lookout a few hundred metres from this park, and really interesting alpine vegetation. Stratford Plateau Carpark (TD #4312) top of Pembroke Rd, Egmont National Park
We spend a good deal of our time based in Mt Maunganui, and we know all the parking spots in the Bay of Plenty area. We are very fortunate to have such a forward thinking and understanding council in this area, and as a result have around 75 sites to choose from between Waihi and Whakatane. Some of the more special locations are the ones with a view to ‘the Mount’, in particular Kulim Park in Otumoetai, and Stella Place in Papamoa.
On a clear evening, these views can be stunning with Mauao, the 230-metre extinct volcanic cone, standing guard at the eastern entrance of Tauranga harbour. Recommended campsites: Kulim Park (TD #2554); and Stella Place (TD #2612).
5 Mile Bay, Lake Taupo
This DOC campsite is very popular, and one of our favourite stopovers when we travel the North Island. Even though it is often full, there is usually always a place for us to park. A couple of dips a day in the cold water minimises the need for showers, and it’s always a great place to meet new friends. One evening, after biking to and back from the centre of Taupo, the sunset was particularly stunning, and I had time to set up the camera to capture this incredible moment. It seemed to summarise what we love about our rolling home – freedom, beauty, peace. The next night, we were treated with another beautiful and still evening, with a sunset to match. My musical wife posed with her guitar in the water, and the resulting shot has since been used on one of her song covers in Spotify and iTunes. 5 Mile Bay Amenity Area (TD #3368)
Jackson Bay, West Coast
While touring the South Island someone mentioned Jackson Bay on the West Coast was worth visiting. We had just driven over the Haast Pass in pouring rain and when we reached the turnoff to Jackson Bay, the road looked ominous. It was a dead end – was it going to be worth it? We had to toss a coin to make the decision to do the 45kms journey in more pouring rain to get to a totally unknown destination. Well, it was worth it. Partly because of the adventure, we didn’t know what to expect, and also because of the fascinating history we learned via the information boards – it was originally planned to be the capital of New Zealand in around 1875. The evening view from here is in the photo – it looked like something out of Alaska; cold, remote, isolated. We were at the end of the world.
A small settlement located south of the mouth of the Mahitahi River about 80kms north of Haast Junction. The area is known for its abundant bird life, fantastic fishing, whitebaiting and hunting and the magnificence of the sunsets.
On our trip around the South Island a few months ago, Bruce Bay was one of the most memorable stops, a fascinating beach full of driftwood and fallen bush debris carried down from the rivers from decades of flooding; a driftwood sculptor’s paradise. We walked along this very wild and free beach, with the beautiful backdrop of the Alps behind.
Back at the carpark, we also noticed something unusual. Every few minutes a car would stop at the car park, and people would step out and walk past our van, and stand around a cluster of white stones piled up against a pole. A few of these visitors even came over, knocked on our door, and asked if we had something like a felt pen. After a few questions, we found out that this spot is a popular ‘Geocache’ location, with the Koreans especially, and they each write something on the white stones, and leave this as a memory there. As the sun went down, we were then entertained by the few remaining visitors as they started doing the ‘hand slapping dance’ as the exceptionally aggressive West Coast sand flies swarmed in for their dinner.
Waipohatu Walk, Catlins
One of the most interesting places on our adventures through the Catlins was visiting a gorgeous waterfall via the Waipohatu Walk, not far from Slope Point, the most southern point of the South Island. At the time we were parked in our motorhome at the Weir Beach Reserve, a free DOC park that allows parking up to 28 days. On one of these days, we took our bikes off the rack, and rode 4kms up the gravel road to the start of the walk. We locked up our bikes and hid them in the bush nearby as a safety measure, and then proceeded up the track. The signs indicated this was only an hour walk, but we soon found out that it was more challenging than expected, because we only had jandals on, and the track was muddy with recent rain. In hindsight, we highly recommend good walking shoes! Anyway, the walk led us through some of the most beautiful bush we had seen so far, and I ended up taking some time out to capture one of the waterfalls on the walk. Absolutely stunning, and so tranquil. This walk is quite isolated, and we saw nobody else during the whole time on the track. Weir Beach Reserve (TD #9460).