The Moo-Moo Van: Two Seats, Seven People

It’s hard not to like a van painted like a cow, especially when it is so lovingly referred to as Mootilda, the Moo Moo Van. Even with seven of you living in it (and only two seats) it garners a special place in your heart. This is the story of how we came to live in a bovine-mechanical beast.

After our very unsuccessful attempt to cycle New Zealand (it rained, it was cold, I wasn’t having fun), we were left in quite a pickle. We had two bicycles, a whole load of cycling equipment, and nearly a month beofre we flew out of the country. This abandoning of bicycles happened in Queenstown, the adrenaline capital of New Zealand, if not the world. It just so happened that some friends happened to be in the very same town. We joined them for a night of camping, alongside Mootilda, the Moo-Moo Van – a van painted like a cow (obviously), then leapt off a cliff in true Queenstown style. Parting ways, we went north in a car relocation – a free car rental where you have to take a car from point A to point B in a limited period of time. Due to our bad planning, we spent a night sleeping in the car in Queenstown (which almost got us into a lot of trouble) and then had to drive over ten hours through the night (and mountains).

We arrived in Greymouth, volunteered at a hostel for the best part of the week, then were reunited with the Moo-Moo Van for a night when it broke down a few hundred metres from our temporary home. The next morning we were unceremoniously asked to leave the hostel, which we did quite happily (although I’m not entirely sure why), although it did leave us in a tricky situation once again. What were we to do?

Moo Moo Van New Zealand 1Doing the most sensible thing, we climbed aboard the Moo-Moo Van, meaning that there were now seven people aboard a two seater vehicle. Five of us squeezed tight in the back as we cruised along, hiding behind the curtains in urban areas as we hoped to avoid being spotted by people who might wish to implement road laws.

It was a squeeze, but a fun one, and it lasted for several days until two members of the Moo Crew departed, leaving us at a spacious five.

We went to pretty beaches in the Abel Tasman, swam in the sea, hiked Tongariro Crossing (the filming location of Mount Doom, Lord of the Rings), and generally had a nice time road tripping around various parts of New Zealand.

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Hobbits Hiding from Ring Wraiths Wellington New ZealandWe even played at being hobbits in Wellington when we stumbled upon a certain filming location.

New Zealand is a beautiful country that holds a fond place in my heart as I visited it when I was nineteen and explored in a camper van that was way too big for me to drive. This time around we had less than half the space with more than double the people. It was fun to be part of the Moo-Moo Van for the time we joined them and I am grateful that we crossed paths. It made our experience of New Zealand better.

Moo Moo Van New Zealand 4However, as many things had already gone wrong, we weren’t overly surprised when our tent poles (of our brand new tent) snapped, unprompted. With no other choice, we continued to sleep within its sorry, crumpled walls.

Our paths separated after multiple weeks in the Moo-Moo Van in the town of Taupo, the home of hot springs (so hot they burn) in the parking lot of Craters of the Moon.

Thank you for the ride, boys, girls, and cows, we had fun.

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By | 2016-03-30T04:07:37+00:00 March 30th, 2016|Stories|6 Comments


  1. Rick 07/04/2016 at 18:22 - Reply

    I’ve found that people who live simpler lives are more friendly in general.

    • Jamie 14/04/2016 at 14:13 - Reply

      I found the same. The less complicated, the less stress, the nicer they become.

  2. Rick 31/03/2016 at 20:05 - Reply

    I retired from the US military in 2013. After traveling for the past 26 years I have realized that I don’t want to sit in one place for the rest of my life. I’ve begun my planning process and will be “running away” next year. I am fortunate in that I will have my military pension for the remainder of my life. I can stretch it out pretty good and hope to be somewhere in Europe this time next year. Your experiences are an inspiration! Thank you so much!

    • Jamie 05/04/2016 at 00:31 - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words, Rick. Having a reliable income source will be very useful and I hope you have a lovely time exploring Europe. Some of my favourite parts are to the east.

      • Rick 05/04/2016 at 12:28 - Reply

        Eastern Europe is high on my list. I’ve read that the cost of living is lower there. Also many people don’t realize how rich the East is in history. And being a big history nut I want to see everything! I’ve started gathering items that I will need for the exploration. That way I don’t have to do it all at the last minute.

        • Jamie 07/04/2016 at 17:38 - Reply

          It is a fascinating place and I often found people to be extremely friendly. I often judge the friendliness by how easy it is to get a hitchhiking ride and the east of Europe was (for me) much better for catching a ride.

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