by George Clark
A Timaru man has traded in traditional retirement plans for a life on the road.
A member of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, John Rolfe parks his caravan at scenic spots all around the country and is adamant he is spending retirement the best way he can.
He has been staying at the Phar Lap Raceway for the past two months, paying just $3 a night.
“During the winter I set up camp up in Kaiteriteri – normally helping the sea shuttles, giving them a hand with kayaks and anchoring.
“Sometimes I walk the Abel Tasman.”
The Nelson Bays campground is a popular family holiday spot in summer but occupancy dips in winter, allowing cheap power and a spot to sleep.
“I wear shorts all the way through winter and people ask why I am so brown. I say if you wear shorts all year, of course you are going to be brown,” he laughed.
“I get different scenery every week.”
After winter, Mr Rolfe packs up his red caravan and travels the South Island, staying at local campgrounds for “very cheap, if anything at all”.
“You need to have your own facilities. Sometimes you need to get your own water.
“Because I am self-contained I do not need to plug in for power, using a solar panel in the summer while having a generator for back-up.”
He spent most of his life in Waimate and moved to Timaru in 2000.
He embarked on his nomadic lifestyle three years ago, and turns 73 next week.
Mr Rolfe spends most Christmases in Timaru, as he enjoys the Caroline Bay Carnival.
No matter where he goes, Mr Rolfe finds his way to the community newspaper office and gathers up a stash of reading material.
“Timaru has got to be the best place. The variety and selection of papers is just marvellous,” he said.
“Everywhere I go, I look for the local free papers. They have just as much if not more interesting stories about people and events.”
Mr Rolfe, a builder by trade, says customising his caravan has been a labour of love.
“I put a shower and toilet inside, built new drawers and changed shelves to have better ease of access when I am doing the dishes. I am never bored because I decided years ago that I was not going to be.”
Sometimes he can be seen driving a tractor, mowing grass or perhaps doing some handiwork or assisting tourists.
“All of those things fill in the day.”
He is preparing to head to Christchurch and from there to Nelson for winter.