Travelling couple convert old ambulance into luxury camper van


They had no trade skills, but between them, a young French couple have managed to transform an old St John Ambulance into fully-equipped travel wagon.

It took Alexis Martin, 24, and girlfriend Flavie Meriaux, 22, just eight weeks to convert the van from something that once treated the injured to now housing them on their 10-month journey around New Zealand.

The couple arrived in the country last month and organised accommodation at the rural Helensville property of Rachel Cunliffe through volunteer work exchange program Helpx, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Ms Cunliffe said she had been amazed by the couple’s work ethic as well as the transformation of the old ambulance so quickly.

“They’re such an amazing couple. They’ve been such a big help to us,” she said.

Mr Martin told the Herald they’d decided to visit New Zealand after spending a year around Australia two years ago.

Arriving back in France, the pair knuckled down working as much as they could over the past 12 months in Mr Martin’s home town of Tignes in the French Alps.

Ms Meriaux said they’d learned a bit from their time travelling Australia, including making sure they chose the right vehicle for their trip.

They began scouring Trade Me for an ambulance, which gave them enough width for a full-time bed and height so they could stand up in it.

They eventually came across the ambulance, a Mercedes Sprinter, for which they paid around $NZ15,000 ($A14,500).

Despite not having any expertise in building, or any trade, they went about renovating the van, watching YouTube videos and calling friends who were experts in their field.

“We didn’t know anything before we came to New Zealand. We learnt everything from asking people to YouTube or just trying to do as best as we can,” Mr Martin said.

He said they managed to secure the use of tools from Ms Cunliffe’s partner, Regan, which saved them having to buy their own.

After doing their four hours work on the farm in the morning, that left them the rest of the day to chip away restoring the ambulance.

It is now complete with an outdoor shower, fridge, chemical toilet and power all run by solar panels fixed to the top of the vehicle.

“We are self-sufficient so we can survive without power for 10 days or maybe more because the solar just gives us power all day,” Mr Martin said.

The solar battery was expensive but it was worth it, he said.

All up, they spent a further $NZ15,000 ($A14,500), bringing the total cost of the project to about $NZ30,000 ($A29,000).

Although Mr Martin believed it might have been more expensive to restore the vehicle, they wanted to travel in something more akin to a home.

The pair have their own blog and Instagram page, posting their ups and downs on their journey.

Now that the renovation is finished, they are ready to begin their travels around New Zealand and hope their investment will pay off when it is time to head home and sell the ambulance.

This article originally appeared on the New Zealand Herald and was reproduced with permission


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