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Sunday, 25 February 2007

Rocks And Roadkill: Thoughts on Road Tripping in New Zealand - Page 4

Written by Karen Elowitt
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Guidebooks and advertisements perpetuate an image of New Zealand as a pristine, unspoiled territory, almost sterile in its purity – which on the whole it is. Soaring peaks rise above shimmering crystal-clear fjords, icy glaciers cut through craggy mountain passes, and picturesque herds of fluffy sheep lazily wander across the endless green rolling hills.

However, old habits die hard, and sometimes the beast within would threaten to emerge. One day, while driving through the town of Tauranga, I found myself in the middle of a mini-traffic jam. Instead of just shrugging it off and waiting it out, I felt my blood pressure begin to rise and my mood become irritable. At one point a vehicle pulled out sharply in front of me, almost hitting my car, which automatically triggered a hostile reaction in me. As I started to curse and snarl, and prepared to give the driver my middle finger as I passed, he slowed down, changed lanes, and let me pass him. As I drove by, he waved and mouthed “sorry” in apology. I was in shock. I can’t remember a time that another driver EVER apologized back home. I fell in love with New Zealand even more at that moment.

nzThough driving was not stressful in New Zealand, that’s not to say it was always easy. Maps sometimes make it hard to tell which roads offer a more or less straight shot to your destination, and which ones require you to pack a barf-bag. My trusty road atlas simply showed red and blue lines marked with gentle squiggles, which belied the precipitous twists and turns I often abruptly came upon. For example, according to my map, the drive between Taupo and the art-deco town of Napier is about 150 miles and takes 3 hours. What the map didn’t show was that after passing through gently undulating farmland for about an hour, you then hit a long stretch of highway that winds and weaves its way through a heavily forested mountain range. The drive is beautiful but tiring, with switchbacks and narrow lanes forcing me to concentrate harder and longer than I was used to. However, the kiwis seemed to take it in stride, effortlessly zipping around the turns like it was second nature. I guess I just need a lot more practice

And maybe I will get more practice soon – I am already planning my next trip. I enjoy road-tripping so much that I might just rent a camper-van and take my time. Perhaps I’ll meander around for 6 weeks, or maybe 2 months. Either way, you can bet I’m gonna get the windshield insurance, let my aggressions go, and watch out for small furry critters. New Zealand doesn’t need anymore roadkill.

© Karen Elowitt - 2007

(Page 4 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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