Monday, February 18, 2008

Dram: NZ Rent-A-Wreck

Nzrentawreck1 Nzrentawreck2
First of all, don't worry... It wasn't me!

Okay... now here's the story: For my extended exploration in New Zealand, I have rented a Toyota Corolla. It's not much of a car but it was relatively cheap, especially after the great deal I got from the manager of the Thrifty office in Dunedin whose dog I happily made a big fuss over. (It pays to be a dog-person!) I picked the car up this morning and headed south -- more or less along the coast -- on the "Southern Scenic Route" between Dunedin and Invercargill. Because I did so much driving "on the left" in Scotland and northern England last summer, I was quite comfortable with that aspect of the experience. Because all of the road signs are in English and the signals are all pretty normal, I was feeling quite at ease. Along the way, however, I became mindful that driving in New Zealand can be tricky and even dangerous.

For one thing, the roads are pretty narrow, even the main highways which are only one lane in each direction with occasional passing lanes. For another, there are a lot of big trucks that create such a big wind effect when passing that a dinky car like mine gets a pretty good shove toward the shoulder. Add in high gusting winds that roll off the sea, steep and winding hills, the distraction of beautiful scenery, etc., and you can easily find yourself in trouble pretty quickly.

At one point the road changed from asphalt to gravel and I had limited traction to add to the equation. Driving along a riverbed between steep hills which created poor visibility around curves, I slowed myself way down and thought, "Wow... This could really be dicey for someone not accustomed to driving on the left, in an unfamiliar vehicle. Especially some of those folks who are driving RVs."

No sooner had that thought made its way through my brain than I came around a corner and saw the sight in the first photo above. It had obviously happened just minutes before because I was only the second car on the scene. I hopped out and found the first passer-by talking to the people involved, quickly finding out that there were many bumps, bruises and small cuts but no major injuries. The fire/rescue truck arrived a few minutes later and the professional took control of the scene.

Based on the amount of damage you can see in the second photo, the people involved were all very, very lucky to avoid major injury. I didn't stick around to find out the details, but it certainly looks like both vehicles were going too fast, saw each other too late around a blind turn, lost traction on the gravel and maybe even instinctively turned the wrong way at the last instant. No matter what happened, you can count these as two NZ rental RVs that won't be back in service for a while.

As for me, I turned my dinky little Corolla around, found a detour back to the highway and took a while to really let it sink in: Be especially careful when driving in New Zealand!

1 comment:

truck rental said...

I have a lot of friends who rented a car in NZ and in Australia and they also said that driving there was a whole new experience. Good to hear you are OK!