Things I Wouldn’t Want To Be Swept Away By #15

When visiting New Zealand earlier this year, I climbed Mt Ruapehu – well, some of it anyway. At the time, I marvelled at the sternly worded warning signs like: “Did you know? Volcanic mud travels down gullies” and “Do you know what to do when the siren sounds?”

After watching this (from 2007), I can see why. Volcanic lahars – now on my list of things I wouldn’t want to be swept away by.

pretty pictures

Last night I finally finished uploading my many, many photos from New Zealand to my gallery, and a small selection to Facebook. Here are a few tasters, either click on the image or click “gallery” up the top to view them all (edit: you need to register to see any pictures of people such as me):

Steam 'n' Algae
Thermal Spring at Orakei Korako
Huka Falls
Huka Falls
Through Treees
Kaiteriteri - near Abel Tasman National Park
Long Shot
Fox Glacier

back home!

Back in Sydney tonight. It’s very hot and humid compared to Queenstown!

Here is a picture! I’ll upload all my photos tomorrow, most likely.

new zealand’s stupid right-hand-turn rule

Update (Mar 12): Sanity prevails! New Zealand’s right hand turn rule changes to align with the rest of the western world on March 25th at 5am. See here: http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/around-nz/road-user-rule.html. I leave this post as a testament to how silly this rule was.

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I have a compulsion to describe just how much I hate New Zealand’s stupid right of way road rules. Those of you who’ve driven here possibly understand the rage. For those of you who haven’t, let me try and explain how it works. Keep in mind vehicles drive on the left in NZ.

Here’s the single sentence version: In New Zealand, a vehicle turning left must give way to an oncoming vehicle making a right hand turn into the same road. Or to put it another way, when making a right hand turn across oncoming traffic, you need only give way to cars proceeding straight ahead. Oncoming vehicles turning left must give way to you. Clear? Didn’t think so. Here’s a picture:

Red car gives way to blue car.

In Australia (and pretty much everywhere else) when turning across oncoming traffic, you must give way to all oncoming vehicles. Nice and simple.

I’ve racked my brain trying to understand what benefits are conferred by this hare-brained approach. I’ve certainly encountered a couple of really dangerous situations that are created by the rule. I’ll use some pictures to explain the problems.

Situation one – Vehicle A making a left hand turn at a four way intersection with traffic lights and pedestrians crossing. When a red light changes to green, generally pedestrians crossing in the same direction will get a green signal too. This means when turning left, you must wait until the crossing is clear of pedestrians before turning. No worries. Only problem is, pedestrians will sometimes dart across the crossing when their signal has started flashing red, so the driver of Vehicle A must pay close attention throughout the turn to avoid collecting anyone.

Watching the pedestrian? Mind the car about to crash into your driver's side door!

While busy watching pedestrians and making a left turn, the driver of Vehicle A just might miss an oncoming Vehicle B with right of way turning right on top of them. Dangerous, sure. Not the worst one though.

Situation two – Vehicle A making a right hand turn on a straight but narrow road, while a large left-turning oncoming Vehicle B gives way. What a driver may not be able to see behind the oncoming Vehicle B is another Vehicle C which is not turning. It is legal for this hidden Vehicle C to pass the slowing/stopped Vehicle B. Upon passing, Vehicle C has right of way over Vehicle A which may have already started to turn, possibly resulting in a passenger-side collision. Very not good. This was described here at Fush ‘n’ Chups from where I nicked the diagram (thanks guy!)

It's bad enough as is. Now imagine Red Car can't actually see Yellow Car.

So when is this nutty rule actually meant to help? Can anyone describe some scenarios that are actually made safer by the rule?

Edit: I’ve discovered from a news article from 4 days ago that the NZ government are at last planning on ditching this rule! Hooray!

slowin’ it down

Kaiteriteri

Abel Tasman National Park was characterised by what seems to be our usual New Zealand weather pattern – grey, possibly a bit rainy and cold in the morning followed by beautiful blueness to finish off the day. Strange, since it looked so nice when we woke. Never mind.

Spot the Seal

After about an 8 hour drive down the coast to Fox Glacier (via a seal colony at Cape Foulwind), we both decided our pace was a bit manic and it was stressing us out. Consequently, we’ve ditched both Mt Cook and Dunedin from our itinerary so that we can spend a bit more time around Wanaka, Queenstown and Te Anau. So far, that’s working really nicely.

Spot the Glacier

Glacier clambering was great fun, if a little exhausting. Once again, cold, drizzly and cloudy early on followed by dazzing blue skies and sunshine. We’ll walk the Rob Roy valley track tomorrow, which I’ve heard is particularly pretty.

so long, north island! oh hi south island.

Gee, I’ve been a bit slack with this haven’t I? I guess we’ve been a little bit too busy really. Since I last posted, we’ve been from Taupo to Tongariro National Park and then down to Wellington where we spent three days. We’ve crossed the Cook Straight on the Interislander and have now arrived in Motueka, near Abel Tasman National Park.

Some quick highlights: The photo up top is of the sun setting on Lake Taupo, the first night we arrived there. The next day was a bit grey and gloomy but we headed out to see the Aratiatia rapids on the Waikato river. Four times a day during the summer, the power generation company opens the flood gates on these rapids and “turns them on” for half an hour. It’s really quite a thing to see the rapids go from pretty much a trickle to 90,000 liters of water per second. I took some photos but you’ll have to wait till I get back.

Next day we headed for Tongariro National Park. I had all the best intentions that we would climb Mt Ruapehu and see the crater lake. I’d heard that the walk was pretty difficult, but that it could be done in about 5 hours return. By the time we got up to the top of the chairlift (at 2050m), that walk was looking a whole lot more daunting – difficult is certainly not a strong enough adjective. It was basically a slog up about a 30-35 degree incline on loose volcanic rock and pebbles on an unmarked trail with a 700 meter ascent. We started out and gave it a go but were forced to turn back reasonably quickly. We walked up a different ridge instead, about a 300 meter climb and took some very cool pics from among the clouds. Bloody hard walk, all the same.

We finished our tour of the North Island with a fairly long drive down to a three day stay in Wellington. Got a bit of everything done, saw museums, ate good food, saw some bands and drank copious quantities of beer and cider from tiny, tiny glasses.

Yesterday was a bit grey and gloomy too for our ferry trip across to Picton. It wasn’t too bad, rather cool to see the mountains of the south island popping out of the mists. The trip down Queen Charlotte sound was both surprisingly long and very pretty. Upon arrival and consumption of some deli sandwiches, we drove over to Motueka via some of the most windy roads I’ve ever encountered.

We woke this morning to see this out our window:

And we’re taking a boat trip up the coast for some walkies and swimming. I’d better get myself out of bed, in actual fact. Toodles, more later!

(When I get the chance, I’m gonna write a good and proper rant about New Zealand’s crazy road rules. Well, just the one rule in particular actually. Those of you who’ve driven here know the one I mean.)