Touring NZ

A truck grinds its way up the Otira Viaduct on the West Coast Rd - Arthurs Pass
A classic example of NZ’s alpine passes is the West Coast Road at Arthurs Pass and the Otira Viaduct. With its fairly steep descent the viaduct can very icy and slippery in winter

Something to be said about visiting a new place, or revisiting an old place.

We recently found ourselves back in Fiordland’s Milford Sound (Piopiotahi) after a long hiatus, but the drive down through the Lindis Pass from Christchurch, and over Queenstown’s Devil’s Staircase reminded me that New Zealand’s roads, while they can be spectacularly scenic, are notorious for not taking prisoners. For the unwary and inattentive they can, and have proved time and again, to be singularly unforgiving.

Unpleasant driving conditions can also strike at any time of the year, and in winter you can often add snow and ice to this. Especially for our more mountainous, and southern roads, as well as most of the country’s alpine passes, of which the Lindis is a classic example. Many of New Zealand’s roads are also quite narrow compared to their foreign counterparts, and many of them don’t have verges, pull off areas, or even safety barriers. It is entirely up to the driver to watch the road attentively, ever attuned for the nuances of the road, and for inattentive drivers coming the other way, or out of sideroads.

Which brings me to the obvious: If you want to visit and enjoy our magnificent scenery (emphasis on the “and”) it may be worth considering taking a guided tour with an expert driver. Yes, it may cost you more than anticipated, but it frees you up from the responsibility of driving while trying to enjoy the scenery. You can concentrate on just enjoying the scenery while some one else does the driving for you. Depending on the tour operator you choose, the prices can vary considerably, but so can the level of service. Having said that, whichever option you go for, It’s should be far less tiring than driving yourself! On the other hand if you insist on self-driving, then allow plenty of time between destinations, take your time with plenty of rest stops, while being considerate of other road users, and above all enjoy.

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