New Zealand, for those of you who only know them as a rugby team is made up of two islands, the south island is predominantly farming orientated, dairy to be exact, whereas the north seems to have more industry, with some farming however the cities are bigger. Most of the land mass is covered in splendid mountain ranges. As for the land not covered by mountains, well those parts are flat so this leads to two types of roads, extremely twisty mountain roads and long, straight flat roads. What makes this even better is that New Zealand only has a population of around 4 million people, meaning the roads are not that congested.
What’s more, the roads are maintained properly, proof of this is the fact that throughout my fourteen day visit to both the north and south island I saw just one pothole, which was repaired a few days later.
Right so they have the scenery, they have the roads, now what about the cars? As one would expect, Ford and Holden reign supreme as they are somewhat of a local delicacy. However it is the variety that surprised me the most. One that really attracted my attention was the 5.7-litre double-cab SS UTE. We know it as a Chevrolet Lumina UTE SS. What’s also intriguing is that fact that the New Zealanders have embraced the wagon, no not the thing that Gandalf uses when rolling into Hobbiton, but station-wagons. I’m talking Volvos, Fords, Holdens and even Nissan Skyline wagons, most of which have been modified.
This brings me onto another thing that I noticed and that is the massive amount of Japanese cars on their roads. I saw Toyotas and Nissans of different sizes, some of which I’ve never seen before. They also have quite a number of Korean cars, and much to my surprise they already have the latest Kia Sportage on offer.
Now as for German cars, well there are a few, not nearly as much as what we have on our roads. I saw a hand full of BMW’s and Mercedes-Benz cars but nothing extraordinary. What was extraordinary was the amount of cars that we consider to be desirable icons that are as common as Hilux bakkies over here, I’m referring to Toyota Supra’s and Nissan Skyline GT-R’s. They are a relatively common sight, even in some of the smaller towns.
There is one Japanese car that rules when it comes to getting the best out of the New Zealand roads. A car that seems to be common on the south island. On the South Island they tend to experience high levels of snow as well as black ice, this is where ice forms on the roads causing them to be extremely slippery. Add to that mix a few twisty turns and you need a car that can grip with all-fours as well as handle the many gravel roads, it got to be a Subaru. WRX STI’s of all ages grace the roads, Foresters and station wagons as well are a favourite choice with the locals.
It sounds good doesn’t it? Well, there is a catch, a big one. Do not even think about driving over 100km/h on the motorways. In town best stick to half of that or you could face some stiff discipline from the boys in blue.
However the biggest shock to me was the fact that they know how to use a traffic circle. In South Africa when you approach a traffic circle it’s like playing Russian Roulette because we just don’t have a clue how it works.
One thing that I noticed about the New Zealanders is that they have impeccable road manners. They respect the law and most importantly they respect each other. Not once did someone cut in front of me, skip an orange or red light and you can forget about speeding. Sure there are some who tend to take chances when it comes to the speed limit.
I asked a local how they feel about driving so slowly, his reply is something that we should start practicing. He said; “What’s the rush? Why do you need to rush somewhere, endangering your life and the lives of others?”
Something that became apparent to me upon my return to South Africa and as I exited OR Tambo International I was almost side swiped by someone cutting across four lanes without indicting at a substantial speed. Welcome home…