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Travel Story by John Lewis

  Snippet from New Zealand about a rescue
New Zealand
 


Resting after the rescue drama!

New Zealand has to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world and it was certainly my favourite place to visit during ten months of travelling. The other places I visited were: Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Australia, Fiji, America, Mexico and Canada. So for New Zealand to top the list gives you a pretty good idea of how spectacular and stunning I found the country.

I arrived in New Zealand in the winter period and this had a couple of advantages. Firstly there were fewer tourists so travel around the country was relatively easy and the popular tourist spots less crowded. The other advantage was that it was slow season for the tourist industry so the companies were keen to offer services at much reduced rates. One service I took advantage of was the hire car as basically no one was hiring during their winter. I got an excellent deal on a britz maui camper van that I hired for 5 weeks and went chugging all over the country. This gave me travelling autonomy and I would simply check into campsites (no need to pre-book in winter – another advantage), set up my van and I would have a cosy little pad for the evening.

New Zealand is bigger than England and some of the distances can be deceptive. Locations may only be a hundred miles apart but when driving about 95% of the roads I used were single lane A or B type roads. You could not really drive very fast anywhere so it was more of a gentle amble among the roads. Probably another good thing really as the scenery was often so stunning I was compelled to stop frequently to admire the views. Anyway, all this driving and ambling about was to lead me to a mini adventure/rescue a few weeks later.

I was making the journey from Queenstown to a small village near the Franz Josef Glacier during the last few days of my road trip. This was a long drive and it was along the sparsely populated west side of the island. Yet more stunning scenery and it also involved winding roads through forest terrain. After a stop at a roadside café I continued along on my trip. After about 40 minutes I was driving through forests and there were steep walls on my left side. I noticed there was some rock debris on the road, obviously recently fallen from the cliff face so I made a careful mini-detour around the rocks. About a minute later I saw a lady trying to flag me down and she was by a little recess at the side of the road. The lady, in her 60’s, looked a little agitated, so I pulled over to see if things were okay. She said she and her husband were driving and they had hit some rocks on the road (obviously the same rocks I had just seen) and this had caused some damage to their car. Her husband, who was in his 70’s looked quite shaken and it appeared their little ‘bump’ had upset them both considerably. They were an American couple on a drive around tour of New Zealand. I looked at their car and I noticed they had managed to burst two tyres on same side of the car; considering they had only one spare tyre this would be a bit of a logistical problem! There was no radio or mobile phone signal for the area as it was really isolated. And to put things into perspective, their vehicle was the first I had seen after 45 minutes driving! They were in a bit of a tight spot and their unfortunate accident was in a really rather rubbish place to have a mishap!

I said I would drive on ahead and look for another café or road stop so I could obtain assistance for them. I asked them to remain in their car, as it was quite chilly. I then drove on for about 15 minutes and noticed a jeep by the side of the road and there were three men consulting a map. I stopped my van and spoke to them and asked them how far the next café or road stop was? The men looked bemused and informed me the next stop was at least 5 hours drive away! There was only one thing for it so I turned round and drove back to where the couple were located. I informed them I was going to drive back to where I had stopped at a café earlier and get assistance there. I then drove all the way back to the café I had left earlier on. I spoke to the owner of the café and explained the couples’ problematic situation. The owner duly obliged by contacting a mechanic to come and assist the couple. However, there arose another problem. Because the couple where in the middle of nowhere (I did say it was a rather rubbish place to break down!) the mechanic would not get to the couple and their car for a good few hours and that would mean them sitting in a car getting colder and colder. Also bear in mind they were an elderly couple shaken by their accident. There was only one thing for it! I drove back to the couple (yes! 40 minutes back up the road past the rock debris!) and explained the situation to them that the mechanic would be a good few hours. I suggested that they would be better off sitting in a warm café waiting for help to arrive rather than sitting in an increasingly cold car with virtually no vehicles passing. At this point events had been going on for two hours and I had only seen two vehicles. The couple agreed. They unloaded their car, put all their stuff in my van and I drove them back to the café. The couple were obviously nervous (do I look like a thug?), and I tried to reassure them on the way. At the café I helped them unload and I introduced them to the owner who said that they would be welcome to stay until the mechanic and help arrived.

And with that I was back on my way to Franz Josef Glacier, a good few hours away. The rest of the journey was uneventful apart from me stopping to admire the scenery. The west side was really very, very sparsely populated and I did not see the next building for 5-6 hours. I stopped at one location that reminded me of a Salvador Dali painting – “Metamorphosis of Narcissus”.

But what of the couple? I do not know and will probably never find out. I hope things turned out well for them and they managed to avoid future breakdowns in rubbish locations! And that is the story of my little rescue.


Click on photo to enlarge


Near the accident scene  Typical NZ scenery  Franz Josef glacier


Date Submitted: 28 Feb 2008


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