A View of NZ Two Months On.

When you think of New Zealand your mind jumps to the scenic backdrops that Peter Jackson has used for many of his films and not just the ones that star little people with large hairy feet. You think off clean, panoramic views with houses stood in isolation. A country that is 100% focused to the environment and keeping the green hilly land in tact by trying to restore the short damage that history of not just the Europeans but also the first settlers caused.

Yes, while the white man might have shaped NZ by mining, chopping, reclaiming the currently landscape that kiwis are struggling to adapt to, the tribes of the Maori hunted several birds to extinction and wiped large areas of natural forest even before Cook was born. All be it that they accomplished this over hundreds of years where the settlers after James Cook were on some kind of speed trip to write forests and animals into the history books of this young country.

I’ve been here now for over two months and have seen a good amount of New Zealand and enough time for my opinion to change. Sure I still love it. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve all seen the photographs I’ve taken…. Just look at it… It’s gorgeous. The thing is, it isn’t all middle earth. I’m coming closer to the idea that this is England with a bigger backdrop.

They all drive on the left for starters and road rage is high, traffic accidents and drink driving along with speeding is all high. The prospects for the young are low as employment is lacking and the notion of buying a house is even more far fetched than having that idea in the UK. People are fat and the government spins. The post is sacking staff, and banks offer loans. They love the pie. I would even go as far as saying that Wigan doesn’t know the meaning of pie eating. NZ has taken the art of pie and made it a national past time. Every petrol station, corner shop, cafe, pub all have pie. Everyone eats pie. The fashion is the same, the drinking culture is high, people sit in classy bars. Rural communities are being cut off and the prospect of libraries hang in the balance. Public transport is a mix bag and there is a nationwide buzz over X factor.

A recent survey saw over 50% thought that the picture postcard of a nation that bent double to look after its culture and environment was rubbish. Recycling is big, but like the UK there is large packaging issues and plastic bags given when none are needed. Sure the national parks protect the land, but farming is still big business and swallows up the land. The mere fact that the farmland is going to produce milk which is exported to the growing dairy loving countries in the east causes for milk and cheese in NZ to be purchased with a mortgage which at the moment means a 20% deposit. Kiwis feel that the idea they promote to the world is not entirely accurate. While steps are in place to help the conservation and to stop the spread of pests many locals feel it is no where near what it should or could be.

The idea of buying your own bit of land and building your house has gone, as like the UK, NZ has given birth to the property developer. Towns are still in abundance, but in the north and those cities in the south that have an ever growing population that takes over small quiet neighbouring settlements are slowly moving to the large American town model. Shopping malls are springing up with out of town entertainment complexes. Supermarkets are fighting for your money with weekly deals and money off the price of petrol, which since I arrived as risen by ten cents.

New Zealand is young and is still growing and as such faces a contradiction. It needs to grow and compete in the world. It needs to prove itself and not be shadowed by it larger neighbour. Since the 1950s when they finally let go of the reins that Britain had been holding, NZ has become its own country and is making a name for itself in its own right. But at what cost, can you carry on protecting the already changed habitat and remain to grow without changing the landscape for the worse.

It’s obvious that their efforts are being rewarded as several birds on the critical list are now back in abundance, native trees are replacing the Birch and the bush is being restored, but at what cost to progress and growth of communities. The road network will need a vast upgrade, some areas like Auckland are facing some of the worse traffic jams seen. One accident or rock slide can cause communities and day to day operations to come to a halt. Plans for more motorways are faced with large opposition for those protecting the land, but the need to move goods and commerce is growing with importance.

There is sense that they don’t want to conserve what they have but to try and turn the clock back before any mammal had set foot on the islands. Traps to kill stoats, hedgehogs, hunting of wild deer and pigs which thanks to evolution flourish while the indigenous species failed to adapt and as such were sitting ducks to their new predators.

I’m not sure which camp I’m in, but if their beloved kiwi can’t be bothered to adapt and survive then maybe god has its cards marked. The UK has had a number of foreign animals change the landscape and has Britain been any worse for this. But at the same time to see native birds that only reside in NZ disappear when we can be reasonable for their survival should not be ignored. But surly it’s too late to turn the clock back. Even for the young history of NZ. Even without mans help species have left this world and maybe we have only sped up what Mother Nature had planned. There is a cruel irony that while the induction of Europeans dealt the death penalty to many of the native wide life, they also helped others grow and survive.

You could be forgiven that you were in England sometimes, as some of the views and endless backdrops of hills, trees, mountains don’t look to dissimilar than our green pleasant land. However it’s bigger and grander. You feel more isolated and amazed. The lifestyle is more chilled and laid back. Even in busy cities the clock signals home time at 6pm, which people respect. In the rush of business people will wait for the green man and allow the humble pedestrian to cross even when they have a green light.

There are several parallels you can draw between the UK and NZ, the people who dream of flying to the other side of the word, the cost of food, the future, the love of one sport like its a religion, all be it different ones, the spilt thinking about the queen, a love of their country, walking, the weather and political system.

There is more to this country than the picture postcards we have installed in our minds. So after two months it’s not that they just drive on the left.

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They drive on the left

Right, I’m here and let’s be honest I wish I had started to blog about my adventures earlier in this wonderful place we call New Zealand. I know that you probably think otherwise but at the end of the day you have chosen to read or follow this attempt at literature so I can only conclude it must be entertaining in the smallest degree.

Anyway I’ve been in kiwi zone now for 6 weeks and while there seem to be many parallels with us Brits the kiwis seem to do other things different and in most cases they make sense. Lets start with the banks.

I set up my account in England, so when I arrived all I needed to do was activate it. I popped into the local ASB bank showed them the letter they opened a drawer and took out a card, placed it in the machine and asked me to type a pin in. After I’d typed the four digits, the card was removed and handed to me. Simple as that, no waiting for a card in the post. I asked what would happen if I lost or had it stolen how I’d get it replaced. Same procedure I was told, so no waiting for a new card in the post either. We then set up Internet banking in a similar fashion. There was no waiting for a username, then a pass code in another letter, it was just like registering for amazon or any other kind of online account. No sign of that stupid law of data protection, as was seen when the man in the vodafone shop phoned up on my behalf and quoted a shop reference number to the call centre staff before he began talking about my account.

It gets better.

Let’s turn our attention to driving. It’s on the left, and has two speed limits. 50 k.p.h for towns and built up areas or 100 k.p.h for open roads. Travelling at 100 makes it a lot easier to wrk out travel times as well. Also the roads, are simple. Everyone lives by the coast, and the state highways just run from town to town, so as long as you know north and south, and where your destination is then you can’t get lost. The downside to this is lack of road signs. Travelling from Picton to Nelson, I would have one road sign just outside Picton showing me I was heading to Nelson and it was 200 odd kilometres, and that would be it until I got to Nelson. Sure there would be a sign further on informing me I was heading to Nelson, but it wouldn’t give me a distance. They also seem to be very late in appearing. If for example I did need to turn off, the sign instructing me would do so on the junction, no warning to say Queenstown next left, or anything like that.

Another thing about their road signs is that there funny and shocking. Some of the highlights have been a sign filled with crosses, with the slogan, ‘you’ll be dead for a long time, so what’s the rush’ and another one that was DRINK DrIvE, with the DIE in drive in red. Others with coffins driving a car with a slogan ‘Tired drivers die’ and a picture of a zip to show how to merge onto a road.

The speeding limit is enforced heavily with only a tolerance of 5 over, and other road signs indicate this with the fines you could get. I saw one with a speedo that had 0 to 105 k.p.h then it went $150, 200, 250, and so on for each 5 k.p.h over. You also have no warning where the cameras are.

As many of the towns are far apart, you could be driving for 300km at a time, which takes around 4 to 5 hours. The roads may look straight on the map, but they are in Fact hilly, rising sometimes as high as 900 meters above sea level, with every twist and turn turn possible. You will see signs to tell lorries to test there brakes before a 6K down hill twisty section and every corner will have a suggested speed limit, which is in fact extremely accurate. But the roads help you as many of the bend will widen. Another neat idea is when turning right onto a main road you have a little slip road, to park yourself in, until there s space to join the flow of traffic.

The final thing to say about NZ roads are as there are not many motorways and the roads are like our country ones in the UK then you will find plenty of passing places that are signed as far back as 5km, which is just as well as tailgating and not rugby seem to be the national sport. The one major rule on the road and car parks is give way to the left, this applies on the passing places, if the car passing on the right has not managed to overtake those on the left he has to give way to them. The only thing I found really odd but it makes sense now is that the writing on the road is backwards. NZ has a lot of one road bridges, and I’ve often thought why they didn’t build them as two lanes. Whilst in the UK you would see ONE LANE BRIDGE written top to bottom, in NZ is from bottom up.

One
Lane
Bridge UK WAY

Bridge
Lane
One. NZ WAY as you read the words as you cross over them

Finally supermarkets and gas stations. People are employed to fill your car up, leaving you to go inside and wait and pay. These folk will also clean your windscreen. There does not seem to be a difference in price between the brands, even BP is the same price as the budget supermarket stations. What’s also great is at every pump they have a keypad where you can select the amount of petrol you want in dollars or litres so never again do you have to slowly squeeze the pump to get that last drop to round it up to 10.

Supermarkets are pretty much the same, except that some fruit goes by different names, it took me a good couple of minutes to find peppers on The self service. They have there versions of Tescos, Sainsburys and Spar. The big thing would be the prices for items are on the shelf above and you always have to look out for specials as food is expensive unless it broccoli as that’s like 30p, but bread is like 2.50 and cheese works out to be a rip off. Brands that were use to exist but seem to be shadowed by there NZ own. The only brand tat has prime shelf space is Cadburys and that’s expensive, in fact all chocolate is. Dairy milk is $2.50 which is £1.75 and its not that they import it, as they make it in Dunedin

Anyway hope you have enjoyed reading the differences. Ill be back soon to talk about some of my adventures.

Said it all before

I’ve said it all before, but I really do wish people know how to drive on British roads, and in particular our motorways.

I was reminded of this fact as I drove along one my all time roads the A590 and suddenly realised that people didn’t know that the speed limit was 70 mph. They saw the National Speed limit sign and thought it must be 60, but forget the simple rule in the highway code that says when there is a centre reservation barrier on a duel carriage way the speed limit is 70.

This little drop in speed did not bother me, as I was saving fuel and was quite happy travelling along at 60, even on the motorway, and this is where the real issue comes. I know how to use the motorway and for those who don’t or do not live within the UK, then basically we have three lanes. Ideally everyone should use the inside lane, and only use the other two when they need to overtake. What happens is people think the first lane is slow, middle is for people doing 70, and the outside lane being the fast lane. This is not the case. I was travelling along at 62 mph as that is the best speed for my fuel economy. But yet in the inside lane, I was undertaking those in the other two lanes. What this also means is that when I want to over take the HGV in front which is limited at 60, I can’t, as there are drivers who are running along at 60, or 65 in the middle lane.

That’s is it, not much of a rant. But it is very annoying.

Here’s the other time I spoke about Motorways 

Motorways

I like driving. I love it and wished that I had persevered with it when I was seventeen, but alas I went to Manchester to study and found that I didn’t need to drive, or thought that it wasn’t needed.

Years went on and work came flooding in. Loving train travel I didn’t need to use a car, I was always busy and stayed in Manchester, until I lost out on a job due to not being able to drive. This was quickly followed by work drying up and the option was clear, learn to drive to increase the work I could apply for or become a fish struggling to stay alive in a water hole that was fast disappearing.

A year on I am now using my licence for work. I have in the past used it for little jobs just out of convenience and ease, but the work I am now involved in would have not been possible or would have been made near impossible if I travelled by my first love of the British Train System.

So in my little polo I am running up and down the country on all kinds of motorways and roads, and I love it. I wished I had learnt to drive sooner if not just for the cheap insurance and the ‘No-Claim Bonus’s’ I would have picked up by now, but also because I love it. Wales had nice roads, the Lakes do not. Well the A66 off from the M6 is nice.

But the true reason for this blog post is the stretch of roads where people seem to be allowed to drive, who have no or little experience of the task ahead of them. Now I would not say I am an experienced driver, but I feel I have enough miles under my belt and have driven motorways a lot (I do spend my life on them). I would also say I am a safe driver; I look at my MPG and plan ahead but I do also speed. Well most of the time…. there are occasions when I have slammed on the brakes. But all in all, I slow down at lights, change gear, just so I don’t have to stop, I leave a gap when stopping to pull out, and leave at least a car and half between myself and the driver in front.

So still I have failed to explain what the post is. It is simply people don’t know how to drive on motorways, and the way some are just boring. Within the blog I will be exploring those roads I love and those I love to hate. The other part of this blog has been inspired from my journey to Lancaster today and trip to Keswick but is a pressing issue that seems to happen to me quite a lot. Normally taking place on the A1/M1 to Newcastle, or the M60 from Stockport. That is the rain, and heavy rain. The kind of rain where the wipers are useless and the spray blocks any vision the wipers had cleared for you.

So what is it about this weather that upsets me so much? The actually question should be what do other drivers do to upset me. Most of it is what they do normally, but when it’s weather like this people should follow certain rules.

  1. Leave 3 times the space
  2. Have your lights on
  3. Indicate when pulling out or into lanes
  4. Don’t speed

Coming back from Keswick the other day there was heavy fog. I mean heavy, you couldn’t see the front of the bonnet, and travelling there I was lost in a warp of mist and heavy rain that clouded my vision. On both occasions people still sped past, neglected to have lights, be it dipped beams or fog lights on.

Today was a nightmare has people did not obey these simple rules, but even when the sun is out, people tend to be up your bumper or squeeze into the gape you have left between the car in front meaning you need to touch the brakes to increase your distance. People staying in the middle lane even when it is empty in the inside. I will admit at rush hour I will sit in the middle, but that’s because I can’t be bothered weaving in out because of the trucks but come the evening I with 60% of other users, will endeavour to use the motorway as it is intended. This lane hogging and refusal to move from your position is why I hate the M6 so much, and the M61 as well. The M25 is nice compared to the M6. So what are my best motorways and what are the worst ones. Well I enjoy those nice quite ones, or the ones that work like the M55/A55/M1/A1/M62/M66/M65 I hate those roads like the M60/M56/M67/A57, the junction by Leeds of the M62 and Newcastle on the A1 and M56 where the exits are also the slip roads onto the fast highway.

So apart from showing some more of my geekiest for love of motorways which I am becoming less fond of on a daily basis because of the sheer stupidity of other drivers. But if the weather behaves itself then there are several nice stretches of roads to place you foot to the pedal and sit back and enjoy the journey.

However this song and this band make me happy, so i thought I would leave you all with this.