Driving on the Left Side of the Road

It’s really not that hard. I thought it would be absolutely horrible, but because the wheel is on the right side of the car it’s quite intuitive. The driver remains closest to the center of the road, just like in America. I only freaked out once, and that was because of a weird roundabout at the end of a one-way street or something.

I clearly functioned well; now you’re probably wondering how the car held up. I’m pleased to say that despite a smidge of trouble getting out of the starting gate (see my post on Christchurch) the automobile is now an absolute stallion. She actually runs just like my dad’s Corolla, despite being about a decade older. How does Toyota do it? The Western World may never know…

And where was I going?

Zach, Carrie, and Brian (the other partial owners of the car) are skiing in Queenstown this weekend, leaving me its sole possessor. I’ve thus decided to spend some time in solitude, exploring my immediate surroundings in greater detail. This afternoon, a great grey mass of clouds rolled in and I rolled out – to Tunnel Beach, a popular two-hour hike just southwest of Dunedin. The track begins spectacularly, heading over a ridge by the car park and straight into the presence of the awesome Pacific, stretching on endlessly until it becomes indistinguishable from the clouds. One can then tramp down a steep hill to a series of mudstone formations forming cliffs a hundred feet above the crashing waves. The track’s namesake, though, is a narrow tunnel bored deep into the rock; at low tide it widens into the sole entrance to a beautiful, secluded cove.

After this stop, I drove back a few kilometers to the east for a third trip to the Peninsula. I reached the World War Memorial – a small tower atop a four hundred meter peak overlooking the city – just as the sun kissed the top of the western mountains. I navigated home by following the glow of Dunedin’s evening lights simultaneously rising into the darkening sky and twinkling in the lapping waves of the harbor.

New Zealand’s scenery keeps on surprising me – completely new landscapes seem to come and go kilometer by kilometer. The road to Tunnel Beach winds through Dunedin’s Glasgow-inspired architecture to the shores of Portugal, then up into the hills of Vermont. The Peninsula is reminiscent of Maine on the harbour side, and Ireland where it faces the Pacific. Travelling to Christchurch is akin to repeatedly teleporting between Bavaria and Hawaii, while the Christchurch region itself could easily exist in Colorado or Nevada – aside from the fact that it’s surrounded by what appear to be the Swiss Alps. And through it all, the land somehow also retains an otherworldly quality that is distinctly New Zealand’s own. I’ve yet to figure out exactly what this characteristic is, but it’s everywhere, and it’s breathtaking.

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~ by Jack on July 27, 2007.

2 Responses to “Driving on the Left Side of the Road”

  1. One thing about driving on the other side of the road… People don’t usually get killed when they start out; it gets dangerous once you get comfortable and your guard drops, and all you have to do is lapse once and WHAMMO. Even my uncle from Ireland got mixed up after being in the states for a few months. Kinda freaky. So watch yo’self!

    And keep the posts coming. I’m living vicariously through you. I leave you with this quote from “Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia by Louisa Waugh”:

    “The mountains ahead looked as though they were on fire, consumed in flames of violet, orange and scarlet. The sky above them was a riot of dark, dark blue, purple, yellow and saffron, colours of wild laughter. The lake itself was molten silver, and in the far distance, God only knows where, a lone pyramid of rock or ice glowed a translucent pink like an immense suspended crystal. Elemental fireworks. At that moment it was as though Princess [a nickname] and I were the only people in this world: everyone else had vanished while the earth and skies were ablaze.

    There was no sound. Nothing.

    It was like looking at earth for the very first time.

    Moments or minutes later the flames began to subside and merge into the darkness. Princess called to me and I rode on, knowing I’d never see a sunset quite like that again in my life.”

  2. Wow! Now we’re getting Mongolia and New Zealand in this blog. Very cool! Thanks for the caution, Alex, says the typical Dad.

    Your Mongolian sunset is all the more magnificent, exactly ’cause of the stark contrast between such a rich view and the absence of all sound, I think.

    Yes, both of you, keep the great descriptions coming when you have spare moments. The scenery whizzing by is spectacular. Us homebound ones are flying!

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