Monday brought our first serious time in the car, so we left prepared for wrong turns and some spousal warfare, but surprisingly we kept it to a minimum. The most difficult aspect was leaving Christchurch. Not so much due to traffic, but because that was where we made the first wrong turn; like within three minutes of leaving our hotel. And the irony was that we were trying to reach a street, Riccarton Road, that we had already been on multiple times because it is near the University of Canterbury campus. But our 10-cent a minute data plan and Google maps quickly got us back on track.
Once out of the city the drive was largely confined to well-paved, two-lane roads with really next to no traffic. And once in the groove, the driving was pretty much like driving anywhere. What I have found the most challenging about a right-hand drive car is pulling in and out of parking spaces. The perspective of trying to guage whether I’m too close to another car on my left is just weird. I can do it without thinking when everything is opposite at home, but I guess that is from a lifetime of practice. And Pat kept admonishing me not to drift too far left in the city for fear of clipping a parked car. The roundabouts can be a little daunting at first but since we encounter them in New Jersey all the time it wasn’t that difficult. In general I would tell anyone that has not driven on the left to not be afraid and to give it a whirl. Especially in this country, where the traffic is light and roads generally well-marked. Might be a bit of challenge to make your first effort in London, or in Ireland where I’m told the roads can be narrow.
The travels led us to a stop in the small town of Fairlie — Pat covered that in her earlier post — and then on for an overnight in Lake Tekapo. Tekapo is noted for star-gazing; it’s already getting busloads of Japanese tourists and the summer season has not yet kicked into high gear. The sky was clear last night and the stars out but we opted out of a formal tour because they tend to be late. The best one is at 1 a.m. at the Mount John Observatory that has been used by NASA as part of its mission. That’s for the real astronomy geeks; we just stepped outside and looked up, but we are planning to drive up there this morning for the view as it is clear and sunny at the moment. (Things can change quickly here we are told; it snowed last week.)
Next stop is Mt. Cook for some trail walking.