We’re half way up the highest road in NZ, in a hire car, automatic, yuk! (Horriby embarassing car model…Honda Hit….hope its not a prophetic vehicle). The snow is starting to fall fast, the road steep and narrow, the twins going ballistic over the white stuff. We come to ‘Chains Bay #1’, and pull into to fit the chains.
Instruction on snow chains to date: a lovely girl at the hire car company who never actually got them out but said, ‘well you just put them over the wheel and pull tight, you’ll find them in the spare wheel, they’re easy’.
Experience driving with chains: nil!
Expectation that any of this would be relevant: none!
So back at Chains Bay 1, with what in England would be described as blizzard conditions, we find the chains and attempt to disentangle what looks like metal knitting. The problem seems to be a cable tie with a small lable on it. I can just make out the words and read, ‘Breaking this tie incurs a charge of $35NZ!’ I love it! We’re almost covered in snow, on a tricky road, high in the Alps, and Europcar tempts us to save money by tying up the chains with impossible to cut ties bearing warnings of financial penalties!! Health & safety rides again! Needless to say, some tactical swearing was necessary and a small pair of Mrs H’s best nail clipers essential. Let’s see them try and charge us!!
Mrs H reads the instructions aloud (helpfully translated from the Italian) against the howling wind, twins tumble out the back and proceed to start snowball fight and snow angel making in the layby. Large 4 x 4’s smugly sweep by towards the top (just like Chuch Hill at 8.30 am).
Against all instinct I flag down he next car and ask for help. ‘Sure thing buddy’, chirps the driver. I look twice because I am sure he was in Emerald class last year, perhaps I’m just getting older. After what seems ages of gettng very snowy and frustrated he pronounces he has ‘never seen this kind before’. Mrs H discovers that the Italian for Blue, Green and Yellow are obviously different as clip ‘a’ does not correspond to ‘chain B’ and nothing looks like the artists impression from Milan (It’s that IKEA furniture construction nighmare, but outdoors…and with snow!). By now snow is horizontal, twins soaked, but squealing, and road very white. 4×4’s still smug.
Suddenly, as if from heaven, a plough/gritter/salvation waggon comes up the road. My new preteen ‘buddy’ (will I ever get used tothat salutation?) jumps back into his car with a cheery, ‘well you’ve not come off the road yet have you? Forget the chains and follow the gritter!’
Knitting, snow twins, instructions and all are bundled back into the Hit and we slide off after the gritter.
Thankfully, as now snug in Queenstown, we made it. Never has a youth hostel looked so good, in fact it is great. Venturing out later in the day we make sense of the Italian, get the knitting on, but thought better of the road to the Ski Slopes (the 4×4 drivers looked distinctly less smug as they emerged from the access road). However snowmen, snow sausage dogs, and snowball fight all duly constructed and completed. Twins dry, happy, and asleep.
Snow still falling fast and a 5 day journey in a Motorhome beckons tomorrow…seemed such a good idea from the warmth of Melbourne!
Location:Shotover St,Queenstown,New Zealand