Wednesday 20 August 2014

What Does The Sign Say?

We went tiki-touring today, to the DOC campground at Totaranui on the coast. Twenty kilometres on a narrow winding gravel road up and over a range through the Abel Tasman National Park. On our way back from Totaranui (I’ll post on that soon) we took a side road to visit Awaroa.

Awaroa is across a large estuary at the end of a extremely narrow road. There’s not much to see there, just a grass parking area, a few DOC signs directing people walking the Abel Tasman Great Walk and a huge mudflat. There’s a lodge & a few baches but they’re far across the estuary and only accessible by dinghy at high tide or walking at low tide.

The warning sign at the beginning of Awaroa Road says it all. We would never attempt to take our fifth-wheeler down this road but these roads are great to explore when we’re out in the Ranger.

Other than one vehicle that arrived at Totaranui while we were having lunch we hadn’t seen another car on the roads all day.

That was until we rounded a bend about a kilometre down Awaroa Road to come across this…

What you can’t see are the eight, yes that’s right, eight people standing on the road further on. A family from overseas; elderly Mum & Dad, a son who has just graduated from Dunedin University & was driving, plus sons & daughters & two partners, all in their teens & twenties who were visiting NZ. The son from Dunedin was taking the family on a South Island tour, they’d left Christchurch two days ago.

We have no idea why the guy decided to ignore the sign but once he had committed himself to the road there was no turning around. We also don’t know why he cut the corner, it was actually one of the wider corners on the road. And eight people? We’re sure this would be a six berth van and only have seatbelts for six people.

They were extremely lucky the van didn’t tip over, the ground was very soft & the boulders loose & there was a very steep gully below the culvert. Knowing that there was no way we could haul it out with the ute, we took the son back up the road to see first, if we could get phone reception & if not, take him down to Totaranui where there was a phone box located.

As luck would have it, a DOC Ranger was waiting at the road junction for a mate to arrive. He resides at the Awaroa Hut but had been at Totaranui to do a check as that ranger was away. He was able to call Head Office on his CB and they called Apollo who then arranged a tow truck. And although the family had insurance we have the feeling that it may not help in this situation as they were on a gravel road that had a clear warning sign about not driving it in a motorhome.

The tow truck was going to take about two hours to arrive. By now it was about 3pm and getting quite cold. The family had managed to get their jackets and a rug out of the van and were sitting on it further down the road. We left them with the DOC guy while we drove past and down to the estuary to check it out before returning up the road.

We had to be quite forceful when the son told us the family thought they’d walk down to the “beach”. We told them it was 3kms downhill with two “rivers” (fords) to cross and there was no way he’d be able to drive the van down there to collect them once it was free (if in fact the tow truck managed to pull it free). The DOC ranger thought he might need to bring the tractor back to use as an anchor as winching from behind would have dragged the front over.

There was no more we could do for them so we left the son at the top of the road waiting for the tow truck and we headed back over the range for home. An extra careful drive, inching our way around every blind corner expecting to come across the tow truck at any moment. We finally saw it ahead of us, just starting to climb, at the beginning of the road. We gave him a quick update and wished him luck. I have a feeling it was going to be a long evening.


  1. Eeeeyyyyowwww, graduate & family obviously extremely lucky, common sense not his strength...hope he learns the lesson!

    1. I don't think so Jimu, we heard he drove on to Totaranui still cutting the corners, I guess "Problem Exists Between Steering Wheel And Seat" :)


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