Eric Thompson: Keep left and leave only footprints behind

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Freedom campers should treat locals with respect. Photo / APN
Freedom campers should treat locals with respect. Photo / APN

Last week I gave our Rugby World Cup guests a heads-up regarding New Zealand driving habits and what to expect - not from everyone - when venturing out on our roads.

In a correct, fair and balanced manner this week I'm now giving a few suggestions on how the foreign drivers should behave both on our roads and when parked up overnight.

First up, and this may sound a bit strange, but we are one of few countries in the world, most of which were once part of the British Empire, that drive on the left hand side of the road. Don't laugh, I have already seen a road maggot (local lingo for a campervan) pull out of a petrol station and head off on the wrong side of the road.

You'll hear the phrase "freedom camper" quite a lot in New Zealand but don't be fooled into thinking it's a term of endearment.

In fact, only last year the president of the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association was quoted in the Southland Times as saying, "Messy freedom campers who trundle around the country in sleeper vans without toilets or self-contained utilities should be 'shot'." You've been warned.

You see, the term "freedom" doesn't mean you can defecate or relieve yourselves in any way, shape or form freely on the roadside, in picnic areas or scenic parks. Nor does it mean you're freely allowed to leave your rubbish anywhere you like. We have to live with your rubbish when you leave.

A driving tip - plan your trip before getting into your whopping great mobile home, or even a minivan. It's a bit disconcerting seeing you folk whizzing along the motorway with a map open on the steering wheel and the driver glancing down every five seconds.

If you do have a co-driver who's doing the map reading, try not to fight while driving and definitely don't reach over and grab the map from the passenger. Navigating is a hard job on the move and more so if you barrel on past your turn off.

If you do miss your turning, more importantly when on the motorways, please do not try reversing back up the on, or exit, ramp. New Zealand's a small place; there'll be another turning just down the road.

The rear vision and side mirrors are fitted to vans and cars for a reason. They allow drivers to periodically check behind them to see what the situation is. If you see a queue of cars rapidly forming behind you as you negotiate a mountain road, or even on the straights, pull over and let the traffic pass.

You may have a couple of days, or even a week, to get to the next game of rugby so spare a thought for the rest of us who have to go about our daily grind and do not have the luxury of time to get somewhere.

If you want to continue with the "freedom camping" ideal, try to get onside with the locals. I know the idea of not paying to stay somewhere overnight is to save money but you should at least spend a little money in the community where you've plonked your mobile bed.

Splash a little cash around on supplies, fuel and restaurants in local establishments. It is important to not upset the local people, police and authorities. If you do upset people you, and everyone else in the vicinity, will almost certainly be moved on. Locals don't take too kindly to having their peace and quiet disrupted by a bunch of larrikin Johnny Foreigners (term of endearment).

Petrol stations are numerous but when using some of our back roads, especially some of the gravel roads on the way to remote scenic spots, fill up because there are places where you won't see a fuel pump for over 100km.

Here's short list of common sense things to think about.

* Don't leave your rubbish behind.

* If in doubt, get permission to park.

* Don't make a lot of noise and do not start up a generator, it'll be heard for kilometres.

* Only run your engine during the day to charge the battery.

* Don't hog the whole parking area.

* Don't park across farm gates - we still actually farm here in New Zealand.

* Empty wastewater at appropriate places.

* Don't overstay your welcome.

* Be careful with jacks and stays on tarmac.

- NZ Herald

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