No Insurance on Skippers Canyon Road
If you do not travel in your own vehicle and do not go there on an organised tour, you should not drive on the Skippers Canyon road. No insurance covers rental cars on this road, and if you have ever met oncoming traffic on this unsealed, narrow and twisting road with a vertical drop on one and a vertical rock wall on the other side, you understand why. You do not even get insurance cover for 4WD rental vehicles. So it is absolutely not necessary to book one in the hope to access Skippers Canyon on your own.
The first warning sign tells you that the Skippers Road is narrow and prone to slips, that caravans and trailers are not suitable for this road, that wintery conditions can close the road, that “some” vehicles are not insured here, that you cannot turn around for 6 kilometres, and that it has no exit.
The second warning sign at the start of the road which turns off the sealed Coronet Peak road says that vehicle damage is possible and repeats that rental cars may not be insured “past this point”. They ARE not insured.
The third sign displays more warnings than you can read without stopping: winding road, narrow road, gravel road, recommended speed 15 km/h on the next 20 km, danger of sliding, rock fall, steep drops, animals on the road, no safety barriers… Under these conditions is nearly funny to read that the road is not suitable for towing vehicles :-)
Unnecessary to mention that even if you travel in your own car you should only drive on this road if you are an experienced driver. I do not even dare to imagine some of those teenies who get their driver’s license at the age of 15 in this country dare to test their non-existent skills on this road and put not only their own but also other people’s lives at risk.
If you are afraid of heights, do not get onto this road. Or at least, if on a tour, do not drive but squeeze to the mountain side of the car and not to the valley side where you would fall a hundred metres down the cliff.
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The most violent Place in the Country
You might have heard of dangerous suburbs in Auckland and Christchurch. But you will be surprised to learn that the place with the highest probability to get into trouble in New Zealand is affluent Queenstown.
This is mainly thanks to the drinking culture and partying around the clock. The City Council are permanently discussing how to curb crime in this tourist hot spot, and the only way to cope with the problems is to limit the operating hours of bars that used to be open the whole night. In 2008 a blanket closure of the resort town at 4am has been introduced.
Police statistics published in September 2008 revealed that you are almost twice as likely to be violently assaulted in Queenstown than anywhere else in the country.
The neuralgic area is the central business district. Most assaults happen between 1am and 2pm, and not surprisingly at New Year, Easter or during the peak winter period – exactly the peak times of the tourist seasons in Queenstown. Interestingly enough the attacker will be a male Kiwi working in the construction industry or as a chef.
In the year to 30 June 2008 there have been 193 reported violent attacks, with the tendency to rising steeply and climbing a lot faster than the population grows. Nearly all attackers (97 per cent) have been affected by alcohol.
The statistics further show that you have a one in 139 chance of becoming the victim of a violent crime in Queenstown whereas the average for the rest of New Zealand is one in 202. If it is reduced to attacks against New Zealanders only, it reads even more dramatic (one in 84 in Queenstown, compared to one in 196 for the rest of NZ).
The statistics also show that 17 % of the assaults take place in licensed premises in Queenstown and only in 3 % of the cases in the rest of NZ. The number of violent offenders who had their last drink in a licensed premises was 63 % in Queenstown (20 % in the rest of NZ).
More than 20 % of violent attacks in Queenstown were prompted by an argument in the street, 11 % by someone being removed from a bar or refused entry and 9 % by an argument in a bar.
Perhaps this makes you think twice about getting a drink too many in the early hours in Queenstown.
The story has been published in all major NZ newspapers, here is a link to www.stuff.co.nz (The Press, Dominion Post, Sunday Star Times, etc.):
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Beware of Icy Roads in Winter
It's very important that you respect the roads around Queenstown. Especially in Autumn, Winter and Spring. However even in summer it can be necessary. The main danger is not when there is a severe storm as that is normally obvious. But more the danger if Ice on the road hits you when least expected. Frosty conditions can hang around all day in dark shaded corners, and ice can lie on parts of the road unseen.
So drive carefully, speed to match weather conditions, and always be aware of hidden ice.
For more obvious ice and snow, it's always a good idea to carry chains and know how to install them.
Happy Driving :-))
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Bring Along your Beanie!
If you're taking the Shotover Jet Boat ride during Autumn or Winter, do remember to bring along anything that can keep your head and ears warm.
There was an Indian family that had nearly wanted to give up the boatride after five minutes into it as their children could not take the cold. It was really biting.
When my friend and I went to Coronet Peak to ski it was too windy for the lifts to run. We had pre paid for our lift tickets in Australia and enquired about a refund but we were told that we could only get a certain percentage back. In fact, the woman at the counter seemed reluctant to give us anything at all.
I wish very much that I had asked to speak to the manager and get a full refund because we didn't get any use out of the lift passes at all, they didn't run at all though we waited for about two hours.
I would advise anyone in this situation to make as big a fuss as possible to the person highest up the chain of command. Get your money back! You don't want to pay for something and get nothing.
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A word of caution to fellow travellers who are driving to Queenstown in a vehicle. As a non-new zealander, I felt into the trap of parking at a lot that says P 10. From where I come from, we do put up clearer terms and conditions with regards to parking at a lot. The parking signs in Queenstown are simply simplistic and un-informative. In actual fact, a lot that says P 10 means a car is only allowed to park in the lot for 10 minutes. Likewise, P 5 would mean 5 minutes and P 120 would means 120 minutes. I was unfortunate to be "awarded" a parking ticket of $12 NZD for parking at a P 10 lot for half an hour. Fellow travellers who are driving to Queenstown, may I advise you to park your car in the public car park at the corner of Ballarat and Stanley Street for the parking fee of $0.50 NZD per hour. It will definitely save you more money than being fined for violating parking orders.
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Dangerous Mountain Journey to Queenstown
As I have said earlier, mountains surround Queenstown. Hence all roads leading to Queenstown will skirt around the mountains. Be careful when driving at night, because due to poor visibility, it is hard to see if the left/right sides of the road are flat bush land or treacherous ravines. There are white crosses on roads leading towards Queenstown reminding travellers to drive safety in these mountainous. There is a short cut from Wanaka to Queenstown. It will just take about 50 minutes instead of the usual 1hr++. However the last 10 miles or so of the shortcuts features a lot of sharp turns and narrow roads carved on the sides of the mountain. Be careful driving through here, else you would have your own leading white cross at the side of the road. Plus when travelling at night, do not feel the urge to go towards the bright lights of Queenstown because that road comes off a rather steep mountain. Going towards the lights would be suicidal.
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