About night driving

The best way to spent 5-10 minutes you are sitting on the lift on the way to a ski field is having a chat with a random snowboarders and skiers sharing same bench with you. Usually I ask for some general information, but sometimes if I see that the person I speak is more confident, I ask some specific questions or ask for some particular advice. And of course, I’m telling people about one of the best ski resorts of the world, Sheregesh, trying to sell it as hard as I can 😉

If you didn’t know, there are not so much snow in subtropical New Zealand so, every time I tell people stories about half a meter of fresh snow powder falling overnight in Sheregesh not to mention every year bikini descent, they become very interested and ask how to get there, where to stay and so on! о_О

During one of these smalltalks I met a New Zealand girl which have spent 23(sick!) full days on the mountain by the end of September! Just a reminder, winter season in New Zealand usually starts in June and ends in the end of October. By the way she is not local and lives in Auckland as well. Usually they stay overnight in her friend’s place, who is a school teacher in Ohakune, a small township near southern slope of Mount Ruapehu. They leave Auckland around 4AM in the morning on Saturday and go back on Sunday straight after last lift is stopped, which happens around 4PM. I shared my thoughts with my ski buddies and we decided to organise next snow trip on the same way.

Winter season 2015 was almost over so the next time we could handle the experiment happened in year 2016, by the end of which I can tell you the following:

  • We leave Auckland around 4AM and arrive to the ski field just before they start the first lift or even earlier, having a few short stops to have a rest or bite some snacks on the way
  • We do skiing or snowboarding full day on Saturday and then in the evening we check in a motel, have a dinner, go in bed earlier and repeat skiing on Sunday which means most of the time we spent is pretty much skiing
  • Instead of staying overnight for two nights, Friday to Saturday and Saturday to Sunday, we have just one night which saves us at least $35-55 per person
  • From the driver’s point of view, I’m more comfortable to drive during night hours. There is almost no traffic, highway can be seen very clearly, passengers sleep and don’t ask to stop too oftern after having too much beer
  • Comparing to night driving I had in Russia, New Zealand roads are a way safer and pretty well paved. Potholes are very seldom however, you might see some falling stones and rocks aside the road sometimes so please drive safe
  • There are lots of moths and other night insect flying towards your head light. As result,
    the front of your car becames more dirty comparing to daylight trips.
  • I haven’t encounter any live possum yet for the whole time I’ve been living in New Zealand but I have seen a lot of dead ones on the road. One day, we have met a tiny rabbit. Luckily, everything went ok that night.
  • In terms of concentration and self control (bear in mind that most of my friends sleep on the way to the mountain) everything is OK. I try to avoid drinking coffee on a daily basis, so in theory it should work in case if I really need to stay focused. At the moment, I’m pretty much fine having a hot tea with honey from a thermos.

Here are few advices I’d like to share with you in case if you have to drive overnight:

  • Make sure to pack your stuff in a car at the evening. I have a small list I follow everytime I need to put stuff in my car’s boot before the trip so I don’t have to hassle what I have already put and what I haven’t
  • Try to get as much sleep as you can before starting night road trip. Ideally I would recommend you to go in bed around 8-9PM. Mostlikely you will struggle to do that on first time because you are too excited about the trip or you are worried about how do not miss alarm you set up at 2-3AM but you will get used to it after some time
  • It make sense to drink something hot which makes you full, for example, a chicken clean soup you got after boiling some chicken breasts before making sandwiches. I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty much hard for me to eat something at 2-3AM in the morning. And you have to eat something
  • Make a short stops evey 90 minutes. Leave the car, make some exercises, breath a fresh air. Remember that your cheerfulness is your safety
  • Ventilate the car by opening windows periodically. Sounds weird but it helps alot to stay awake! As for me, I slightly open windows every time we drive through a small townships where you have to decrease your speed down to 50 or even 70km per hour
  • Stay focused – try to remember what was the last road sign you have seen a minute ago, what road sign you have seen before that and so on – it trains memory and helps to keep your concentration
  • Ask your friend to replace you if you feel that you are tired
  • Similarly, replace a driver if you see he or she is tired

That is pretty much everything related to practical aspects of night driving. However, from aesthetic point of view, there is one drawback I forgot to mention – you can not enjoy classic New Zealand scenery on the way to Tongariro National Park and back to the Auckland during night road trip. It’s just road, reflectors and marker posts, upcoming cars, sleeping passengers, music over the 3.5 pin jack an you, alone with your own thoughts.

Just in case here is a facebook group I would like to recommend for those who’s keen to go skiing/snowboarding in New Zealand and looking for ski buddies, wants to organise a snow trip or simply wants to have a car pool. ;)

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Ivan Grigoryev's Blog
Living in New Zealand. Blogging about the country, beautiful places, everyday life.
Do a skydive - halfway completed; get 1400 - still working on; reach 300kph - completed by 96.6%