You’ve just got your motorhome hire, or car hire for this part of your Australia New Zealand tour holiday and it’s time to hit the road.
Out there on SH1 all is good, and since you’re on an exploring type holiday, and becoming aware that the scenery is just like you’d been expecting if not better, and you’d foregone an organised travel package to New Zealand, you head off on a secondary road for your dreamed of adventure tour New Zealand!
Because New Zealand has a relatively low population the road you’re on soon turns out to be unsealed, and is what is known in the Kiwi vernacular as “a gravel road”.
Going slowly as you’re unused to such a surface you come around a corner and see this ahead. Now you know why when you passed someone back up the road on a quad bike or in a ute, why they waved you to slow down and/or had a sign on the road back further…
At this point simply stopping can be a good option – after all they’re coming your way, it’s quiet and you could even get out and take a photo or two.
However if you find this all a bit novel and you’re out of your comfort zone, you may want to hop back in and take the photos out the window, as the sheep surge by.
These ones have just had their wool coats removed by the local shearers…
So far so good – you’ve seen something new, and even smelt something new! You’re going one way and they’re going the other way. But what to do if you’re both going the same way – like how do you get past!?
Well you are in the land the movie was made in so it can be a bit like playing with a Lord of the Ring chess set! There are less players: dogs of different types, farmers, terrain, sheep who love to follow each other rather than think, and yourself presumably a tourist doing the tourism thing
As long as the surface is good and your vehicle can handle it you can sneak by, identifying the side of the road less dense in sheep and in low gear quietly move on past them…
Just watch the dogs at work and follow their lead. They’ve done all this before..
Do not use your campervan or car horn or do anything to agitate the mob. The farmer maybe simply wanting them go left or right into a paddock up the road and won’t thank you for causing a stampede!
If you see the farmer [on this task he maybe best describe as a musterer - we don't do shepherding in New Zealand] off to the side looking relaxed and friendly, and he has spare dogs being rested, or whose skills are not needed [there are heading dogs, eye dogs and handy dogs], you’ll know all is good, and you should just quietly proceed. Give him or her a wave and smile…
He/she will try to get the dogs to put all the sheep off to one side so you can get by even if you’re all going the same way.
Insight: working dogs are usually given simple names such as Ben, Jack, Bob etc., because when used over distance they are distinctly heard by the dog being worked. On a muster each musterer may have a dozen dogs. Swearing may also accompany commands to specific dogs too., so don’t react if your name is Bob and you hear: “#*^#*™¢# ^ª§##*^#*, Bob!”
But if it’s a huge mob wall to wall, or fence to fence…
Then there is only one way and it takes a type of gentle courage and assertiveness: you approach the rear of the mob very quietly just going a whisker faster than they are, and nudge your way in.
The trick is to keep on keeping on! The sheep although almost touching the front bumper will move aside.
Sit high in your seat to ensure good visibility – there maybe one or two who are confused and you may need to stop very momentarily. But only for an instant, otherwise you’ll never make through hundreds or thousands, and never get to one of those dreamt of uniquely New Zealand sites, to park up at in your motorhome for the night.
Lastly while nudging forward assertively you can help the cause by steering quietly towards areas of low density, and if possible actually leave the road and try to get the mob all on one side of you or the other – the dogs will help. But again watch the surface – getting stuck in a hole or damaging your New Zealand rental car or camper is counter productive!
But there is another choice here: If it’s a really hot day and your motorhome has a fridge with beer in it [New Zealand Speights is a good choice], stop and offer him/her one. You’ll be joyfully amazed at the resulting incredulous smile of heartfelt appreciation!