Tourists and their misadventures in NZ


(eTN) – New Zealand prides itself on its adventure tourism and clean-green image, but in 2008 adventures often turned into misadventures for tourists. Kate Chapman of NZPA looks at those who had lucky escapes.

Nearly 2.5 million international visitors arrived in New Zealand in 2007. Many came for well-marketed adventure tourism. Some got more adventure than they bargained for.

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But while the number of tourists continues to rise, so too do the number of stories about their wayward, and oft dangerous, exploits.

In November, an American tourist who was the solo passenger in a Cessna 172 had a whale of a time when the aircraft was blown onto its roof at Wellington Airport. The Kaikoura-based Cessna was meant to be taking the American whale watching.

No one was injured and the man, undisturbed, simply re-booked for the next day.

“Apparently it was getting a bit gusty, and maybe it was a freak gust or something,” company director Andrew Crawford said.

A 30-year-old Bavarian also got a ride to remember in September – he was hitchhiking in North Canterbury when picked up by three men in a stolen black Ford Falcon.

He claimed the vehicle sped up to 250kmh and became airborne at times after a unmarked police car followed it for about 10 minutes. The tourist was eventually let out.

Nicholas Raymond Hunter Brundell, unemployed, of no fixed abode, was charged with reckless driving and failing to stop for police. He appeared in Christchurch District Court in November. He has elected trial by jury. Off the beaten track, often the alluring green forests also proved too much for the inexperienced or unobservant visitor.

About 17 percent of the search and rescue operations during 2007 involved tourists, deputy chairman of Search and Rescue’s land-based operation John Scobie said.

The number of tourists getting into difficulty in the mountains and bush was growing, especially in the South Island, and remained a big concern, he said.

“We don’t want to discourage people in any way, but we do want to encourage anyone going into the hills to be properly equipped, and to leave word of where they’re intending to go, and how long they expect to be.”

In October, French tourist Aurelie Rosset, 28, was saved by her flute after getting lost in dense bush in Egmont National Park, in Taranaki.

After she lost her way she called police on her cellphone. She remained in constant contact with police. When they approached she started to play her small flute.

“I play the ocarina and the police find me,” she said.

A Swedish tourist who got lost in West Coast bush in November did not have a flute to save him.

He spent an unscheduled night in the bush after clouds of sandflies drove him from his camp site.

Police found the man about 1km from the camp, with the help of Murchison searcher Larry Charles and his dog Ngamo.

In July, Irish tourist Desmond Loy, 19, fell 20 metres into a river in the Abel Tasman National Park while attempting to take the perfect photograph.

He was lucky to escape with only cuts and bruises.

“I leaned forward and remember feeling a bit woozy and a bit dizzy,” Mr Loy said.

“I closed my eyes and I could hear the trees and then boulders going thud, thud. It seemed a long way down.” He was flown to Nelson Hospital by rescue helicopter.

And in December, a Canadian woman who ignored safety signs was swept down a river in the Milford Sound area.

Te Anau Constable Glenn Matheson said the woman, a 23-year-old student, stopped with friends to visit The Chasm, one of the area’s highlights.

“She ignored a safety barrier and walked across a sloping rock ledge and stood in the Cleddau River,” he said.

She then lost her footing and was swept down river and survived at a 10-metre drop through rocks and logs.

Police and a rescue helicopter were called but before they arrived several local kayak guides, helped by tourists, used a rope to rescue the woman, who suffered only minor bruising.

A Department of Conservation report said almost a third of the 600,000 visitors to the West Coast glaciers ignored warning sings and entered danger zones.

Canterbury technical support manager Don Bogie said people seemed to be taking the risk because the glaciers, which moved slowly, did not appear dangerous.

Cities posed nearly as much trouble as nature did for unsuspecting tourists.

An English woman was outraged when she was kicked out of the Christchurch Casino – for having big breasts.

Helen Simpson, 33, complained publicly after she said she was “absolutely humiliated” when a woman casino staff member told her to cover up or leave early one Saturday morning.

The casino received a complaint about Ms Simpson who was then asked to cover her ample breasts.

Ms Simpson said she didn’t choose to be “well endowed in the upper region” and described herself as a “size 14 woman with the top half demanding a size 20”.

The incident sparked public debate and Christchurch Casino said it was reviewing its dress code.

A 27-year-old American woman who was twice turned away from an unnamed hospital in May 2006, after a registrar misdiagnosed her acute appendicitis as a stomach bug.

She was eventually operated on the following afternoon, after her appendix had ruptured, which resulted in a much harder recovery period.

So whether in vehicles, the bush or the city New Zealand can be a trap for unprepared tourists.

As they are such important contributors to the New Zealand economy it’s worth celebrating that our clean, green, rugby-loving image has survived the year’s occasionally tourist mishaps.