The glorious and sad saga of the driveway from hell

Not a quail from our driveway

I think my driveway is glorious, but many people hate it. Read for yourself and decide who’s right.

The driveway from the road runs along a valley, winds around a hill, climbs steeply past the orchard and chook house, and finally drops to my house. It’s 800 metres long. (I’ll tell you how I know this shortly.)

It’s home to an unreliable rabbit named Nicholas Augustus, several families of quail that appear each year with their puffball babies, and occasionally a mysterious cat (probably hunting the quail).

Taxi drivers vs the driveway from hell

I travel to Auckland quite often, and the taxi drivers who arrive at the house at 5:30am to pick me up inevitably have one of two reactions:

Reaction 1: What a terrifying driveway! I almost didn’t make it here. Do you actually drive up and down it?

To which I shrug and say, “You get used to it.”

Reaction 2: Your driveway is amazing! It’s so beautiful out here.

To which I say, “Yes it is, isn’t it?”

You might wonder why I catch the taxi to the airport when it costs in the region of $80.

I didn’t at first. On my first trip to the airport from our new house, I ordered a shuttle. Shared transport is cheaper, but it involves a van pulling a luggage trailer.

I probably didn’t think through the implications in enough detail. I had ordered the shuttle for 5:30am. Five thirty passed as I paced in the kitchen.

At 5:40 a knock came from the door. But it couldn’t be the shuttle driver, I naively thought. I hadn’t heard a car.

Outside stood a disgruntled looking shuttle driver. “The shuttle slid off your driveway and the trailer is caught up on a tree.”

Did I mention the hillside just next to the driveway slopes downwards rather steeply?

My husband and I grabbed torches and tramped up past the chook house, down to the wood pile, and to the shadowy section that’s sheltered by pine trees.

The shuttle driver had unhooked the trailer, which was three quarters off the side of the driveway, from the van, which was only halfway off and was being supported (and tangled) by what used to be rather a nice bush.

It was 5:45am, I had a plane to catch, and I was not amused. How fast was he driving to slide off the side?

The shuttle driver ordered me a taxi–to the letterbox right at the road–and I left him to sort out his own mess.

Yes, I made my flight. Fortunately I’m one of these compulsively early people who always expects to run into problems like a truckload of live chickens overturning in the tunnel, or a dragon breathing fire down on State Highway 2 so we have to take a detour.

After that, I started ordering taxis.

But I still had problems on my way home in taxis. The road that leads to our letterbox is one lane and winds up the side of a hill.

“What happens if I meet a car coming the other way?” a taxi driver asked me once.

“One of you backs up until the road is wide enough for you to pass.”

“But my car is big. I can’t do that.”

You’re a taxi driver in Wellington. You need to be able to drive on narrow, hilly roads. “Trucks manage it.”

“Aren’t you scared out here at night?” one driver asked as he inched along the driveway through towering native bush.

I could have explained that I’m only really scared of the zombies from Resident Evil, but I’m pretty sure they’re in America and it’s a long swim from the US to New Zealand, especially for a zombie.

“No.”

Some taxi drivers shoot up our driveway that I’m not surprised they end up in the ditch. Others creep up an inch at a time, incessantly stopping on the hill and wondering why it’s so hard to start again.

Keep a steady speed. How hard is that?

“My car is too big for this driveway,” I’ve got, and also, “My car is too small for this driveway.”

I’m paying you $80. Deal with it.

Then there’s the chatty old guy. “I love coming out to your place. It’s so wonderful and isolated out here. Please call me next time you want a ride.”

The postie versus the driveway from hell

I went through a phase of buying a lot of plants online. I was trying to plant an orchard. Don’t make fun–some of my fruit trees are still alive.

The postie leaves anything that will fit and doesn’t require a signature in the letterbox at the road and brings (or is supposed to bring) other items up to the house.

This worked for a while.

Then the plants beside the driveway started to grow. And I mean jungle-speed growth. Some of these plants can get to two metres tall in six months.

The postie didn’t like the enthusiam of the plants and quit coming up the driveway. Instead, he’d leave a slip in the letter box saying there was a package for us to pick up at the post shop halfway across town. He was only supposed to do this when he tried to deliver something and no one was home.

We got these slips for a while, but it was hard to be certain if the postie had genuinely turned up while we’d been out.

Then my laptop started to die and I ordered a replacement. I wanted–needed–my new laptop. I tracked its journey from China, city by city, and waited in anticipation the day of its arrival.

Soon would come a knock at the door. Soon my baby would be in my arms.

But postal hours came and went, and no laptop arrived.

Despondent, I walked to the letter box and pulled out the postal slip. “We tried to deliver a package, but no one was home. Please come halfway across the universe to pick up your item. (But it won’t be there for three days.)”

Argh!

And now we knew the posties were lying. They never tried to deliver to the house at all.

We complained at the post shop when we picked up the parcel. They put our complaint into the system and promised to get back to us with a resolution via email. The complaint sank without a trace and was never heard from again.

The solution? We gave up ordering anything that wouldn’t fit in our letterbox.

road up a hill
Ours it not this bad, I promise.

Delivery guys versus the driveway from hell

We’re a fair way out of town, and after some research we discovered there were three types of takeways that people were willing to deliver to the door: fish and chips, pizza, and curry.

Delivery dinners are fairly important. On those days when cooking falls apart, they stop you starving.

At first, our occasional deliveries were successful. We got something of a reputation with the delivery guys at the pizza place. One driver who was warned about the driveway didn’t want to risk it, so he parked at the road and by the light of his cellphone walked up to the house. I guess his friends told him the driveway was scary, but not that it was long.

When he returned to the pizza place he was mocked mercilessly by his coworkers, who next time took it upon themselves to measure the length of the driveway. It’s 800m, they gleefully reported to us.

I think it was the curry delivery guy who was first to slide into the ditch. Then the pizza delivery guy, then the curry guy again. Maybe three times. We couldn’t do anything about it, so left them to haul themselves out.

The fish and chip guy did well for a long time, then he too ended up in the ditch and wanted us to tow him out. I said it wouldn’t work. Our car barely gets itself up that hill, and it doesn’t have a towbar.

But the guy insisted we could haul him out, and hubby agreed to try. I left them to it. Ten minutes later, hubby came back. He’d driven our car in to the ditch too, and they needed my help getting both cars out.

We ate dinner very late that night.

We haven’t ordered fish and chips since. The delivery man is far too lecturey, anyway. Yes, we know we need to cut down the gorse, and mow this and that, and repair the asphault. We get enough nagging about such things from my parents. We don’t need them from strangers as well.

The other night it was late, we had no food, and we settled on curry delivery. We put through the order and five minutes later got the confirmation email saying, “Your order was rejected.”

Hubby rang the curry guys. The driveway was too much for them and they’d quit on us.

Wailing happened. Tears were shed. I thought sadly of my tandoori chicken pieces and hot chips dipped in butter chicken.

Our hearts sore, we settled on pizza. An hour later the pizza delivery guy turned up at the door with the pizza but no car.

“My car overheated on the hill.”

Walking and the glory of the driveway

At an unhurried amble, it takes nearly half an hour to walk from the house to the letterbox and back.

The driveway meanders down piney lanes, past flowers taller than my head, through lush native bush and over a trickling stream.

In the native bush we see tui with their outrageous songs, huge wood pigeons that bend the branches of trees where they land, and fluttering fantails feasting on the insects we stir up.

When we walk after dark, the damp banks beside the driveway are alight with blue glow worms, and the stream, or so we’re told, is home to native crayfish.

If you can’t appreciate the glory of my driveway then you don’t deserve to share it. I’ll keep it for myself, Nicholas, and the quail.

Am I being too hard on the people who don’t like Nicholas’ home?

Get more of my ramblings right in your inbox. You probably won’t end up stuck in a ditch.

Forest trail
Forest, not actually my driveway.

Author: A.S. Akkalon

By day, A.S. Akkalon works in an office where the computers outnumber the suits of armour more than two-to-one. By night, she puts dreams of medieval castles, swords, and dragons onto paper.

16 thoughts on “The glorious and sad saga of the driveway from hell”

  1. Thanks to the American attachment to an outmoded system of measuring distance (or, really anything. Votes in presidential elections, for instance), I do not have a good grasp on just how long 800 meters is. Can you translate that into leagues, or furlongs, or cubits please?

  2. My uncle had a driveway with a sharp decline and incline where the dam used to overflow. It was a fun day when my sisters mini got hooked both ends and my uncle had to pick the car up to move it. Luckily he was a giant of a man and a mini was no problem, otherwise we would still be there. I am therefore in the driveway from hell category, although the quails almost sound worth it.

  3. I don’t think you’re being too hard on the driveway haters at all! However, how much effort would it take to construct some sort of delivery zip-line? I suppose the curves are a problem, but then the curry guys could just clip it and um. . . Zip it?

    1. A zip line. I like it! We’ve thought about a flying fox, which would be great for getting down to the curry guys at the letterbox, but not so good for getting the food back to the house.

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