Left Hand Drive

Let’s talk about cars. I really don’t know much about them. It seems like a nice, manly bit of knowledge to have. The ability to repair your own car is will be an essential skill, akin to parkour and trap making, once the apocalypse sets in.  In that regard I’m probably stuck but until that fateful day, I think I’m fine allowing someone else to fix my car.

The Crunchess and I just bought a car.  Technically it’s our second but it’s the first we’ve ever paid cash for. The feeling of writing a check that big was incredibly depressing. I began thinking of all the cool things I could do with the money: trips to Tahiti, wine cellars stocked, camera lenses purchased, 12 core Mac pros with 27 inch cinema displays (oops, ok, not one of those). Somewhere in the back of my mind the economics class I took are trying to remind me of opportunity costs but I still get that confused with the Laffer curve and various elasticities.

While it was an unpleasant necessity, cars in Alice and down under in general are an interesting phenomenon. Left hand driver seats isn’t as weird as you’d think. Driving on the other side of the road is easy too. A friend has an American (read: normal) car and even driving it on the other side of the road is pretty simple.  I’ve only driven on the wrong side once (the Crunchess corrected me before anyone else noticed) and only cut 1 person off in a round abound.  Getting in on the wrong side of the car, about 3 times daily.  Here’s a tip: Don’t drive into on coming traffic. Follow that rule and you’ll be fine. Bonus tip: The turn signal and wipers are switched. I’ve only driven in the rain once but I run my wipers three or four times a trip, just for safety sake.

Let’s start with the utes.  Back in the states we call these things as El Caminos. They’re in style here. The beds come with a snazzy hard top that I’m pretty sure eliminates their use as a pick-up.  Much like the remaining El Caminos in the US, these are painted bright, garish colors. My favorite so far is the sparkly purple. Oddly enough, I’ve only seen 1 US style pick up here, owned by a Yank.  Trucks for work will get a modified Toyota or Nissan (think miniature Home Depot rental truck).

Toyota land cruisers are the car of choice out here.  These are the larger, more rugged, tougher version of the ones in the US. They’re more akin to real off road vehicles.  A nice, used one (2001 with 150K+ kilometers, well maintained) will run you $25,000. They’re the work horses for most of the in town folks who also have to go out bush. I’ve seen some Land Rovers but for the most part, it’s Toyota.

If you got into someone’s car and they had a piece of carpet specifically cut for their dashbaord, what would you think? Weird? Probably. Here in The Alice, pretty much every car has it. It gets so hot here that dashboards will crack.  That’s right, the hard molded plastic on your dashboard will crack because you parked in the sun.  Have I mentioned the lack of trees here yet? Yeah…..fun times.
Snorkels…..I live in the desert! Average rain fall in The Alice is about 11 inches per year. Tons of cars come with snorkels. Even the monster SUVs with about a foot of ground clearance come with ’em.  When it rains, the river beds flood and make some roads impassible. I get why having a snorkel would be nice but it seems like a weird expense to me.

The only other odd thing I see here is the number of luxury cars. I’ve seen a coule A4’s, the guy down the road from me has a Z4, I’ve seen a couple more BMWs in town.  Seems like an odd place be driving them.  Gas will run you $1.70 a litre for regular ($6.43 a gallon) so I don’t want to think what premium will run.  Haven’t actually had to buy gas yet. That might deserve an epic post of its own.