Crown Rangers . . . the long com­mute

In a spe­cial sum­mer se­ries re­porter Mar­jorie Cook ex­plores the lengths some Cen­tral Otago peo­ple take to get to work. To­day she in­tro­duces us to the Crown Rangers who com­mute from Wanaka to Queen­stown ev­ery day – no mat­ter what the weather.

Central Otago Mirror - - CENTRAL NEWS -

Rus­sell Lewth­waite is an orig­i­nal Crown Ranger.

The Repco em­ployee has com­muted from Wanaka to Queen­stown for years and when Lake Hawea jour­nal­ist Celia Wil­liams formed the car pool group in 2007, he joined up.

At least 30 Crown Rangers have come and gone since then and th­ese days Lewth­waite usu­ally shares the daily trip with three Queen­stown Lakes Dis­trict Coun­cil em­ploy­ees: Laura Rawl­ings, Bar­bara East and David Sher­win.

‘‘All have of­fered their own unique­ness, mak­ing the jour­ney most in­ter­est­ing at times. This last year, one of the guys pro­duced a book of 10,000 ran­dom ques­tions and we all rated our­selves so much we en­tered a team in the lo­cal quiz night.

‘‘To get a Crown Rangers badge, the only re­quire­ment is com­pe­tency and con­fi­dence, be­cause the ice and snow days can be very chal­leng­ing,’’ Lewth­waite said.

For­tu­nately, the ice and snow days seem few and far be­tween. They used chains once dur­ing the 2014 win­ter and di­verted twice the ‘‘long way’’ via Cromwell.

Another Cromwell di­ver­sion was nec­es­sary re­cently to avoid the af­ter­math of a fa­tal truck ac­ci­dent.

At 1076m above sea level, the Crown Range is New Zealand’s high­est sealed moun­tain pass. It takes about 50-60 min­utes one way to ne­go­ti­ate the wind­ing route through tus­sock-filled high coun­try, de­pend­ing on con­di­tions and the other traf­fic.

East said the chat on Mon­days is usu­ally vi­va­cious but by Fri­day, the Crown Rangers are quiet, tired and some sleep rather than talk.

She es­ti­mates the com­muters spend up to 21⁄ hours a day in each other’s company which can be more time than they get to spend with their part­ners.

Early starts are par for the course with com­muters strug­gling to find time for their daily ex­er­cise be­fore leav­ing for work.

‘‘Usu­ally, the morn­ing is a bit rushed. I am up at 6am and have two di­a­betic cats to in­ject and feed be­fore we meet at 7.20am,’’ East said.

Find­ing car parks in Queen­stown can be a night­mare, and com­muters can burn oil at the other end of the day just get­ting in their ex­er­cise and pre­par­ing for the next day.

In the win­ter, they never see their homes in day­light.

Rawl­ings is the new­bie, she’s only been com­mut­ing five weeks, and has mar­velled at spec­tac­u­lar sun­rises and snow on the first day of sum­mer.

She’s also mar­velled at other peo­ple’s ‘‘dicky driv­ing’’.

If the rangers are con­cerned about what they see, they are not shy about re­port­ing it.

Sher­win used to com­mute for one hour and 40 min­utes each way, by train, when he worked in Syd­ney, so finds the Crown Range ‘‘not that bad’’.

They all agree on the ben­e­fits of the long com­mute – cost sav­ing, tak­ing turns at driv­ing, hav­ing helpers if chains are needed, and most im­por­tantly, forg­ing strong, re­li­able friend­ships. ◗ Next week we meet Queen­stown busi­ness­man Jim Boult.

On the road: Some of Wanaka’s Crown Rangers who com­mute daily to Queen­stown are, from left, Laura Rawl­ings, Bar­bara East, Rus­sell Lewth­waite and David Sher­win. Photo: MAR­JORIE COOK/ FAIR­FAX NZ 630259345

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