The kindness of random strangers

There are times and situations when technology cannot help. Salvation comes down to the kindness of random strangers. I have just such an experience lately.

My wife and I planned to return to Wellington from a beach holiday in the Coromandel via Rotorua and Napier and we decided to take the route through the Ureweras to Waikaremoana and Wairoa and then to Napier. The Ureweras is Tuhoe country, remote, misty and we had been impressed by the silence one can "hear" - it's almost a physical presence.

We set off from Rotorua in our VW Golf, (never buy one by the way - the worst car I have ever owned and that includes British models) upwards into the hills and the mist, and until eventually the seal runs out.

Just after the settlement of Ruatahuna the steering feels strange. We stop the car and find a puncture.  On cars like the Golf, the spare is just a half wheel meant for a little bit of urban running; max speed 30 kph.

We change the wheel and continue very slowly over the rough gravel road. Twenty kms further on we stop to inspect the spare. It's shredded itself, and is useless for further travel.

There's no cell phone coverage, so no AA, no roadside rescue, no towns, no tow truck, nothing but mist and silence and the occasional passing motorist. We calculate that the best strategy is to get the spare wheel repaired.

Paul and Sandra, a nice English couple from Essex stop to offer help. They agree to take me and the wheel to the garage.  We end up in Wairoa, where Michael from Firestone comes into the story. A massive man with a close resemblance to the black prisoner John Coffey in the film, The Green Mile, he  opens up the Firestone store and tells me the tire needs replacing not repairing.

Michael puts on a new tire on the wheel. It is now about 4pm and my wife is still back at the car in the mist and without cell phone coverage can't be contacted. Michael agrees to take me and the tire back to my car 75 kms back up the road.

Fortified with a Big Ben pie and accompanied by his son and work mate Cameron (who's top of his primary school class) Michael and I head off into the wilderness while he talks of his desire to get ahead in life, the importance of education and how he's taking ever opportunity to get more skills training.

He changes the tire and escorts me back to Wairoa, a wonderful piece of customer service on a wet Saturday afternoon.

My wife tells me that about a dozen cars had passed by in the five hours I had been away, and every one had stopped to ask if they could help. When technology is useless we have to rely on ordinary human action to get us out of extraordinary situations. The actions of these motorists, and of Paul, Sandra and Michael were positive reminders of the kindness of random strangers.