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Archive for April, 2010

Romantic drives … Sydney to Wollongong

April 25th, 2010 Comments off

THE Grand Pacific Drive departing from Sydney doesn’t take long to lose yourself in the chill factor as you leave the city behind and enter its southern fringe and into the sub-tropical lushness of the Royal National Park. It pays to stop off for a walk here and explore one of the oldest national parks in the world.

From here, it’s a leisurely drive  offering spectacular scenery, dramatic coastal cliffside views and sandstone heaths inland. Stop off at the Hindu Temple in Helensburgh or enjoy a spot of  horseriding at beautiful Otford to really fire up the romance-o-meter before jumping back in the camper to head to Stanwell Tops for some amazing views. Before long, you will reach the charming seaside suburb of  Thirroul – reportedly the Aboriginal word for “Valley of Cabbage Tree Palms”. Thirroul was a former coalmining hamlet boasts excellent surf beach at Sandon Point. It’s golden beachfront has a wonderful grassy area to enjoy a coffee from a local cafe or kick back with a picnic. This was the place that inspire writer DH Lawrence to pen his novel, Kangaroo.

It’s only a half hour cruise along the seaside drive from here to reach Wollongong, one of the most liveable regional cities south of Sydney. A magical place to park your campervan for a night or two is at Shellharbour Beachside Tourist Park. This park’s lovely beachfront location is only a short stroll away from Shellharbour Village and its restaurants, shops and cafes. At night, I highly recommend an evening spent at the Lagoon Restaurant to set the mood and enjoy a wonderful feast of fresh seafood right on the oceanfront.

Some of the nearby attractions worth exploring here include Blackbutt Reserve, Seacliff Bridge and the Illawarra Fly treetop walk (pictured).

AUSTIN BONHAM

What is ANCAP and how does it work?

April 17th, 2010 Comments off

small-crash-dummy-testThey say it’s wrong to judge a book by its cover, but there’s another cliché that should ring true: don’t judge a car by the number of airbags.

Almost all new cars on sale in Australia today have airbags but, despite these worthwhile safety features, crash protection varies markedly from model to model.

Of course, all cars must meet a minimum crash safety standard set by the Federal Government, but the emphasis there is the word “minimum”. The regulations regarding crash protection have not been revised in more than a decade.

This is part of the reason the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) was established.

Funded by the motoring clubs and state government authorities in Australia and New Zealand, ANCAP aims to improve vehicle safety by independently testing, assessing and then rating the safety of new cars.

The idea was a world first. ANCAP was established in 1992. Euro NCAP, which follows the same procedures and protocols, was established in 1997. ANCAP has no power to approve – or ban – vehicles from sale. But it has become a priceless consumer guide that could save your life.

Before ANCAP, and its associated authority, Euro NCAP, trying to compare the safety of like vehicles was pure guesswork. Rather than simply saying a car “passes” the minimum Federal Government regulations, ANCAP gives car buyers more detail on how each vehicle’s crash worthiness compares.

For those who want to know the finer points of difference, ANCAP scores the cars out of 35 points and the data can be found on the ANCAP website, www.ancap.com.au. But generally, most people judge a car by ANCAP’s simple star rating, from one to five.

Originally, ANCAP said a car with a one star rating was deemed as having an “unacceptable” risk of injury, the safety of two star cars were regarded as “poor”, three stars cars were regarded as “marginal”, four stars were “acceptable” and five stars were “good”. But following pressure from the car industry ANCAP dropped the names and retained only the star ratings.

ANCAP has not been without its controversy. Car makers initially opposed ANCAP’s findings and methods. The manufacturers said they tested cars for the real world, that it was unfair to judge a car based on one test, and that the ANCAP tests were too severe.

One of the claims made by some car makers during this debate in the late 1990s was that designing a car to achieve a high score could make the car too rigid for lower speed crashes, and potentially cause injuries. This was found not to be the case. Indeed, cars as small as the Fiat 500 are now capable of achieving a five-star rating.

Further, subsequent studies have shown that cars with four stars or above have significantly lower deaths and serious injuries. Over the past 10 years resistance to ANCAP has subsided, as the safety of each manufacturer’s cars has improved. Indeed, some of the most vocal opponents of ANCAP now use the five star results in their advertising and promotional material.

There is no doubt that ANCAP and its affiliates have markedly improved the safety of new vehicles, more so than any government agency or regulation. Indeed, government regulations are only just beginning to catch up to ANCAP.

ANCAP announced that from the beginning of 2008 only cars with stability control would be eligible for a five star safety rating.  The Federal Government recently announced this technology will be compulsory on all new passenger cars introduced from November 2011 onwards, and all other new passenger cars have until November 2013 to have the technology fitted as standard.

How ANCAP testing compares…

Australian government regulations require passenger cars to be crash tested into an offset barrier at 56km/h and light commercial vehicles to be crash tested into a full frontal barrier at 48km/h. ANCAP crash tests all vehicles at 64km/h into an offset barrier.

ANCAP also tests side impact protection and cars with side and/or curtain airbags typically do well. Cars without side and/or curtain airbags typically show life-threatening injuries. In the side impact test, a 950kg sled designed to simulate another vehicle strikes the driver’s side at 50km/h. To qualify for the full five star rating, the car also has to pass a side pole test where the car is pushed sideways into a rigid pole at 29km/h.

Recent results have included pedestrian tests. These are a series of tests carried out to replicate crashes involving child and adult pedestrians where impacts occur at 40km/h.
Contributed by NRMA Insurance

About NRMA Insurance
NRMA Insuranceis a provider of insurance products, including car insurance and home insurance in NSW, ACT & TAS.

Romantic drives … Great Ocean Road in Victoria

April 12th, 2010 Comments off

CALLING all lovers, it’s time to warm up your wheels and start your engines – the DriveNow team has asked me to suggest some of the most romantic drives in Australia for starcrossed lovers.

Forget the caravan of love, our focus is the campervan of love and you needn’t worry about forking out for a costly mobile love machine with wheels as you can hire a camper for a steal on the DriveNow website. Click up a pick-up and drop-off deal from Melbourne and you are all set for the first of our Romantic Drives series in 2010 – Great Ocean Road. Without further adieu, pop a rose in your front grill and hit the Princes Freeway and Bellarine Highway to make your way to the charming township of Queenscliff.

There’s nothing like a bit of coastal road cruising to kick-start your journey along the Great Ocean Road, which is possibly Australia’s most romantic scenic route. But make be sure to stop off at Queenscliff as a starting point for a day and night spent absorbing the spoils and sights of this historic township. Meander around town and check out grand Victorian-era buildings, great pubs, an ice creamery and if you happen to be there in the last week of November you just may catch the legendary Queenscliff Music Festival.

From there, you’ll be all loved up and ready to let your camper hug the coastline and enter little hamlets townships in surfer territory, particularly Barwon Heads, Ocean Grove, Torquay (where Great Ocean Rd officially starts and what is home to some iconic surf shops and famous surfing hot spot Bells Beach) and it’s well worth setting up camp in Anglesea for a stop over to enjoy the spoils of a superb beach and an amazing 35km surf coast walk. The drive from Queenscliff to Anglesea is a leisurely 1hr and 15 minute drive (with no stops).

The last stretch of this romantic itinerary recommendation is to set off early after check-out from Anglesea and take in Airey’s Inlet for an hour or two (beautiful lighthouse to explore and great fish’n'chips for lunch) before heading to Lorne for a stay for multiple days. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Lorne from Anglesea without any stops.

Lorne is a tourism hotspot very popular in the warmer months but don’t just stick to the perimeter of the township – explore yonder and discover amazing waterfalls and rainforest in the Otways, or dart off in your car to nearby Wye River (check out the amazing pub on the hill overlooking the ocean!) and Apollo Bay.

Fresh sea breezes, quaint little hamlets, top beaches, seaside restaurants, lovely holiday parks to set up camp, interesting shops to wander through … why wouldn’t you choose a romantic weekend or week away along Great Ocean Rd?

AUSTIN BONHAM