The time came to leave the comfort of the Feijoa farm, and with my complete inability to make a decision about anything, I decided to get a ride to back to Christchurch with Elza, a lovely girl from Latvia. I wasn’t that enamoured with Christchurch the first time I went there, after the big earthquake a few years ago it’s still a giant building site, so I knew I didn’t want to stay there long (at least I knew one thing!).
I had used the 10 days at the farm to think about what I wanted to do next, to mull over my options. One option was to stay in New Zealand for a while where I had the chance to be sponsored for a work visa back in Methven. I would have been able to ski and work in the a cafe for the season. I gave this some serious thought, but ultimately I think there were just too many memories there. I was also conflicted between the need to stay in one place for a while and the desire to keep moving. I still think about it though and I will probably always wonder why I never took that chance. But you can’t live a life on ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’.
So, I left the hostel in Christchurch early to get a bus to the outskirts of town, then hitched a ride to Methven. At this point I was still going to Methven to discuss the visa options face to face. I got picked up quickly by an Aussie man called Ian and as he was driving I made a last minute decision to abandon Methven and to escape to the west coast. Ian had a very large beard, full of pie crumbs, which he stroked the whole way to Arthur’s Pass. It was about 10km out of his way, but he offered to come back and get me and take me to the west coast after he had finished working for a couple of hours, which was nice of him.
Back in Arthur’s Pass it was just as cold as the last time I was there! Luckily for me I didn’t even have to try to hitch as a Québécois girl, Sophie, offered me a ride to Greymouth. Sophie was living in her car and there were food crumbs everywhere! But I felt very safe on the windy road down to Greymouth as she drove nice and slowly. As we chatted she peppered me with questions about the PCT and the TA, and said she felt like she was ‘in the presence of a legend’. Haha!
Greymouth is quite uninspiring. And my advice to anyone would be do not stay at Noah’s Ark hostel. I could feel every spring in the mattress and my food was stolen out of the kitchen. Talking of food, this unknown man infront of me was eating plain pasta and a hotdog. My diet doesn’t seem so bad now!
My plans were loose and the next day I decided to move on from Greymouth and hitch up the west coast to an unusual hostel about 30km north of Westport. A ‘friend’ invited me to stay that morning. There was a big storm on the way, which I didn’t realise when I decided to head over that way, so I would hunker down and wait for it to pass.
I set about hitching again and for a major highway that runs up the whole of the west coast there is surprisingly little traffic! I have never not got a ride, but after 10 minutes I always start to make a contingency plan in my head. I think about where I can stay for the night and then think about booking buses!
It was cold and windy and the storm was threatening. I did my best to look cold and helpless. Even though it took only about 20 minutes for a car to stop, it felt like I was there for about 3 hours! A guy pulled over and said he was only going a little way to a small town called Ruanga. I’ll take it! Anything to get off this bit of road! Ian was a big guy, with tattoos across his knuckles and a shaved head. No judgement. Just setting the scene. His first words to me were ‘I hope the police aren’t at my door when I get home’. Oh great I thought, what have I got myself into here!
He has a very loud car. Not the one we were in, one that has a boomy engine and goes about 2km on a tank of gas. He drove it the day before and disturbed the peace. In the very short journey I found out that his girlfriend was cheating on him and he was very angry about it, but he’s not going to do anything about it until his girls are teenagers. ‘Oh dear, how old are your girls?’ I enquired. ‘6 and 2’ he replied. Just a few years to wait then!!
Despite Ian’s slightly intimidating appearance he was really nice to me and dropped me next to a cafe so I could run inside if it started raining. And he stopped to pick me up, not like all the other miserable bastards who drove on by! Ha!
The road was so quiet I naturally, immediately, feared the worse. Doubting there was a hostel or anywhere suitable to stay in this ‘town’ I started to look around me and think if I could get away with stealth camping! I decided now was the time to bring out the signs I had made while staying with Dean and Jess on the Feijoa farm.
I went for my trump card – ‘I smell nice’. It says so many things, I smell nice, I’m funny…yeah, just those two things actually. But it worked because a young German boy, Max, pulled over and said he could give me a ride, but he didn’t think he smelt nice! For the record he smelt ok, but his van was a little funky! At only 19 he was travelling solo around NZ and not afraid of picking up a hitchhiker.
We stopped on the way at Pancake Rocks –some rocks that have a weird unexplained formation which makes them look like they are pancakes stacked on top of each other. We weren’t there at the right time of the day to see the blow holes, but the noise of the waves crashing over the rocks was awesome. I said to Max, who wants to be an architect, ‘this must be great for you, it’s natures architecture’. Oh, I hadn’t thought about it like that, he said. When Max is a world famous architect I will assume it’s because I expanded his mind that day at Pancake Rocks!
Max wasn’t going to Westport, but he drove me the 6km out of his way to take me to the town centre, he plans to hitchhike on the North Island and he said it would give him good hitching karma. I walked a little way out of town to get to a spot where all cars would be going my way. I put on my best cold and desperate face and held my I Smell Nice sign, and within a few minutes a couple who had driven past me turned around to come back to get me. I never found out their names but she was British and he was Kiwi and they have lived here for a while. They gave me all the history of the coal mining in the area on the way and not content with leaving me on the side of the road, they took me right to the door.
Well they took me as close as they could. The thing about this hostel is that if you want to stay there you have to be prepared to climb a hill to get there. David and Suzanne who own the Old Slaughterhouse will take your luggage up on the quad bike but you have to walk up. I decided to carry my bag up and the 15 minute climb was a bit of a shock to the system after having done bugger all for quite a while. The place is really cool, nestled high up on the hill is isn’t visible from the road if you’re heading north, and only just if you’re heading south. David built it himself using reclaimed wood, and it’s run on hydropower and solar power. You have endless panoramic views over the wild west coast, and a big wood burner, with an endless supply of driftwood, to keep it cosy while you watch the storm rolling in over the sea.
Superficially I had a nice time, playing games, learning the (wrong) rules of backgammon, eating nice food, reading in front of the fire and strolling on the beach…but a leopard doesn’t change his self-absorbed, selfish twat spots overnight…
Call me stupid…I deserve it.
“I forgive you. Not for you, but for me. Because like chains shackling me to the past I will no longer pollute my heart with bitterness, fear, distrust or anger. I forgive you because hate is just another way of holding on, and you don’t belong here anymore.” | Beau Taplin
The place only takes cash and I only had enough to stay for 2 nights so when David and Suzanne said they were driving into Westport I jumped in with them to save a potentially hard hitch. They also took me out of their way to drop me at a good hitching spot. I quickly got picked up by a very grumpy man. He said he wasn’t going my way but he could take me to the highway if I didn’t mind sharing the seat with a beautiful Labrador puppy! The puppy was all over me, like puppies do, and the man punched it repeatedly while he was driving to ‘make it behave’. Discussion was minimal and I was glad to get out of the car after a short time, but sad to leave the puppy behind.
I had made a big mistake by not having a wee before leaving, and with at least a further 3 hours on the road ahead of me I knew I couldn’t survive that long. The traffic was minimal and I took my chances with weeing on the side of the road, keeping my fingers crossed that no one would drive by. I got away with it that time.
Only 5 minutes later another young German boy, Sebastian, picked me up and took me all the way to Nelson. One of the most polite people I’ve ever met, he offered to adjust his driving to suit my preferences. ‘If I am going too fast I will slow down, and if I am going too slow I will speed up and if you don’t like my music I will change it.’ Sebastian took me right to the door of the hostel, even though it meant driving round town a few times to find it.
That evening I got to see my PCT and TA hiking buddy Crusher who is living just outside Nelson. We went to a church that had been converted into a bar and put the world to rights over a beer and a burger.
It was starting to get really cold and despite wearing my two puffies and my rain coat I was suffering in my shorts. Not wanting to buy anything new, because I was unsure of my plans, I had scoured several charity shops for some trousers, but always became overwhelmed and left with nothing (some great charity shops in Nelson by the way). But as luck would have it, as I was doing my laundry, I noticed a ‘free clothes’ box and inside was a pair of chino type trousers. They’ll do! They are men’s and I have to walk with my hands in the pockets to stop them falling down, but I’m warmer than when I was in my shorts!
I can safely say I have never looked this trampy. I am wearing the shoes that carried me across the South Island which have holes in. Men’s spotty dress socks, 50 cents from the Red Cross. My knickers, 1 of 2 pairs I have been wearing for the last 9 months, which have countless holes and look like they are about to disintergrate. Men’s baggy chinos, which I found, rolled up around 5 times to make them the right length. A tshirt which was donated to me by a charity shop. My oversized blue puffy with a broken zip. And a NZ$60 hat.
I mooched about a bit, went to the cinema to see one of the worst films I’ve ever seen – The Sense Of An Ending, avoid it at all costs! Then I walked to the centre of New Zealand, up a hill where there is a nice view over Nelson and a giant needle sculpture.
After a particularly bad night in the hostel I was glad to be moving on. There are unwritten rules when it comes to hostel etiquette, and not snoozing your alarm is one of them. One of the girls in my dorm had her alarm go off at 5:45am and then snoozed it so it went off 4 MORE TIMES! After the fourth time I go up and said to her ‘if you’re not planning on getting up can you please turn your alarm off because the rest of us are tying to sleep’, which was much more polite than what was going through my head. She never apologised but she did turn the alarm off. Of course I was wide awake now.
When I left the hostel around 9:30am the girl with the alarm was still in bed! I walked out of town, back to the highway to begin my hitch to Picton. After only a few minutes a lovely Kiwi mother and daughter picked me up and took me part of the way to Pelorus Bridge, it’s weird coming back to all these places we walked through.
My next hitch was the first car that passed me and they took me to Blenheim. Hitching multiple time in a day can be exhausting because your responsibility is to entertain the driver and you end up having to repeat your story over and over. This couple had been to a party in Nelson and they were very hungover and not interested in making conversation at all which suited me just fine!! They made sure I was in a good place to get to Picton when they dropped me off, which was – you may have guessed – out of their way.
There was another boy there already trying to hitch. I never know what to do in these situations. Go introduce myself and team up? Wait until he has found a ride and then try and hitch? In the end I walked about 100m further than where he was and put my thumb out. He technique was shoddy, he had his thumb out but he had his face buried in his phone so he wasn’t making any eye contact with the drivers. He must have been there a while because he was starring to brace his hitching arm with his other hand!
After only 5 minutes a car pulled over for me, I felt bad for the boy for a split second and then jumped in with my ride, a lovely retired Kiwi man called John. He commented on the boy and said he would never pick up a person who wasn’t looking. John had some great stories, telling me about his plan to drive from London to Cape Town in the 70s, but when his car broke down he ended up hitching over 10,000 miles through Africa. He gave me a good tip – a cheery wave to the cars rear view means the approaching car can see you being friendly and are more likely to stop.
It was a Sunday and my plan to get a belt from a charity shop to keep my trousers up failed, because everything is closed on a Sunday. The South Island is very much like being back in the 90s and I’m going to miss that ‘easy as’ way of life. I booked into the Fat Cod backpackers, taking a bit of a risk with a 10 bed dorm. I had to get up early anyway to get the 8am ferry so sleep didn’t really matter that night, but it ended up being just me and another girl in the room which was perfect.
7am in Picton was absolutely freezing, winter is starting to set in in the South Island and I’m really not kit out for it! The ferries had been cancelled over the weekend because of 11m high waves in the Cook Strait. The ferry departed a little late at 9:30am and all was fine until we got out of the shelter of the sounds. Then the ferry bounced up and down like a rollercoaster. The front of the boat rose into the sky and as it smacked back down people cheered and my stomach was left hanging somewhere near the top of my throat.
I had eaten breakfast on the ferry and I was worried I was going to see my $8 again. I tried to engage mind over matter and I was watching the front of the boat going up and down and I didn’t feel sick at all. Great, I’m going to get away with this, I thought.
All was fine, until the stewards started coming around and asking if anyone was feeling seasick and handing out sick bags. ‘This is the worst place to sit if you are feeling sick’, they announced. I felt alright, and what I should have done was stayed there for the whole journey and not moved. But I made the mistake of deciding to get up and go to the toilet. The motion of the boat was different as I stood up and staggering was the only way of describing how I made it to the toilet. This is where it all went wrong, suddenly it had all changed from the relaxed jovial atmosphere at the front, to total carnage and chaos. People were throwing up all around me, few people were making it to a suitable receptacle, so there were piles of sick on the floor, and people with sick spraying through their fingers.
Well, that was it for me. Now I felt sick. I found my way to a table and sat down, feeling like I couldn’t make it back successfully to where I was sat before. This part of the boat seemed to be rolling sideways rather than going up and down and I made the mistake of looking out of the side window, sea then sky, sea then sky. That did me no favours at all and I spent the rest of the journey with my earphones in and my head down on the table, while people staggered back and forth with sick bags.
I was grateful to arrive in Wellington and be back on solid ground. I met with my Instagram-turned-real friend Ayesha (check out her awesome Instagram account @wilderbound). The last time we saw each other we were crossing paths on the PCT as she was heading north and I was going south. It was great to catch up with her and talk about all things adventure related!
I often find that the bigger the place the harder it is to hitch out of. Too many people going in different directions! So this time I decided to get an Intercity bus from Wellington to Whanganui where I would be going to stay with Mike and June. Easier for them knowing what time I will arrive too. It was so nice to see them again. Since that chance meeting all those months ago, when Mike took pity on us and rescued us from the rain, Mike and June have become akin to adoptive grandparents to me.
They made sure I was fed well, and I had a fantastic couple of nights sleep to make up for my terrible hostel experiences in the most recent past. We went on a bike ride around Whanganui and both Mike and June left me for dust!!
I could have stayed all week, but I needed to keep pushing north to make my flight out of Auckland in a couple of days. Mike and June put me in a good hitching spot and sent me off with a packed lunch and leftovers for diner, and after only 5 minutes Neil pulled over and picked me up. A British guy who moved to New Zealand 15 years ago and has never looked back! We chatted effortlessly and it was a scenic drive up the parapara (highway 4). Neil took me 30km out of his way (a 60km round trip for him) to get me to National Park so I could be in the best place to hitch my next ride. As we approached we had great views of Mt Ruapehu, Mt Doom and Tongariro to the right and Mt Taranaki to the left.
I wasn’t waiting long before Jenny picked me up and although she wasn’t going to Rotorua she took me there anyway. I first got a severe talking to about how I shouldn’t be hitchhiking and I would almost certainly be murdered. She picked me up because she didn’t want anyone else to. We made a couple of stops on the way, one to take a look at Lake Taupo and the second to have a look at Huka Falls.
Jenny said I couldn’t come all this way and not look at Huka Falls. To be honest I wasn’t really that bothered about seeing another waterfall but I was blown away when we got there. It’s not a traditional waterfall, a very wide river turns into a very narrow canyon and large amounts of water are forced very quickly through the small gap. The roar, colour and sheer power of the water are breathtaking. No photos or videos do it justice.
Jenny took me right to the hostel and gave me a big hug before she went on her way. Rotorua smells like Sulphur (rotten eggs) everywhere as there is a lot of geothermal activity. I’m glad I was only there for one night because the smell in the dorm room in the middle of the night was quite overwhelming. While I was there I managed to pick up a belt to hold my trousers up, so now I don’t have to walk around with my hands in my pockets.
I then began my final hitch to Auckland. Moving up from the South Island through the north island is like moving from the 90s into the 00s. The road out of Rotorua is 2 lanes, fast and super busy. I couldn’t find anywhere to stand and in the end I just went for it by a bus stop and stuck out my thumb. Hundreds of cars drove past and half an hour had gone by with no one stopping or even really acknowledging they had seen me. Just as I was about to give up a nice Maori guy said he could give me a ride to Hamilton. He accent was really strong and I struggled to understand everything he said, including his name – I couldn’t ask a third time! He was so generous and immediately gave me an apple to eat. He took me out of his way to get me to a good spot to hitch and gave me crisps and museli bars to keep me going!
My final hitch was with another ex-pat. Simon, originally a Londoner, has been living here since 1993. Simon liked to talk and he told me all about his Thai wife. He had no need to go into the centre of Auckland but in that kind Kiwi way he took me right to the door of the hostel and made sure I was inside safely.
Hitchhiking in New Zealand has been super easy and I’ve been so lucky to meet such wonderfully eclectic, kind and generous people on my way. And I wasn’t murdered, which is a bonus. I am kicking myself for not taking any photos!
I had a quick turnaround in Auckland with only a short time to kill before my very early flight to Sydney. I had a wonder around the city, exactly like I did on the first day I arrived here. I went and stood on the end of the wharf and thought about how much had changed in the last 6 months. Last time I was stood here I was with a really great friend who is now no more than a stranger.
I have a ‘fuckit bucket’. If something happens that you can’t control, put it in the fuckit bucket and move on. I put a whole bunch of stuff in there, but the problem with my bucket is that it has no lid, and occasionally things fall out. But I gather them up and put them back in, hoping this time they will stay there.
‘Love lightly. Don’t squander your energy perusing materialistic possessions or people who will never truly value your heart. After all is said and done, what matters is that you lead a memorable life and leave a meaningful mark on the world.’ | Beau Taplin
So I’ve been in Sydney for 48 hours now, and I got here without a single human interaction through customs at Sydney airport! My first impressions are: there is a whole street of good outdoor shops; I have heard more foreign languages than English; the hostels are more expensive but the food is everso slightly cheaper; there is a large homeless population and they own more than I do; it’s just another big city where it’s easy to feel invisible; it’s not that hot, but it’s not that cold; nothing has killed me, yet; the hummus selection is inferior to New Zealand, but you can’t get this in New Zealand:
I’ve been a tourist and had a look around the Sydney Opera House:
And it transformed at night as part of Vivid, an amazing light show which lights up the whole of the city:
Now I’m thinking about the next stage of the adventure, here’s a little clue…