I’ve realized that I have been on the road for almost two weeks now , stopping only in Mt. Cook for a few nights for my birthday, but otherwise living right out of my pack and sleeping over in one-horse-towns before continuing on my way. It helps that I have been reading Into the Wild for hitchiking inspiration.

As I mentioned in a previous post, hitchiking can be a frustrating, patience-testing endeavour, only conducive to persistence and spontaneity. I have, however, come to embrace the unique experience and have found as much adventure hitchiking the New Zealand roads as tramping in the New Zealand wilderness. It’s funny the contrasting viewpoints I’ve come across about hitchiking; some people approach it as if it ain’t no thang, recommending strategies and the best locales to increase your chances, while others (mostly kiwis, surprisingly) will look at me like I’m crazy and warn me about how dangerous hitchiking has become in NZ, especially for a little girl on her own. I’ve found that like anything, safe hitchiking merely requires good judgement.

If and when I do get picked up, (always happens eventually, sometimes after 15 minutes, sometimes after 3 hours), hitchiking can be the best way to meet locals, such as the three characters I mentioned from my birthday adventure. My most recent journey was significantly less successful, covering only 300 kms in 7 hours, on 4 separate legs; though I did get to pass through some beautiful vineyards, and learn some local agricultural history from the various townies that picked me up. The most notable was a hick redneck Kiwi truck driver and member of the NZ Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. Tony, a self-declared “racialist”, told me he had driven by me at first and “thought I was an Asian”, but picked me up out of pity a few hours later when I was still standing there. I told him I was “an Asian”…I guess coming from the states made some sort of difference in his mind, though. In the end, Tony turned out to be a really nice guy, who considered going to the North Island “going overseas” and kept saying “I don’t know why I picked you up, I never pick up hitchikers.” According to his company’s policy, he wasn’t allowed to pick up hitchikers but since he was in a “fuck work” mood, it was my “lucky day” and I got a ride to Nelson in his 30 Honda-toting cargo truck. He dropped me off on the side of Route 1 since he couldn’t truck into town, and pointed to a clearing the bushes that I ran through to get into beautiful Nelson center.

Each time I hitch I tell myself it’s the last time- it can be unnerving when someone slightly sketch starts to pull over, exhausting from standing, holding my arm out, and rejecting when a stream of cars pass by. But it’s kind of become some sort of strange addiction while I am here- a test to see how far I can get, what scenery I can experience, and what kinds of people I can meet. I really feel like I’m out on a limb on a whimmmmm!


~ by ceciliabien on April 23, 2009.

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