Select Page

Hitchhiking

Reached Lake Tekapo couple of days and it is spectacular, a tiny village on one side the lake and surrounded by mountains. I reached in the afternoon via Bus from Christchurch, it is about 3 hours and the south island’s landscape is amazing, lot of sheep grazing on the open fields.

Weather in the area is unpredictable and changes very quickly. I was welcomed by rain when I arrived and had to walk a bit to reach the hostel. Room was small and sharing with five other people but the location was unbeatable, right on the edge of the river and you can see the blue water of the lake and snow peaked mountains from the lobby. As I was settling down another guy from Finland showed up and we started talking after exchanging initial pleasantries and he had been traveling for a while in New Zealand for about two months and had worked in farms and interestingly he was a sailor back home. We were in the kitchen preparing lunch and one Chinese girl asked if we want to hitchhike to Mt Cook the next day and I was like absolutely and Finesse guy was traveling to Christchurch in the morning. Rain had stopped and we decided to go for a walk around the lake and another girl from Spain joined us and everyone was interested in culture in home countries so it was not a quite walk, everyone asking all type of random questions to each other. When it started raining again we decided to go back and when we reached the hostel it was full of people and everyone was hanging out in lobby and kitchen and it was loud.

Our room was full as well and now I was sharing the room with people from France, Germany, Spain, Finland and Kiwiland (local) and since the rain was getting heavy outside and temperature dropping everyone was getting cozy in their blankets and someone broke the ice and all started talking and after the first round of where you from, how long you been traveling here, where you going next the conversations moved to music, languages etc. and the whole room bonded. It is quite fascinating how quickly from complete strangers few hours ago one moves to a very friendly comfort zone in a foreign land. Only the French girl was spending one extra day and rest everyone was continuing their travels next day and I told her she is welcome to join the hitchhiking trip tomorrow which I am doing with the girl from China and it would the first time in NZ for each one of us.

We met in the kitchen in the morning during breakfast decided to head out around 10am for the hitchhiking adventure to Mount Cook which is about 100 kms south from Tekapo and takes about 1:30 hours. We stood in the direction of Mt. Cook on the main road thumbing down to the vehicles going south, some ignored us, some smiled, some were sorry as they had no space. We were waiting and talking about the next plan if we don’t get a ride for hours what we are going to do and it might be easier if do it one by one as finding a ride for all three might be tough. We made a process to smile big and thumb to every passing vehicle and the traffic was very light. After waiting for fifteen minutes we thought we might not get lucky today and we were switching from talking with each other to full attention smile mode as soon we saw a vehicle and then resumed talking once the vehicle passed and as we saw this car we got in our process and it passed and three of us looked at each other asking how long should we be trying and the car stopped few meters away and I screamed run, he stopped. We were ecstatic and the driver asked where were we going, we said Mt. Cook and he said he is going further down and we requested if he can drop us at the intersection of the road which goes to Mt Cook and it was about 50kms from where we were standing and he was like sure, come on in. Each of us thanked him like few times as soon we sat in the car and he was driving from Christchurch to Queenstown and he was Asian decent but Kiwi now. We had to wait for about 25 mins. He dropped us at the intersection and we thanked him again, we passed a beautiful lake just before the intersection and we decided to walk to the lake and it was about 30 mins walk but the lake was beautiful. On the way back to the intersection, middle of no where we were hoping we get a ride soon. It was about noon and very few vehicle passing by and very very few turning towards our destination. We applied the same process and someone will shout hey car is coming this way, stand up, be ready, smile and we were loosing hope after 30 mins and then one Asian guy stopped and he was Chinese and the girl spoke with her and he agreed to give us a ride and we were doing hi-fives and guy cleared his backseat and moved all his stuff to the trunk. We thanked him few times when we were settling down in the back seat and he replied he was also a backpacker and know the feeling, it was nice. It’s amazing how one pays it forward. He was from China but now settled in Singapore and traveling with his wife for couple of weeks.

We reached Mount Cook village, it is in a magical setting, landscape which can not be captured in words, huge mountains all around and in between this beautiful valley and this tiny village. Few clouds over the mountains and sun playing hide and seek, it looked unreal and we were in awe. It started raining when we reached the visitor center and were told we can’t do hiking as all the trails are closed and since it is raining now we don’t have many options. We shared a very expensive pizza at the only cafe and waiting for rain to stop and hoping to find a ride back soon. It was about 2.30 now as we started walking down the street, taking pictures and appreciating the magicness of the place. We were worries that if it starts raining again and if we don’t find a ride back before dark we don’t know what we can do as all our stuff was in hostel at Tekapo. We reached the intersection of the local road and the main road towards the intersection we got the second ride. The very first camper van stopped and we had mastered the process by now, synchronizing thumbing and smiling. The guy asked where were we going and we all were on our way to Lake Tekapo only problem was he did not had seats at the back but a mattress so the girls sat on the back and I did all the chatting upfront. He was from Australia and we were his redemption as he told he was not able to pick hitchhiker yesterday because he was running late and felt bad. He told me in NZ you can rent spaceships, its the name of the camper van and it has a big mattress at the back and it is good for two people. We were back to our hostel by 5 and it was pretty impressive.

I had already made up my mind when I was in Christchurch to hitchhike the remaining south island after I leave Lake Tekapo and I don’t have anything planned. I also made a hitchhiking sign in Christchurch with help from the Superman who made the sign more artistic.

Hitchhiking Route:

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 3.32.05 PM

Pictures don’t do justice but here is Lake Pukaki

PICT0462-01

Mount Cook Area

PICT0503-01

Real Superman will fly off

I have not laughed as much in quite a time as much I laughed yesterday. I reached Christchurch couple of days ago and met this crazy (you will know shortly) british guy (let’s call him J), very outgoing and loud. After the first conversation which lasted the whole evening discussing politics, women, adventure sports, travel stories and remaining all the things under the sun we decided to stroll around the city next morning.

Christchurch had a major earthquake few years ago and you can still see the effects in the center of the city, lot of damaged buildings. There is big rebuilding going on as some buildings were marked as unsafe by the government. City does not feel like a city, it is completely dead, you hardly see people or traffic and while walking around, we were surprised if this is the really the center of the city.

After our stroll when we were heading back to hostel we noticed a real person standing on a platform which was suppose to be of somebody’s statue and apparently the statue which was originally there had fallen off during the earthquake leaving behind just the platform. As we were walking past it I was smiling so hard finding the whole scene amusing but J was serious making videos and clicking pictures and then suddenly he was like lets go back to hostel and when I asked what happened all of a sudden if everything is alright. He was like I forgot something. When we were walking back he told me he has this idea, he will put on his superman costume(which he apparently bought to skydive in) and stand up there for couple of hours. I laughed and asked him if he is serious and he said “Yes, I am very serious.”

As we were entering the hostel building we had a group of women walking in front of us and saw couple of them had babies in the baby carriers in front of them and when we approached the entrance we realized all of them were carrying babies and it was a big group. J in his usual style while holding the door for them “Woah, how many babies do we have here” “Where you got all the babies from” “Did you get any group discount?” Ladies were not impressed and I gave a look to J to shut up.

Walking along with superman on Christchurch streets was amazing, getting all the attention and excitement in kids when they saw him was extraordinary. While walking past a couple who was getting in the car, J said “Be safe, put on your seatbelts” My stomach was aching after constantly laughing and walking along the superman. People were honking and kids waving and screaming “Hello, superman” and it was quite a scene. Now we were hoping that the man(statue replacement) had gone.

He was still standing up there and J politely asked if he can take his place and get up there and get a photograph and the man was like this is not my place, this is his place (pointing to the name of the statue, carved on the stone), come on up I will help you.

J got up and the man came down and he was popular in an instant. All the passerby where taking picture, kids lined up to take pictures with superman, people from the cars, tram screaming “Hey Superman, how is it going?” I was taking pictures and laughing. Group of teenage boys asked J if he has lost a bet, why he was standing up there.

When J had soaked in all the day’s popularity, done with posing for photographs, waving and was trying to come down (it was quite high not easy to come down) he was struggling a bit and one man passing by stopped and screamed with a serious face “Real Superman will fly off” I just could not stop myself I was on the literally rolling on the ground.

The whole scene made my day and I was laughing hysterically.

PICT0417-01

Cheers

First thing I noticed is that New Zealanders say ‘cheers’ a lot. I mean in everything, here is your receipt, cheers. here you go, cheers :D

I stayed in Auckland for a night as my connecting flight was in the morning. I met my high school friend there and he gave me a quick night tour of Auckland. We were meeting after 6 years I guess. I reached around 10pm and didn’t sleep until 3am of course there was lot to catch up and some how woke up at 7:30am to make it to 10am flight to Wellington.

Last couple of days in Wellington were great, thanks to awesome weather and my host. It is a beautiful city with lovely old buildings and surrounded by pretty green hills and ocean. It is very scenic, especially when you are walking along the harbor the view of the lush green mountains across the ocean is spectacular. Driving in some parts of the city feel like you are in San Francisco going up and down the hill except they drive on the left hand side. Even after driving most of my life on the right side (in India) I screamed at my friend few times when he was driving me around in Sydney. I thought he was turning on the wrong side of the road and I always turned up on the driver side in the parking lot and he asked me few times if I wanted to drive.

I got to learn a bit about New Zealand history. The colonial period and about the natives here (called as Māori). It is interesting how the country have evolved and waves of migration from different countries at different times in history. My host had wonderful knowledge of history of the world and our conversations helped me learn a lot of new things about different parts of the world. He is well travelled and worked in areas such as  journalism and education.

My first morning coffee in Wellington was with this view.

PICT0340-01

Check out the Map for my whereabouts and journey so far.

Cheers !!

Newcastle

I decided to go to Newcastle just because it was the last station on the Sydney train line. It is a growing small town.  An old man asked me if he can help as he could clearly tell I had no idea where to go when I got off, we walked for few blocks and he told me that it was a steel town 10 years ago and since all the steel plants have closed local authorities are remodelling the town, you can see lot of old and empty buildings. Town gives you a mix vibe of a charming old quiet and trying to be modern place. It has lot of cafes and beautiful coastline.

On the way back an old lady sat next to me and she was very funny and loud :)

“I bet you do this everyday” (commute from Newcastle to City)

“No, first time”

“Oh ours is second time”

She was from a small town nearby and going to the City.

“I can not travel backwards” (sit in the opposite direction in which train is going) and we talked a lot on all the randoms things in the world from her plants in the backyard to the modern city life

Near a station another train was passing our train and she was excited and screamed “Race is on!!”

On the other note, my host was lovely and so was her idea :)

DSC_0332-01

Bondi Beach

Bondi beach is beautiful, especially the coastal walk.

DSC_0284-01