I asked the hostel staff for best place to hitchhike to Queenstown and they gave me directions of the road which goes straight there from the town. It was about 15 minutes of walk from the hostel.
It was around 9am and I reached the place where I had to start hitching. Then I saw T (Chinese girl) with whom I hitchhiked to Mt. Cook the other day and she was also hitchhiking to Wanaka with another Chinese girl from her hostel. After catching up I told her the same thing I was told couple of days before that we should ride separately and I stood away like 70 meters and put down my backpack, grocery bag and the sign. Locals were like sorry mate and people walking by were wishing me good luck. Some found my sign funny and smiled when they read it. I was there for about 15 minutes and could still see T as they were signaling to the vehicles. Then another hitchhiker joined in, she passed T and I was like another competitive day. When she was crossing me she screamed “Hello Hitchhiker” she was the same hitchhiker which I met near the lake and the day before, the guy was traveling elsewhere today. She said competition is on and she will reach Queenstown before me and then continued walking.
One camper van stopped where T was standing and after talking with the driver she started waving towards me. I ran back and she said camper van has only one spot and I can go. I thanked her and got in the Van, the guy was a kid (V) from Germany who had just finished high school and been working and travelling around NZ from last eight months. Luckily he was also going to Queenstown so just one direct ride to destination. He was a good kid, a decade younger than me so I was lecturing him the whole time.
I saw the hitchhiker girl waving and asked V to slow down and rolled the window down and screamed see you in Queenstown.
It was a scenic drive from Wanaka to Queenstown and the 21 year old camper van added more fun to it. We reached there early in the day, V also stayed in the same hostel and walked around the town in the evening. We bumped into the hitchhiker girl again. I told her I won this time. While walking around the town we noticed a huge line in front of this burger place and wondered what the fuss is all about and thought about trying it about the next day.
Time we went to the burger place it was not that busy but still took us about 30 minutes to get the burger in hand. It was worth all the wait, best Burger I ever ate, it was huge weighed almost a kilo. V had ham and I tried chicken, he was also all over it. We ate in silence, didn’t speak a word for few minutes as were hungry and it was delicious.
We planned to drive to the next town Glenorchy, we were walking towards the van and bumped into M, she was also moving to the same hostel and asked her if she was interested in going to Glenorchy, she said she will see us later.
Van didn’t start, battery died. It was an adventure finding the new battery and replacing it. We went ahead with the drive after the battery fiasco and I am glad we did, it was insanely beautiful. Driving on the mountain and a calm pristine blue lake on the side and no vehicle in sight just pure wilderness. No wonder they call the town as Paradise land.
We met M in the hostel common room and she again wanted to go for a drink, challenging poor kid’s German genes. It was my send off, We went around the town and nothing was open and after contemplating various options we settled for ice cream and surprisingly it was owned by Argentinians people which made M’s day.
Next day I got up early and walked for a while to find a good spot for hitchhiking up north. Queenstown roads are windy and narrow, its a town spread over mountains so it was hard to find a spot where people could see me waving and space to pull over. After walking about 30 minutes I thought of buying a plane ticket leaving two days later rather than doing this for next three days. It was a cloudy morning, I stopped and thought about it more few minutes and decided to walk back to the town. I booked my hostel for next two days and the flight to Auckland. I just wanted to do nothing, it was that type of day. I booked the hostel which was bit away from town center because previous was too crowded.
I told M and V that I am still here for next couple of days so we went to the best burger place in the world again and to a music show by a traveler who has been hitchhiking and traveling from last two years and does music shows and photography wherever he goes, It was good.
Meanwhile I experienced my third earthquake in New Zealand and it was very early in the morning, I was sleeping on the top bunk and it started shaking and It woke me up. I could not understand what is going on, was too sleepy just looked around and then went back to sleep, later that day roommate asked me if I experienced the earthquake and I was like oh yes, that was the earthquake.
Queenstown to Glenorchy
Wanaka is beautiful, a calm blue water body placed with trees with fall colors at this time of the year and tall mountains. I wish I could describe the place at length and admire it more. My hostel was small and nice, bit different from the one’s I had stayed so far. I arrived late after the hitchhiking adventure and slept early. Next day morning I got up early and prepared tea and joined people sitting outside in patio and asked about a short and nice hike and they told me Mt. Iron about 2 kms from the city center and 500 meters high with good views of the area on a good day. I walked around the lake for sometime, I saw the hitchhiking couple from last day and we asked the same question to each other what time did we get here. They had reached early and the guy said it all because of the girl she was the one who was waving. Around the lake it is a big loop and takes few hours to complete. I decided to go with Mt. Iron hike as it was not very far and time consuming. It was steep and I made it to the top in about 1 hour and it was a great sunny day and from the top I could see the whole town. It was amazing. I sat on top close to one hour, overlooking lake wanaka which I had read about few months ago it and it made me wonder how quickly things manifest.
I came back to the hostel late afternoon and was starving after the hike. I made Indian noodles which I bought from Indian grocery store in Christchurch. One girl was frantically running around the kitchen to find pots and utensils. She was making pasta probably for the first time. Initial round of introductions began and she was from Argentina and when I said to her that she should calm down she replied Argentinians can’t keep calm. She is crazy (Sorry, M) She is well travelled and a big rugby fan instead of football which I think is weird and planned on watching some random rugby game in Wanaka.
Well, I was forced to watch a rugby game with orange juice at a bar which was empty, but it was fun. One of the funniest story she told was when she was in Morocco, a guy offered her to show around the city but while walking on the street he will walk in front of her as if she was not with her and then also talk while walking in front of her.
Wanaka stay was short and nice and I was ready for another hitchhiking adventure further south to Queenstown.
Stay at Tekapo was great. Met some nice people and learned that French don’t like coffee with milk or sugar.
It was time to head south and my next stop was lake Wanaka. I came to know about Wanaka just a few months ago as I was reading a travel blog and the author had posted some pics of the beautiful place, lake surrounded by mountains and I had never thought I will be there that soon.
I met one German girl (N) at the hostel, we hiked together to Astro café during the day and told her about the hitchhiking trip to Mt. cook and plan of hitchhiking rest of the south island. She was planning to take the bus next day to Mt. Cook but said will hitchhike as well. I am not a bad influence always maybe sometimes :)
I hoped to get a ride till the intersection of the road which goes to Wanaka from the people travelling to Queenstown. We stood at the road around 9:20am and started thumbing traffic with our mile long smiles, after waiting for half an hour we were discussing plan b, whether we should stand somewhere else or separately while smiling to all the passing vehicles then one car pulled up and I asked the couple in the car where are they going they said Mt Cook. N was lucky she got a straight ride and I have get a new one from the intersection. Couple was British but living and working in New Zealand from last few years. They told us that they waited on the same spot for hitchhiking few years ago and it took them a while to get one. They had walked both the islands and it took them about four and a half months. They were really into outdoors. It was a quick ride of about 30 mins to the intersection where they dropped me and we bid farewell.
I was sitting at the intersection trying to find a ride. It was middle of no where and it really became quite in the wilderness when there was no sound of traffic. Few cars passed by and no body showed any interest in giving me a ride. I kept my hitchhiking sign next to my backpack on the ground and was standing next to it. I had no sleeping bag or tent and it was around 11 and I was thinking about plan B, may be walk to the visitor center which was about 2kms and ask people there or keep trying for some more time. One car coming from Mt Cook and going towards Tekapo dropped two hitchhikers at the intersection. After initial round of introductions the first question was for how long I have been waiting, I said about 1 hour. They were both girls, one from Germany and other from Holland. They said I have the spot and can go first while they will wait at the back. After 30 more minutes I was tired and told them if they want to try and I was hungry. I was almost thinking of going back to Tekapo. Ofcourse when they say its easier for girls to hitchhike they are so true. They just waited for 10 mins and the car stopped and the guy was going to a town which was just 40kms away and the German girl was nice enough to also ask about me that if he can take me as well. I was sitting on the ground watching the whole scene and eating and wondering how did they manage to get a ride so fast, while I have been waiting for so long here. Anyways the guy agreed to drop me as well as he was the only one in the car and had space for all three of us. He was from South Africa living and working in New Zealand. Girls smartly sat at the back and leaving the front seat next to the driver for me, which meant I had to do the talking and do the small talk. After round of obvious introductions where each one is from and how long we been in the country and what we do, questions stopped. He was more interested in the Dutch girl as his ex-gf was from there, I was happy to be quiet. After sometime to avoid the awkward silence, I asked him about the cricket world cup semifinal between SA and NZ and about South Africa in general. He dropped us at this tiny town called Omarama and the girls said it would be a good idea to hitchhike separately as all three would have really low chances. I told them to go ahead and I will hang around the town and they went down the street and starting thumbing. When I returned after about 20 minutes I could still see them at end of the street. I sat down in front of the only Gas station in the town and tried to finish some snacks I was carrying with me. And suddenly they were gone, they found a ride so it was time for me to get in action and take the spot. I was energized now, smiling and signaling to all the vehicles but was exhausted soon. After waiting for more than 2 hours I was wondering what to do, find a place to stay in the town or try for some more time and started to get anxious, sitting there on the road on wondering why I am doing this. I told myself it will be alright, I just need a single ride.
One pickup truck stopped and the man agreed to drop me to the Wanaka intersection. We started talking and he was well travelled, hitchhiked a lot when he was young, been to all the continents except the coldest one. He was native, Mauri. We talked about different cultures and it was a fun ride. He dropped me about 30 minutes away from Wanaka. He gave me his number and offered me his place to stay in Queenstown.
I walked a bit on the side of the road going to Wanaka and found a good spot where people can stop if they wanted to give me a ride. I started signaling again and was amazed all the locals, they were feeling bad by not giving the ride. They were signaling down, raising there hand and smiling and kind of saying sorry. They were from the town and not going far enough. About 20 minutes later another hitchhiker passes me, we wave and each other and he asked me how long I have been waiting and wished me luck then went on stood about 100 meters away on the same road. We were both going to Wanaka. Another 10 minutes later another hitchhiking couple came and we waved at each other and they asked the same question, how long I have been waiting and departed wishing good luck. It was a busy road and about to start getting dark but no one stopped but I realized there no panic or anxiousness this time. It felt it’s going to be ok maybe it was because I knew there are others as well waiting for a ride. Finally a pickup truck stopped, an old man on the wheel asked me he will drop me about 10 minutes before Wanaka and I jumped in the truck without hesitating. He was local and has lived most of his life around that area and his children been travelling all over including India. Topics changed to Englishmen and he told me that there were never more than 12000 poms in India at any given time and they managed to rule few millions , It was surprising and could be true. He dropped me in front of his house, outside a small town and about 15kms from Wanaka and it was dark by this time.
I started walking towards Wanaka and was signaling to passing by vehicles but without any luck. I walked for about 20 minutes and hoped to go on the other side of the town and try hitching there. As I was walking and signaling a camper van stopped. Camper vans are very popular in NZ, they are like mini RVs, have a mattress at the back and a tiny kitchen. It was a French couple traveling in New Zealand and they made space for me in front and we were three sitting on the front seat which was quite big. They were really nice and dropped me all the way to the hostel.
Finally I made it to Wanaka from Tekapo by pure kindness and generosity of strangers, five different rides, hours of conversations and waiting time and lot of fun.
Quoth Siddhartha: “What should I possibly have to tell you, oh venerable one? Perhaps that you’re searching far too much? That in all that searching, you don’t find the time for finding?”
“How come?” asked Govinda.
“When someone is searching,” said Siddhartha, “then it might easily happen that the only thing his eyes still see is that what he searches for, that he is unable to find anything, to let anything enter his mind, because he always thinks of nothing but the object of his search, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed by the goal. Searching means: having a goal. But finding means: being free, being open, having no goal. You, oh venerable one, are perhaps indeed a searcher, because, striving for your goal, there are many things you don’t see, which are directly in front of your eyes.”
Hesse, Hermann (2001-02-01). Siddhartha (Kindle Locations 1318-1324). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.