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.