Cook Strait Ferry
27 January 2018
I haven’t done loads of hitch hiking in my life, but I’ve done some, and I’m grateful to have had fair luck in general- both in getting rides, and in meeting pleasant folks. The only exception that readily comes to mind is the time I tried hitching in Arkansas. Boy, that was rough. Walked nearly 20 miles along this narrow, winding, country highway with only about a car every half hour going my way. It took hours and hours for someone to finally stop. And man was it hot that day. But at least I have that very difficult experience to put my other hitch hiking experiences in perspective.
So far in NZ, it’s been wonderful! Left at the same time as the bus walking out of Taupo a few days ago, and arrived in Wellington directly at my hostel at the same time the bus was arriving in city center. Just two hitches, and I was sailing the whole 370 k's. Helluva sweet deal! Road with Kelley and Tina all the way from Turangi, and they were great company for the 4-hour drive. I'd originally hitched north from Whakapapa to Taupo that morning, because I'd planned to take the bus to Wellington. The bus was completely sold out, so I had to turn around and start hitching back the way I'd come. Got to Turangi pretty quickly thanks to Peter, a self-proclaimed gang member. (Not gonna lie, that confession got me wondering if I was in trouble. He turned out to be absolutely wonderful. I kept the conversation focused on his family, mostly his nine(!) children. And he was kind and outgoing the whole hour we road together.) Waited fewer than five minutes before Kelly and Tina pulled over to scoop me up.
Arrived at the Waterloo Backpacker Hostel and met my friend, Sarah, there. She'd reserved a few bunks for us. Got dinner that night and visited the WETA Studio for a tour yesterday. Stayed another night at the hostel, then caught the Interislander Ferry across to the South Island first thing this morning. The ship is massive, and there weren’t a dozen passengers aboard. We had nearly the whole of the ship to ourselves, and the waters were calm. The ride was beautiful! And we saw a bloom of jellyfish from the deck of the ship; they were humming along in the wake. I'd never seen jellyfish in the wild before. These (spotted jellyfish, I think) looked to be quite small from our vantage point high above them.
Had a bit of stress first thing this morning, because I misread the confirmation email. I thought boarding started at 0600 for our 0645 departure. According to the email, 0600 is the final boarding call. Sarah and I left the hostel at 0540 and the walk takes 30 minutes. We had to run the 2.5 k's to the wharf. Our packs were stuffed full, and the race was on. We were both drenched in sweat when we arrived at 0600 on the nose. The boarding agent smiled at us and said they’d begin boarding in about 15 minutes. My eyes opened wide and my jaw dropped. Sarah just smiled at me and said “All part of the adventure, yeah?” We giggled to each other as we checked our bags and took our seats in the waiting area.
We docked in Picton around 1045 and hit the local bakery for some treats before beginning our long hitch down the east coast. We had fair luck today, actually. In fact, we caught our first ride before we’d even reached the edge of town and put our thumbs out. A woman just pulled up and asked if we were hitching south. “Yep!” Jackie drove us the first leg down to Blenheim. From there, we walked to the edge of town and waited about ten minutes for our next ride. A group of foreign winery workers in a dodgy van got us out to Seddon. We began the routine once more, walking out of town along SH1 and thumbing. The next two rides got us maybe 5-10 k's each, which put us in the small community of Ward. Ward is really just a convenience store and some houses. It was about 1530 by this point, and the highway closed each night around 1900 for overnight road work. We still had 90 k's to go, and if progress continued to be choppy, we might fall short of Kaikōura for the night.
Just as we were considering backup plans, Paul pulled over. He’s a road worker who was heading all the way through to Kaikōura. Eureka! We’d done it. Paul was totally awesome. He gave us all kinds of background on the 2016 earthquake (Magnitude: 7.8) that had devastated the region and the ongoing recovery work. The engineer in me found it fascinating, even as Sarah drifted in and out of sleep in the backseat of the truck.
We arrived in Kaikōura at a reasonable 1630 and were able to pick up groceries and maps for the East-West Route, which we’re planning to begin tomorrow morning. It’s a sweet 115 kilometre cross country route through the Molesworth region. So stoked! We’re camping at a beach south of Kaikōura tonight having caught a late-night hitch out of town. Still have about 20 k’s to hitch up the Inland Road tomorrow morning. Expecting it to be a bit challenging, since it’s not a heavily travelled road. Gonna get up around 0600 and try to be out to the road by 0700. That’ll mean a late morning start for the walk, which could make for a long day since it’s 27 k’s to the Clarence River and the first hut of the trip. But those are all tomorrow’s worries. Now, bed.