Hitchhiking to new horizons

February 21, 2018

Hayden Thomson with his two Canadian buddies, Leah and Mari, who picked him up on their travels from Franz Josef to Wanaka, New Zealand.

It began with a blonde 32-year-old female lawyer from Germany and ended with two 25-year-old brunette Dutch girls.

What happened in between is a blur.

For the past two weeks I have been gallivanting around New Zealand’s South Island with a backpack weighing 7kg.

The small country off the east coast of Australia had never been at the top of my bucket list, but I jumped at the opportunity to fly to Christchurch and back for $210.

The result was, I had a ripper time and it provided me my first opportunity to try hitchhiking.

A dying art since the days of Ivan Milat, the news reports must not have made it across the Tasman Sea because everyone was all about it.

From Christchurch to Greymouth, Franz Josef, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo and back to Christchurch — 1800km or 24 hours driving without paying a single cent.

Annoyingly, no-one would accept my delicious cookies nor my numerous offers of petrol money.

Not sure if it was because of my well-manicured travel moustache or because I made such good friends with all my new buddies.

Of the dozen or so people who picked me up throughout my journey, all were backpackers and all were female — beside one car full of New Zealanders.

One kind German girl picked me up near on darkness, driving us more than three hours to the destination we were both aiming to get to.

I didn’t wait more than 30 minutes at any one location, with hoards of travellers from Europe and around the world about during peak summer season.

On a trip from Wanaka to Queenstown I was picked up by a French gentleman in his early 30s in his trusty campervan.

As I jumped in the passenger seat thinking it was just going to be the two of us for the one-hour drive, I glanced behind to see four others sleeping.

It was Lucas’ girlfriend and his parents and what’s more, in the campervan behind us were Lucas’ girlfriend’s parents and her brother.

Talk about an interesting one-month road trip journey with the in-laws.

Another day involved a hitchhike from Queenstown to Milford Sound and back in a day with my Polish-German friend Natalie.

It took us close to 13 hours with the two of us eventually arriving back in Queenstown about 1am.

Hitchhiking is not advertised anywhere online, nor is it in the trusty Lonely Planet, which is a must-have for a novice backpacker like me.

But having lived it and experienced it in what I believe in the perfect beginners hitchhiking country, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Perhaps next time I should avoid telling the grandparents upon my return.

Hayden Thomson is a News journalist.

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