The Journey West


I was making a pit stop in both Queenstown and Franz Josef because the bus didn’t go all the way to Hokitika from Dunedin. That would be an awful drive anyway. My time in Queenstown was short. I grabbed some food and said hi to a few friends I had made the previous time I was there, and then had a nice chat with my dorm mate about some various hikes throughout New Zealand. It was good info because he had just come from where I was headed. The bus ride from Queenstown to Franz Josef was absolutely breathtaking. You can see the transition from a more mountainous drier region to a lush rainforest. The bus made numerous stops along the way so we could take in some of the sites. One of the stops was at a waterfall which was pretty cool. I decided to watch Mad Max during my journey, and I thought it was a bit ironic. Mad Max was filmed in Australia and is portrayed as a wasteland, and here I was, driving through their southern neighbor’s lush rainforest. Green everywhere. I thought it was silly. I don’t think Mad Max does Australia justice. I’ve heard nothing but positive remarks about the country and its beauty. Once arriving in Franz Josef, I settled in and then went for a nice run closer to the glacier. I had wanted to go to the top of a nearby small hill, but the trail was closed. The weather had absolutely destroyed it. On my way back I wanted to see another short trail near the town center. That trail only went a short way because it too had been destroyed by the weather. Since the West Coast, Franz Josef, is a rain forest it rains a lot. And the last few months had been particular rainy. The temperature was warmed than Te Anau or Dunedin, but it was still cool and wet. I was having some poor luck with my weather. The following morning, I made my way to Hokitia. Their nickname is the Coolest little Town. And it was a cool little town. Right on the beach, and known for beach wood and greenstone, jade. On a clear day you can get an epic view of Mt Cook from Hokitika, but the weather was awful almost my entire time there. My first day was supposed to have the best weather, no rain but cloudy, so I wanted to take advantage of it and try to get out to the Hokitika gorge. The river that runs through the gorge is turquoise and the pictures I had seen looked amazing. The bad part was the gorge was about 35km out of town, and I did not have a car, nor was there a bus or shuttle that went out there. At this point I had been in New Zealand about 6 weeks; it was about time I tried hitchhiking. As I walked along the road with my thumb sticking out, I thought about the rules of hitch hiking. Are there rules? Are you supposed to walk? Stand still? Hold your thumb a certain way? Face traffic or walk with it and turning your body when cars approach? I had no idea. So I started walking with my thumb out; I was walking forward, but when a car would approach I tried to turn my body to make eye contact. Half hour of walking and nothing. How far was I going to walk out? Because if I never got picked up I would have to walk back. I decided I would walk for an hour and then I would stay put. That way I wouldn’t have far to walk back if I failed. At like 55 minutes someone pulled over. It was a local lady pulling a horse trailer. She was going part of my way, so then I thought. If I get a ride with her it takes me closer to my destination, but not all the way, and further from my room. Thus, if I failed I would have a longer walk back. When hitching, you probably shouldn’t have a negative attitude and think about failure because then you really will never succeed or get anywhere. I accepted the ride and drove for a short distance with her. When the lady dropped me off, I checked my map and truthfully I still wasn’t too far from town. It would probably be easier to get a ride into town, but even if I did walk it wouldn’t be terrible. When I started walking with my thumb out again, I decided not to walk as long. Only like 30 minutes I think. I stopped along the side of the rode with my thumb out. I tried to pick a location where people would get a good view of me from a distance and have ample room to pull over if they decided to give me a ride. Another kiwi farmer stopped and gave me a ride. He wasn’t going all the way out to the gorge. Really only tourists go to the gorge, but he could get me a good chunk of the way out there. I kept thinking, I can’t fail, I won’t fail. I will get to the gorge, and I won’t be stuck out here. He dropped me off at a turn off. I was about 17km from the gorge. As soon as I got out of his truck, a camper van pulled over. I thought, o heck yeah! They asked if I needed a ride to the gorge and I said, “Yes please!” They were an English couple on holiday and had been traveling around Australia and New Zealand. We arrived at the gorge and I thanked them profusely. I had made it to the gorge. I still needed to get back, but I was here. The parking lot had a decent number of cars in it so someone was bound to let me ride with them into town. I made the short trek across the swing bridge and to the river gorge. I took some pictures and soaked up its beauty. Then the sand flies attacked. I felt like I had been pretty lucky with sand flies. Only really being attacked in Te Anau and now in Hokitika. I made my way back to the car park and started my scout for how I would get back to town. I saw a family that looked like they were getting ready to load up and leave but there was quite a few of them, and I was unsure what kind of room they had. I saw a few couples leave, but they left so quickly I couldn’t make my move. After maybe 10 minutes I saw a girl by herself. She was walking toward her car; I quickly followed her. “Excuse me, you wouldn’t happen to be leaving would you?” The cool thing about the route to the gorge, is even if you aren’t staying in Hokitika you have to come back to town to get on the main hwy to go north or south. There was only one way to go. She nodded, and I asked if I could get a ride with her back into town. She said yes, and I was ecstatic. She was an Australian doing a South Island holiday. It was actually her second time coming to the gorge. She was headed to Punakaiki for a few days to relax, unwind and divulge into a good book. The weather was supposed to be terrible, so I think she had a good plan. I was dropped off in town and I was feeling accomplished. Hitchhiking was a confidence booster for me.

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