We hope you've enjoyed reading about our weeklong exploration of New Zealand's North Island. This is the last entry for that week, but if you'd like to see how we got here, you can catch up by clicking the links below:
Part I -- Part II -- Part III -- Part IV -- Part V -- Part VI -- Part VII
There was some debate as to whether or not we should blog this part. Dizzle said "Yes", right away. Baby G was a little more apprehensive as it involves doing something that, though perfectly legal here in NZ, is frowned upon for good reason back home. We decided collectively that if you've been following along for the last few posts, we couldn't just abandon the story at it's conclusion and have it end while we're in Auckland. We mean, we had to get home somehow, right?
We did it in one bus, one train, and a half dozen different cars. Here's the story:
We woke up at Robyn's place bright and early. We scarfed down some toast and hit the road, meaning, we walked across Auckland. -Auckland is not a small city, and we had some HEAVY packs on our back, so we reached the bus station a little after 9am. We bought two tickets to Huntly, a small town just South of Auckland. Why, you ask, did we buy bus tickets to this tiny town? --Because it's easier to hitchhike from there. (Sorry Moms and Dads)
Huntly was our destination to hitch from, but our first surprise of the day occurred when our bus driver DIDN'T STOP in Huntly, but continued on. "Do we say something?" we wondered. We didn't. We decided it was a freebie, and as we were on a shoe string budget, we continued Southward, to Hamilton. Hamilton is the third largest city in New Zealand, and decidedly more difficult to hitch out of. -We didn't quite know that at the time.
From the bus station to the outskirts of town, took us about 2 hours to walk. Our packs, as mentioned, were heavy. -And getting heavier every minute. We decided that the grassy patch we were on was as good a place as any to stick out our thumbs. And thankfully, we didn't have to wait too long for the first car to pull up.
A sleek, black BMW cruised up next to us, and a young guy wearing sunglasses got out to clear room in the trunk (or "boot") for our bags. His name was Ian, or Dwayne, or Andre, or Bryce, or Ethan or something. We couldn't tell. But he was a friendly, talkative bloke, who'd quit his job a week prior and was on holiday. He gave us some pointers on hitchhiking (number 1 being, that where we'd been standing was apparently a terrible place, and he took pity on us dumb Americans) and drove us from Hamilton to Tirau. He dropped us at a good pull over spot for cars, and we had to wait all of 10 minutes for...
A middle aged woman in an Audi pulled up and told us to hop in. She was in the mood to chat, and told us about herself. A former life coach, she peppered us with questions about what we wanted to accomplish in our lives, and the positivity was bubbling out of her. She works with refugees from Africa now, and her husband was going to be on television that night. The funniest point with her was when we were slowed down by a logging truck (you must understand - NZ's biggest Highway is two lanes, one going North, and one South. You slow down behind logging trucks. And buses. And steep hills.) and we spotted another going the other way. It boggled her mind that they couldn't organize that better since it's, you know, LOGS. We couldn't disagree. All in all, a lovely woman. She was kind enough to drive us to Taupo. Her hotel was on the north end of the lake, however, and walking UP out of down meant walking with our pack the entire length of the lake. It's a big lake. So, slightly baffled, we decided to do what anyone with the hike ahead of us would do: We sat down and ate lunch.
45 minutes later, and full of PB&J, we swiftly got picked up by a kind old man and his tiny little puppy in a silver hatchback. He asked where we "fellas" were from and how far we were going. We told him, "All the way South. To Wellington if we can." He told us it was getting late but good luck and that he'd drop us off on the south end town, where the kph limit goes back up. We thanked him profusely. He let us go right by the road that leads to what we're sure it a very small airport. It was pretty rural, and we could see the clouds coming off of (and the rain, in the distance, pouring onto) Lake Taupo. We had a plan for if it hit us, and we were pretty sure it would in about 10 minutes. We walked about 50 yards from the shoulder, and put on our raincoats. Then we dug the tent-tarp out of the bag, and had it over our heads just in time for the first really heavy drops. We laughed for the whole 20 minutes. It's was a little cheesy. But the sun came out shortly thereafter, and it didn't take long before we met...
Michael, from Switzerland, pulled up in his rental car, and told us he could take us as far as Turangi. It wasn't a terribly long drive with Michael, but he told us he was still a little jittery, as he had just finished an afternoon of skydiving. He dropped us where he turned off, to explore one of New Zealand's many national parks. Again, it wasn't a long wait (we were VERY lucky on this hitchhiking adventure) before we were picked up by...
We couldn't tell you his name, because he never told us. But the Czech fellow in the passenger seat, named Pavel, said one sentence during the trip: "I need to get to Christchurch as soon as possible." Our driver was an aging hippie, who was driving home from having seen a rock concert the night before. (The same concert that Robyn, our hostess in Auckland, was at) We drove through the desert road area with them without speaking, listening to Santana. Our driver was headed to Carterton, away from State highway 1, which WE wanted to stay on. However, Carterton was a hop skip and a jump from Wellington in a roundabout sort of way. We had to decide whether to travel with them or jump out at the junction between SH1 and Route 54. We opted to jump out since the sun hadn't set yet. With any luck, we could get a ride to all the way to Wellington with our next ride. It was either that, or pitch the tent in some cow field and wake up for rush-hour, because the sun was going down. This was at about 8:00. Fortunately, the heavens opened up, and up to us drove...
...who was on his way back from "Parachutes". We assumed he was into skydiving. Instead, it is this. He was driving to his home in Upper Hutt, and was willing to drop us off at the train station on his way. As we are sitting here typing this, we have no idea what to write about this guy. At one point in the "conversation", he told us his interests are: Lord of the Rings, astronomy, computer games, and church. Though he was not pushy regarding any of these, he was "that guy" (see description above). He needed us as someone to talk to so as not to fall asleep, and we... well... we REALLY wanted to fall asleep. The whole time. We persevered, however, and managed to stay completely (mostly) alert for his entire monologue that managed to last ALL THREE HOURS. We are neither annoyed, nor resentful, because this was a kind man who was willing to give us a lift MOST of the rest of the way home, so please don't hear that as the tone of this paragraph. We were, however, very sleepy, and not mentally prepared to answer the question, "How could you not have ever heard of Dave Dobbyn?" Not from a guy doing us a favor, anyway. About 130 years later, on the way to the train depot, he stopped to show us a quarry, which, though now closed to the public, was where they filmed the Battle of Helm's Deep in LOTR2. In the dark, it looked like a big rock wall with a fence in front of it with a sign on it saying we weren't allowed anywhere near anything but the view of the big rock wall. So we got back in the car and we made it to the train station in time to catch the last train to Wellington, followed promptly by the first taxi we saw to Kilbirnie, to home. We got in at 11:58pm. Not bad for a day's work.
It was a long, strange trip. During the last two days that it has taken to write this, we've been able to relax, unwind, and start to prepare for the upcoming weekend. Also, this afternoon, thanks to Jason, Baby G got a job at the University. It's a casual, on-call reception job, about 2 days a week, leaving time for other opportunities.
We leave tomorrow morning for the South Island to bartend in Blenheim for a festival. There will be many more stories, we're sure. We just wanted to remind you again (Moms and Dads) that we're SAFE, we'll continue to be careful, and you woulda done it too. :)
Love to Everyone, be safe, and we'll see you with more tales after the Superbowl.
Baby G & Dizzle