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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Like Fishing

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 16 September 2015 | Views [497]

Like Fishing? Big Catch?

Like Fishing? Big Catch?

"Hitchhiking is like fishing: sometimes you get a big catch, sometimes you get a small catch, yet sometimes you get no catch." Those were the words of a Maori fella who picked me up outside of Napier last year. There couldn't be a better analogy because sometimes you'll receive a long lift straight away get sometimes you'll be stuck pitching your tent on the side of the road. Heading toward Norfolk Island a couple of weeks ago I got lifts on various days from Fox Glacier to Ngatimoti (469 km), Nelson to Waiouru (462 km), and Napier to Auckland Airport (404 km) in single lifts after less than ten minutes of waiting. After a couple of days in Ohakune I was picked up in Waiouru by a lovely couple named Priscilla and "Stouty." They were immediately intrigued by my book and bought a copy, then gave me their phone number and told me to ring them after returning from Norfolk Island. A "big catch" doesn't necessarily mean a long lift: it could be an offer to stay the night, have dinner, or even make a new good friend or housemate. Jo picked me up in the Northern Territory last year and then offered to let me sleep in her caravan and made me dinner; then later she became my housemate. That's another example of a big catch. A few days ago I called up Stouty and Priscilla and they invited me over for dinner and to stay the night. First I had to pick up some gear at Dave's house and then I decided to go from Napier to Taihape on the road known as the "Gentle Annie." Getting lifts would be very difficult and I left slightly late in the day. Receiving a couple of short lifts (small catches) I was asked "do you have a tent and sleeping gear" in essence warning me that I was likely to get stuck. As the sun was getting ready to set a couple of Maori ladies with their little boy stopped in a small green car. They were like "I don't think we can take you" as if they were reluctant but I basically said if they're concerned about space it doesn't matter because I would likely be stranded. Kindly, the made some room and fit me in. Jai, the little boy was playing with his toys and I was admiring a view I'd yet to see. Numerous tramping tracks of varying lengths exist along the route and it makes me want to return someday. In the darkness they dropped me in Taihape, NZ's gumboot capital where it was just a short lift to Waiouru. Four other foreigners were at the home, which is a former art gallery and B&B. Tea was an excellent one of fresh roasted venison, chicken, roast pumpkin, and kumara.

Max and Camille are a couple whose van broke down that night, and Priscilla and Stouty invited them over for tea. All four of them were staying at accommodation at a pub in town and were kicking themselves for not knowing about here. Ultimately they'd stay the following evening and tea of fresh roasted mutton was just as tasty! I feel terrible when I show up at a host's home empty-handed and I've promised next year that I'll cook! Next year I'll be back to do the Tongariro Crossing and they've welcomed me to stay when I return. After two nights in Waiouru it would be more small catches than big catches. For three straight days I'd set out reasonably early and it failed to pay off each time. For over an hour I waited in Waiouru before a young man in the army picked me up. Before dropping me at the turnoff to Wellington he shouted me a pie and a coffee. Often I recieve one lift all the way to Wellington but this time it took five short lifts, including one by a pretty Maori lady who has a deep interest in travel. We swapped emails and agreed to be in touch. Getting to the ferry terminal at 4 PM the next passenger ferry wasn't until 2:30 AM though there was a vehicle ferry at 8:45 PM, which meant I had to ask around and see if anyone would take me in their vehicle across. Ultimately a young man named Dylan agreed to take me in his van. A truck was going all the way to Queenstown but said he couldn't take me because he was transporting helicopter fuel. It wouldn't matter if he was transporting a nuclear warhead; I wouldn't have been concerned. Dylan was debating driving all the way to Christchurch or sleeping in his van in Picton, and he had a few drinks on the ferry. I told him if he was drinking to just stop for the night. For some reason he abandoned me at a petrol station in Picton and thought at first he took off with my gear but he left it by the pump. As a smart hitchhiker I always make a mental note of license plates and save them in my phone. Well, he was a poor catch (though he did save me several hours of waiting for the next ferry). Cold and stranded in Picton I knew the chances of getting out were slim so I was getting ready to wait several hours until a painter named Graham picked me up. In the dark driving toward Blenheim, Graham asked "where are you sleeping tonight?" I replied "my guess is as good as yours!" He said "would you like a bed for the night?" Although I hoped to get all the way to Queenstown without stopping to sleep I took up the offer. In retrospect I'm glad Dylan left me because he was drunk and all emotional because his girlfriend broke up with him the day earlier. Graham is middle-aged, about 55 or so, and we chatted over a cup of tea at 3 AM because I dragged my tired self into bed. Graham would drop me on the main highway where it'd be tough going with several small catches. I got a lift straight away but then ended up in Seddon for the better part of two hours. Three Indian guys would pick me up as they drove toward Kaikoura. They warned me they'd be stopping for photos along the way so I told them "go for it." This time I got some great photo opportunities as we visited various seal colonies.

In a way this lift would be a great catch because I caught me a feed at one of my favourite fish & chip shops in New Zealand! A mean grub is always appealing! 

Tasty they were before I dragged my weary self back onto the highway! A man in a ute would pick me up and he was stopping just north of Christchurch. By coincidence I was thinking of my friend Becks whom I met last year in Queenstown with her parents so I gave them a ring, and though I thought they lived in Methven or Geraldine they live in Amberley. We were just pulling into Amberley when I called them, and Rex (Becks' father) said " come stay for the night." It was nearly 4 PM by then so I decided to break up the journey. A coffee never felt so great at the Nor'Wester Cafe! With all my gear it was only a short walk to Dr. Rex Yule's office. Rex was delighted to see me and really wanted to catch up with me after reading my book. Over a tasty dinner with wine I shared stories about Norfolk Island and only found out tonight Rex and his wife met on the Routeburn Track nearly 40 years ago. My plan was to go to the Chatham Islands for my birthday but I'm doing the Routeburn Track instead after my actual birthday. It was nice catching up with them and me to call in next year when I'm down this way again. This morning Susan, Rex's wife, would drop me outside Amberley. For the third straight day I'd set out early and for the third straight day I'd wait more than an hour in one spot and get a series of short lifts (small catches). Knowing I'd be fine once I reached the turnoff at Rangitata I just had to be patient. Getting stuck in Christchurch didn't help a series of short lifts would get my beyond its borders before being picked up by a man heading to Timaru. Success! At the turnoff I was where I was picked up by a really cute girl from Hong Kong (big catch). She'd be stopping in Lake Tekapo and then it was only a few minutes before I'd get a lift back to Queenstown (another big catch). At Craig's house I was home at last! Certainly a big catch because there's never a dull moment at the Wonky Donkey man's house! Hitchhiking is like fishing: it can enthuse and enthrall, confound and frustrate, yet in the end it's always glamourous! 

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