Tales of Adventure: Hitch-hiking in New Zealand

Sometimes we’re so bogged down with negative energy that we forget there are people every day having fun and enjoying the world. We want to bring you these stories and hear yours.

This story comes from Cynthia Stewart, a senior at SUNY Purchase in New York, and a good friend:

During Easter holiday of my semester abroad at Waikato University in New Zealand, my friend and I went on a hitch-hiking adventure. Our goal was to reach the Coromandel Peninsula where we’d visit Cathedral Cove, a marine reserve, and the nearby Hot Water Beach. When the tide is right, visitors at this beach can build sand castle hot tubs from the water that bubbles up from an underground hot spring.

We adopted drifter mode for this trip and embodied all the clichés of the road. Our mantra was, “It’s not the destination, but the journey,” and we referred to the road lovingly as “old dusty.” We learned the rules of hitch-hiking: don’t take rides after dark, listen to your driver’s stories, entertain them with your own, and don’t contradict anything they say. Walk while you hitch-hike and drivers will think you are more deserving of a ride. If no one picks you up, sit down with your face in your hands and people will feel sorry for you, especially if you are a girl.

We met colorful characters on the road, which we learned is a portal for narrative; everyone is going somewhere and has a story. It took us about fourteen different rides to complete the 206 mile round trip.We met a young man who owned his own dairy farm and a girl who had just had her heart broken, but the most interesting person was an outgoing truck driver, who gave us a three hour ride on our way home. We helped him haul propane at various stops and in turn he amused us with stories, some probably imagined. He told us about seducing married women and working as a male gigolo. He gave us politically incorrect advice, like “It’s important to have a little respect for women” and “Every country’s got their brown people.” Of course we nodded and thanked him for the ride.

At night we camped illegally off the road, or squatted at camp sites and left by sunrise. One night we pitched our tent in a rain forest. A fire brigade came to our tent after a hiker had reported our fire. We thought we were in serious trouble, but one of the firemen gently said, “Can’t start fire in the bush, Mate,” and they left.

We arrived at the Hot Water Beach after traveling about two days. We weren’t able to make a successful hot tub out of sand, but we felt the boiling water under our feet and bathed in the ocean. We hiked the trail to Cathedral cove. Along it were sheep and green hills that over-look the ocean. There were several islands nearby and one was shaped like a whale. I wore “the one ring” from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings around my neck on the journey, but didn’t have to pretend I was in a magical country.

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