A hitchhiker’s guide to the South Island.

Hope belonged to yesterday as I arose from my modest hostel bed and said goodbye to a Dutch person and a happy memory. Greymouth is no town to linger in, after the Monteith’s Brewery beer tasting there isn’t too much to see, so I threw on my backpack and walked out of the hostel. I was throwing caution to the wind once more, which had picked up considerably since arriving on the West Coast.

It was early, and I had to make an awkward stop, just 9km South of my location. I waddled along, guitar in hand for a short distance until the smell of something beautiful graced my unsuspecting nostrils.

Coffee.

At this point all I could think was “Oh dear god I want it inside my body right now”. My relationship with coffee is very intimate and worryingly sexual. A wise person once told me that it takes a special skill to make coffee sound dirty. Please allow me to divert from the story for a second.

I take my coffee like I take my women; orally and in public; short and black and on the bar; south american and bitter; full bodied with nutty aromas; freshly ground and blended with ice. You’ll have to cut me open to prove I’m guilty, and you’ll never take me alive.

Moving swiftly on. The nice lady (because anybody who hands me coffee is nice) kindly informed me that the patch of grass adjacent to the wagon was a “lucky spot”. I kindly informed her back that I was just going to walk the now 8.5km as it wasn’t far and it didn’t look like it was going to rain and I had coffee now. As I departed and set a single foot on that patch of grass a car pulled up beside me.

“If you’re trying to hitchhike you’re doing it wrong.”
“I’m not trying to hitchhike.”
“You don’t get it, I’ll take you anyway. Hop in.”

This hitchhiking thing was so easy I didn’t even have to try to succeed at it. Maybe I was just really beautiful that day. Maybe that coffee lady was a witch. Maybe the driver was proactively on the hunt for victims to bring back to his murder house… He dropped me close to my location without hurting me so I’m guessing either option A or B, and departed while telling me he was off to see a lake or something, and I left him to it.

About half an hour later, I was back on the road, in the middle of nowhere after meeting with a greenstone carver to arrange my brother’s birthday present. I stuck out my thumb, still a little hesitantly, and waited patiently.

The man who picked me up had a very strong South Island accent and politely informed me, much to my terror, that he was en route to an eye operation so that he could properly see again as, and I quote; “the tunnel vision just pisses me off you know.” I offered to drive, but he declined, and I did not let go of the passenger side handle for the remainder of the (thankfully) short trip to Hokitika.

A bottle of coke and a croissant later, I was stood on the roundabout at the end of Hokitika. If you’re concerned that I’ve missed a lot of the South Island on this trip – don’t be, it was my third trip around, and I have seen at least most of the major spots. There is a reason I have been back three times and will go back many more, but all that was in my mind at the time was getting to see my friend in Franz Josef. I waited, croissant flakes down my t-shirt, patiently for the next chapter to unfold. A man drove by whilst waving, so I waved back. The pursuing truck honked it’s horn, so I smiled. Immediately behind that truck were three motorcyclists, who all high-fived me consecutively. I was pretty ecstatic at this point, as I’m simple minded and easily amused. The car behind the motorcyclists happened to be the car that first picked me up with my coffee in the morning, and he pulled over.

“Fancy seeing you here. You haven’t got too far.”
“Neither have you…”

We were in the car for a few hours as the weather turned from pleasant summer day to typical South Island West Coast deluge. He talked about working in the UK and travelling the world, I mostly listened and pondered far away lands and sang the Jurassic Park theme song in my head as I watched the New Zealand wilderness swallow us.
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Franz Josef is a strange town. It has only roughly three hundred residents, about thirty of which are true locals, the rest being backpackers in a transitional stage of temporary work. It’s essentially just two streets joined up with a couple of smaller streets, and yet you can still go clubbing until an unreasonable hour every single night of the week. The people who stay here are all absolutely batshit crazy from all the drama, extreme sports and shit weather. It was raining when I arrived. I sat in the hostel and shortly afterwards, was graced with the presence of my friend Tinsch. A few days, a missing wallet, a soggy pair of walking boots and some stunning photos later I was on the road again.
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A french couple took me as far as Fox Glacier. From there, I waited. The first car to stop was a small car filled with five Spanish girls and five girl’s worth of girl luggage. There was absolutely no way I could have found any room to breathe in there, yet alone sit and make pleasant conversation, so I had to politely decline the lift. I’m pleased that I did because the next lift was something quite wonderful. Lela and Ada are two German girls who were road tripping together, and I was their next victim. I laid on the bed in the back of the car, amongst all my luggage and we set off South.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. God bless the Germans.

I needed to get to Wanaka to see a Bavarian of Vegetarian variety, and Lela and Ada said they would drive me all the way. Their music taste was divine and I found myself wiggling around to James Brown. We stopped on the West Coast for fish and chips and accidentally filled the car with sandflies. The music system broke so they demanded I played my guitar while lying in the back amongst all the bags and covertly hiding from any potential policemen driving past and percussively squashing sandflies to the beat of my own music. We drove the Haast Pass, which I had previously driven with a hitchhiker and I felt that the karma was on my side. They wrote in my book that they were lesbians, but not with each other. We exchanged contact details and parted ways in a car park in Wanaka. I have not been picked up by anybody quite so awesome since.

I can’t believe we’ve written so many posts and not mentioned Sandflies yet. Sandflies are little bastards from hell who have opted for a new home on the West Coast of New Zealand amongst a few other places. If you ever find yourself in this part of the world, even if you’re not near any sand, for the love of all things holy make sure you have some tropical grade insect repellent on you. It only takes seconds to get swarmed, and it takes days, sometimes weeks, to rid yourself of all the itchy bites. They have an ankle fetish, and will make your camping trip a horror movie if you’re unprepared. I often would wake up in my tent and see them all on the outside of the netting, waiting for me to unzip the inner lining and donate my blood with thirsty eyes. I would always put a fight but they would always win.

So anyway, back to the story… I found the hostel address in my phone and proceeded to walk there. I met up with Iris, and while she was getting ready I decided I needed to unwind. I grabbed my Ukulele and laid in a hammock, happy to finally be at my destination, exhausted from all of the travelling, and, as usual, quite hungry. I strummed a few chords. A Dutch girl and a Venezuelan approached me…
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