I’ll tell you about my story tomorrow but for now enjoy these peoples stories.
I am currently laying in the bed that I’ll be sleeping in for the next six weeks. I haven’t been able to say that since last year at school. It feels great. It’s feels even better after my day of travel.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a woman who owns a hostel in Wanaka and she asked me if I could come the next day to start a work for accommodation situation. I was in Queenstown when I got this call. I had just gotten a job as a maid at the big hotel in town and had an interview at Fergburger (the busiest burger place in town, a lot of late night burgers) and I decided I was going to bail and go to Wanaka. After a week of serious job hunting I had finally gotten jobs in Queenstown, but I decided to start the job hunt over. I decided I was going to go to Wanaka. Don’t ask me to explain too much of the reasoning, I just listened to my heart.
So today I packed up my bag again and started walking. I put out my thumb once I reached the edge of town and didn’t get picked up. Hitch hiking alone can be dangerous yes but you also get picked up pretty quickly. Usually the first car or the second picks me up but today, the one hot day so far, ten cars must have passed before I got picked up by a packed van. I must have only waited fifteen minutes but it felt like ages, as standing out vulnerable like that does feel; meeting eyes with the judgmental drivers.
I opened the door to see a young woman driving and three people crammed in the back and further back was piles of stuff. I couldn’t see any space for me or my bag. Things shifted, butts scooted, and hands reached out to help and we re-situated. Israel, Scotland, Holland, Austria and America were all represented in our travelers van. The three in the back got out after ten minutes to get to where they needed and then it was just me and the Israeli woman. She was two years older then me but seemed aged like an 80 year old woman. Her face and tone reflected her exhaustion. Young but exhausted with life already. We still laughed as we shared Queenstown stories. We stopped at a lake that was on the way to where she was going. She talked about stories from her military service, how her American boyfriend couldn’t get what it was like, how they broke up, how she feels she is stuck and can only connect with her people because they all went through
the same experience. She got back into the van after our lake detour and I stuck out my thumb again. Her final destination was ten minutes in the wrong direction for me.
I stood on the side of the pavement again. Stepping closer to the trees when big trucks came by and smiled beggingly as I saw cars with only on driver zoom past me. I thought about how hot it was and hoped my thoughts would telepathically connect with the people driving by and would make them pity me and give me a ride. I don’t know if it was my telepathic thoughts or my smile but a little blue Honda picked me up. I opened the door and the woman didn’t say anything to me and I just asked “Wanaka?” she replied and said a name of a town that I have never heard of. There aren’t many roads in New Zealand so I figured she must be going through Wanaka. I jumped in and used the data on my phone that I now have because I have a New Zealand number. I’m getting more and more engrained into this country. The blue dot in google maps settled my heart as it scooted along the right road. She was a teacher who was originally from Brazil and 12 years ago she married a Kiwi. Hasn’t left since. She was a hilarious woman who just told me stories of all the silly things her 15 year old students had done all week. She turned right and I saw the blue dot go the wrong way so I told her this is where I get out. She waved goodbye and so did I. I looked at the junction sign, Wanaka 53km.
I walked up the road and passed a couple who were hitching too. I’d never come across fellow hitchers before and didn’t know exactly how to interact with them. They were in the spot I was going to go. Could we share? How much further down the road do I have to go? I said hi and they responded quickly with a tone that sounded like they just got in a fight and they were using all their might to fake a smile to me. I decided to keep walking.
Further down the road was a fruit stand. Perfect. I walked by and bought a fresh fruit frozen yogurt. Then I went back to the pavement. I didn’t get picked up for about 15 minutes again. It must’ve been that I looked to happy. I had fresh frozen yogurt in one hand and was listening to the new episode of my favorite podcast “Serial” I didn’t mind waiting on that road all afternoon. The other times I’ve hitched it’s been raining it snowing, today was sunny; I think that’s why it took long to get picked up. Then a van that had “Locksmith” painted on the side came barreling towards me and quickly braked his speeding van to pick me up. I looked in the passenger door and there were ten old coffee mugs on the floor, old chip containers and a clutter of tools in the back. That’s what my car usually looks like so I hopped in.
His face was wrinkled, his forearms burst with aged veins, and his head full hair j but gray. His accent was hard to tell. It didn’t sound like he was from New Zealand, but he was old so he had to be a kiwi in my mind. His accent was a combination of South Africa and Israeli. No wonder I couldn’t figure it out. He grew up in South Africa, moved to Israel at some point and now has lived here for 13 years. He served in South Africa’s army and then the Israeli army. He said they taught him how to shoot a gun well and quickly and also taught him how to drink beer and smoke cigarettes. That’s what he learned, he says. The second question he asked me when I go into the car was if I was an activist. Then for the rest of the hour car ride he went on passionate, well educated rants about America and the military and the world really. He was one of the most interesting people I’ve heard rants from. A locksmith, with a run down van and in dirty clothes was pouring out well formed and poetic rants. I got to Wanaka and stepped into silence again once I left his van. It burned my ears a bit, I became so use to hearing his loud voice for he last hour that silence was weird. As I left he told me that if I write I should be an activist , help educate the ignorant he said.
And now here I am. In a comfy bed that had wood floors and a back deck. The lake is a stones through away and the people are great so far. Wanaka is the like Queenstown but smaller and just for the locals. Maybe it was because it was the first really nice day in awhile or maybe it was all the great people that I got rides with today that are making me feel extra positive but I feel like this is the right place.