Germans on the Beach and a Hitch back East

Once done with the Heaphy track and hitched into the first little town, I now had Blenheim on my mind, a town in wine country with some good couchsurfers I'd got in touch with.

When I got to the edge of town there was a guy and a girl sitting there hitchhiking. They'd also just hiked the Heaphy, the girl looked fairly glum and the guy was trying to smile away his defeat, laughing at their apparent misfortune, "This time of night there's just nobody heading out, the parking lot back there was empty at the trail."

I left them to it, saying I'd come back in a while and hopefully they'd have caught a ride. I took a seat outside the information center and waited, snacking a bit. A guy stopped in to fill up on gas, he seemed like the type of person to pick up a hitchhiker. When he drove off I peeked around the corner, sure enough, he stopped for the couple. From a distance I saw them talking at the car for a minute, then sit back down and the car drove off. They'd passed up the ride it seemed, didn't make too much sense to me, I sat back down wondering on it and drifting to other thoughts.

Eventually I turned the corner again to peek at their progress, they were now on foot heading back towards me. I grabbed my bag and met them half way as they were going into the store. "A few people stopped, but they weren't going to Westport, those rides will just leave you in the middle of nothing, at least here there's a town, ya know? We're grabbing some food before it gets too late, looks like we'll be staying around here tonight".

"Ah, ok", I responded, "Well I'll go and give it a shot for a while then, if you change your mind just come on back and take the spot back again.", I headed for the grassy side of the road spot they'd been on. It was hard to believe they'd passed up three rides, only because they weren't going the full 100 kilometers to where they wanted to be. There's magic in the short rides they were missing, interesting people who usually live in the area with a thing or two to say about it, sometimes offering a place to stay the night even. A few separate short rides and they'd get there, there were still a few hours of daylight even, and a few rides is more interesting than one long one usually, you meet different people that way.

I thought on this a while, and as some time went by I got to thinking how if they'd taken the first one, I'd have gotten the second or third they'd turned down and been on my way. As I was thinking about this, they emerged from a corner and threw their stuff down up the road from me a ways and began thumbing the cars. Ride poachers, these two were, I'd told them they could come take the spot back and they'd decided to just sneak in front instead. It became useless for me to stand where I was, getting sloppy seconds on passing cars who'd just turned them down with me directly in sight even.

I got to walking, further out of town and away from that scene, over the bridge and into the wide open farm land. If I was to get sloppy seconds, I may as well be far enough from them where people driving don't have to feel like idiots for stopping for them, getting turned down, and stopping for another hitchhiker just 100 meters further. I've noticed walking gets hitchhikers picked up faster anyhow, someone would tell me this later on too.

So I walked a good while, and for a good time no cars passed at all. In a way I liked that, I figured the hitching couple in town would lack the patience to stay much longer with 0 cars and probably want to get to the hostel before too late. I saw a couple walking their dog on the other side of the street, "you'll get a ride soon!", they waved and smiled. Just then a white van passed, followed by another and drove by, but then stopped just after the road, "Awesome, thanks guys!", I shouted to the couple as I ran down.

The first van I saw was two German girls smiling, I asked where they were headed, "not sure exactly...", they laughed, "ask them", I popped up to the next van, two German guys, they said they were heading to Westport, but weren't sure if they'd go all the way tonight and may just camp somewhere, perfect, I hopped in.

We chugged down the road, after we got our New Zealand stories out of the way I was asking them about the beer in Germany, they were asking me about electronic prices and Vegas in the states. By then I'd made up my mind that Germany was a great place I needed to go, something I've always suspected, but the cheap and great beer and food they spoke of had me hooked on the idea.

They said they'd met the two German girls a day or so ago, when at first I'd just assumed they were all together. Made sense I thought, all Germans, two guys, two girls, identical vans, but like they said they'd only just met and were caravaning around. We got to a pull out overlooking a beach and decided that was the spot for the night, there was a lone woman in her van there as well.

The two girls popped out and were eager to hear my story and where I was from, one had bet on Ireland, the other Scotland, Ireland was closer I suppose, given my roots. We headed down to the beach and got a little fire going which did a good job deterring the sand flies. I was eyeing the beach for mussels, it was clear there was plenty, but high tide wouldn't allow any collecting at the moment. They were liking my stories of how I'd found mussels before, pippies and gone fishing, they were really hoping to get something. Later on we went looking towards the surf for pippies, but found nothing. It was still a good night, but the two german guys headed back up the van a little earlier, I'd been caught up talking with one of the girls in particular and it seemed to leave them a bit bored just stirring the fire, and soon we all headed up.

I set up my sleeping bag just on the grass near the vans, carefully wrapping the mosquito netting around me. In the morning there were dozens of sand flies chomping at the bit, ramming into the net just dieing to get at me. I was up before the others, I went to the beach looking for mussels, but the tide was back to high and I only found one. When the girls woke up we found one more and they split it. When the guys woke up they were ready to roll right away, frustrated with the sand flies. We parted ways with the girls and were off, heading towards Westport and beyond.

We paused in Nelson for a grocery store, then cruised on a good ways. I was just about nodding to sleep when we reached the junction where we split ways, them to Nelson and myself towards Blenheim. There I got picked up by an Israeli couple on holiday in a camper van heading to some lakes. Next I got a short ride from a girl studying lizards in the area, living out of her van along the way, I could have talked with her longer, but like I said it ended up being just a short distance until she turned off.

I waited for a bit in this new spot, two giant bumble bees chased me around, hovering in front of my face and threatening to go up the sleeves in my tshirt. I'm not sure why they were messing with me so hard, probably just playing a game, but I was running back and forth trying to shake them, doing slick spin move and stutter steps to throw them off. I'm sure I looked like a maniac to anyone watching from a distance, although I was basically in the middle of wide open hills with no one and nothing in sight.

A couple going to Christchurch picked me up, the woman said almost exactly nothing the whole ride, the guy only acknowledged her once when she put her feet on the dashboard, "Janet...", disapprovingly, she took them down. Other than that, he told me how he was a digger working around Christchurch, but seemed generally unimpressed with everything I had to say and what he had to say for that matter, all in a sort of smug way though, no place or thing seemed to rub him the right way, not frustrate him, just below him somehow, he seemed like someone stuck in his ways but had no ways.

All the same he dropped me off in Blenheim where I was hoping to meet up with some couchsurfers, things wouldn't go exactly as planned, but everything would be perfect, I was now in wine country after all.