A Guide to Hitchhiking: 2) A Hunter will not drop you off at a good spot for getting another ride

Lake Taupo was beautiful but I wanted to go further. It was late in the day but I thought I could make the next city. I hitched a ride on Highway 5. I didn’t have to wait long. An old guy in a pickup truck gave me a ride.

“Where are you going?”


“I can get you half way there.”

“Cool.” And I hopped in.

The bench seat was old and worn and he had put a blanket over it for comfort. There were a lot of provisions in the back of the truck. The old guy was one of those people who pick up hitchhikers for company, so we had a good talk on the way down Highway 5.

He was a hunter and his truck was packed with the equipment for the trip. He was off hunting for a couple of weeks. This was something he did regularly. Now this is where my memory dims – I believe he was hunting small game, maybe rabbits, and that he was getting paid by the government to do so. However, twenty-one years is a fair amount of time and I am shady on the details because what I remember about this trip was not the hunter but where he dropped me off.

Hunters don’t hunt in towns. They hunt where the animals are. So I was dropped off by a large rabbit-loaded forest in the middle of nowhere. Still, I was on Highway 5 on the road between two major NZ towns, how bad could it be?

Here is the Wikipedia entry for Highway 5. It is a 2-lane highway. Between Taupo and Napier there are no major junctions. The road goes over a volcanic plateau. There’s a lot of grassland and scrub. There are no people.

It was later in the day now and the light was failing. I began to feel the cold. I walked down the road towards Napier, more to keep warm than to make any progress. There were no cars going in either direction. I accepted that I was going to spend the night here so I thought it through. I had snacks, water and my sleeping bag, and it didn’t look like it was going to rain. I checked out the side of the road where there was a sandy area with sparse grass that would be comfortable enough for sleep. There was a forest on one side and open scrubland with hills in the distance on the other. There were no cars, no houses and no people. It was the most alone I had ever felt. The nearest human was the hunter some kilometers into the forest.

Even though I had been walking down the road for a couple of slow hours and was facing a miserable night sleeping out in the open in the cold plateau air, I was thinking how beautiful the place was. I felt the isolation of my position but also a confidence that I’d handle it fine.

It was getting too dark to see much and I had no flashlight. As I was picking final spot to make a camp I heard the sound of an engine coming from Taupo. Its headlights lit me up and I stuck my thumb out and smiled. The chances of any specific car stopping were small, but we were in the middle of nowhere and there is no normal behaviour out here. This guy stopped.

“You’d better get in. I’ll be the only car coming down here tonight. You’re going to die out there.” the driver said.

I put the pack in the back seat and sat in the front. He was a sales rep heading home to Napier after a day’s business in Taupo. He was amazed that I was dropped off at such a remote place.

The basic rule to learn is when accepting a ride, check that the place where you’re going to get dropped off is somewhere you can get out of. I had to get bitten in the arse one more time before I learned it.

These lessons were learned the hard way over a period of a couple of weeks hitchhiking in New Zealand. It was 1988 and I was 21. My Father was living in Hamilton on the North Island so I started there, making my way to visit my cousin Kevin in Dunedin on the South Island. Even though I was a New Zealander by passport I had left the country at fifteen months of age and was an Aussie kid with an Aussie accent living in Sydney. In no way is this a definitive guide to hitchhiking. This was the only trip I hitched.


2 Responses to “A Guide to Hitchhiking: 2) A Hunter will not drop you off at a good spot for getting another ride”

  1. June 9, 2009 at 01:02

    I just drove from Taupo to Napier today. Last week I wrote down “wobbly”, saw it somewhere in Auckland, and remembered it was yours. Looked at it today. Funny.
    NZ is amazing.

  2. June 9, 2009 at 05:50

    Amazing! The universe was dragging your browser here.

    I’m still figuring out what to put on wobbly.com. I have some ideas but nothing strong enough yet.

    Have a blast in NZ! We’re still half planning to move there in a few years.

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