The Hitchhiking Diaries

FasterSkierAugust 28, 2011

Ok, so I wrote this blog post a while ago on my way home from New Zealand and then forgot to post it.  Its sort of long.  But I’ve decided to post it anyway, because at one point I was really excited about it. Here it goes:

The Snow Farm sits at about 1600 meters, 12-kilometers and many switchbacks up a winding dirt road.  The road is shared with the Snow Park, which has a turn-off a couple of kilometers before the Snow Farm, as well as with the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds (SHPG)–a car, tyre (thats the silly NZ spelling), and equipment testing area.  In bad weather chains are required to get up the road, or at least four wheel drive, and the 1995 Nissan Cefiro that Nils and I have been borrowing from his uncle has neither of those.  Also, petrol is quite dear here (haha, doesn’t that sounds funny? But that is exactly how a local would say it).  Luckily, there’s a solution to all of these problems:  HITCHHIKING!  In New Zealand in general, but I think especially near the ski areas, there’s a pretty awesome culture of hitching and picking up hitchhikers.  Parents with kids in their car will pick you up. Its pretty cool, and I always felt totally safe.  Plus, its a great way to meet some interesting people and learn random new things.  I did a lot of hitching by myself, but also some with Nils, and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t exactly a car-magnet.

I kept track of the rides I got and something interesting from each one, and here it is:

1. Ride to the SnowPark with snowpark employees–a bunch of young snowboarders, who smoked in the car.  One girl told me a story about an American who came to the bar she worked at and was talking about how there was so much wrong with the U.S.–and then got mad at her when she started to chime in.

2. After being dropped at the SnowPark turnoff, I walked for about 5 minutes n a blizzard, before getting picked up by two american car testers.  They were surprised to find out I was American and thought it was funny when I told them that Nils was testing snow-blowers–they told me that in Michigan they get prisoners to test the snow-blowers.

3. Ride down with Nils– picked up by SHPG employee–one of the only people in NZ with snow tires–since lots of snow tires get tested there and then left.

4. Ride up–two guys from Auckland, going to snow park, but they drove us all the way–one guy had the craziest sunglass with a gold chain that went around the front along the top, then draped down on the sides of the glasses too. It was part of the glasses.  Hard to describe, but pretty hilarious.

5. Ride down–Australian couple going to Snow Farm–Rosemary and Pete. Not sure how they got into nordic skiing, but they had all their own stuff, and come here every year.

6.  Ride up–local snowboarders-the car ahead of us had 1/10 written on his rear window, and they explained that they all play a game called “snowdice” where you roll a die to get a trick that you have to do, and then they keep track of whether you complete it.  Apparently he was a good boarder but had flopped 9 or his ten tricks, and was never going to live it down.

7. Ride down with Rosemary and Pete again–Pete was working in australia for mining, and he’d be flown out to western Australia, work for 4 weeks, then have 4 weeks back home in Eastern Australia.  Apparently lots of Kiwis work in the mines and there’s  a lot of money there.  He told Nils he should get a job there.

8.  German couple, who had moved to Cardrona (right at the base of the road).  There are a lot of germans in NZ.  They had come to NZ to motorcycle around, and fell in love with it and moved.  They also Nordic ski a lot.

9. Gave ride to english kid out to Hawea–told us about dry slopes (skiing on fake grass, basically, and indoor skiing in the U.K.  That was how he got into skiing, which seems crazy to me!

10.  Up to snowfarm: 4 korean car-testers. They spoke some english, and we saw a rainbow. Learned korean for rainbow–widgiga.  (thats what it sounded like anyway!)  They’d been up till 2  the night before testing, and were headed back up at 8 am.

11.  Ride down- Mary Lee-  the Snow Farm owner.  I got all the gossip on the SnowFarm, SnowPark, NZ skiing…you name it.

12.  Now Alexei Sotskov is here, so I’ll to be able to get rides with him from Wanaka on a pretty regular basis.

13. Austrian ski coach of the Treble Cone academy–a downhill racing school that gets lots of foreign skiers. Headed up to the SnowPark where they set up a little race course and can do lots of laps since its a short slope.

14.  After some walking from the snow park–got a ride from Ray, who works at the snow farm–three little girls  in the car, and I sat between two girls in booster seats. One of them was named Hannah too.  Some quotes: “now there are two hannahs in the car!”   “how long have you been walking?”  they were very concerned that I may have been walking from the bottom.

15. RIde down with a coworker from last year–Jess–who is now organizing the NZ winter games.  Turns out she also lives near us, and said we could use internet at her house!

16. Picked up a patched-jean Aussie guy.  Not someone I would have picked up at home, by the looks. Told me he used to be a speedskater and had once raced nordic race in Austria–apparently it was  a “pre-olympic race” but he was in great shape from speedskating season and was 52nd.  He also said he had a replacement hip and highly recommended them.

17.  Alexei–picked me up after I thought I’d missed getting a ride with him from town. He had slept through his alarm.

18. Ride down–Car-testing guys from michigan. Not into telling me what company from, etc.  We talked about how you can hitchhike here, I told them about Possum Born, the famous NZ rally car driver who had crashed and died on the road, and pointed out the sculpture of him over on big rock.  They were sort of boring.

19. Late in day to get a ride down. Nils and I walked past snow park…at least 3 k walking. Near the Snow Park, saw a photoshoot going on–several vans full of clothes and stuff,  models posing up on a big rock, holding a British flag, as the sun set behind them. Finally got a ride with a SHPG office lady.

20. Car was in the shop, so we had to hitch from town:  waited 10 or 15 min in town. Then ride w/  a guy driving woman to Queenstown–story about baby biting her leg when she was nannying in the U.S. The guy thought that Nils’ snowblower job was “every man’s dream job”.  I’m not sure he understood really what it entailed.  They were very talkative and funny. Dropped us at bottom of road to snow farm.

21. Up to Snow Park turnoff–two british women going to snow park. They also talked about indoor skiing, dry slopes, etc.

22. From Snow Park turnoff–Allister and Ann–he used to be NZ skiing organization guy. They ended up giving us ride back down to bottom too–after we had walked some with no luck.  But then they were headed in the opposite direction at the bottom.

23. Then got a ride with the same UK women into town–they were headed to trampolining practice, which is apparently very good for learning new tricks.  Of our 5 rides today, 2 of them were repeats.


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