As i’m writing this, I’m sitting on a bench in a small town called Punakaiki. Im not even sure how to begin describing today, but I’ll start from the beginning.
Since today was my birthday and we were feeling a wee bit tired, we wanted to take today easy. We decided to leave the bikes at the campsite and visit a small town called Punakaiki – about 42km away from where we were.
The town is famous for its very unique “pancake rocks” – an unusual rock formation, and special blowholes in the rock from which you can see water explosions when the ocean tide is right.
However, we wanted to do today in our traditional ass-backwards style and we decided to hitchhike those 42km. After all, NZ is very hithhiker friendly and safe, we’ve heard that other people do it, and although neither one of us have ever done it before, we bravely walked out on the road and stuck our thumbs out.
10 cars passed. No luck. 20. 30. 40. We started to wonder if we were doing something wrong, so we changed our position, our face expression, etc. After 60, we were about to give up and find some other way to get there, but suddenly – our 77th car actually stopped. We got so excited, so when we came up to her and the driver – a nice woman in her late 20s – said that she’s only going about 10km in our direction, we said yes before we really thought it through.
So, 15 minutes later, we wound up in a small rural town, where the number of cars passing through decreased tremendously. Even with statistics being in our favor, we’d need to spend another half a day there before another 77 cars pass through so that we’d get another ride.
But we felt confident in our abilities, so we spent another hour trying to wave the cars down. Watching us, a mechanic from a nearby garage finally came up to us and told us a few things that we were doing wrong and encouraged us to start walking, as that would increase our chances.
I think that he ultimately just wanted to get rid of us because it took another hour of walking before another car stopped. That guy took us another 15km, but left us about 16km short of the final destination. To cut the long story short, after another hour and a half of walking and another car, we finally got to the destination… at which we found out that the last return bus to Greymouth already left for the day.
That put is in a peculiar situation. No buses were going back tonight. All of the hostels, hotels, motels, cabins, etc. were booked solid. We had no camping equipment, so we couldn’t quite camp on the beach. Our hiking success was pathetic at best, so the way back seemed quite difficult.
We decided to might as well spend a few hours enjoying the place we were in, which really did wind up to be quite beautiful and unusual.
However, once we were done, we had to figure out the way back. We tried hitchhiking again, but although we did flag down a few cars, none of them were going in our direction.
We called up all of the hostels and so on, but they just didn’t have any room. We were mentally going through all of the options we had available to us, which were not many, in a town where everything closes down at 6pm and transportation was pretty far from what I got used to while living in New York.
Finally, we were able to find a phone book nearby and found an obscure taxi service from Greymouth. It took a bit of convincing for them to come pick us up, but they did.
And as I’m finishing up this post, we are sitting safely and securely in our hostel. Just had a birthday McDonals dinner (the only place open here past 9 … :)).
Tomorrow, we’ll be going away into the woods for a 2-day hike and after that, we’ll make our way to our next destination – the Frank Josef Glaciers.