Okay that’s not true. It’s actually been raining quite a bit here. But that’s beside the point.
This post is dedicated to life on the left hand side of the road. I had too much to say about the car experience so I decided to make a post just for that.
So, Anton and I rented a car. It was a nice car, just backwards.
Anton offered to drive first (thank goodness). We hopped in the car and headed on our way. My life was in his hands and for some reason I was not concerned whatsoever. We may or may not have stopped four times before getting out of Picton… seat adjustment, steering wheel adjustment, and how in the heck do you get the freaking AC on? Wait how do I do this roundabout?
Turning left? There go the wipers. See, the thing about driving on the left side of the road is that everything in the car is backwards. Makes sense but let me tell you, it’s impossible to remember that the wipers ARE NOT the turning signals. I bet the locals get a kick out of all the cars that have their wipers going when it is not raining. Throughout the entire duration of using the car we never got used to it.
Another common mistake? Looking the wrong way to see if cars are coming. I won’t lie, our lives flashed before our eyes more than a couple of times. We would both look left and say clear, forgetting that a car was coming from the right.. Not the left.
Also, New Zealand has this weird thing where 90% of their bridges are one-lane. I still haven’t figured out the reasoning for this but you have to ‘give way’ most of the time and Anton didn’t really pick up on that concept right away so we would find ourselves starting on a one-lane bridge while another was coming. Yikes
SHEEP. There are 500 billion sheep in New Zealand. Not kidding. (I mean that might not be the technical amount but…) Anton stated that the sheep were ‘fluffy and beautiful’ and we stopped at every freaking pasture of them so he could get a photo (okay maybe not every..) which was actually pretty fun. He might have chased them a time or two as well.. Sheep are actually much faster than they appear.
New Zealand has so much roadkill. We decided we would keep count and within the first day we had counted 30+ dead animals on the road. By the end of our trip we were at 73. Now that I am writing this I realize it’s probably a bit odd that we kept count but there were just so many. It was awful.
One more thing about my driving in New Zealand was that I had no idea how fast I was going. Due to the fact that America feels the need to be ‘different’ I had no idea how many mph I was going. If the sign said 100 km I went 100 km.
Now the fun part. Hitchhikers.
Because Anton and I were both backpacking prior to getting the car we decided we should pick up every single hitchhiker we saw (unless we were full). Our theme song was clearly mockingbird from Dumb and Dumber. “We usually don’t pick up hitchhikers buuut I’m gonna go with my instinct on this one. Saddle up partner” “Pick em up!”
Our first hitch-hikers were 18/19 year old Germans. One boy and one girl, they were headed to Punakaiki to do some wwoofing at a garden. We were headed to the same place so they joined us for the two hour drive. We weren’t prepared and had to throw all of our stuff in the truck and smash things around. They were fairly quiet and didn’t wanna join in mine and Anton’s car band. (Me drumming on the dash, Anton clapping/snapping while driving).
The next hitchhiker we picked up was a German guy headed to the pancake rocks which was just a short drive away so we didn’t get to know him very well.
The same day we picked up a girl from Sweden who was headed to Queenstown. We were only going about half way to there but she joined us for four hours. She was such a beautiful, gentle person. She told us of her travels and her life. She said she didn’t feel like she fits in at hostels so she opts to stay on the street if that’s her only choice. She was a gypsy-like girl who was traveling around and playing music. She has been traveling all over in Europe and Australia prior to New Zealand. She told us that she had never really felt like she belonged to the soil so she was never attached to ‘home’. She said she belonged to the sky and would be home wherever she was.
Throughout the drive she and Anton spoke Swedish while I sat there singing along with the music and deciding what they might be saying. (Which was so wrong). I learned how to say Swedish Fish. So now if I ever go to Sweden I can ask for candy, I’m pretty much set. Svensk Fisk? (Not even sure how to spell it)
When we dropped her off we asked her to play us a song. She played one by Bob Dylan and it was absolutely increible, I had goosebumps. I hope she made it to Queenstown and will find a place to play music and make money.
The next day it was pouring rain and before heading out we said “bummer I bet no will hitchhike today so we won’t have any passengers.” We hadn’t even been on the road for 5 minutes when we saw two people soaking wet hitchhiking. We stopped and they hopped in, headed to the same place.. Wanaka.
This was a French couple who were traveling around and doing a lot of multi-day treks. They joined us for the 3-4 hour drive and we got to hear about their plans and experiences. They had been camping out places but they set up a tarp instead of a tent because it was easier to pack around and they could use it as a multi-functional object. We stopped halfway to grab lunch and they bought out coffee which was very generous. When we made it to Wanaka they headed off to a campsite.
While Anton was hiking in Wanaka I saw two guys near the road and took them back to town. One guy was from the Cayman Islands and the other from France. They ended up being at the same hostel so I got to know them a bit better that evening.
The last hitchhiker incident was when we stopped to pick up a guy and realized we were on the wrong road when he asked if we were going to Milford Sound and we were going the exact opposite way. Oops.
So, the car journey was a fun one. It was exciting to be able to meet people and hear their stories. I think one of the best parts was being able to stop whenever we wanted to get photos or jump off a cliff in the water or to simply enjoy a view.
Last night I even used the car as a bedroom while Anton slept at a hostel.
Life on the road was good but it was too comfortable. I came to New Zealand to backpack and experience and to be out of my comfort zone. That is why I decided to leave the car and temporary travel mate 10 days earlier than planned and I am now on a bus to Dunedin to start my next adventure.