Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand and it means "the land of the long white cloud". It is made up of two main islands, the North Island and the South Island, and several smaller islands.
There are about 4.240.000 people in an area of approximately 270.000 square kilometers, which means heaps of open spaces …
The people, Kiwis (named after their national bird …) are pretty good people, generally speaking, and that is why many young travelers decide to give it a go and roam free along the country asking for lifts.
There is not much crime here, compared to the rest of the world, even if things have changed in the past 10 years or so.
If you are a visitor you will be well treated here. New Zealand is a very isolated country and in some small towns they are not used to tourists or people coming from far away. They will enjoy having a chat with you.
Many New Zealanders are globetrotters and many of them are or were hitch-hikers themselves so it does not surprise them to see someone along the road with a backpack with their thumbs sticking out …
If you have a problem, if you are in trouble, Kiwis would do anything they can to help you out. They are friendly and ready to lend you a hand when necessary.
All this makes Aotearoa the perfect place for hitching …
I have been all over this incredible land and I have to admit that I never, ever, had a problem with the people who picked me up. I have never been robbed and I have always been treated with kindness and respect, by everyone, both Pakehas (white people) and Maoris.
I also hitched in very isolated areas and a couple of times I got stuck for a few hours … late in the evening … In Blenheim I was picked up by a group of people in a van who just finished a kayaking trip. One of the ladies bought me home … she was concerned about my safety. I stayed at her place with her family for a couple of days. They owned a vineyard and she showed me around.
One of the greatest lifts I ever had was when I was hitching on the way to Invercargill. A guy stopped. He told me that he owned a boat and that he was going to Stewart Island the same day.
Stewart Island lies 30 kilometers south of the South Island and was on my itinerary. I grabbed the miraculous opportunity at the speed of light and I asked the lad if I could go with him to his destination. At the harbor we jumped on his boat and we took off. The sea in the Foveaux Straight was dead calm for a change … It can be incredibly rough and dangerous … During the crossing, which lasted a few hours I guess, we saw heaps of penguins swimming and jumping in the water around us . It was amazing! What a privilege!
I had another great experience in Stewart Island, one day I was walking along a beach and I was starting to feel a little bit lost … After some time a man on a boat showed up and asked me if I was OK and if I needed a lift. The man was a ranger and his job that day was to count the seals … Wow … That was another lucky strike!
Another time, somewhere in the South Island, I arrived in a little settlement, I do not remember the name … I went to a shop and I asked the owner where I could find a backpackers' place. It was cold and windy and it started to rain. He told me that there was nothing available …
I was really worried … OK, I had a very good sleeping bag, a waterproof one, but still … He simply told me not to worry. He called a family, they had a sheep farm, and after a while the farmer, with one of his kids, came and picked me up. They took me to their farm stay where I was treated like a queen. The whole family was there and I was served a fantastic roast! I had my own room with a warm bed provided with an electric blanket. It rained all night … I felt really, really lucky! I spent a few days with them. Beautiful people!
One other time I went to visit a friend of a friend that I never met (a kiwi girl). At that time I was traveling with a tent as well. When I arrived at my destination the person I was looking for was not there. Her neighbors told me that she was going to come back the day after and that they were going away somewhere themselves. They said to me: "If you want you can camp in our garden, we leave the door open for you so that you can have a shower and a cup of coffee when you want." Hearing that I was really blown away … I never met them before … and I answered: "Thank you very much but you are not scared that I empty your house while you are away?"
Their answer was: "No! We trust you!"
Would you believe it …?