The first time I hitchhiked

New Zealand

I met up with my soon to be roommate (how that happened) in Christchurch, New Zealand in the autumn of 2012. Since I was a little girl our family took long road trips. I always played the role of lead navigator, figuring out directions with a oversized paper maps. New Zealand was nothing, small country and no highways on planned route. I printed directions, purchased a map and planned for all possible detours.

I used to live in Florida (in my past life) so long road trips were normal, I mean it takes 9 hours to just get out of the state. We planned to drive from Christchurch to Fox Glacier (hike it) and then go on to Queenstown, all in the first day, a total of 9 hours of driving.

Planned Driving Route

The journey began with a beautiful foggy road creeping through a valley as we made our way to Fox Glacier. We arrived within 5 hours, picked up our hiking gear and climbed a glacier. The views were spectacular and it felt like I was somewhere in Jurassic Park.

We grabbed a quick lunch and headed back into the car. Quick check on gas, “wow, this car gets great mileage!” Within 15 mins on driving in New Zealand, the landscape can be totally different; so there we were on a beach, but the sky was grey and the sun would be setting soon.

Fox Glacier aka Jurassic Park

As soon as we left the terrain changed, we were climbing in elevation and soon there were no lights, towns or gas stations. Around 8pm that night I mentioned we hadn’t stopped for gas all day, we just passed a station but it looked to be closed, so we rolled by calculating the amount of miles we had left to Queenstown and didn’t worry. About 15 mins after that the gas light came on… Oh oh. Gravity was against us, we kept driving up hill, hoping the road would change and we can drive in neutral down as far as we could. We started to think of back up plans, phones (we had 3 between us), emergency signal, sleeping in the car, walking.

And somewhere in between a village and a smaller village in the middle of a national park our car completely ran out of gas. We pulled over, checked our phones and began to panically launch. No signal. We were in the middle of nowhere. As we get out to check the trunk for emergency supplies we hear the gushing sound water, below us was a raging river, in front was darkness. We hadn’t seen a car in hours, who would be driving at night in a national park that didn’t have lights on the road? Oh us. As we try to figure out which direction to walk a car makes the turn coming from the direction we wanted to go, we wave to stop them. My roommate exchanges words and basically we were still stuck. A few minutes later another car drives by, again we wave they stop. But this time the car is full of three young ladies on their way from Queenstown to a weekend getaway, they offer us a ride to the nearest town where we could use a phone. We quickly grab our passports and laptops, leave everything else and get into a car with strangers. The ice was broken when we kindly said “we won’t murder you if you promise not to murder us” a laugh broke out, a tape player was banging out Queen and the driver had a plastic water bottle full of not water. The 88 kilometers (54 miles) to the nearest town turned out to be a fun Queen sing-a-long. They dropped us off at a motel that informed us all gas stations were closed, suggested we rent a room and try again in the morning. That night lighting and rain poured like a hurricane.

A tow truck with a gallon of gas was sent to pick us up. As we drove the 88 kilometers back we saw broken trees, branches and a few mudslides from the night before. Had we been on the road much longer that night our car could have been part of one of those mudslides. We arrived to the next village, filled up the car with gas and laughed.

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