A hitchhiker’s guide to…

Queenstown


Ask anyone about hitch hiking and they’ll have an opinion, except the ones that don’t have an opinion. It might be that the hitchhikers could be crazy rapist murderers, or that the person picking the hitchhikers up may be a crazy rapist murderer.

I guess anyone could be a crazy rapist murderer and I think I have used that phrase far too much for one blog post. Suffice to say we did get rides and some were crazy (luckily there were no crazy rapist murderers) and others were not.

We had rides up and down the country with friends to complete strangers. There were old people and young people, sports mums, principals, plasterers, DoC contractors, fisher women and christian evangelists. Tourists too, from all over the world — England, Sweden, Germany and Israel.

So here’s part one of what might become a series of stories about the people we shared a car, van or SUV (not often, those flash cars don’t like filthy trampers) with.

It was outside Queenstown and it was freezing. We had India with us for the next hike, up the Greenstone and over to the Mavora Lakes. We waited.

Pass Burn Saddle, Mavora Walkway.

Jonny and I were used to waiting, sometimes up to an hour and a half. Luckily we didn’t have to wait that long. A Rav4 pulled up. I know, what the fuck is a Rav4? And out jumped Toby. He played Tetris with our bags for a bit and then we piled in.

Toby was English, pasty, so white in fact that he was almost translucent. You could see the intense blue of his veins. The white continued to his hair too, slightly grey white. The white stopped with his cartoon black eyebrows, incredibly thick and defined, they delivered his emotions with stunning clarity.

Toby wasn’t old, in fact he looked quite youthful for his forty four years but at the same time he looked old. He was young old and he was off to run in the hills on the Routeburn Track.

We came across our friend Markus on the road and pointed him out. He had made it halfway and Toby didn’t hesitate to pull over to get him. Toby attempted some more Tetris before Markus crammed in with Jonny and India and his bag.

Toby often took off to run or draw in the forest parks around Queenstown. He was currently working on a series of nature drawings and on his iPhone they looked detailed and done with a lot of skill.

We covered a lot of topics while India, Jonny and Markus chatted and laughed in the back. We talked about drawing, computers, New Zealand and ourselves.

Jonny, India and Markus.

Toby had moved over from the U.K. for a girl and she had recently moved back to the U.K. for a job and he was to follow suit. Back to his old computing job and his old problems. Toby still hasn’t figured it all out.

His sister, he told me, suffered from depression. His family tried to help but as usual everyone has their own problems and their own lives and somehow even though Toby was younger he was lumped with the responsibility of keeping an eye on her.

His sister, by his account, was generally a smart and hard working person but somewhere along the line, as she got older, she began to break down. Not with the general sadness that people masquerade as depression, but full on clinical depression. There was no reason.

She flipped out. Wanted to kill herself, did hard drugs, stole money for it. And every time they got her back and everything seemed fine and she became a functioning human being again, she just lost herself again.

There was a darkness. There was no reason for it, and she had already lived a large part of her life as a ‘normal’ member of society. So what happened?

At times she would just disappear and Toby would have to walk the streets looking for her. He followed her through the rail system for an entire day before finding her fucked up somewhere. When he found her, he ended up giving her money for more drugs. What do you do? He said she was going to crash if he didn’t.

Toby didn’t seem to mind talking about his sister and her depression. It seemed like it was a struggle for him to deal with and perhaps he was apprehensive about returning and facing it again.

People don’t like problems they can’t solve, unknowns, and when you have someone close to you and they descend into a place of darkness one day and any effort to pull them back into the light inevitably fails for no reason and doctors can’t help and medication only helps a little and only if you stay on it.

That’s a hard place to be in.

Toby was smiling when he dropped us off at Kinloch.

India caught up with him a few days later back in Queenstown. He had fallen over three times on his run.

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