Sunday, 12th April 1987
I spent Sunday in Dunedin. I marched down to the beautiful octagon at the centre of the town. I had a coffee, walked to the railway station and then bumped into a guy from the UK. We chatted about our mutual experiences of the USA as we walked around. Dunedin had a very Scottish flavour, lots of granite and lots of Victorian buildings.
There was a very interesting fountain in the town centre that squirted out water to music. I watched it play a few Glen Miller tunes and then walked up to Olveston Castle for a beautiful view over the city.
In the afternoon, back in the city, I spent a very enjoyable 2 hours in the Museum of the Early Settlers. I was fascinated to see that they had a Fairlie Patent double steam locomotive in the museum window. The first time I had seen one outside of the Ffestiniog railway in Wales.
The museum told the story of the city through the period of the gold rush and the growth of the whaling industry. I learnt that Dunedin had once been the country’s largest city, that the Otago Daily News was New Zealand’s first newspaper and I viewed a rather interesting replica of an old cottage complete with a sewing machine.
It was sunny by the time I was done with the museum and I wandered around again listening to radio 4XO on the Walkman. I went back to the hostel, cooked myself some chicken and soup for dinner and slept.
As I fell asleep I knew that the next day’s hitching would be easier. I was only going the short distance to Timaru, I was back on Highway One and Monday would be busier with traffic.
Monday, 13th April 1987
By 11am I had positioned myself at the northern side of the city and I stuck my thumb out once again. After 30 minutes a Nissan Estate car stopped and I bunged my pack in the back. The car was driven by an old couple. The car was towing a trailer and in the trailer, they told me, was a goat. They took me to Palmerston. As I was getting out, the man, who told me he was 72, pointed at a hill in the distance and told me that he was runner and even now he ran up the hill once a year.
I waited a short while until a red Volkswagen Beetle pulled up. The lady driver talked me through her experiences of Queensland whilst speeding down into Omaru where she was heading for a shopping trip. Omaru took a bit of walking through but I managed to get to the north side quickly enough.
After a bit of a wait an old couple, who must have been in their 80s, pulled up in a Morris 1800. The woman had had a stroke and we struggled to understand each other as she tried to point out things in the distance over the very flat Canterbury plains. They dropped me 70km south of Timaru.
After 40 minutes a Mitsubishi Sigma stopped. It was driven by a young medical rep. He was on his way to Christchurch and he offered to take me the whole way. He wondered why I was stopping in Timaru. I explained that I had a letter from a friend, Simon, in Australia to give to 4 young Kiwi nurses who were staying in Timaru.
I said that they had put up my friend for 6 months the year before. I told him that I was certain they would put me up too and they would be eager to hear what had happened to Simon. I assured him that I would be staying Timaru for a few days and I would be being looked after by 4 charming girls. He seemed very impressed and at about 4pm he dropped me outside 28 Sarah Street in Timaru and drove off.
The woman who answered the door told me that the nurses were long gone but she was happy to forward the letter on.
I wandered around the town devastated. I eventually found the youth hostel. It was run by a lovely Swiss lady. Sitting on the porch were Eva and Lota.
We went for a meal at the chip shop accompanied by a Kiwi hitcher called Bruce. Bruce was okay but he spent the entire time reciting jokes from a joke book he had found.
Tuesday, 14th April 1987
Fortified by a breakfast of croissants and jam, Bruce and I got the bus out to the north of the town. He went off on a side road to try to get a ride to Mount Cook. I stayed on Highway one. A battered old Datsun van came to a halt after 10 minutes. It was driven by a young pig farmer. He was off to Grenadine to get a spare part for a truck.
After a while we left the main road and drove up to a scrap yard. They didn’t have the part and he wanted to drive to another. He hadn’t really worked out that I needed to get to Christchurch. I asked politely for him to drop me back on the highway. He seemed genuinely puzzled why I wouldn’t want to spend the day visiting scrap yards with him, but he eventually agreed.
There was an old hitcher’s sign on the ground where he dropped me. It said “Christchurch”. It must have been tossed there by someone who had just got a ride directly into Christchurch. It was a lucky omen I figured. I added “Please” at the bottom and held it out. After 30 minutes an old guy stopped. He was only going 10km up the road. I loaded my rucksack into the boot of his car and carefully placed the sign on top.
When he dropped me It was already 1pm and I had only come 40km from Timaru. I held out the sign again and I got a lift after 30 minutes with a computer software salesman. He was only going to Ashburton but he very kindly went through the centre for me and dropped me at the north end.
The sign came out again and within 10 minutes it brought me two sales reps for a news agency. The passenger smoked cigars and told me he was originally from the UK. He told me about his life in Southampton before he left to start a new life as a Kiwi.
They dropped me right in the centre of Christchurch. I walked through the Cathedral Square, cashed some traveller’s cheques and checked into the Avon View private hostel. It was run by a friendly bearded Englishman named Dave. Eva and Lota where once again sitting outside. They had beaten me into Christchurch. I spent the evening chatting to them, reading and relaxing.
Wednesday, 15th April 1987
I got up early and walked around the town. I had a great breakfast at an American-style restaurant and then decided to have a good look around. The cathedral was impressive and I climbed its tower to get a great view from the top. I visited an excellent museum and then walked along the beautiful River Avon. The place was so English it was almost like being back at home.
It had a nice intellectual feel to it. It was full of bookshops and students. They had a tradition of holding intellectual debates in the Cathedral Square too. I sat and watched an anti-born-again-Christian debate and then wandered to a sandwich shop for lunch.
I sat there having my lunch and I made two important decisions that would affect both my short and long term future. I decided to go to the Air New Zealand office and try and get a flight back to Australia within a few days. I was satisfied I had seen enough of New Zealand and didn’t fancy the idea of any more hitching for the moment. I also decided to go back to one of the book shops I had been browsing in and buy the Lonely Planet guide book for Japan.
Air New Zealand didn’t have anything available for the rest of the week apart from one seat on the 7am to Sydney the next morning. I decided to take it. I would see the rest of Christchurch in an afternoon and be back in Australia to earn some more money all the sooner. I arranged a taxi to collect me at 5am the next morning and take me to the airport.
Back at the hostel I cooked some lamb cutlets and broccoli for dinner. Afterwards I took out “Japan, a travel survival Kit” and examined the black cover with its picture of a Japanese temple on the front. I thumbed through pictures of emperors, religious symbols and Japanese money. Eventually I found the bit I was looking for. On page 41 it said “Teaching English is a popular occupation and people with no training in the field are able to pick up work easily”.
Thursday, 16th April 1987
A Maori taxi diver got me to the airport by 5:30am and eventually I boarded a brand new Boeing 767 named Atarau (Moonlight). We took off towards Sydney and we were served an excellent breakfast of cheese omelette, bacon, tomato and fruit salad.
My seat mate was a trainee lawyer from Dunedin. We chatted about crime rates and my trip around her country. She told me that she was visiting her sister in Sydney. I told her I was heading back to Australia for a few more months to work some more. I added that although I had a ticket back to London at the end of July I was about to cancel it. Instead, I explained, I would be heading up via South East Asia to teach English in Japan.