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Tour du monde en autostop - Jeremy Marie

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 Travel Diary : The hospitable New Zealand

Geographically, New Zealand is on the antipodes of France. It is very difficult for me to go further from home, except by going in the space, but this is another story.

After four months crossing the Pacific Ocean by sailing boat, I indeed arrived in this country, land of kiwi. and rugby.

The welcome of the local population, the landscapes, the recent earthquakes of Christchurch or the safety of the country, you will know everything about my impressions of travel in New Zealand.

Land of Hospitality
There are a little bit more than 4 millions inhabitants in New Zealand, so the density is very low. More than a quarter of the population even live in one city, Auckland, which isn't even the capital of the country.

That is maybe one of the reasons why New Zealand is a land of immigration but also a “hospitable” Land.

Maoris
You may have heard of the Maoris, maybe through the Haka in rugby. The Maoris are Polynesians, as many of the people of the Islands in the Pacific.
We can find the Maoris mainly in the north of the North Island, especially around the city of Auckland.

Although there are surely things that are unsaid, I found that the cohabitation between the different ethnicity living in New Zealand was working pretty well.

I found that the Maori, as most of the People of Pacific, is a social person, smiling and easy to approach.

Hitchhiking with a local Maori

Kindness
I found that the new zealander was often going a lot out of his way to help people in need. Even though it is true that no country in the world had a 100% of its population in the same way, I still think that the percentage in New Zealand is getting really close to it.

How many situation have I experienced to be able to say this? I stay 3 months in New Zealand and I have often witnessed the extreme kindness of the “kiwis”.

Near the city of Timaru, a girl and her mother stopped to give me a lift. After 30 minutes driving and conversing, they gave me the wheel and invited me to their place for lunch, before to go 80 kilometers out of their way to let me in front of the house of my host of the day.

Morgan and Désirée, near Timaru, accomplished a typical new zealandese act of kindness

Some days later, in the student city of Dunedin, I was looking for the house of my host. By mistake, I had written the wrong address... I was indeed knocking to the wrong door. A lone woman of around 80 years old opened her door. She didn't look chocked, neither scared, neither doubtful. She was rather surprised and curious of my reason to be there. For a reason or another, she made me think of Wendy in Peter Pan. She indeed invited me over.

After having discussed for a while, she made some research and found my host. She led me outside her house and at the moment I left, she told me quite unexpectedly with a funny smile: « I used to live in London … ..and I had a dirty week-end in Paris ! »

Well, maybe that wasn't Wendy after all!

Safety
Even if I concluded the last story with a sentence a little bit doubtful, I still would like to insist on the kindness of the local population in New Zealand. This charming old woman still pronounced this sentence in a funny way.

New Zealand is without doubt the safest country I have been traveling so far. I never felt endanger. I have also seen some behaving that were incredible. Those were simple thing that are unfortunately unthinkable in most places of the world nowadays as:
-local people that let his boots in front of the supermarket, to not dirty the floor
-local people that let the door of his house, of his car open (something I have seen in Canada though)
-hitchhiking at night time and never waiting more than 10 minutes
-hitchhiking and seeing a woman alone with her baby stopping for you (near Invercargill, in the south of New Zealand, I had this situation happening 3 times in a row)

Backpacker
New Zealand is a land of temporary immigration. There are indeed some kind of Visas where young people can get a working authorization for a year or two. The most known Visa is the “Working Holiday Visa”.

Very popular in New Zealand and Australia, this visa can motivate you to come to visit the country while being available to do some “jobs”.

Being a waiter in a restaurant, doing fruit picking or taking care of sheeps, those jobs are often offered to those kind of travelers.

Fruit picking is a very popular job for the owners of a “Working Holiday Visa”

Taking care of the sheep cattle is another one (there are more than 30 millions sheeps in New Zealand)

In a general way, New Zealand is a very popular destination for the “Backpackers”. The Backpacker is in a way a nickname given to those travelers who want to have a new kind of experience abroad. We often can find them in the youth hostel of the same name, or driving a van around the country.

One of the many “Backpacker-Hostel” in New Zealand

Strange enough, in three months hitchhiking in New Zeland, I have never seen one van stopping for me. In the other hand, the asset was that almost only locals were giving me a ride. I have to say that I was surprised by the knowledge of the world that most new zealanders had. Even if this country is far from everything, I found that most of my drivers of a day had traveled around a lot.

Then there are other travelers.

I met some people that came to New Zealand for other reasons. There are the ultimates fans of the Lord of the Rings, or the passionnates of fly fishing. Did you know that one of the best river in the world for this sport was in New Zealand?

Aristide, a french fly-fisherman

Finally, there are the people doing a world tour. Maybe you know Julien and Adrien, those two hitchhikers with their puppet “Guizmo”. When we met, they just completed to cross Asia by hitchhiking. They gave me many advices.


 

Hitchhiking in New Zealand
Surely thanks to the hospitality and the kindness of the locals, hitchhiking has been a total pleasure. I very rarely intend to hitchhike inside city or at night, but it was so easy to do so that I didn't hesitate.

In Dunedin, I hitchhike within the city to climb the steepest street in the world

At the exit of Auckland, I was surprised to see that two times, as I was walking along the road, the drivers offered to give me a ride. I wasn't even hitchhiking.

In average, I was waiting ten minutes to get a vehicle.

Hitchhiking towards the Milford Sound

By the way, I have beaten in New Zealand my record of the shortest wait of this world tour. In Hamilton, my host of the previous day was dropping me on the right road (typical new zealandese hospitality by the way). At the moment when I was stepping out of the car, I saw a van arriving on the road. By reflex, I thumbed him. Indeed, just out of a car, I found my next vehicle “The All Black Bus”.

I don't even know if I can count this wait in seconds...

However, the story is not over. The “All Black Bus” is an old school bus of 1956 that has been remade as a All Black fan bus for the Rugby World Cup. This day was playing the first of the two New Zealand/France. A little bit later at a petrol station, we collected two more french hitchhikers, and a journalist from a local newspaper interviewed us. The next, you can read it in the story published some days later!

Hitchhiking the All Black Bus / The story published in the local newspaper “Franklin County News”

Ferry-hitchhiking
New Zealand is made of two main islands: the North Island and the South Island. To go from one to another, there are two Ferry companies that are doing the journey from Wellington to Picton.

After having made some research in the local Yacht Clubs, I decided to send an email to the Ferry companies, hopping maybe to be able to hitchhike with one of them.

Two days later, I was on one of the Ferry of the Interislander Company, that offered me a return ticket between the two islands.

By Ferry-hitchhiking towards the South Island

Moreover, what was my surprise when I realized that the company offered me a ticket in “Business Class”, with breakfast and free internet access offered!

The magical ticket to travel like a Prince between the two islands

Really, this kind of things can only happen in New Zealand. Thank you to the Interislander Company!

Land of Rugby
How is it possible to write an article about New Zealand without talking about rugby? On top of this, an international event happened during the time I was there: the Rugby World Cup.

A giant rugby ball in the “Fan Zone” in Auckland

Rugby is without doubt the sport number 1 in New Zealand. Overtaking by far football (commonly called “soccer” there), rugby is part of the local life.

During the month and a half of the world cup, the country followed intensely every game of this event. Even a “Georgia/Romania” could fill a stadium.

I couldn't miss the opportunity to follow up the competition and this allowed me to meet the fans from all over. The world cup is a good way to promote differences between cultures...

… Like partying with Irish people for example

… Or to discover the importance of the sheep for a new zealander

I was also surprised to see the availability of the players, who didn't hesitate to wander around the city centers. What a big difference with the football players nowadays!

An afternoon in the city center of Auckland, I met some players of the French Rugby Team

Finally the “All Blacks” team of New Zealand win the competition, which woke up the entire country. This remember me the victory of the French Football team in 1998. Everyone was on the street to cheer for his team.

The All Blacks doing their Haka before a preparation game against Australia


 

The Netball
Rugby is the sport number 1 for the men, but it isn't for the women. During an afternoon in Hamilton, I discovered a sport I have never heard before: the netball.

This way was happening the weekly games of the city. It may have gathered around a hundred of teams.

Netball day in Hamilton

Netball is a sort of basket-ball, where it is forbidden to walk in possession of the ball. This way, the circulation of the ball can only be made through passes.
 

The nature

Landscapes
New Zealand is a very beautiful country. The two main islands have a very diverse nature. The landscapes are sometimes amazing and are without doubt one of the reason why New Zealand attracts so many tourists.

I like the associations Lake/Mountains in New Zealand. At the exit of a curve, it happens quite often to face an extraordinary landscape.

The associations of lakes and mountains in New Zealand (lake Taupo, lake Hawea and Mount Cook)

The colors of the landscape change dramatically when the altitude raises. Here for example, the mountains near the city of Queenstown in the South Island, then the Desert Road (with the famous Mount Doom of the Lord of the Rings) in the North Island

Finally, the landscapes that I found the most astonishing were the one on the way to the Milford Sound. It made me think of the Inca's Road in Peru, this time with snow on the top.

Earthquakes
Nature is beautiful in New Zealand but it also can be terrible. You have maybe heard of the three main earthquakes that happened in Christchurch. I had the possibility to see the damages when I was there and this place really looked like it has been bombed.

Many houses have been abandoned, without letting the time to the owners to get their goods... Even months after the shakes...

I experienced after-shakes. One of them woke me up in the middle of the night. Christchurch will need a long time to be rebuilt, without talking about the trauma caused to its inhabitants...

The city is in a terrible state


 

The cities
I wouldn't say that the new zealandese cities are very attractive. At least, they aren't a reason to cross half of the planet. However, there are still some buildings that are interesting so see if you happen to be there.

The art-deco houses in Napier

The University of Dunedin

Or a nighttime panorama of the skyline of Auckland


 

Some pieces of New Zealand

After three months spent in New Zealand, I could notice some typical details of this country.

The kiwi
Of course, I can't forget to mention the kiwi. This one is a little bird that can't fly.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any kiwi during my tour of New Zealand, mainly because this is an endanger specie. The survivors are protected and I doubt that there are still left in the nature.

Here is the only kiwi that I saw in the nature in New Zealand...

The kiwi is also a fruit, originated from China. However, it is cultivated a lot in New Zealand. His price is very affordable (around 3 NZ Dollars per kilo, so 2 USD). By the way, as New Zealand is far from everything, the prices of imported goods are of course very high.

Finally, the kiwi is in consequence a nickname given to the inhabitants of New Zealand.

The control of water
The bathrooms in New Zealand have almost all a double system for flushing. Indeed, why would you use the all tank if you just need the half of it?

I imagine that the economy of water may be important at the end of the day. A good point for the kiwis!

Double choice for flushing

Flip-flops and short
I noticed that the young new zealander liked to wander around with short and flip-flops. It isn't rare to see a young local walking around in the street even in the coldest time of the winter. Rugby wouldn't it influence the fashion?

The Salvation Army
It is possible to find this kind of shop in almost every New Zealandese city. You can buy second-hand clothes and objects for almost nothing. The benefits will come to people in need. I think that this is a well-thought project, being a mirror of the way of thinking of the locals.

The Salvation Army helped me to renew my shoes...


 

Three days before the end of my visa, I finally found a way to leave New Zealand by hitchhiking, by cargo-hitchhiking to be exact;

I simply loved New Zealand. I think that it is a good country to live in. Alive, safe, open-minded, New Zealand is a living example of the best this world can offer. This country reminded me of the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswich and Nova Scotia.

If you wish to travel or to live abroad for a while, I would definitely advice you to go to New Zealand, even if they have beaten France in the Rugby World Cup! That is to say, I really liked it!

See you soon,

Jeremy



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