Today, I shall hitch hike back to Queenstown from Te Anau, after a week of walking in the mountains.
Sarah and I have managed to get as far as Mossburn; I have jumped out at the turnoff for Queenstown and she has continued on to Dunedin, on her way back home to Candada.
So here I stand, on Highway 97, waiting for a ride. For two hours.
This is not a huge length of time in hitch-hiking terms, but perhaps ten cars have passed me in total. The statistics are obvious; there simply isn’t enough traffic for me – a bearded and angry looking man – to stand any chance of getting picked up. More to the point, I am bored.
Not a fan of standing still or turning back, I pull out a map and do some pondering. Quickly, I realise I am standing in a bad place, logistically speaking.
Only traffic coming from Te Anau will be taking Highway 97. All the other traffic, from Invercargill, Gore and maybe even Dunedin, will be taking Highway 6 – the main road to Queenstown.
If I can get to Highway 6, I will be thrice as likely to get a lift to Queenstown. That is to say, I will stand a slim chance….
Abandoning my post on the cursed Highway 97, I attempt instead to hitch a ride with the significantly larger number of cars driving down the road to the intersection with Highway 6. To me, this makes sense – I could realistically be waiting here all day otherwise.
Alas, not one miserable fucker will stop. Not one. That’s when I notice the sign.
Queentown: 117km || Five Rivers: 22km
I consult the map. Five Rivers is on the main road to Queenstown… Could I conceivably walk 22km?
No, that is nonsense. It is already 14:00, I am exhausted and laden with my backpack; I’d never make it before dark, which would make hitching a ride very difficult and VERY cold. I’d stay here and wait.
And wait. And wait…
Is it even possible for a thumb to ache? With every car that passes me by, my eyes drift back to the sign.
Car! What, no room in your empty SUV? Five Rivers, 22km. It’s on the main road…
Car! A shrug? What does that even mean?! Five Rivers, 22km. There’s no time to get there!
Car! Full. Fair enough. Five Rivers, 22km . I can’t hitch hike if nobody can see me in the dark!
Car! It’s a Jaguar… Hopeless. Five Rivers, 22km. That’s half a marathon…
The decision comes in a heartbeat. I shall give myself 30 minutes more of trying to catch a lift.
Then I will RUN to Five Rivers.
After all, what’s the point in being able to run a half marathon if, when a key destination is exactly 22km away, you don’t run there? Is this not the very purpose of fitness? Maybe…?
The minutes tick by with a grim inevitability.
14:05: Come on, people. It’s really not too much to ask.
14:16: All I want is a quick lift down the road…
14:22: Even I get to Highway 6, I’m going to have to hitch another ride…
14:27: Don’t make me run, you dickheads…
14:28: Seriously guys, I’m exhausted…seriously…
14:30: Very well. Alea iacta est.
I shoulder my pack and set my jaw.