By Jade Johnston
Luckily it stopped raining sometime in the night, and luckily our tent + tarp + tree equation added up to dryness. We packed up, ate breakfast, and stole a piece of cardboard from the recycling to make our hitch hiking sign.
We started walking on the one road out of the town (a generous description) and were dismayed to see not much traffic passing us. We kept at it though, and soon enough, an elderly Maori gentlemen stopped for us. He explained that he is from the Rotorua region, but that his family is from the Waitomo region and that he is involved with helping to rebuilt the tribes marai. A marai is a Maori meeting or gathering house.
He drove us as far as Te Kuiti where the 3 motorway and the 30 intersect. From here we started trudging up the steep hill when only a few minutes later another car stopped for us. This time is was a Maori woman and her son, named Avery and Buckly. We shared the space with their little dog. We drove with them for quite a long way, all the way down the coastal 3 motorway, through tunnels simply hollowed out in the mountains, past crashing waves and steep cliffs, and through some truly annoying road works. They took us almost all of the way to New Plymouth – about 20 km north.
From here we only had to wait about another 10 – 15 minutes before a Maori woman and her daughter stopped for us. They were one of our favourite rides, despite the fact that they had very traditional names which I can’t remember right now. The mum was super enthusiastic about everything and was particularly pleased that James and I had met in New Zealand. She also complemented my pronunciation of Maori words. Her daughter was also super cool and works in the hospitality industry and also does poi and the haka. They dropped us off in the i-site in New Plymouth.
New Plymouth is the largest town near to Mt. Taranaki…. aka Mt. Fugi from The Last Samurai. The women at the i-site directed us to the most amazing hostel ever, which unfortunately we unpacked and paid for right before finding the most amazing wild camping spot ever. The hostel is called the sunflower lodge, and it was a bit of a hike from the i-site but totally worth it. A really cozy atmosphere with a great little tent site, verandas, bbq’s, and even a little herb garden. We told our friend Frederik, who we met at the bar in Waitomo the day previous and he agreed to meet us there later that evening as he was also heading to New Plymouth.
The best wild camping spot…EVER…is near to the sunflower lodge. As you walk towards it from the town centre you pass a race course, and beside that racecourse is one of those photobox things where the photographers and commentators can stand. We went to investigate and found that it was not private property, it simply had a warning sign posted to it. We climbed up, about 10 metres, and we rewarded with the best views of the mountain you could get in town.
The box also had a trap door, so if you wanted you could totally roll out your sleeping bags up there and be completely undisturbed.
Most of the day was spend doing errands – grocery shopping for our up coming canoe trip, eating spicy thai food, and repacking our bags Eventually Frederik joined us and we hung out and played my backpacker card game (best game EVER) over beers in the sun room.
Tomorrow is off to a town in the middle of nowhere. It will be one of the most obscure hitch hiking destinations yet.