On Friday, March 25th, a routine day of travel turned into one of the most miraculous days of my entire life. I had booked a bus ride from Christchurch to Blenheim, a beautiful drive along the west coast of the South Island. It’s a 195 mile trip that normally takes 4 and half hours. That meant I would have 6 and half hours to wander around Blenheim until I had to catch another bus for Nelson.
Following along so far? Worn out from 3 weeks of intense travel and adventures, I was looking forward to catching up on some much needed rest. But apparently, the Lord had other plans…
7:15 a.m. – My friend Mike drops me off at the bus stop in Christchurch. Because of the earthquake a month earlier, the bus stop had been moved to a different location. I locate my bus and give the driver my confirmation number. He searches through his list long enough to make me uncomfortable. “This is the bus to Blenheim, isn’t it?” I ask. “No, no, no. That bus departs from the mall across town.” Are you kidding me? There’s no way I’m going to make it there before the bus leaves.
7:27 a.m. – Frantically, I call Mike and explain the situation. He graciously turns around and rushes me to the mall, but by the time we arrive, it’s too late and the bus is long gone.
7:45 a.m. – After assessing the situation, we decide that my best option is to try to hitchhike all the way to Blenheim from Christchurch!(Hitchhiking is still considered to be safe in New Zealand.) Mike takes me to the edge of town near the highway and drops me off. He offers his encouragement before heading off. The adventure I never wanted has officially begun.
8:00 a.m. – I have 10 hours to make a 4.5 trip. At this point, my tank of optimism is pretty full. I’m fairly confident that someone going to Blenheim will stop and offer me a ride. Half an hour later, I’m still standing there, thumb out, heavy backpack on. Finally, a man pulls over in a minivan with his daughter in the backseat. He offers to take me to Kaipoi. That’s only 10 minutes up the road, but it’s in the right direction, so I oblige.
9:30 a.m. – I’ve walked all the way to the edge of Kaipoi to set up shop again. In the rising sun, I wait another 30 minutes and watch dozens of cars pass by. I make eye contact with a woman in a sedan as she drives by. A few minutes later, she shows up and offers me a ride. She says she’s just going to the next suburb a few minutes away. We end up driving for an hour! She starts telling me about her son and apparently loses track of time. I’m not going to complain, and she gets me all the way to Cheviot. The optimism tank is full again!
10:30 a.m. – Time is slipping by, but I’m hopeful I can make it the rest of the way. I wait for almost an hour in Cheviot. Some people wave, some give me a thumbs up, but no one pulls over. My arm is getting tired from being held out and ignored. Just when I’m ready to give up, a delivery man pulls over and opens his door. At this stage, I realize I’m going to have to make this journey in increments. When I ask if he can take me to Kaikoura, he says he can get me almost all the way. He turns out to be a nice man with a crazy theory on how the trees will take over the world some day. On the way, we drive past a huge hillside which he happens to own. “See that hill, that’s my hill.”
11:30 a.m. – Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, he pulls over and informs me that this is the end of the line for him. “I bet you’ll have a ride in 10 minutes,” he assures me, and then he’s gone. Looking around, I laugh to myself at where I’ve just been abandoned. I’m standing on the side of the road 15 miles from the nearest town! Surveying the scene, I realize that there are much worse places to be stuck. It’s a gorgeous day, and across the street is a fabulous beach with huge waves crashing ashore. Tired and hungry, I ignore the passing cars and enjoy a picnic lunch by myself on the beach.
12:30 a.m. - I’m back on the road, thumb out and practically begging for a ride at this point. Who could possibly drive by me out in the middle of nowhere and not offer me a ride?!
1:00 p.m. – Finally I’m in luck as an old SUV pulls over. It’s 3 young Europeans who have been staying at a farm down the road. They’re heading into Kaikoura for the day. I’ve been picked up by 4 different people already! Kaikoura is the last major town before Blenheim. At the information center, I learn that a bus is leaving Kaikoura for Blenheim later that afternoon. A huge wave of relief sweeps over me. I excitedly phone the bus company to book a ride, only to learn that the whole bus has been chartered and there aren’t any seats available! What do I have to do to catch a break today?!
2:00 p.m. – For the 5th time, I trudge back to the road and throw my thumb out. In one day, I’ve become a hitchhiking expert. The afternoon sun is waning as I formulate my plan B. If I can’t get to Blenheim tonight, I’ll stay in a hostel in Kaikoura and try to catch a bus the next day. It’s more like plan Z, because I really need to get to Blenheim and stay on my tight travel schedule. Another 30 minutes slip away as car after car fly by. It’s been a wild ride so far, but it appears to be falling just short.
2:30 p.m. – As the last few drops in my optimism tank burn up, a man in a sports car swerves over and nearly runs me over. He stops a few inches before me and asks where I’m headed. “I’m trying to get to Blenheim.” He fires back the most delightful words I’ve heard in a long time: “Hop in.”
As long as this guy isn’t some psycho killer, I’m going to make it to Blenheim on time…or am I? When he starts talking about spending 10 years in jail, I start to get a little nervous. His next story is about the time he tried to smuggle steroids back from Tijuana. Now I’m very nervous. What have I gotten myself into? I’ve been praying all day, but now I’m begging God to keep me safe. Finally, this man tells me that he’s driving to go visit his 8-year-old daughter. My relief returns as he explains his plans to buy her a bike and spend the weekend teaching her how to ride it.
4:00 p.m. - We roll in to Blenheim and I have to jump out in a hurry. My ride is already late to meet his daughter and can’t wait around. I toss my bags onto the curb and take a deep breath…..I made it.
I kid you not, each step of the way I prayed, out loud, asking God to provide just one person to pick me up. It was a stressful and challenging but rewarding day. It was a huge test of my faith as well. Looking back, I’m still in awe of how I believe God provided:
5 different rides and awesome stories
1 incredible hitchhiking adventure
Question: Has this story inspired you to try hitchhiking, or do you think I’m crazy for doing it?