I did two new things today: I picked up a couple of hitchhikers, and I bought a taro root. The taro was from Fiji (about 1600 miles away) and the hitchhikers were from Kaikohe, (about 25 miles away).
From our first days here, I noticed hitchhiking is still practiced by all sorts in New Zealand. Some short-term travelers get themselves here and then plan to simply hitchhike around New Zealand. It’s certainly cheaper and in some ways simpler. (Hitchwiki.org is a fascinating glimpse into hitchhiking experiences around the world.) Local people hitchhike to get from town to town in Northland–I’ve picked up a friend who happened to be looking for a ride when I pulled up at a gas station in a nearby town.
Before we left, I read Joe Bennett’s rather cranky but funny Land of Two Halves detailing his adventures hitchhiking around NZ.
There’s a level of trust here that just isn’t there in the U.S., maybe because of the Hwy 101 murders in California in the 70s that were never solved. While I’ve passed hitchhikers in the U.S. who make me think maybe possibly it could be a good idea pick them up, the voice that says, “You’re a mother and little ones depend on you staying alive and out of the clutches of possibly murderous maniacs posing as harmless folks who just need a ride” is stronger.
Every morning when I drive K to the bus stop, we pass kids walking along the highway with backpacks on and their thumbs out. They seem like stranded starfish in a way; I don’t have time to pick them all up, so I don’t pick any of them up. I get K to the bus with a couple of minutes to spare and then I’m on my way home again, going the way no one needs to go.
But this afternoon, as I was leaving Rawene and putting on my turn signal to pull out of town, I saw a young couple just off the road with their thumbs out. I made eye contact with the young man and immediately he came bounding over to the car, the girl he was with following. “Going to Kaikohe?” he asked as he slid into the back seat with A. If a car has its left blinker on from the Rawene peninsula, it’s certain that it will be going at least part of the way to Kaikohe—there’s just the one main road there.
After I told them I’d be happy to take them to Kaikohe, they really didn’t say much. They’d been looking at an apartment, but it turned out to not be promising. They were very warm; it was a very sunny and hot afternoon and it felt gracious to offer the open seats in my air-conditioned car. Half an hour later in Kaikohe, I dropped them off and that was that.
On to the taro:
I saw it in the grocery store as I was filling a bag with courgettes (aka zucchini; can you believe I’d actually buy the stuff in high summer?) and its ugly brute presence was irresistible. I’ve been looking up recipes and it looks like you can treat it like an overgrown potato. I’m going to bake it into oven fries tomorrow.