Magnus non fiction short stories

Hitchiking with a joint smoking Kiwi

I was standing with my thumb out trying to get a ride. In New Zealand back in 1991 it was pretty easy to hitchhike and it was also an excellent way to meet some pretty interesting characters. True a Swedish couple had disappeared a few months earlier while hitch hiking in this country and they were found dead a few years later, so it had it's risks. When we told our parents that we were going to hitchhike around New Zeeland they were, shall we say less amused. That the three of us decided to hitch individually, since there was no way we could hitch all three at once, certainly did not help. Looking back, it seems amazing that we did this at the age of 18. Our parents must have been mad to let us go in the first place.

Anyway, at this particular time my parents were about 20,000 kilometres away and had very little influence on what I was doing. The great thing about hichin’ in New Zeeland is that it works, people do stop. Unless you are local, because then people think "you can play your own bloody way" or if they think you are American. No one likes Americans and the kiwis sure don't. Part of it comes down to the fact that when US warships visit New Zealand harbours they refuse to say if the ships carry nuclear weapons or not. The Americans call this their "neither deny nor confirm" policy. The kiwis basically told the Americans to sod off and this created a little tiff between the two countries.

This is why all hitch hikers in New Zealand have large examples, of their none American flags, visibly attached to their back packs. No other nation so proudly displays their flag as the Canadians. This is their way of saying "I’m not American". If you ever meet a Canadian, if you don't see it, look closer, there will be a maple leaf there somewhere, if only just a small pin. Part of the reason that hitchhiking works in New Zeeland is that the kiwis feel very isolated and as one of the guys I hitched with said. "If you save up your money to come all the way to look at our country, we want to make your stay here as nice and enjoyable as possible".

The road I was standing by was to take me back down south to Auckland, where I was to meet me fellow travellers that same evening. Suddenly a white van overtakes another car at the same time as the driver spots me hitchhiking. The driver hits the breaks, looks all four wheels and goes straight into a very deep ditch almost causing the van to flip over. The driver, a scruffy looking guy, jumps out swearing. It has all gone very fast and I’m still holding my thumb out. The scruffy man stops swearing and says "you are hitchin’, aren't you?" Having pulled my thumb in I still had to admit to “well yea I was hitchin’”. He said “I’m going all the way to Auckland so if you watch the car while I go and call for a tow truck I will take you all the way down there”. It was a long ride and it was where I was going so I said, “sure I'll watch it”.

About our later after we had closed of the road to make room for the tow truck to pull us out, we were finally on our way south. The first thing my new scruffy kiwi friend says when the wheels started turning is. "I do these silly things sometimes. It is because I'm on the dope you see". For a young naive Swedish guy brought up in the country side, this was new territory. It was the first time I had ever heard anyone referring to using illegal drugs. When he pulled out a few pre rolled joints, lit up one and asked me if I wanted one I felt very much out of my depth. Trying to explain that I didn't even smoke ordinary cigarettes, my new friend was stunned. He said that you can’t come back to Sweden and say you have been to New Zeeland, without having tried some local grass. “Then you haven’t experienced the country’s full potential.

When we came upon a roadwork’s where some guys were laying down new tarmac, we stopped and my driver blew a smoke cloud over the guys, flicked the joint straight into the warm asphalt and said. "I'll dedicate this one to the road fellows", and of we went.

As we drove south we were in constant competition with other cars. We overtook them in a standard that would not have pleased any driving instructor. The kiwi told me. "When we overtake in a left curve you will spot any oncoming traffic prior to me and if you see any, just shout NO!" Rather then feeling reassured by this simple but useful plan I was hoping that we were soon going to be in Auckland and in one piece.

After a few hours we were getting close. We were somewhere in the vast suburbs of northern Auckland. It should have been pretty straight forward. There is basically only one major road coming into Auckland from the north and we had certainly been on it. Well not anymore we weren’t. Somewhere we made a wrong turn and we were lost. Then we found another scruffy kiwi, a lady of about 20. She pointed us in the right direction. Before we could go there had to be a smoke break. We all stepped outside and the lady takes off one of her boots of and in the heel there is a little compartment with joints in it. There I am, in the midst of a joint break. I am thinking of what to say to the police after we have been arrested and I long for Auckland which is now only a few kilometres away. And I'm also thinking of what to say to my parent on this one phone call I will be allowed to make from the pilice station.

When we finally cross the bridge into the centre of Auckland it feels good. An hour later I had found my friends at the backpacker place we had decided to meet at, and while having drinks together I tell them about my almost to exiting trip from Paihia to Auckland.