It may just be the North Island, I've been surprised not to see soo many hitchhikers along the roads here. Coming back to Auckland, however, I actually saw three, and desperate to share gas costs, I picked them all up!
The first was Thomas, a Danish carpet layer in NZ for 1.5 mos after 6 mos in Australia. The other two were a pair of German gap-yearlings (year-off after highschool) flying back to Germany the next day. All were clearly backpackers so I felt comfortable picking them up.
Thomas and I spent a few days together heading down to Auckland and then on to Mt. Manganui on the coast. As he is a RABID fisherman, he can't be too far away from the ocean or a lake or stream for too long. He was traveling around as part of an international peace organization called "Servas." The name copme from the Esperanto word for "service" and basically tries to foster international understanding and peace through cultural exchange. Servas
was the brainchild of an American GI just after WWII who was stranded in Denmark and looked after by a family there. Today, there are people all over the world who register to travel and to host travellers, and basically, the publish a directory of people in a particular region or country, and you ring them to see if they'll put you up for two days. They can invite you to stay longer, but that's the designated period for someone to come and stay.
So Thomas was planning his travels calling people from the directory who listed fishing as an interest or who lived nearby a place that might have good fishing. That was how he came across Mavis and Barry in Mt. Manganui. I was planning on dropping thomas on my way to the east coast, but when we arrived, Mavis in vited me to stay for a few days as well.
Mavis and Barry had both grown up in Mt. Manganui, and excepting some international travel and a stint in Brisbane, had both lived there most of their lives. They had seen it change from a small town with crushed shells for roads to a popular Kiwi holiday get away. Set on a narrow peninsula with Mt. Manganui towering at the end, it had view over the bay and seaport on one side and a lovely beach looking out to the pacific on the other.
So I spent a few days watching having a hike up the mountain, watching Thomas throw his line into the water, and chatting with Mavis and Barry about general state of our countries and the world today over some great meals. We were even treated to the Kiwi specialty dessert...Pavlova. It's kind a big merengue type thing topped with whipped creanm and fresh fruit that was created by a chef when a famous Russian ballerina visited New Zealand.
So thanks to Mavis and Barry for the lovely hospitality and wonderful conversation. I'd have to say, the Servas model is simple, but really quite a nice way to get to know people and learn about other ways of life.