I’m never Dunedin, Day 1

I’d the greatest luck hitching to Dunedin from Queenstown, and even might have made Christchurch quite easily. After only a few minutes I got a ride with a girl heading to work from near the hotel just below Neil’s out to a perfect spot after a gas station in Frankton, and from there I waited only ten or twenty more before catching another lift. This middle aged couple, a Thai woman and Kiwi man headed back to Christchurch, took me on their detour to the bungy jumping station – the main tourist jumping spot and the first commercial jump, over a river. We saw a fabulously graceful jump there. A quiet, gentle couple – Tim (the woman) spoke almost not at all, while her partner pointed out all sorts of scenery and buildings on the way in a serene voice. They even gave me a couple apples for the road after buying some from a roadside stand. This stand amazed me – no one manning it, the apples all out in bags according to price and a little slot for the money next to a pile of IOU slips. What trust!

They dropped me off at the end of Cromwell where the highway splits on a T to either Christchurch or Dunedin, an absolutely ideal spot which took me but a few minutes to catch my third ride. Another middle aged couple with strong accents (Dave from the Southland and missing quite a few teeth), and simply wonderful. They took me up to a lookout over Alexandria and out on a detour into the orchards of central Otago to rendezvous with their son, with whom we talked for a good while. Spectacular scenery all the way. Heading home they didn’t mind dropping me off right at my host to be’s flat at the north end of the city. I gave a CD to both couples.

It being a Sunday night I didn’t bother busking until the following day, where I had a go in the Albion Place arcade at lunchtime. Light traffic and extremely encouraging looks but slow tippage. Well, not terribly slow I suppose, but another factor forced me to stop. My right shoulder’s always had a tension problem but in recent months it’s gotten excrutiating. Perhaps my pack (the right strap broke in Hobart and I resewed it hodgepodge in Melbourne), or carrying my guitar, or my frayed tote bag from Helsinki. Whatever it is I can hardly play a half hour before it starts to hurt something awful. As I wasn’t making mad bank in the cold dreary (almost forgot the obligatory and redundant adjective wet) street, which I traipsed out into braving strong winds buffeting me about (and the reason I chose the more sheltered arcade).

Beautiful mural by schoolchildren.

My first song, an appropriate Mad World inspired a lady passerby to double back with “You have a good voice, and I like that song.” She reminded me of Emma Thompson somehow. Not long afterwards a more raggedly dressed one had a look at my CD and asked my pricing on it. She told me she’d return to buy it on Wednesday, but unfortunately I’d quit the town already by then. She requested a few songs and even sang along to Country Roads before moving on. In fact, all of my tips came from homely middle aged ladies this go, while the younger crowd gave thumbs ups or fixed emo expressions heads down iPods in racing on, and the businessmen voiced their approval with “Keep up the good work!” or “You sound great!” But, as I mentioned, I couldn’t keep it up.

So I ducked into the library for a while to hide from a new spate of rain, emerging to meet my host Natalia for a pitch at the same place only to find the town absolutely dead. Even the entrance by the super market yielded nothing. She requested indie songs, which I sang, but with no tips and a headcold creeping into her, I headed back to the library while she popped off home. I intended to try the bartime pitch, thinking as the first Monday back from school holidays (as Dunedin’s famous for being a college town), the students would be out in study-denial force. I met but six people on the long walk back up the slight hill to Natalia’s from the library down the main drag, George St., however, one who recommended a spot which obviously lay absolutely deserted. Almost spookily deserted.

Earnings: 12.90 NZD, 1 hour
Song of the Day: Mad World – Tears for Fears

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