I was told I’d need to be extremely lucky to hitch all the way to Nelson from Christchurch in a day. As with most things (Geoffrey says it’s an asset of mine) I just expected things to work out and voila, no problems. I didn’t awake quite as early as I intended, but the sun emerged for a beautiful day to see and be seen. I needed to get to the highway from Riccarton and Christchurch is famously bad for hitching around/within – it took me about an hour and a half to get those few kilometers, finally catching a lift from a nice man who lived right by the intersection with the highway. I tried a little experiment of sign/no sign more consciously on this day. I found I would get a car to pull in almost instantly when I turned around to walk up a bit of a ways with my thumb and no sign – single men wanting to pick up a single girl heading to the airport. As I was neither I refused these rides politely. After half an hour or so I caught a lift to Waikuku with a man employed in rebranding with a neutral accent in between English and Kiwi.
His jobsite in Waikuku lay right off the highway after a slower speed limit sign at the Shell station which seemed to constitute the town’s entire commerce. It didn’t take much longer for me to catch a ride. Norman, a Chinese Kiwi with parents from Toisan, took me all the way up to Blenheim, thereby choosing for me my route to Nelson – one can take the mountain pass through the middle of country for a slightly shorter trip or the coastal route – Norman’s route. We stopped in Kaikoura along the way, where Norman offered me his free sub voucher for the Subway. What gorgeous scenery! Just fabulous. And beautiful conversation, too. I’d never expect to catch a lift with any person of Asian descent – hitching is like busking – tons of people pass you by and you start to figure out who’s more likely to tip from external factors like race and car model and speed. (Just like busking, the more money they look like, the less likely they will stop.) I really admired his life – wine merchant relinquishing pay for a healthier lifestyle, who’s run over seventy marathons in five years, has three boys one I remind him of and wise with words about marriage/relationships. He dropped me off at what looked to be a good spot on the outskirts of Blenheim.
Where I waited nearly an hour before a young man from Maui specializing in growing Pinot Noir took me to a new spot, having tried hitching that spot himself months before to no avail. I left the sun behind minutes before he dropped me off, entering a darker haze in front of an enormous gravel pull out at the intersection with highway 62. Luckily, I caught a ride almost instantly with a South African and a Filipino heading all the way to Nelson for a meeting to deal with wine. Both spoke softly and kindly through the misty windy drive over the mountains. They left me at the roundabout outside town with a cheerily ironic “Welcome to sunny Nelson!” so I might walk the mile in the mist to my host.
Roger welcomed me in with his other couchsurfer, Robert. I grabbed a dinner, and then after Robert played my guitar a bit the two of us ventured out for a busk on Bridge St., an offshoot of the main drag of Trafalgar, and apparently the only pub crawl in the microscopic town. (Roger was amused I called the place “cute” – 50,000 and it calls itself a city!). Despite it being Thursday night the entire town was dead. Hardly anyone passed my pitch outside the Rock Shop, unwilling, perhaps, to brave the warm misty night or depressed by days of rain so uncommon in these parts. As such I let Robert request most of my songs for the beginning.
One man insisted on my singing Kiwi songs, of which I know none, but tipped me a five dollar note nonetheless. I’d later note he was a security guard for the establishment to our left, and probably appreciated the entertainment on a slow night. His friend wanted me to sing O Sole Mio, but alas, I don’t have that in my repertoire despite years of watching the Three Tenors with my family. Not long after they took up their posts, a man in a funny fishing hat stared me down intensely for a while and I didn’t know quite what to make of him. I felt a bit uneasy – had been with strange aggressive looks and such but calmed with Robert on hand as almost a protector – but perhaps that’s just his default expression. After many strange minute he requested Yesterday, surprising me by singing loudly along and then tipping me thrice – “One for the Father, one for the Son, and more for getting lucky” with a wink. He took my request list on his way back for a go at Where is My Mind – another loud singalong with his face now worked into a foolish smile.
I think I understand those mood changes now. On setting up, Robert and I assumed the establishment to our left to be a bar – it seemed the only one having any business whatsoever. As we walked back to Roger’s, however, we realized in amusement and shock that it was a strip club. Which also explained the scantily clad women in heels passing by, encouraging me sweetly with no tips. We encountered a very “low” slice of society this night. One man in a black and white patterned hoodie screamed out “Fuck, What’s that shit?” towards me during the bridge of my From Dawn to Busk, though when I finished Robert hadn’t heard as he was concentrating on my lyrics – which he loved. By the by, Robert’s German, but with an impeccable command of English. The highly chlorinated water didn’t sit terribly well with my vocal chords – I think it may induce a light acid reflux, and when we headed back Robert borrowed my guitar to play as we walked. Just in time, too, as rain decided to resume it’s assault minutes after we returned indoors.
Earnings: 15.00 NZD, 1 hour
Song of the Day: Yesterday – The Beatles