“I would walk 10,000 miles for your love, cos you’re my everything, in this complicated life…” ‘Conversations’ – Mutt featuring Kevin King 2010.
When you have no car, and no real means of public transport other than a rickety old bus that occasionally drives through your local town and onwards to the next ‘city’ there really becomes only one option for an eager young Woman with places to go: Hitchhiking.
When I lived at my brothers house in Oakura on the coast of Taranaki, I was forever hitching to get a ride into New Plymouth on Friday nights after my work at the local surf shop ‘Vertigo’ was done. New Plymouth was where the clubs, bars and my friends were, and if I wanted to go out – then I had to hitchhike to achieve this. It was only ten minutes up the road by car anyway and people were always coming through Oakura on a Friday evening so it was never difficult.
When I moved to Wellington I continued this trend by hitchhiking with my friend Johnse – firstly up to Taranaki, and then down to ‘Entrain’ which was my first real ‘New Years Festival’ that involved rave music. Entrain was situated in the beautiful surrounds of Canaan Downs, which is situated out of Nelson, a small coastal city at the top of the South Island. It was Johnse, myself and our other girlfriend Alex, and we all had our backpacks full of clothes and snacks strapped up on our backs ready to go.
Our first challenge with regards to Hitching was getting the Ferry from Wellington across the Cook Strait to Picton which is also at the top of the South Island. We had bought the cheapest tickets – for foot passengers, and we were traveling late at night.
We had intended to get off the ferry and grab a ride with someone straight into Nelson and stay the night there, however what we didn’t realise is, the Ferry lets all the passengers in cars off first and then the foot passengers. So by the time we had got off the ferry and onto the street, all the cars had gone and Picton was closed up and quiet.
There was no choice for it but to find a place to sleep for the night there and then. We walked a bit towards the end of town (which took about ten minutes) and found a grassy verge. I cannot believe how hard out we were as youngsters, but we rolled out our sleeping bags, got in them and slept for a few hours on the side of the road until the sun came up and the next lot of cars from the morning ferry came passing by, honking their horns and waking us up.
It took us most of the morning to get a ride with there being three of us, and when we did get to Nelson we sat on the steps up by the gardens waiting to meet up with our other friends. Everyone arrived quite late in the day, so again we thought it best to stay in Nelson the night and head up to Entrain as early as possible in the morning. We racked our brains trying to think of where we could camp as the local camp site was a bit of a walk away. After much deliberation we decided that the best thing to do would be wait till dark and pitch our tent in The Botanical Gardens which was definitely illegal. Despite pitching it covertly behind some bushes we were nervous that someone would spot us and report us for trespassing, and so had another fitful nights sleep.
We headed up to the Entrain site early the next day with a ride easily caught just out of town, and arrived at a gorgeous site amongst the trees where it was dry and sunny and very hot. The rave that night was only for the one night and part of it was outdoors, some parts in some old derelict buildings.
I remember getting ready to head into the festival site and seeing people walking around amongst the tents holding signs saying ‘Acid wanted’ which made me laugh at their brazen attitude. Music was pumping out of the parked up cars and there was a general vibe of anticipation in the air.
The camp ground/ parking area at Entrain Festival – New Zealand, New Years 1996/1997
The idea and the vibe of the festival was certainly cool and had the right idea – but despite it being different from anything I had experienced before – I didn’t find myself all that into it. The music was mostly Trance and Happy Hardcore which wasn’t exactly ‘me’. The site felt too small and music clashes between ‘zones’ were inevitable. Overall though, we had a fun night, and the next day was spent sheltering from the sun in the tent and trying to get some sleep as we were exhausted from our travels and from dancing all night.
When we eventually left to hitch back to Picton, Johnse and I headed off separately from the others so as to ensure a quicker ride. We were so tired and hungry, dusty and hot when we got there that we booked ourselves into the closest B&B we could find and bought a hot pie from the bakery next door for dinner. A hot shower plus a soft bed felt like heaven to my body that had been sleeping rough the last three nights!
Not long after this, I travelled by bus with some friends from Taranaki up to ‘The Big Day Out’ music festival held at Western Springs Auckland. Myself, Carey, Karlie, Natalie and Rachael all had our favourite acts playing that we were desperate to see, bands such as Rage Against The Machine, Shihad, Porno for Pyros, Elastica and Tricky. All mentioned were absolute highlights and Tricky especially whose album ‘Maxinquaye’ had a huge influence on me. I remember Martine who sang with the band performed with her back to the audience the entire time, and during the festival there was a massive downpour of rain that soaked us through to our skin and turned the mosh pit into a mud bath.
Karlie, Me, Rachael and Natalie after being caught in the rainstorm during the Big Day Out. (Photo by Carey) 19 – 1 – 1996
While I didn’t hitch to this particular BDO, after I moved to Christchurch at the end of January my love of hitch hiking continued throughout the South Island. At the end of my first year at NASDA myself and my flat mate Julie hitched down to Queenstown with only $50.00 between us. We relied on the goodness of strangers who often offered us food and who recommended good spots to pitch our tent for the night. We mostly avoided campsites as they cost money and tried to pitch our tent covertly in places off to the side of the road, in amongst trees where it was both free but illegal to camp.
As it was the end of November we expected the weather to be warm and compliant but instead it was still pretty cold. In Wanaka we hung out in the library for a few hours where it was warm out of the wind, and got ourselves fish and chips for dinner. Then we walked for half an hour around the lake to find a spot to pitch our tent amongst the trees behind some upturned row boats. In the night we were woken by gale force winds and freezing rain that caused our tent to leak and filled our ground sheet with water. We spent ages using a saucepan we had brought to siphon the water out of the tent. Needless to say it was a terrible nights sleep, and the next day when the sun finally came out – there was a dusting of late spring snow on the mountains surrounding us!
When we went to Queenstown we were picked up by a man who we entertained with our stories of hitch hiking down from Christchurch. He was both impressed and kinda mortified that we would make such a long journey with only $50.00. When we asked him to just drop us off by some trees where we thought we could camp the night – he refused. Instead he insisted on driving us to the local campsite, paying for a site that included hot showers and giving us $20.00 towards our dinner. We were incredibly grateful and spent the money on beers and pizza that night in a rather quiet Queenstown.
Come New Years we again loaded up our backpacks and this time hitched up to ‘The Gathering’ – the first proper two day music festival celebrating all aspects of rave culture, that New Zealand had ever had. It was also touted as being alcohol free. I had a boyfriend at the time – Sam, who was tall, and confident but quietly spoken with blue eyes and a shaved head of strawberry blonde hair. Originally from Auckland he lived in Lyttleton, the quaint little port town over the hills on the other side of Christchurch. Sam loved The Wu Tang Clan (and Neil Diamond! lol) and made sure I got to know all their names, and played me their tunes every day. Lucky for him I loved Wu Tang! We would bump those tunes loud into the night, hanging out in his wee house on the hill overlooking the pretty port town.
I adored Sam and Him me, but if there was area where we didn’t meet eye to eye it was with regard to Raving. Sam didn’t really like the music and had no desire to go to raves with me, and though sometimes I missed his company – really, it suited me fine. I loved being with my girlfriends and getting ready to go out, and raving all night on the dance floor working up a sweat. Having never being used to having a permanent relationship I was perfectly happy going my own way anyway – something that has always been a part of my personality – even now. So I left Sam back in Christchurch and off Julie and I went on our merry way.
We were lucky enough to catch one ride from Christchurch all the way up to Takaka, the same region that Entrain had been in – but a different location, in Canaan Downs – right up on the top of a hill above Motueka. As we approached the bottom of said hill, we could already see the sun glinting off the bonnets of cars that were queuing to enter. “Woah… is that the line to get in?” We shaded our eyes from the hot afternoon sun to get a better look, and before long we too were sitting in a long line of cars waiting to drive into the one entrance – a narrow, winding, gravel road that stretched for about 12km. People stood on the side of the road sharing beers and cigarettes, playing hacky sack and pumping tunes in the warm summer sun.
Once we arrived we met up with our friends, pitched up our tent and set about exploring the site. Set out over a dry dusty farm up in the hills, surrounded by Kauri trees, it was a beautiful area, but you had to be careful of the sinkholes. They were all over the place and cordoned off so no one could camp near them. (The biggest sinkhole of all there is called Harwoods hole and is about a 25 minute walk down through the trees along a path from the site. It has a drop of 200m down and is 15m in diameter and is considered an abseilers paradise). There were several large tents scattered around the festival site decorated according to their different genre of music, and one big white tent in which people could purchase food, beverages, and sit and eat out of the sun. Amongst all of this were art installations that people had obviously spent hours working on and setting up, and there were people from the crew walking (or four wheel driving) around with walkie talkies constantly crackling as anticipation for the first night there grew.
The ‘Trance’ zone at The Gathering, Takaka 1996 – 1997
Needless to say we had an awesome time, checking out everything from Harcore and Tribal to Early DnB and Dub, Trance, Techno, House and more. During the day ambient tunes drifted across the camp ground, and into the evening when the sun went down, the fairy lights and glowing decorations hanging in ultraviolet light from the trees, lit up the site. When it came to heralding in the New Year with 4,000 other revellers – we were beyond excited. It felt like this festival was truly something special and I was grateful to be a part of it! At the very end of the festival as the summer sun beat down on us all, the various zones stopped playing music and everyone came together in the outdoor Trance arena and danced in unison while festival promoters sprayed hoses of water into the hot and happy crowd.
After two amazing days, we headed back to Christchurch on the 2nd and again I was only back in my little loft room in Highpara for a few days before my desire to follow the music took over my life again. Sam decided he was keen for us to check out The Big Day Out so we hitch hiked up to Wellington where we stayed the night with one of his friends. We then caught a bus via Taranaki so my parents could finally meet Sam and we picked up Carey along the way who was super keen to attend the festival again. We hitched our way to Auckland and stayed at Sam’s parents house.
The Big Day Out that year included Soundgarden and The Offspring who were definitely epic to watch and who Sam had been especially keen to check. For me, it was all about The Prodigy, the hottest new Electronic act in the world. Carey and I jumped around like crazy (me losing my beloved Beastie Boys top in the mud in the process) and even Sam started to see the appeal half way through the set, due to the dynamic performance of Keith the lead singer, who mesmerised the entire crowd.
Keith from The Prodigy telling the crowd what for at The Big Day Out, January 1997
Afterwards, we chilled out in the bleachers and smoked some weed while we watched Nick Cave from afar, the crowd a sprawling mess of heaving bodies in the mosh pit below us. At the end of the weekend, we said goodbye and a “See you soon!” to Carey as she was moving down to Christchurch that year, to attend Broadcasting school. So Sam and I headed back out on the road down the Island to Christchurch. I remember it being an especially long and tiresome trip on the way back. I had my period and no painkillers so was in a tonne of pain, the Ferry ride seemed to go on forever and we got stuck in Blenheim for about three hours towards the end of the day. We eventually made it back to Christchurch by about 9pm and fell into bed exhausted, and relieved to be home.
As you can see, back in the 90’s hitching was the only affordable way for most of us to get around New Zealand if you didn’t have a car or drive. Even though New Zealand is geographically bigger than the UK, we would think nothing of taking a minibus five hours here, or hitching 9 hours there. Flying just wasn’t an option due to budgets, and to be honest, some of the best sights of New Zealand I’ve seen have been while on the road waiting for a ride. That’s not to say it didn’t have its moments where I thought ‘What the hell am I doing?’ and it certainly made me grateful later on when I got my license and eventually my own car!
Back in my flat in Highpara and reunited with the girls, Donna announced that she would like to move in with her boyfriend Greg, and as it went – Julie and I had grown tired of not having proper bedrooms with windows and fresh air.
We set about looking for another flat nearby and found an old period property on Worcester Street, a creaky, wonky wooden house with a tiny kitchen and a dark lounge, and apart from my bedroom, lots of weird shaped bedrooms. It probably wasn’t the most brilliant idea moving in there, there were five bedrooms to be filled and we had to find the other people to fill the rooms straight away but we were desperate for a place to live so I went ahead and signed the lease anyway.
We got talking to some people at Java and it turned out that Ky who worked there needed a place to live and was up for taking on one of the rooms. We found another two flat mates in the shape of Simon and Blair, and as Carey was coming down to Christchurch to go to broadcasting school and needed a home, it made sense that she move in with us too.
It was actually a very happy little house in a lot of ways, everyone got on (for the most part) and we had some great times out partying at house parties and of course – raving on the weekends in true Christchurch style. 🙂