How to; hitch hike (The hitch hikers guild)

On my way home from bluff I was picked up by a guy who was a seasoned hitch hiker and we got talking. New Zealand is a great country for hitching and as long as you aren’t to pressed for time it is a very inexpensive way to travel. So here are some tips from a seasoned pro.

1. Location location

Early bird gets the worm

Most people traveling long distances will leave early. So being out early gives you the best chance of getting there in one hit.

Last road out of town

Keeping your destination in mind you are looking for the road where cars wanting to go the same way will travel. It’s an odds game and you want to stack as many things in your favor as possible.

10 seconds of visibility

People driving don’t expect to see hitch hikers around every corner. And 10 seconds from the time they first see you to when the car reaches you is generally enough time for a person to make up there mind. So count aloud 10 seconds from when the car appears to account for their speed.

Enough room to pull over

This can be difficult on some roads but having a space that a driver can clearly see they can safely pull into is really important. It can make or brake the decision to pull over.

2. Logistics

Don’t bring too much baggage

Try to have a single bag no more then 20 litres Another reason to not pull over is baggage. Make sure what you carry can fit on your lap if need be and you increase your appeal to offer a ride.

Know where you are heading

At the very least know the name of your destination. The better you know the lay of the land the easier it is to communicate possible routes. Some people may only go a short way or pull you on a slightly different route. The game you are playing is all about odds so try to stick to busy roads.

3. Helpful stuff

Smile and have a tidy appearance. I totally used to carry props like guitars and signs saying ‘I have chocolate’ but I really don’t know if they actually helped. But being friendly in appearance really helps so no hockey masks.

Be friendly and polite they are giving you a ride after all.

Small talk can go a long way when sitting in a car with a stranger.

4. Safety 

Yes there is an element of risk when hitch hiking (some people are scary drivers) so if you aren’t feeling comfortable it’s ok to turn down or ask to be dropped early. Hitching isn’t for everyone and if you do feel unsafe I wouldn’t recommend it. However as a Male, with kung fu skills and owning nothing worth stealing I have never felt at risk. In general I have been picked up by people who used to hitch themselves like some kind of unspoken code of the traveller.

How to; be an Athletic Diabetic (an advice piece)

Before I started my adventure I went looking for advice for undertaking a long distance walk as a diabetic. I kind of nerded out on it, asking doctors, fellow diabetics and general know it alls. Everyone I asked had small pieces of advice that slowly accumulated until I left for the trail. With every challenge I met on the trail as a diabetic I became more capable and gained better understanding of what it takes to push my limits. After almost six months and three thousand kilometers I present some hints and tips for other Diabetics wanting to push their limits too.

Be batman

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Ok I may have started a little strong but it is always helpful to plan for every eventuality. I am the kind of guy who would practice setting up and pack down his sheather as if it were raining when it wasn’t. It may be a little extreme but it does pay off to have a plan as it takes a lot of stress out of the equation when the unexpected does happen. For hiking long distances this meant having my diabetic stuff in easy access including sugar, food items, BG tester and medication. I also had a friendly note saying to look in my first aid (around my neck) if I was found confused or unconscious and keep a more detailed note on what to do in the first aid itself. Doubt anyone else had skittles in their first aid kit.

Record your levels often

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I know this is probably said over and over but it is seriously the only way to really see how the relationship between medication, exercise and food work for you. One of the advantages of long distance walking is the exercise and food elements are fixed making it easier to find balance as the only major factor that could effect my levels was my medication. For this reason I think hiking is great for diabetics I have really learnt a lot about my self by undertaking such a epic challenge. On a side note writing down your levels in a way that helps you see the patterns helps. Some apps are great for the convenience of recording but I had trouble seeing the overall happenings over a day of testing (so I pen and papered it).

Have no emotional connection to your levels

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Like everyone in the beginning I had really trouble adjusting to diabeticness (for starters I had a massive needle phobia) but I was lucky enough to be interested in health and fitness and was relatively old (16) when I started showing symptoms. The biggest stumbling block for me in the old days was how personally I would take bad levels. I would stop testing all together if I didn’t get it exactly perfect every time this ended up being the opposite of helpful.

The fact of the matter is the human body is an amazing machine capable of achieving balance that technology has not yet been able to match. Celebrating consistency is better for your sanity then trying to do what the body does with inferior tools. On trail this meant having automatic responses to highs and lows without the why me drama. Adjustments to my medication were always small and gradual and over the six months on trail balance came more consistently. Don’t get me wrong I had random fluctuations especially on the days where I came back to civilization but the fluctuations get less extreme as I got better with my ratios without taking it as a personal shortcoming.

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Diabetes has been great for me because I have become better informed about all things health and nutrition (I love nerding out). Though pushing the limits as a diabetic needs a bit more forethought over time these things get easier, you just have to persist to get there. Something hard won is worth so much more once you are out the other side and no I may not be able to eat and drink whatever I want whenever I want but I have bigger aspirations in life then that eating a tub of ice cream in one sitting.

There and back again

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The final week of the walk went like a blur, after arriving in Queenstown to resupply I felt ready to take on the track with new found strength. The rhythm of walking became second nature, talking about what I was doing with people on trail became part of that rhythm and an unexpected drive to push for longer distances started to take hold as bluff came into view.

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As I moved through the rural southland landscape into the muddy forest trail then back onto the beaches I felt a sense of familiar of the far North those many months ago. Only my legs were strong, my gear balanced and confidence at an all time high.

10991084_10205163553321004_5608799227966293640_nOn a late sunday afternoon I had completed my journey, the sun was warm, and the sign post was deserted. I had been warned that finishing doesn’t really hit you for a few weeks. But for me the arrival to Bluff wasn’t as significant as the transformation for someone who had read a lot about techniques to make your own gear to someone who had made it. So finishing was great but I felt that I had achieved my goals the week before, the icing on the cake was the chance to share a beer with other TA walkers in Invercargill that night. As always sharing stories about our time on trail and generally laughing about how lucky we were to have had done something not many people had.¬†11018895_10206394514765176_5277155482910233937_n

My return to Wellington involved a four day hitch (I had always enjoyed hitch hiking) where I reconnected with old friends I never got a chance to see while walking. This ended up being a great way to rehabilitate into the rest of society and get used to how out of place I looked off trail. With final celebrations at my parents house in Wellington, surrounded by friends and family we laughed and ate a lot. There really was no better way to end one of the most physically and mentally difficult things I had ever done in my life.

I do have a lot of people to thank for the support they have given me over my time on the trail but blanket public thanks don’t sit well with me and I will actively be visiting those whom helped so I can thank them in person (this is going to take awhile).

So what next?

It is hard to say, not sure what kind of career choices there are for a guy who can walk forever and make rope out of flax. I think walking three thousand kilometers is a lot easier then finding a job with a cv that lists can make a rock sharp and weaving ugly but practical flax bags as skills and once caught a rabbit by standing on it as greatest achievement. Think I would rather climb a 2000 meter elevation.

As for the blog, I am not done making!! The greatest satisfaction of trying to making the tools of my ancestors is feeling connected to them. Walking their tracks and using their tools really gives you a sense of what the Maori of the past were like in a more tangible way then reading about it in a book. So this blog will continue to share my explorations into making gear and using it (I am still trying to figure out how to sleep sitting up in a rain cape).

In my new life off trail I will be writing, making and walking you can count on that. So if you see and crazy looking bare foot, flax wearing bow man around feel free to say hello.

Jory