Hitchhiking New Zealand: DAY 18: Otaki: IT’S STORYTIME

Otaki Forks
North Island, New Zealand

Hello to all you beautiful people out there! The picture above really has nothing to do with the story I’m about to share with you. I just really like it.

Okay! So today, I have a fun little story for you. If you’ve read my previous post, you’d know that my lady partner, Misha, and I were in the town of Otaki. I had just finished up a multi day hike. Misha had just finished up enjoying a relaxing few days at a nice B&B by the beach.

It was in the afternoon when we met back up with each other and we didn’t quite know what we wanted to do. I had just been tramping around in the mountains for a few days and didn’t particularly want to sleep in a tent on the ground. I mean, I don’t mind that at all. And we always have the tent with us just in case we ever find ourself in a situation where we are not around accommodation. Which has been quite often over these weeks, I must admit. (I’ll share some pictures of the crazy places we’ve put our tent over the past couple weeks). And we Love IT.

But, for some reason, on this particular day I wanted a bed. And Misha agreed. But, we were having trouble even finding accommodation in the little town of Otaki that we were in. Little towns in New Zealand aren’t like one’s in the U.S. Hotels don’t exist or are rare because tourists almost never stop and stay in these small towns. Unless, they’re stopping for gas/petrol. Usually every small town has one bar/restaurant in town and that’s usually the place that also offers a few rooms to stay for the night. Little New Zealand towns kind of remind of the towns you see in the old western movies in a way; you walk down the one street in town and it’s equipped with a bank, a bar that is also the restaurant and inn, a hardware and supply store which is also the post office and petrol station, a small supermarket, and a bakery, I’ve come to LOVE the little towns of New Zealand.

Anyways! Misha and I did exactly what we do Everytime we are unsure of what we should do…ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Haha… For real though, whenever we get into situations of when we are unsure of what to do. We sit and wait until Life gives us a sign of what to do. So, we went to the local supermarket, got some food, and went and sat in the local park in the middle of town. We even got a little wine too. Hehe. We had a nice little picnic dinner in the park with a nice glass of red wine. Oh and if you’re American you might be thinking of how savage we are to drink wine in public. But rest assured, it is indeed legal to drink in public in New Zealand. So, MOM, I know you’re reading, we weren’t breaking any rules!

The Park!
Photo Cred: CODC.govt.nz

So, there we were! Enjoying our evening in the park with really nice conversation. We caught each other up on the previous days adventures that we had spent apart. It was really great. We sat under the only tree in the small park, waving and exchanging smiles with locals who walked by on the sidewalk. Still with no worry at all where we were going to sleep that night.

And then it happened…

After an hour or two of sitting in the park, a head popped over a wall on one side of the park. It was a man. The man looked to be about 60, kind of hippy/biker looking (in the best way possible), had long grey hair in a pony tail, and a kind smile. His house was on the other side of the wall but we couldn’t see it. He was outside watering his flowers. He said, “What are you guys doing?” We replied, “Having dinner!” He asked us where we were from. We answered. He then asked us where we were staying. With huge smiles on our face and laughing we said we had no idea but probably the beach with our tent. He laughed too. He said, “Come on and stay with me for the night, we have an extra room, I’m just watching Rugby and relaxing.” He then continued to tell us that his wife was in Australia visiting the grandchildren but if she was here she would absolutely not let us sleep in our tent and would demand for us to stay with them. It felt right, so we agreed.

We walked around to the road side of the house where the entrance was. The house looked to be some kind of old building or garage. We were a little confused. “Yup, come on in!” The man’s voice said. We walked in and we were astonished! What looked to be an old warehouse or building had been remodeled in the coolest and most unique way to be someone’s house. It was amazing and really special!

Road View From The Outside Of The House
Inside The Home

As soon as we got inside with our huge backpacks the man told us to put them down anywhere and he gave us a tour of his home. He showed us our room that we would be staying in and let us know where we could shower and where we could do laundry. He then took us to his pantry and fridge and let us know that we could eat anything we wished for breakfast in the morning because he would be gone early. He explained to us that he was the grill master at the local kite festival the next day so he had to leave quite early in the morning. Misha and I looked at each other and smiled and I knew what we were both thinking, it was something like “How cool is this!?” Haha

To make a long story short here, the man’s name ended up being Barry, nickname “Bazz”. He had bought the old town bakery and remodeled it with his wife over the years. It was so cool. Bazz was one of the coolest guys ever. We sat that evening and and watched some NZ Rugby in the movie room area. We talked about his travels around the world and through the United States back in the day. We talked about life, family, happiness, sports, and so much more. He told us that his favorite area of New Zealand was down in the South Island around the town of Lake Tekapo and how his daughter got married there. Lake Tekapo is a special place to Misha and I as well. It’s where we met and lived and worked for 4 months last winter. We laughed a lot that night with Bazz. He’s a genuine guy and a real character. He has such a kind heart also.

Bazz’s Movie Room

The next morning Bazz left real early to get to the Kite Festival. He told us to stay as long as we’d like, eat as much as we wanted, and wash as many clothes as needed but just remember to lock the door behind us before we left. Now that’s Love; leaving your home to a couple of hitchhikers that you just met the night before. Wow. This world is awesome.

The Legendary Man, Bazz, Himself

Before we left, I left Bazz with my most prized possession in my backpack. Not like I have many though, I mean my toothbrush is number two on my most prized possessions list. Anyways, I left Bazz with my Lake Tekapo Tahr’s Ice Hockey Jersey. It was given to me by the community of Lake Tekapo as a way to say thank you to me for volunteering my time over last winter as the head coach of the Lake Tekapo Community Ice Hockey League. I really Loved it. I had been carrying it around in my backpack since we left but I was making no use of it. And no disrespect to the ice hockey community of Lake Tekapo but with Tekapo being Bazz’s favorite area of New Zealand, and me not showcasing the jersey, it was a no brainer to leave it in the hands of someone who would honor it. Probably even hang it up in the beautiful old bakery. It was the least I could do for what he had done for us.

The Final Time With The Jersey On In A Corner Of Bazz’s Place
THANK YOU BAZZ!

I’m so grateful for this hitchhiking journey because we get to meet people like Bazz everywhere. Everywhere we go, people go out of their way to make sure Misha and I are happy, healthy, and safe. It’s quite amazing actually, the kindness of New Zealanders. It makes you feel like you’re at home, the way they welcome you with open arms. It’s such a warm feeling. It’s similar to the warmth you feel from the unconditional love from your mother. I feel so fortunate to experience amazing humans everyday. Thank You All for reading. I really hope I made it enjoyable for you.

One Love, Mitchy Wilder

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