Thumbs Up

Key Summit, 2nd time around. 

With one hand gripping the pencil in my pocket, another was in mid-air shaped as a fist with the thumb out. I was hitch-hiking…alone and for the first time.

It was my day off and my workmate had backed out of this day trip to walk the Key Summit Track, a three hour and 3.4 km return route.

I gingerly stood on the side of the Milford Sound Highway (Route 94), with my most colorful piece of clothing on (a purple scarf). Always the one uncomfortable to ask for help, hitch-hiking was the ultimate test. You will get rejected time and time again, you will get gestures of encouragement from drivers who don’t stop, but when someone does stop for you, you are reminded of how kind people are. The people who stop – albeit the ones with bad intentions – do not expect anything in return, just a “thank you” and a friendly exchange.

After 30 minutes, as my patience and confidence was wavering, a couple in their mid-50s stopped for me. They were cattlers from Central Otago who were on their yearly vacation, headed back from a weekend in Milford Sound.

We exchange our backgrounds as Madonna’s hits played on their stereo; they were huge fans.

The Key Summit Track was gorgeous in the misty weather. As I was alone – also, first time hiking by myself – I was focused on the sounds of the birds, rustling of the plants, and the sound of my own footsteps. At times, I would get self-conscious of being alone, but as always, the journey ahead brought my focus to my present surroundings.




When the clouds are lifted, you can see Lake Marian from the Summit. (2nd time around.)

The pros of hitch-hiking in Milford is its touristic nature. Most drivers are visitors and often in a couple or families. Also – there is only one highway with all scenic destinations and tracks easily accessible. The cons is definitely the lack of reception for mobile phones.


  • Before setting off on your hitch-hike, tell someone of your starting point and destination, and if possible update them of your status along the way.
  • Use your intuition and common sense. I would not hitch-hike alone if the place was not a tourist destination. Nor would I accept a ride from someone who looks a lot stronger physically.
  • Make sure you research the route and know the visuals along it.
  • Wear colorful clothing so that drivers can see you.
  • Try to hitch-hike with a partner even if it means a longer process.






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