It's still thumbs up for hitching
Judith Brossler is just one of many female tourists thumbing rides on the West Coast since a vicious attack on two hitch-hiking women last Sunday.
"I plan to keep hitching," German tourist Judith Brossler, 29, tells the Sunday Star-Times after she arrived in Fox Glacier hours after an Otaki man, 38, was arrested near the township on Monday for allegedly assaulting and robbing two female hitch-hikers in Franz Josef the day before.
He faces charges over the incident as well as for the murder and sexual violation of Christchurch community support worker Amy Farrall, 24, last Saturday.
The two badly injured hitch-hikers were discovered in Franz Josef at 4pm last Sunday, sparking a huge police manhunt for the driver who had picked them up from Whataroa, a small town further north, that afternoon.
Last Monday, Brossler tramped out to State Highway 6 from the Copland Track, blissfully unaware of the dramatic arrest about 3am that day near where the track emerged. She got a ride with a fellow traveller to Fox Glacier and swiftly learned about the attack.
Regardless, she and another young German traveller, who also liked to hitch-hike, decided to thumb a ride the following day to Lake Matheson, about 5km from Fox Glacier. They discussed the risks, but decided it was extremely unlikely a similar attack would occur in the same spot.
An Australian couple picked them up and took them to the lake, telling them they had not planned to visit it, but pleaded with them to abandon hitch-hiking. "They said, ‘we can take you there because we want to make sure you're safe and don't do the hitch-hiking again'."
The couple also told the young women they would wait for them at the lake and take them back to their hostel at Fox Glacier before continuing on their travels.
"We told them ‘no' and we asked some people at the lake car park for a ride, who agreed to take us back."
That evening, Brossler decided she would hitch-hike the next day, last Wednesday, to Hokitika.
However, she woke in the night worrying about it and changed her mind, taking a bus instead. "In the night, I thought ‘should I really do the hitch-hiking?"'
Since arriving in New Zealand two-and-a-half months ago, she had hitched many times on her own and with fellow female travellers. "I really like it because you get to know the locals and they tell you something about [New Zealand's] lifestyle."
However, she was considering declining rides with single men in the future, but the difficulty was it was mostly men aged between 40 and 60 who offered rides, she said.
On Friday, she went by bus to Greymouth because it was more convenient time-wise to reach the TranzAlpine train to Christchurch.
Many West Coast backpacker hostels confirmed they had female tourists staying this week who hitched and they weren't telling them to stop.
"You don't want to put fear in someone," said one hostel manager, who declined to be named.
She said most travellers had fantastic hitch-hiking stories, such as two Scottish young women who got a ride with a 95-year-old Kumara man last December and later went back there to visit him.
"I think [last Sunday] was an isolated incident."
- Sunday Star Times