Sunday, July 23, 2006

Hitchhikers guide

Roy Saffery reckons he's about three times as old as the average hitch-hiker. The Wellington man, 83, took up hitching 28 years ago and averages three rides a day. "It's been amazing. I estimate I've had about 25,000 lifts."

He boasts a record that few could claim: "I've never once been late."

The former bookseller catches a ride most days from Ngaio into the city for a concert, exhibition or other activity. "Sometimes I get the very first car that comes along. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes."

Hitch-hiking is a choice. He has a car and licence, but will drive only for someone else. He has regulars who give him rides. "I meet a lot of nice people. I've made some permanent friends. A lot of people like to have some company."

His favourite hitch-hiking story involves an appointment for minor surgery at Porirua's Kenepuru Hospital. His wife wanted to drive him but he insisted on hitching. After a short wait, a car pulled up. The driver was a Kenepuru Hospital worker. "I got there half an hour early."

A week later, he had to return to the hospital. "Who stops for me but an ambulance, and where's it going? Kenepuru Hospital."
Though hitch-hiking can be risky, he insists he has never been scared. "I don't let fear into my life."

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