DEALING WITH THE FRENCH:
Our two day stint in France involved arguments with police (contrary to advice we’d been given, turns out it’s illegal to hitch hike in France!)
Transvestite encounters, despair at derelict roundabouts, your average French and Lithuanian hitch hikers lending their advice and lots of kerbside dancing in cardboard boxes.
When we’d almost lost hope (and cardboard) a nice, stoned, French gentleman named ‘Sophia’ appeared from nowhere and offered us a lift. He spoke no English and proceeded to drive at 180 kmph down the motorway as soon as we got in.
He dropped us off at a pristine service station, with hot showers, and delightful security guards who gave us free food ‘because we were mad English, for trying to get to Africa in other people’s cars’. We also stocked up on a fine selection of cardboard – all this generosity, we began to wonder if we were hallucinating!
Our morale wasn’t really dented until we arrived, and resided, in a petrol station on the outskirts of Bordeaux for 17 hours! We soon discovered that no large trucks (or even vans for that matter) are allowed to drive the French motorways on a Sunday. However, we did eventually scavenge a lift to San Sebastian in Spain in a camper van with 3 other hitch hikers. This took much negotiating, but did result in a comfy ride.
In Spain we encountered rain, rain, rain…more rain, oh and some snow!
Tramps took pity on us, giving us stickers (ironically) with little smiley faces on them. Having been stranded (and soaked) in Bilbao for the whole day, eventually we scored a lift from a Basque local who insisted we stayed at hers for the night as it was safer than wandering the streets when Basque separatist protests were sparking up! She found it hard to understand I was from Kingston in London and not Jamaica, and insisted we played guitar with her Moroccan boyfriend and sang karaoke with her. After a short but restful sleep it was back to lift-hunting.
We finally me our way further south by way of truckers with out-of-date sat-navs leading us to dead ends in Madrid, eventually landing in Seville. Disheveled and weak from sleep-deprivation, we falsely believed that creating a ‘bed’ fashioned from the most uncomfortable plastic McDonald’s chairs was the best way to spend the night, we soon realised the floor was in fact a much comfier option!
Next morning our thumbs were at the ready and soon we encountered yet more police. However, Spanish police were just amused at the ridiculous challenge we had taken on and left us to it. Eventually a nice English trucker picked us up and proceeded to tell us his whole life story and how he wanted to quit his trucker job and start an olive farm in Southern Spain.
Our final hitch of the journey came in the form of a religious American who insisted he was ‘Our Savior come to rescue us from the troubled road and our lost ways, and did we want to come round for tea?’ We explained that we weren’t lost and were in fact catching the ferry from Tarifa that would take us to Morocco, and we would probably have tea there, but thanks anyway.