Day 31-33, Granada (ES) – Breda (NL) – Insane 2300km hitchhiking

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Day 31-33, Insanity: Granada – Breda I; 2320km, 13 cars, 53h

T31_1 Granada-BredaLet the fun begin. Get up at 7am, starting hitchhiking at 9.30am. I waited maybe 90minutes till I found a truck driver who took me about 100km to Braza. There I found a Moroccan, who was going to Strasbourg and was already happy. BUT I forgot that the Moroccans have every possible space covered, so of course all three passenger seats were already reserved…quel dommage.

But soon I found two Spanish guys who took me another 240km to a service area near Elx (Elche). At this service area I thought to won the jackpot. There was a truck with a Dutch number plat. I had to convince the driver, Jeffrey, to lie down the fear of taking hitchhikers – or at least me as a hitchhiker. He was going directly to Breda. How lucky can you get? But my luck didn’t last long. It disappeared the sooner we came to Valencia. Jeffrey had to load his truck. At first the spot was Barcelona, which was not a problem at all. Then Valencia, and staying overnight there, which was bad. Then Barcelona again, yeah. But then it finally changed to Zaragoza and one day stop there. How I hate that place. Of course I couldn’t join Jeffrey now, because I had to be in Breda on day 33. But my unlucky “streak” continued.

At the gas station where I got out I asked a driver, if he was going to a specific place, I showed him on the map. He agreed. Fine. But I had to realize, that he was going somewhere totally different and when I realized, I was already nearly in Valencia at a gas station where nobody would stop to continue north to Barcelona. Though the stuff said, there has never been a hitchhiker at their place, who had to stay overnight. And just when I wanted to cross the highway to hitchhike back, they found someone who was going to a better spot.

T31_2 Granada-BredaIn my opinion that gas station was not a better spot. I checked the internet for hitchhiking spots and found Sargunt, north of Valencia, a train was going there. The first driver I asked, it was a sweet girl who has never taken a hitchhiker before, drove me to the station. I had to run, because the train (only 3,25EUR) was leaving 5 minutes after we arrived. From Sargunt train station I had to walk another maybe 80 minutes until I arrived at the service area. It was already about 11pm. There I found a Romanian truck driver who went to Barcelona and agreed to take me the 325km. Finally I got some luck. He was on the phone all the time, so I hardly found some sleep.

At 4.30am we arrived there. The service area was sleepy. No cars or trucks were going at this time. So I ate some bread with Nutella and at maybe 6.30am I found an old German couple who, against my prediction, hadn’t have a problem to take me. They were going to Germany via Lyon so the way I wanted to go. There was the hitchhiking luck again! 600km and the man didn’t drive slowly. They played a big part in arriving in time in Breda, thanks for that!

But to be honest the next stages that followed I lost the time I had “saved”. We arrived at an aire before Lyon at noon. Not until six hours later, at 6pm, I could continue. The reason was pure laziness. I just couldn’t run around asking people like in Malaga on my way to Granada. However at 6pm a guy going to Paris took me 150km further near Dijon. After one hour of searching a Czech truck driver, who was even taking some extra driving time for me, drove me another 150km near Langres. There I spent the night. But not sleeping. Nobody drove in my direction. Well a father with a baby son did, but he (not the son) didn’t have the balls to give me a lift. But ok, a little child is a fair reason….though even young mothers with children had already given me lifts.

Anyway after the second night with no sleep and a Dutch driver who said his boss wouldn’t allow hitchhiker, a Belgian truck driver drove me the last kilometres in France and through Luxembourg near Brussels. There it took me at least two hours to find a ride. Just we I started to talk with a British biker and man whom I asked before came back to me and said I could come with him. He was passing Breda.

So I was finally there….only 5km left to the centre and I was exhausted and lazy so I figuratively thumbed a ride for the last time, which I got after 10min. I arrived at Breda station at 2.30pm.

Summary: I hitchhiked more than 2300km in 53h which is an average speed of 43,4km/h – pretty bad. I barely slept, only for minutes and although I sometime tried with a sign, I always got my rides (besides the last one) after talking to people.

But why did I even want to go to Breda? Well the reason is as simple as this: International Redhair Day. I had heard of it before and a friend of mine has been there in 2012 and convinced me to join him this year. Since my hair colour and the date fits well into my journey schedule I agreed. I would have been really sad, if I had managed hitchhiking there in time.

But everything went…more or less smooth. At 4pm I met my friend who was arriving by train. Then we met our Couchsurfing hosts, ate something and went out. But at midnight, I got really tired after 65 hours of not sleeping – I beat the “record” from 2012, when I travelled from Egorievsk (south of Moscow) to St. Petersburg and continued to Petrozavodsk, by one hour.

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Day 4-5, Perpignan – Andorra

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Day 4, Perpignan – Andorra; ~170km, 4 cars, ~3.5h waiting time

T04 Perpignan-AndorraWith my sign saying “Andorra” I stood for about 3 hours at the exit of the Aire. But before, I had to completely unpack my backpack again. It appears that I didn’t clean it carefully enough the other night. So I had to get rid of the animals that were running all over and inside it….

Anyway some people’s expression looking at my “Andorra” sign gave me the impression of them not knowing where or even what “Andorra” is. Even another hitchhiker coming from Cologne (Germany) didn’t know what Andorra was – how the …? I was really appalled. I mean it’s a (I admit rather small) country inside of Europe, they pay with Euro… I couldn’t understand why someone (I mean mainly European citizens) would not know it – the capitals, ok I can understand. But maybe I’m just a freak and it’s normal not to know Montenegro, Moldova or Andorra.

However I decided to change tactics and made a new sign saying “Perpignan”. From now on, everything went quickly: Basically the first car stopped and brought me to the northern highway exit of Perpignan. I couldn’t even put my backpack on the ground, when the next car stopped and two older Mesdames gave me a lift near Andorra and even a nice small lunch. It was a pleasure to drive with Lucy and Luciette who were really fun.

From the spot they left me I got another ride after 15 minutes 50 kilometres to Andorra. On the way to the border of France and Andorra the car was stopped by the French police. To my and the driver’s surprise the officer answered quite non-standard to my reply, I was heading to Andorra. She said “Ah, c’est moche.” which means like “That’s totally lame.” The driver said since the left wing party is in charge, the police acts more relaxed.

There I was picked up by a Catalan mother and her daughter who drove me via the Spanish exclave Llivia to Andorra. The mother recommended me the “Val d’Inclues” for hiking and let me out at its parking lot. I hauled my backpack for 40 minutes up the valley to the “Cabana de Sicaro” – a simple cabin with two rooms. One with a fireplace and a three storey bed, the other had beds for about 16 people. There was no toilet but running mountain water outside at one side of the house.
There were already a Dutch family in one room and 3 guys from Valencia in the other: Susanna, Luis and Paco. Because they already occupied the fire place room, I put my stuff in the Dutch family’s room, but spent my evening with the Spanish guys and they recommended me to go to the other cabin “Refugio Jucaro”.

With Andorra, I’ve been to all mini-states in Europe: San Marino, Vatican, Liechtenstein, Monaco and Andorra.

Day 5, Andorra

In the late morning I began hiking to Refugio Jucaro and had in mind to climb the peak Jucaro as well. But I couldn’t find the path, though existing on my map, leading to the peak. So I just chose from a couple of peaks which one was the right and started climbing. But since the terrain was really difficult with my hiking shoes and no rope, I resigned. I could have got to the top, but it was just too dangerous – and I honestly would only say it when I mean it… I usually take certain risks. So I climbed down the steep mountain and enjoyed an omelette in the Refugio instead.

Back at Cabana di Sicaro I sat down on a stone reading Harry Potter in the sun and learning some phrases of Spanish. In the evening I took a bath an ice-cold lake nearby just before the rain started. With the following thunder storm the 3 Spanish guys arrived at the cabin.

They brought some wood to light a fire inside their room. The problem was it was that wet we only produced smoke in which the room was soon totally covered in. So we had to decide to get outside, breath fresh air but getting wet or hit by a thunder strike or staying inside dying of smoke poising. In the end, we all stood in the door case watching an amazing thunder storm in the mountains. These are really really stunning beautiful.

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Day 2-3, Bellinzona – Monaco – Perpignan

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Day 2, Bellinzona-Monaco-village near Monaco, 6 cars, 3h waiting time

T02 Bellinzona-MonacoAt 7am the sun rose between the mountain peaks and woke me up. After a typical hitchhiking breakfast I asked for a lift with a sign saying “Genova”. An older couple from Germany, who saw me the evening before, took me all the way, since they were boarding a ferry to Corse.

At Genova I walked a bit to get to a highway entrance. There was already a guy who told me right away what a bad spot this was. He had a big sign with multiple lines. Anyway as he walked on I ignored his “advice” and after some minutes a car stopped next to me and this young Italian couple was going in my direction. Some hundred metres further they picked up the other guy. He turned out to be an Erasmus student, who was super annoying. Apparently, it was his first hitchhiking trip and he couldn’t hold back with his “awesome” experiences he already had. He couldn’t shut up.

At the gas station where they left both of us, he got an earlier ride, because he was continuing to Barcelona, whereas I wanted to make a detour via Monaco. The gas station was not very busy. There was a small car that was completely full. I asked its owner, a young Italian named Pietro, and expected that he would decline my request. I wouldn’t have totally mind because the reason “Sorry, but the car is full.” was true, not – as usually – a stupid excuse. But to my surprise, he still managed to find space for me and even my backpack. He even intended to drive me directly to Monaco, but didn’t have time in the end.

That’s why I had to accept a ride from a rich Russian woman in her Porsche Cayenne. Uhmm was a pitty… I had to go in a Porsche… how unfortunate. She seemed to live the cliché life of a Monacan wife: Together with her husband, who was the rich guy and her two children in a huge house, not working. She said, Monaco is a very nice place to live, but sooo expensive – well who would have known that Monaco is an expensive place to live??? Nevertheless it was funny having gotten a lift by her.

Anyway I continued by foot the border with France again, passing Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, shops like Svarovski, blablabla [insert something really expensive]. The people gazed strangely at me, while I was passing with my outdoor/hitchhiker clothes and the backpack…yeah I didn’t (want to) belong there.

Behind the border I was picked up by a priest who was collecting food to donate for poor and homeless people in Nice. At the gas station inside the city, where he left me, I waited quite a long time till someone stopped. The owner was a hitchhiker himself, but couldn’t increase my hope to get away tonight. However a car stopped, but it turned out only because I had a sign showing the driver’s hometown (Nîmes). He said he could bring me to a toll station (péage). On the way Didier suggested I could sleep and eat in his house. Due to the fact it was already 11pm and dark I accepted his offer. His house was in a small village with a great view to the Mediterranean Sea and Monaco.

Day 3, Village near Monaco – Perpignan; ~470 km, 5 cars, >7h waiting time

T03 Monaco-PerpignanAfter breakfast Didier left me at a toll station (péage) before Nice. This experience should have never made me being left off at these places (toll stations): I had to wait for about 5 hours, because the cars just passed by. When a driver finally stopped at the small parking area where I was standing next to, I hurried to catch him before he drove off. He took me to the next service area (French “aire”) near Cannes. It was not far from the péage, but a way better spot.

A truck driver took me some 100 kilometres further and from there I went with the Dutch-Spanish guy Joris to a service area just before Perpignan. He just came from Nice, where he spent a hard party week in the house of his super rich friend and was now returning to his family living south of Barcelona. We had a nice chat, but from the service area he dropped me, I didn’t get further this night.

To make it worse – actually I didn’t care about the first fact – a melon was kind of squeezed in my backpack and its juice was now over in my backpack. In addition the stupid melon was not even eatable any more…

At 1am I put my sleeping bag on a soft carpet made of dry fir needles and, hoping it wouldn’t start to burn, soon slept, which made some insects happy…..

On French highways there are electronic screens, that, if a car is too fast, show its number plate and a hint that it’s going too fast (“trop vite”).

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