Day 9-10, Tapia – As Catedrais – Ézaro

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Day 9, Tapia – Ribadeo / As Catedrais; 21 km, 1 car

I didn’t hurry to get up and decided to walk to Ribadeo. The way was part of the “Camino de Santiago”, so I can say that I pilgrimaged the Camino – for 15 kilometres. But before, I entered a pilgrim hostel to take a shower that was like a reborn after a couple of days without.

Unfortunately when I arrived in Ribadeo, I found out that the As Catedrais, which are some coast formation recommended by Susanna from Andorra, are some more 6 kilometres away. I was too lazy to walk for another at least 1.5 hours. In addition with an about 24kg heavy backpack it wasn’t an amusing journey. I was often asked if it’s not too heavy. In fact I went part of the Camino, but not on foot, but with hitchhiking.

So I hitched a ride near the As Caterais, charged my mobile phone and camera batteries at a restaurant. After 4 days without electricity both were nearly dying and especially the camera batteries were essential for me.

I pitched my tent at an empty parking lot. The formation As Catedrais was only accessible during low tide –so two times a day. When I arrived it was the next day at about noon and that night at 11.50 pm. So I spent some time reading at started to go at 11 pm.

It was just breathtaking and magical. There were about 15 people walking along the cliffs and the cloudy sky revealed a nearly full moon after some 30 minutes.

Day 10, As Catedrais – Ézaro; ~250km, 6 cars, 7h travelling

At night it had rained which affected me for the first time this journey and only second time during my journeys from 2011 on. Because I wanted to visit the Catedrais during daylight again, I had no rush getting up. But others had: At 10 am. I got out of my tent to see the parking lot completely full. Completely? No, a little German hitchhiker blocked space for one car. But he couldn’t resist the numerous cars which drivers became very nervous when they finally saw the opportunity of a parking area.

This time, the area was full of people so I soon started to get further. I waited nearly an hour and was about to take a break, when a car with four Italian ladies stopped. I squeezed myself in the back row and the backpack on our legs. They told me, they especially had turned at the next exit to pick me up.

Shortly before A Coruña I got out, but was a bit lost there. I walked around for an hour till I figured out a possible route to my destination. With the help of a nice Galician guy I got to the right way to – at that time Muxia. Via the highway I got on the local roads of the Costa del Morte region.

At Arteixo I was taken by a guy who built windows. His excuse of not knowing English was by far the best that I had heard since. Mostly people said, it was because of the bad teachers. He instead said it was because his teacher was so pretty he could only look at her and couldn’t concentrate on what she was talking – for six years of school… He recommended going to Ézaro instead of Muxia if I wanted to do some hiking. So I just changed my destination.

From the gas station where he left me, I caught a ride some 10 kilometres further. It was some village and nearly midnight and again 10 minutes were left to the deadline, when I wanted to find a sleeping spot, when a family stopped and took me all the way to Ézaro. The son told me of a music festival from Thursday to Sunday in Cée that was nearby.

They left me at a beach where according to them I could pitch my tent without any trouble and it was true.

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Day 9

Day 10

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Day 8 (Monday), Zaragoza – Tapia

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Day 8, Zaragoza – Tapia; ~670km, 3 cars, a couple of hours waiting time

T08 Zaragoza-TapiaI got up early. I wanted to continue. So I said good-bye to the two girls who wanted to take it easy and the first people I talked to at the service area were eager to give me a 470kilometres lift, which was awesome. It was a Spanish couple and the husband wanted his wife to speak English that she was learning at evening school. So it was a win-win for Carlos, Anna and me.

They were heading to Llanes in Asturia so we passed the rainy Basque region. To be honest like the people who never heard of Andorra, I would never have imagined that Spain can have some kind of rainforest of Eucalyptus trees. But the clime covers the northern countryside in green. The beaches are wide and empty, which may be reasoned in the stormy Atlantic Ocean. Nonetheless I liked that part immediately; not only because I had escaped the heat for some days.

At the last gas station before the crossroads of the highway to Gijón (my direction) and Oviedo (south) I spoke to a Pakistani, if he was going to San Sebastian. So after only minutes of waiting I got a ride again. The problem was, he was driving in the wrong direction. I mixed up Santiago and San Sebastian in my head. That’s why he of course was going to the right direction, but in the same time I was driven back to where I just came from…. Luckily after some kilometres was a small service area where I ran over the highway to the other, the right side.

There the time passed, cars came and went away without me. At 10pm an employee gave me a free tea and pitied me. But shortly before midnight, Ainoa, a girl from Basque region, took me to Taipa where she was working and which was only 10 kilometres from Ribadeo, where I intended to go. Unfortunately she refused to speak English, so it was quite a quite drive.

Having arrived in Tapia at about 2 in the morning, I walked along the cliffy coast until on top of one I pitched my tent and fall asleep to the sound of breaking waves.

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Day 23-24, Faro – Tarifa – Gibraltar

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Day 23, Faro – San Luis de Sabinillas (near Marbella); ~500km, 4 cars, much time waiting

T23 Faro-MarbellaIn the morning I joined A. and A for breakfast and left together with them.

It took forever since I got the first lift. It was to a supermarket incredible 2km further away. At least I could buy some fruits and port wine for home there. With two other cars and after endless dozen of minutes I found myself on a service area where after some time English guys stopped. One was going near Malaga and I decided to go with him. First I intended to go south at Sevilla and via Cadiz to Gibraltar and Tarifa, but now I would approach the two destinations from the east. The English man was living in Spain for 16 years and delivered beer. At the service area where I got out a young guy on his way to work near Estepona gave me a lift. He worked at security at a restaurant and was upset of Russian tourist who in his opinion are mannerless.

After he dropped me off I tried for maybe an hour to get further and thought about sleeping on a round-about, but it was quite visible that’s why I rather followed the street for maybe 3km and found a more appropriate place for my tent.

Day 24, San Luis – Tarifa – Gibraltar – La Linea; ~120 km, 5 cars

T24 Gibraltar TarifaIn the morning I continued to walk to the next gas station where a couple drove me to another gas station before Algeciras, where I ate breakfast.

Algeciras is one of the main ports of ferries to Morocco. That’s why cars completely full with passengers and stuff as well with packages as high as the car itself on the roof were driven around.

After about two hours a young couple took me to Tarifa where the most southern point of Europe was supposed to be. When I arrived there was even a sign, welcoming people to that point. The only problem was, it was not the end of the small street. There was some fortress on an island called “Isla de las Palomas”. And on that island was the real “Punta de Tarifa O Marroqui” – the southernmost point. But entry was not allowed because it seemed to be kind of a military area that separated me from the 600m far point.

But a ridiculous Spanish military area is nothing that could hold me back from visiting the last of the whatever-mostern point of Europe. So I took off my shoes, walked to a part of the fortress that didn’t seem occupied by military. I climbed up and left my backpack there and continued to walk or sneaked along the coast. No stuff member bothered me and with GPS switched on I walked to the real southernmost point.

High tide started and I did to Gibraltar. After the passport control – unfortunately I didn’t get a stamp – I wanted to put my passport back in the backpack in the customs area. Suddenly a customs officer said, I should ask for permission. I didn’t know what he meant, laughed and asked if he could repeat what he said. He said I should ask for permission again. I asked if just for putting the passport away and laughed again. He got grumpier and said it wouldn’t be funny. This area was for customs purpose only and I had as an impolite tourist had to ask for permission for whatever doing there. Maybe he thought I’d pull an AK47 out. Anyway I didn’t reply anything but walked away.

It was really funny in Gibraltar. Gingers were all over the place and to hear the British accent while having Spanish weather outside was pretty nice. Also you have to walk over the airport’s runway when entering the city.

I was given two postcards for free, because I only had 10 Gibraltar pounds as note and after having filled them with words, I started to climb the Upper Rock. But it was the wrong one since I wanted to see the airfield from above but I went too south. At least I passed some monkeys who are important for the citizens. Because if they extinct Gibraltar would be part of Spain again.

At least on my way back I had the opportunity to stand at the runway when an Easyjet plane took off. We stood around 100m away from the air plane taking off. Then I walked out of La Line de la Concepción and tried to get to Granada. But at 1am – I didn’t get any further – I was told that the highway was closed due to a bush fire. As I walked to highway entrance I could see the horizon shimmering in a red tone. So I lay down behind a gas station supply building and when I woke up at night, the air smelled heavily smoky and ash was flying from the sky.

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Day 23

Day 24

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Day 6-7, Andorra-Zaragoza

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Day 6, Andorra – Zaragoza; ~300km, 3 cars, many hours of waiting time

T06 Andorra-ZaragozaThe next day I walked back to the main road going through Andorra. Two French-Algerians picked me up and brought me to the capital of Andorra Andorra La Vella (Andorra, the old town).

They asked, if the logo of BMW is showing the beard of Hitler and let me sent a message to “all” Algerian football fans: “One, two, three: ALGÉRIE” and an apology that Germany beat Algeria in the world cup.

In a supermarket I bought some cheese, bread, fruits, vegetables and sweets. But I could as well have bought a 5kg bucket of Nutella or a package of like 200 cigarettes (I’m not a smoker, so if that number doesn’t seem that extremely high then please take it times 7,59).

A French couple then took me to a toll station near Lleida – yes I haven’t learnt from my French mistake. But in fact there was no other opportunity to stop. So after I waited for some time and ate raspberries growing on a tree, I walked to a service area. It was about 5kilometres away, but hasn’t been on the way of the French couple.

At the service area after having spoken to an eye specialist I got a ride near Zaragoza passing the Zero Meridian, which was announced by multiple signs. Before the driver left the highway, I ask him to drop me off at– take a guess – yes, a toll station again. I really haven’t learnt from my mistakes and this time, there was no service area nearby. At least people stopped, but there were all going to Zaragoza and getting out from there, especially at night, would have been quite hard I thought denying all offers. So in the end I just walked away for a kilometre and put my tent next to the highway; typical gipsy style.

Day 7 (Sunday), Zaragoza; forced stop, ~72km, 1 car

I recognized that the place I slept smelled like rabbit pee when I woke up. So I hurried getting back to the toll station. But there already some employees of the highway company were waiting for me, driving me to the national road, because it’s illegal to hitchhike on the highways – at least during the day when these persons work, because the evening nobody seemed to care.

So I found myself in a desert like surrounding, mountains with a huge bull in front of me and the sun slowly shining more intensive – a nice place for a red-head to wait for hours…. But fortunately I was picked up soon by Sergio who just came from Barcelona. Although he didn’t sleep the night and therefore was pretty tired, he drove me to several gas stations and helped me finding someone who would take me further north. But none of us had success.

At the gas station he drove me last I met the two fellow German hitchhikers Teresia and Jessica. They have been on the road in Spain including many cases of sexual harassment by truck drivers for 3 weeks. We decided to try to get further together. But after hours I proposed to go to a service area some 7 kilometres away; which we did under the merciless sun and in 41°C.

Of course we arrived exhausted and didn’t have much motivation to continue trying. Thus we bought some expensive gas station food and drinks from as dinner and went to a playground to pitch our tents and spend the night there. The nearby river Ebro was to dirty and too difficult to access to swim in it.

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Day 6

Day 7

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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 4

Day 5

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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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Day 2

Day 3

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Day 1, Monday, 4.8., Karlsruhe – Liechtenstein – Bellinzona (CH)

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Day 1, Karlsruhe – Bellinzona via Liechtenstein; ~500km, 6 cars, ~7h waiting

T01 KA-Bellinzona_50kmAlright, it’s impossible to start a journey without Haribo. And I forgot to by them the Saturday before I departed. That’s why I didn’t need to hurry but had to wait for the supermarket to open at 8 am.

Fully equipped now, I walked to my hitchhiking spot. But it seemed nobody was going in direction to Stuttgart, which is very strange, because usually most cars are going to Stuttgart.

However after 2,5h I was picked up and brought to the next service area, being 30 kilometres away. There mostly Dutch people with their mobile homes and full cars were interrupting their driving, but after some time I got a lift from a Belgian drummer. He was actually even going to a place in Austria not very far from Liechtenstein, my first destination.

Though the place I chose to be left was quite bad; without access to the highway. Luckily there seemed to be a convention nearby, so many cars were going in the direction to the highway.

So I got a ride to a gas station in Switzerland where I could go with the first guy I asked. I only wanted to cross the border to Liechtenstein to take a photo that I’ve been in this huge and country that is famous for…..whatever then to continue. When he got this, he made a little detour for me.

With some Dutch workers I got to Chur. There it started raining, but still an Alfa stopped. The driver’s first question was not where I was going or if I was a murderer. No instead he asked, whether I had dog shit under my shoes. I was perplexed since I didn’t expect such a first question. But to be honest, it’s quite reasonable.

Though I’m sure every hitchhiker who notices having shit under the shoes would remove it immediately. Still it was a funny drive with this Swiss couple. They left me at a large service area near Bellinzona, but I only tried half-hearted to continue.

Last year I usually was always highly motivated to get further as soon as I arrived somewhere. But with the wisdom and experience of age, I got more relaxed. And I mean I was travelling gipsy style anyway – meaning with a tent, mattress and sleeping bag I needn’t care at all about anything. I could sleep where I wanted, just making sure not to bother anyone to call the police.

A river was nearby the service area and its bank was made of large stones, where I could perfectly lay down in my sleeping bag. It didn’t rain and was warm, so I didn’t pitch up my tent.

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