Saturday, December 21, 2013

all roads lead to Granada, part II: wine country

previously on hitchhiking stories:

It took me the same amount of time to get from Berlin to Utrecht than from Utrecht to Lille and it's a third of the distance... hitchhiking works in mysterious ways. Finally I met Matylda, a friend of a friend of mine. We almost meet last summer for the hitchgathering but she didn't go. Only stayed one night in Lille but it's alright, I was there last year.

The 800 Km between Lille and Bordeaux seemed doable in one day except for one tiny little detail: Paris was in between...

and now...

The night before leaving, me and Matylda were checking google maps for a decent petrol station before Paris. What is next might not say anything to you but it did to us: there were two huge petrol stations on the A1 before Paris, one right after exit 11 and the other one after exit 7. I thought that getting to the closest one will increase my chances of getting a ride across The City of Light

After saying goodbye to all the nice peeps I met the night before, finally meeting and exchanging stories with Matylda, getting a few gigabytes worth of music and sleeping only for a few hours, I was ready to whatever may lay ahead of me. Of course I was hoping for the best. I thought that if by any chance I would get stuck in Paris it was better just to find a place to crash there instead of trying to cross it. It took me almost two hours to cross BXL.

By 8 I was already on my way to the first petrol station on the motorway and after a coffee and a baguette with Speculoos pasta I was on my way to the petrol station closest to Paris! But wait, this is still not a victory. I still had to cross one of the most populous cities in the world. The city that once took me 4 hours just to get to the place to start hitchhiking.

I was smoking a cigarette in front of the shop when a guy asked me, what I'm assuming since he had a cardboard sign, if I was going to Le Mans or Angers. I smiled and said that I also was going there. He kept telling me spells in french until I realized that he thought I was a driver and not a fellow hitchhiker.

So far I found all rides quite fast so standing for more than half hour I started to become anxious. Will I need to go into Paris? not particularly in my wish list for the day. I still had the sign that the couple in Kielce gave me, the one that had written "Kraków" in it. Now it had also written "Le Mans", "Angers" and "Paris". I was goofingly showing all destinations to drivers, didn't work in getting me a ride but at least I made smile more than half of the people I showed it to. Partial success from the making people smile point of view.

My saviour came in the form of a spanish/french speaking portuguese driver, Tomás. There was some kind of prohibition for trucks: they weren't allowed to cross Paris. Instead, they had to go around it, meaning that going on the ring road will add 1,5 hours to the already long 600 km gap. By 19h00 I was about 90 km from Bordeaux. So close yet so far away. Portuguese people "weren't" going in my direction (Bordeaux). Long story short: after a tasty baguette with eggs, ham and cheese with french fries courtesy of corsican driver, a coffee courtesy of a spanish driver and some fun talks with spanish drivers (including an ride offer to Sevilla) I accepted the fact that I was not going anywhere that night. I slept inside the truck, very uncomfortable in the passenger seat but hey it wasn't cold and I had a roof over my head.

Guillaume, a french hitchhiker whom I almost met earlier this year in Tallinn offered me an "emergency couch" if I ever made it to Bordeaux. Well, here I was, very close to it. He lives in a small town north of Bordeaux, a couple of kilometres to where Tomás was actually going! 

Staying with him and his dad and brother was something truly extraordinary. I felt at home all the time.  Guillaume showed me his city. We shared stories. I never got bored staying in Saint Loubès. We are very similar except that I cannot play one single music instrument and he can play 89 instruments. He's a wizard when he's playing the piano. He taught me the super basics on how to play the contrabass. It was harder than I thought.

Bordeaux is a lovely city. Big but nice. The center can be seen in a couple of days. It has some lovely architecture all over, multicultural neighborhoods. It's home to the longest pedestrian street either in France or Europe. Googling that I found that there is another longest pedestrian street in København, so who knows. The longest or not, it's a very nice street full of life. On one end is some sort of immigrant neighborhood, really cool. Full of kebab restaurants. The other end being the posh end of the street, not so cool but still nice.

I didn't want to leave Bordeaux/Saint Loubès without hitching with Guillaume. We tried to hitch to where his mum lives, Arcachon but no one picked us up. I guess the green hair was scary to many people maybe? Near Arcachon is the tallest sand dune in Europe, Done du Pilat. I have to see that, I have never seen a sand dune before. Hitching to Arcachon didn't work but I'm a stubborn bastard so the next day we successfully hitched the 15 km between Saint Loubès and Bordeaux. 15 fucking kilometers and it only took one hour and two rides! Regardless, it was fun!

Bordeaux is a hard place to get out from but Guillaume drove me several kilometers to the first petrol station on the motorway heading south. He said it was big but it was nothing extraordinary. Anyways, it was super helpful to be in that place. Many many truck drivers heading south to Spain... Spain, many people say it's hard to hitch. My first and only time hitchhiking in Spain was alright. I mean, wasn't slower than other places I've hitched but now it's winter. Things are different in winter.

I asked several portuguese drivers, nothing. Finally I found a ride with Vicente. Actually he was walking towards me to ask me where I was going... I was in Madrid before sundown.

Saint Loubès at 6 in the morning 

Guillaume playing the piano

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

all roads lead to Granada, part I: KRK - Lille

What can I wrote about Kraków that I haven't written before, I don't think I can write something new. Or maybe...

...there is something, not travel related but an important thing, for me at least. I was happy to be part of my friend Mateusz's graduation party. He graduated something, I don't know what. Someone asked me "you are some kind of friend" to what I answered: "he's my friend not my girlfriend!"

For some reason that I'm still trying to figure out, earlier this year Justyna and I said that we were going to the zoo my next time in Kraków. Not only did we go but we hitchhiked there! We hiked to one of the mounds in town, there was some kind of race. There are no cars allowed on the hill in which the mound is. The only car allowed that day belonged to the organizer of the race. We hitchhiked the only car allowed on the bloody hill! 

Sadly it was time to leave. Given my past experience hitchhiking on sundays I decided that I was going to take the bus to Łódź where I was supposed to meet the girl I was going to hitchhike west. 

Contrary to my own (hitchhiking) "rule" of asking regardless of what might happen, I didn't ask the driver of a car with DW (Wrocław) license plates because I thought that the car was not going in my direction... the guy asked where I was going and not only did he take me but drove me all the way close to Berlin!

One night in Berlin is never enough and I couldn't catch up with a lot of people but it was nice to be back to the place it was my home at the end of 2011. Arthur, you are a great host as always, until next time!

The same goes for Utrecht, I can't really write anything else, except that it was a great stay with Edy and Marinda. I realized this time that Utrecht is one of those places I will always go back over and over and over and over.

It took me the same amount of time to get from Berlin to Utrecht than Utrecht to Lille and it's a third of the distance... hitchhiking works in mysterious ways. Finally I met Matylda, a friend of a friend of mine. We almost meet last summer for the hitchgathering but she didn't go. Only stayed one night in Lille but it's alright, I was there last year.

The 800 Km between Lille and Bordeaux seemed doable in one day except for one tiny little detail: Paris was in between...

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

of wet snow, borders, porsches and other stuff

I said that I was going to try not to describe my travels but I think this time is worth it given the fact that it was close to hell to get from Kaunas to Warszawa.

The last time I hitchhiked with a guy was terribly slow, this time was no different. Although started quite good when we got a ride to Marijampolė. After that it was when hell started...

The first ride came after less than 30 minutes of waiting and off I was direction PL. This girl dropped me off before the turn off to the city. Bad place. After unsuccessfully trying I decided that I needed to move past the entrance. I just changed spot but the situation was the same. No one would pick me up. It was very cold. There was a petrol station nearby in which I had a coffee and after a short warm up break I went to the road again. It was getting darker and colder. I was beginning to scout for places to sleep. One option was going into Marijampole and send an emergency CS request the other staying at the petrol station because the lady employees were really nice. I was leaning towards the latter one which involved not going far from the road.

After I almost had lost hope of getting out of that God forsaking place a bulgarian truck driver stopped. I just got in. First, he said that he was going to take me to Suwałki but somehow changed his mind and dropped me off not even at the rest stop before the border. I got off the truck a few kilometers before! What the hell!? well, at least now I was only a few km from PL.

I got to the rest stop just as it was beginning to get dark. I was outside the entrance when this weird shit started to fall from the sky. In the air it was snow but when it hit the ground, or my jacket, it was water. I knew I've seen this weird shit before but I didn't remember how annoying it was and certainly I didn't remember it even had a name. One thing for sure: I dislike that wet snow.

One hour went by. Lots of truck drivers going in and out of the restaurant. Another hour went by. Lots of truck drivers going in and out of the restaurant. The only thing I had in my stomach was a bowl of chocolate cereal that Kristina gave me, an apple and a coffee.

Finally, after 5 hours of freezing my ass, of asking 735 drivers if they were going to Poland, I decided to crash inside the restaurant. I chose a table in the corner, the only one with a power outlet underneath to charge my phone. I ordered a tea and stayed there until the next morning. The employees were really nice not kicking me out. I even slept, very uncomfortably but at least it was not cold and wet.

Brand new day, brand new attitude. I immediately started asking everyone that was going or coming from a truck. Dafuq is wrong with these people? Why aren't they going to Poland!? 90% of the drivers where heading back to LT whilst the rest were not going to take me.

I decided to walk to the polish side. I crossed the lithuanian former border structure and right after it  I saw a polish truck parked and asked the driver if he could take us, he said no.  Walked a bit more and decided to go back to the LT side when two lithuanian policemen checking the driver / truck's papers. They checked my passport, saw that everything was alright and gave it back, then they left to annoy more people in another spot in the border.

30 minutes later I was on my way to Suwałki. Another half hour and a truck driver gave me a ride to Augustów. I wanted to ask him if he could use the CV radio to ask if someone else was going in my direction but suddenly I was in Augustów. There I found a ride to Białystok. I was praying not to get dropped at the beginning of the city. Once I had to walk across town to get to a good spot direction WAW. The other time at least I hitchhiked to the other end going back to Tallinn. This guy dropped me off at the other end of town, the perfect spot to reach Warszawa... I still have hope in the world :-) There I was confident that we were going to find a ride fast, who knows, even a straight ride!

After some 15 minutes I hear someone yelling at me, two guys that drove by and came back.  They were going to Ostrołęka. They gestured that this place was in a straight line to WAW. It was, through Łomża... I've never  taken this road before but it was too late anyway.

In Ostrołęka I was stuck for a while. I was already thinking about what to do if I don't manage to leave. Tea in Macdonald's and I had renewed energy and went to the spot again. 15 minutes later and I was on my way to the center of Warszawa.

Like when I went to the gathering, I only spent one night in WAW and off I was to Kraków. It took me several rides to get there but all of them were well worth it. All of the drivers were really nice. Never waited for more than 15 minutes. One of the rides left me on the side of the road before Kielce. Some road construction workers gave me a lift to Kielce but were super nice and drove me to the road leading to KRK. I was freezing. Had a coffee in some restaurant and after having a google translated conversation with the owners, the husband drove me to a petrol station... on the main road! I was about to put my stuff on the ground when a car stopped. A while later I was only 70ish km from Krakók. I was walking and thumbing at the same time when a Porsche Panamera GTS stopped. I couldn't believe it... and the driver was a girl! I have the photos to prove it. And she spoke a bit of spanish!

By the way, if anyone knows how to make an alias of a hidden folder or how to show hidden folders on mac, please help me. After I inserted the memory card in my friend's windows pc, all the photo folders are hidden. Immediately I looked for them in my mac but didn't work. The folders are in memory card limbo. The photos are there, somewhere hidden inside the memory card but unaccessible. Please help!

Wojtek, he drove me to Kaunas
old town in Kaunas


Marta and her Porsche Panamera GTS

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


One of the biggest mistakes I can make is to underestimate the distance between two places. I mean, Riga is not very far away from Tallinn, roughly 300 km. I was super sure that I was going to make it quite easy. I didn't. Well, kind of.

It was super hard to leave Tallinn behind. I wanted to leave at 7 so I could be at the (HHing) spot around 8. Nope! I started having breakfast around 8. I had all my shit packed and ready. I just didn't want to leave. Had one last cigarette with Liisa. I promise, I will improve my rolling skills so next time I will roll them in no time!

The hardest part about traveling is when you have to say "see you later" to the people you care about. Hard and I hate it! Why can't I take them with me? Why can't they just come with me? Sorry for the sudden burst of selfishness, it's maybe because I still haven't had my morning dose of caffeine.

Finally had the courage to leave. Manuel walked me to the bus stop. By the way, there were no controls, I was nervous the entire time! I was very anxious. A few times I've tried to hitch out of Tallinn but only once I was picked up. I had the help of hot blonde that time. This time is was the green haired, pierced and skinny me. A bit more than an hour later I was standing just before the turn off to Haapsalu. Finally! I succeeded, I managed to hitch out of Tallinn on my own! I was only 30 km away though. 

Another couple of hours and I was in Pärnu living my worst nightmare: getting dropped at the entrance of the city. About three hours later it was getting dark and I was already looking for a plan B in case I had to stay the night there. Thought about going back to Tallinn but doing that would mean only one thing: not leaving again. As tempting as it was I needed to keep going. The walk across town took two me hours. Half an hour later, Wojtek, a weed smoking polish truck driver was offering to take to 30 km past Białystok. Maybe he was just talkative, very talkative or maybe he was very high. Most likely the latter one. He had a gazillion stories to tell. He was in the middle of the storie when suddenly he stopped talking. "Wait, what was I telling you?". Are you fucking kidding me? You were telling me something 30 seconds ago and you already forgotten about it? he was funny as fuck though. At the beginning it was funny but then he kept smoking and we got to a point that it was not funny anymore, in fact it was scary.

Six hours later, a bit of salad and goulash I was in Kaunas.

I was more than sure that I was not going to make it to Kaunas in one day. I was even starting to doubt that I was going to make it Riga! Contrary to my own "rule" about starting early, this time I started late. I was still at less than halfway by the time I could had be in my destination if I had started earlier. But then in a turn of events, when everything seemed lost, when I almost had lost the hope of even leaving Pärnu, when I was thinking of logging into CS as ask for an emergency couch, everything changed. Not only I found a ride but that ride would take me to Kaunas, almost 600 km south.

To round up things, I'm staying in Kaunas with a wonderful host. In a few days I will hitchhike to Poland. I will not do it alone. I'm hitchhiking with a guy from Vilnius. Let's see how it goes.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

(un)comfor(table) zone

Disclaimer: There is no right or wrong way to travel. People travel the way they please. I respect that. Please respect my own way.

When I was still living back home I used to frequent fancy pubs. Didn't mind a lot of spending lots of money in partying, gadgets, nice car. Went out practically every weekend. Then one day in 2008 someone introduced to Couchsurfing and it was then when all began to change.

During the year I hosted, traveled and hung out with CSers I met all kinds of travelers: week long holiday travelers. Foreigners wanting to learn spanish therefore staying for a few months immersing into the culture. Long term travelers staying in hostels and couchsurfing. These ones where the ones that really intrigued me.

They were traveling for months straight or even years. The key word they mentioned was "low budget". Many people in Guatemala save a lot (or use their credit cards a lot!) to travel. Then they go back to work more and start saving again, or to pay the debts they got into.

It took me a few years to finally leave my comfort zone. When I started to travel I stayed in hostels, not many but still. Well, only in Central America. In the States and Europe I have never paid one single night of accommodation. In the States I didn't hitchhike. I took trains, car shared and even flew twice.

Summer 2010. I met Jass in København and he told me about this wonderful place in Amsterdam: Casa Robino. There, I met more wonderful people and that told me about this thing called the hitchgathering. In the couple of pre-gatherings that I attended I met more wonderful people. One person in particular caught my attention: Tomi. When I met him he had been traveling moneyless for a few months. If he can, why shouldn't I give it a shot? I still suck at traveling moneyless but that was a turning point in my life when I decided that at least I was going to travel spending as little as possible. I quite good at it, except when it comes to booze and girlfriends.

I stayed for year in Estonia. I got quite comfortable here. Not that is anything wrong with it but it's just that I liked me more when money was the least of my concerns. My friend wrote that the comfort zone is inside your hear, like my happy place. In my case is not exactly like that. It's so easy to eat Macdonald's or go to Rimi to buy a frozen pizza... or two. A couple of days ago I cooked something for the first time in a few weeks. Cereal, sandwiches and pancakes from Knight House don't count.

I don't even know what I'm writing. I had my last shift last night. My last shift at Alur Hostel. my home for almost a year. I'm very sad. Timing sucks. Timing is shit.

I'm leaving Estonia in less than 24 hours. I think, I  hope that this small roadtrip to Portugal will help me  leave my comfort zone again.

Not sure how often I will post after I leave. For sure I will not write about the road itself but about life on the road. I will try not to describe the trip.

I have a long, cold road ahead of me. But people will make it warm. Eeer, that came out wrong, anyway, you get my point. I was hoping to start hitchhiking without snow but the first snow came yesterday.

There are no "goddbyes" but "see you laters"