Friday, October 24, 2014

Alive and kicking (part 1): Leaving Granada - BXL

That’s right, I’m alive. My life has been intense since the last crap I wrote. Met some wonderful new people that I wanted to take with me. I met someone very special the last weekend I was in Granada. I am indeed the King of Bad Timing. I spent more time in my second home (or first?), oh yeah, that place is Hamelin. That pub became a very special place for me. The barmen became my friends, I did some crazy shit there. I slept at the bar more time than I would like to accept. I would be in a position to deny that but unfortunately there are a few photos of me sleeping. Since I started traveling I don’t listen to radio and I don’t what to look for on youtube, I mean new music. My music library has grown very, very slowly. But despite that fact along the years I managed to came to know some really great bands. I’m not sure if I knew them before but in Granada I became a fan of The Black Keys; and I specially like one song: Lonely Boy. I’m not sure who was it that changed the name of the song to Lonely Ron but I liked it. From then on I sang that song, let’s say a lot.  I even managed to get a shot named after me… yup, you guessed it right, the name of MY  shot is Lonely Ron. The last beer I had there, the Sunday before I left was very, very emotional.
 (photos courtesy of Syrmo Kyrstopoulo)

photo by Cristina
I needed to be in Paris fast and given the fact that hitchhiking in Spain is utterly unpredictable, I decided not to hitchhike whilst still in the country. I found myself in Bilbao 12 hours after leaving Granada. I had been there before, 4 years prior. In Bilbao I met with my friend Cristina. She spent 5 years in Australia. I haven’t seen her in the same amount of time. We talked about of love stories, about traveling, about traveling and love stories. We had a lot to catch up… a lot! Although, 3 days was not enough to get up to date for the last 5 years, but we have an idea of what we did in that time. Sometimes some people tell me “life has taken us different ways, you are traveling the world. Distance tends to drive people off". Not in this case, I felt like the last time I saw Cristina was a month ago (a 5 year 30 days ago, if that makes any sense. It does in my head).

The route that lorry drivers take from Portugal/Spain to Northern Europe “goes through” San Sebastián. So there I was, at 6 in the morning looking for a way out. I decided to share a ride to the first petrol station on French soil. The driver didn't charge me... it ended being sort of hitchhiking. Once there, 5 minutes later I was inside a Portuguese lorry on my way to Bordeaux. I think that Granada turned me uglier. I spent 7 hours stuck in that damn petrol station! Nothing was working. I was asking people near the pumps. No one was going to Paris. In December I was on the other side of the road, going to Madrid and I found an straight ride after less than 30 minutes (we had breakfast in those 30 minutes of waiting). Why on this side was different? Dafuq should I know! I just knew that no one was picking me up. I was desperate. I was anxious. I was hungry. I only had one apple, one peach and one pear in my stomach. Finally, by 17:00, a Belgian car drove me to Paris… super fast! I was very scared but I didn’t care, I was finally going to Paris, for the third time.

Paris, the City of Light. Twice before I had been there and twice before was nothing special. In fact, I’m not a big fan of Paris but I was supposed to meet someone there, someone that never came. Therefore, third time was not the charm.  I met some nice people there so it was alright. I met with my good friend Lempi and everything was alright.

Leaving Paris is always a major pain in the ass; this time was not the exception. The distance between Paris and Lille is not that much so I decided not to start as early as I normally would. After four hours of sharing the spot with four other people, I finally left and was having a beer with my friend Chloé by 17:00. The first thing I noticed when I saw the beers on the table was, where the fuck is the food? Oh yeah, I was not in Spain anymore. Summer of 2013 I met a nice Moroccan in Tallinn. A year later I was meeting Abde in Lille for a coffee.

I was standing in the entrance of the motorway. A place I had been standing twice before. The first time I was there I was going back to Belgium and I found a ride straight to BXL. The second time I was going South, I was going to Saint-Loubès and found a ride to the first petrol station on the motorway. Both times it took like maybe an hour or two. Both times I was with a girl. This time though, I was alone. This time it took me I think more than four hours. Not one single car even stopped to ask me where I was going. I didn’t remember that hitchhiking in France was that hard. I saw a lorry with Belgian number plates and immediately showed him the “BXL” sign I had been using. Suddenly, the unexpected happened: the driver agreed to take me! After introducing myself and talking for a bit he told me that he was not going to BXL but to Antwerpen through Gent… Fuck it, I was on my way to Belgium, I didn’t care. As long as Belgium was still as easy to hitch as it has been in the past, I could be anywhere and still make it before dinnertime to my destination. He offered me to take me to Antwerpen (it would’ve been as easy to go there and hitchhike down to BXL but why bother to add an extra 100ish Km) but I asked to be dropped off before Gent, right before the crossroads on the motorway leading to BXL. 10 minutes went by and I was offered a cigar whilst being driven the petrol station on the motorway. There I asked a few drivers but they were going not quite to Brussel (by the way, for those of you who do not know: BXL = Brussel = Brussels). Finding a ride in 10 minutes is super cool, especially after being stuck for 4 hours in the same place. Belgium is the country where I had the most rides in luxury cars. I saw a fancy MercedesBenz S-Class, the driver looked (and was) a businessman. He changed his name to Dries when he converted to Islam, over 20 years ago. He used to hitchhike and told me that Spain was once easy to hitchhike and that Guardia Civil had always been assholes. Oh yeah, he told me this while driving me to BXL.

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