France and Belgium

Relieved to have made it accross the channel and heading to warmer, more “hitchhike friendly” countries we waved goodbye to Dave. Two options in looking for our next ride – we stay at the station and wait for the next train full of cars off the tunnel or we follow Dave’s instructions to the highway where the trucks will be coming from the much more regular fraight trains and heading either north to Belgium or, in our planned direction, the South of France. Though we would be happy to lay our backpacks down and rest in the sun, our eagerness to cover more ground and continue south got us walking. The enthusiasm did not last… after walking backward and forward for around 1 hour we realised that getting to the place where the trucks were was neither easy nor safe. Sitting on a closed lane on a bridge, wondering why no cars had come off the euro tunnel since we had arrived (were they cancelled for the day?) looking around us at miles of highways and regretting our decision not to take Dave’s ride north into Belgium, we suddenly saw a car off in the distance coming from the direction of the tunnel. Unfortunately, where we stood there was no place for cars to stop. So we ran, heavy backpacks dragging us down, back to the service station only to catch the last few cars driving past us averting eye contact from the two crazy girls puffing and sweating, trying desperately to smile.

Are we really this bad at hitchhiking? We plan to spend 2 years hitchhiking round the globe and now we are stuck in Calais on day 2!

As our shadows get longer we eventually are succumbing to the cold and ever increasing darkness which was quickly surrounding us. Sleeping bags on the concrete round the back of the service station is our new plan. An English truck driver who was parking up for the night gave us water and wished us good luck, kind words which lifted our spirits a little.

Finally as the last of the days light was disappearing, another stream of cars came speeding toward us. Jumping up “smiles on, hat off!” I scream at Tanya. A car pulls up beyond the opening and a young guy asks where we are going (we have long since given up on our sign for “le sud”) “anywhere that isn’t here please…” he looks at us with equal parts confusion and amusement and tells us he will be driving to Brussels and we are welcome to come as far as we want. Two hours later, after some great chat and a French lesson on the way (causing much hallarity!) we are in his flat, cold beer in hand, eating pasta (cooked by his Italian housemate) and homemade waffles with 7 of his housemates, oh and we have a bed for the night and a lift to the highway in the morning. Could things have worked out any better?

For me this is the joys of hitchhiking – had we got a lift to the south we might have been delighted, but we didn’t – and that evening and everything that comes after is all because many people did not stop and Guilliam did.

The days that followed had ups and downs. We spent the next two nights sleeping rough, once on a park bench and once in a car park outside a closed campsite (after a sweaty 1.5km walk in the dark).

It feels good to be in a real campsite, tent pitched, showers and toilets at our disposal so we decide to stay for two nights. Our first night we meet some fellow hitchhikers from Germany. They share their meal with us and as the sun comes down (and the mosquitos out!) we laugh together, trading stories of travel and hitching experiences. After hitchhiking down to the beach and back the following day we treat ourself to some cheese, cured ham and a bottle of local wine. The break has been wonderful, though after two nights here we are ready to get back on the road and see what tomorrow brings.

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