It’s easy enough to hitchhike into cities, but getting back out without using any public transport can be rather difficult, as we got to experience when we tried to get out of Montpellier city centre.
We stood close to the slip road for the highway we wanted to be on, but no one stopped for us. Almost five hours had passed, most of the time we’d been standing in the scorching midday sun, in almost 35°C. We were feeling rather lightheaded, and had to take turns sitting down, when suddenly a guy across the road called out to us. Sally ran over and tried to explain that we were heading towards Spain, and asked him where he was going. Turns out he wasn’t going in that direction at all, but would gladly drive us all the way to Spain if Sally performed certain sexual favours… I guess we looked pretty defeated, but we weren’t that desperate! So she politely declined, we put on our backpacks, and started walking again, hoping to find a better spot to catch a ride.
After almost an hour walk we tried again, still not in a great spot, but we simply couldn’t walk any further in the blazing heat. This time someone finally stopped for us! Nico and Sara had noticed that we were badly placed and wanted to help us out, so they drove us far out of their way to drop us off at a better hitchhiking spot outside off the city. This kind gesture really lifted our spirits, and from then on the rest of the journey to Spain was a breeze.
Spain is said to be one of the most difficult places to hitchhike in Europe, so we were curious to see how long it would take for someone to pick us up. We were standing outside of a petrol station just south of the Spanish border for a while, when finally a woman driving a truck stopped for us. She’d watched us from the gas station, standing there begging for rides, and took pity in us. We eagerly jumped into her truck, and off we went.
It took us a moment to realise that Olga didn’t speak Spanish (or English or French for that matter), and that she was from Belarus. But even without a common language we somehow managed to have an ongoing conversation, us in English with a few words of French and Spanish, and her speaking Polish, Russian and a bit of German. There was naturally a lot of gesturing, nodding and guessing, but with the help of our phones to show each other pictures, we managed quite well to tell each other stories.
Olga was such a lovely woman, and stopped the truck to make us coffee on her portable gas stove. She drove us down the scenic mountainous route to the south of Barcelona, where she parked up for the night, and made us a homely stew for dinner.
Well fed and exhausted after a long day in the sun, we decided to get our sleeping bags out and sleep on the grass next to the truck. Olga didn’t like our idea of sleeping rough in Barcelona, thinking about her own daughters who were roughly our age, so she opened up the back of her truck and moved some stuff around to make room for us to sleep there, safe and sound, next to her cargo.
In the middle of the night we were woken up by what sounded like sudden, heavy rain. Turns out there were some powerful sprinklers in the grass where we originally intended to sleep, so thank god we were sleeping in the truck! That would not have been a pleasant way to be woken up, on an already chilly night!
Yet again we found ourselves trying to get out of a big city. We were pretty far south in Barcelona, and after about an hour walk we got to a slip road for the highway we wanted to be on. The slip road itself was small, with nowhere to stop, so we had to stand at the traffic light crossroad before it. It wasn’t a great spot, but it was the best we could find.
Again, hours passed.
We figured we needed a new sign, so Sally ran across the street to this tiny restaurant on the corner. The staff there had been smiling and waving at us a lot and seemed friendly. Not long after, Sally got back out with the biggest cardboard sign we’d had so far, and they even made us free sandwiches and gave us a bottle of water! Spanish people may not be the best at picking up hitchhikers, but they’re certainly friendly and generous!
Eventually someone picked us up, and after a few more rides with friendly people we eventually ended up north of Valencia. We did not want to end up in yet another big city, so we got dropped off at a petrol station just outside the city, to hopefully catch a ride to somewhere further down the coast.
We stood at the petrol station exit, smiling an waving at the cars, but eventually the sun disappeared behind a hill, and we realised we wouldn’t get anywhere before it got dark, so we decided to head back to the petrol station to find somewhere to sleep for the night.
We were sat down at a picnic table, playing cards and just about to pull out our sleeping bags, when a truck driver walked up to us and wondered where we were planning to sleep. Mohammed, as he was called, seemed worried about us, and didn’t like the idea of us sleeping outside of the petrol station. He was heading towards Madrid, which was not exactly where we wanted to go, but when he told us he was headed for Morocco the day after, we got very excited.
At first he said he couldn’t take both of us, since he could only legally have one passenger, but after some thought he decided I was small enough to hide in the back when we drove through the tolls and police checkpoints, so it should be OK.
So we climbed into his truck, and back on the road we went. He parked up somewhere outside of Madrid for the night, where he made the extra bed for Sally while I curled up in the front seat. It was so nice not having to sleep outside, as it was pretty cold, with a brisk wind.
In the morning he made us breakfast and coffee from his little portable kitchen on the side of his truck, and then we headed for the south of Spain.
It was a long drive, and we had some Arabic lessons on the way, to prepare us for Morocco. I was laying under a blanket on the bed behind the seats for most of the journey, and it was quite nice to be able to catch up on some much needed sleep. We made it all the way to Algeciras, and parked in the ferry port. The ferry was due at 11.00 the next day, so we headed to the ticket office to confirm that he could bring two extra passengers at no additional cost, before we checked into a guest house for the night, and agreed to meet in the parking lot tomorrow an hour before departure.
We woke up well rested, and super excited that we would actually be in Morocco in a few hours! On the internet there were loads of stories about how difficult it was to hitch a ride across to Morocco, so we were so pleased with how everything just seemed to work out for us.
Or so we thought.. When we got back to the truck parking area, our truck was nowhere to be seen… Mohammed was gone.
As the realisation sank in, we started to panic. It was less than one hour till the ferry left, and we were looking for a white truck in one of the biggest ports in Europe.
We started running.
It was 34°C and blazing sun, and our heavy backpacks certainly didn’t make it any better.
A Security guard stopped to ask what we were doing, and after trying to explain the situation with our very limited Spanish and showing him pictures of the truck, he eventually tried to give us some directions to where the trucks get on the ferry. Turns out taking directions in Spanish is not easy, and the port was massive and confusing, so we kept getting lost, and running down the wrong piers.
After almost an hour I noticed a truck that looked like Mohammed’s truck. Sally scrolled through her photos, the number plate was a match! The only problem was that it was parked behind a tall wall, that seemed to stretch for miles in both directions. Another truck driver was casually strolling around on the other side of the fence, so we managed to get his attention and gestured that we wanted him to knock on the window of Mohammed’s truck
Out came Mohammed, and we were so excited to see him! Can’t believe we managed to find him before he boarded the ferry..!
He told us his boss had called him and ordered him to relocate closer to the ferry, and pointed in the direction we had to go to get in.
We ran down the road with newfound energy, and in our eagerness to get to the truck we managed to run right past passport control, and suddenly had a several police officers yelling and whistling at us. Whoops!
We ran back there with our passports, and thankfully they weren’t angry, but seemed rather amused by us, and chuckled as they checked our passports.
Mohammed spoke to the truck driver parked next to him, who was also called Mohammed, and they made an agreement to take one of us each, so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting fined for being 3 in one truck.
So accompanied by our two Mohammeds, onto the ferry we went.
Can’t believe we actually made it, it was a slightly more frantic morning than we had expected, but we got there in the end!
Morocco here we come!