Hitchhiking from Quito to Montanita

Hitchhiking from Quito to Montanita

A New Ocean – September 2015

 

Three days kicking about Quito, a cool city with drinkable tap water. Lots of gringos and modern stuff, like fast-food and skate-parks for example. A strange accent here too, the people like throwing a sort of f/v sound into every word.

“De donde eres?”

“Quitof”

Real friendly people too who enjoy talking to tourists, in fact Ecuador is a very nice place where every second street seems to be called Eloy Alfaro Street.

hitchhiking quito montanita

Anyway to the hitchhiking, I took a bus from the terminal in Quito to Tambillo on the outskirts of the city for a dollar if I remember rightly. I was still in Quito but at least on the outskirts, I could see a petrol station up ahead and began walking for it.

“Hello Gringo, of what part?” Some man shouted from a parked car.

“Ireland”

“What are you doing”

“I’m making finger to Santo Domingo” (Hacer Dedo, to make finger means hitchhiking in South America)

“I can bring you a little further to the turn for Santo Domingo”

Too fucking easy I hadn`t even started hitchhiking yet.

From the turn I began walking and turning as cars passed, making the crucial eye contact with my thumb out. Fifteen minutes later I was in a car to Santo Domingo. I jumped out in the center for a look around as my driver had told me the center was very beautiful.

It wasn’t, South Americans think wherever they come from is beautiful, has the best food and the best ladies, agree if you want a peaceful car ride.

I walked out of Santo Domingo, using my compass to find the road towards the coast, Canoa was my aim because an Ecuadorian girl in Quito said it was the nicest beach of them all and I believed her. I didn’t care too much anyway I just wanted to take a dip in the Pacific for the first time, maybe see a whale. Not asking much.

I began hitchhiking once I felt I was outside of Santo Domingo far enough for the traffic to not be all local. Ten minutes passed before a pick-up pulled in.

An old guy with what I presumed was his daughter but turned out to be his wife (common theme in South America).

“You can’t be out travelling solo here, you will be killed, people are more dangerous at the coast, many rats, they will shoot you for a dollar”

Christ I hated listening to this bullshit, he had worked for many years in Germany before returning to Ecuador, because the life is more relaxed here. Not the first person I have heard tell a similar story in South America. Whether it be Germany or the US they always say they came home for more freedom and the food (they never say to use their superior foreign currency to buy property and find a young wife).

Anyway he offered to take me to Pedernales a different beach-town, north of Canoa and I could hang up my hammock for the night in his back-yard. Alright then, what a sweet deal.

The road was nice on the way there, at least for me I enjoyed seeing the banana farms. Ecuador has different climates allowing it to cultivate so much different food yet its not a huge country. Still dosen’t quite have Irish potatoes though.

I went for a quick swim in the sea as soon as we arrived, I don’t know what I expected to be honest. That the pacific would have different water? The waves were certainly good, unfortunately the only thing not coming out to stare at the hitchhiking Gringo today were the whales, lazy cunts.

In the morning I left early, around 6am and walked across Pedernales to start thumbing my way to Canoa. I got collected first by a Peruvian after about a half hour. Friendly guy, we had to stop on the road for 30 minutes to allow his car to cool down.

In Canoa I went for a swim leaving my backpack with an American guy I meet on the beach. He had a place here, he informed me in a way only an American can say “I have a place here”. Instead of saying he moved here. Reminds me of how some Brits refer to themselves in a superior tone often as Ex-Pats rather than Emigrants.

I thought about staying in Canoa but decided fuck it, I’ll keep moving. I walked and walked from Canoa without any luck until a pick-up truck stopped and I hopped on the back, I love riding on the back of pick-ups. The best way to enjoy the equators weather.

He dropped me in San Vicente and asked for money, I said I was hitchhiking and he should of said he wanted money before-hand, he seemed surprised that I didn’t give a fuck and I walked off. I wasn`t going to start paying for rides now. To be a successful hitchhiker you have to really not give a fuck a lot of the time.

I ate an almuerzo (lunch) in Vicente then hitchhiked across the bridge to Bahia de Caraquez in another pick-up and began walking again. I wasn’t getting picked up this time and darkness came with me still walking and hitchhiking. I was thinking about rewarding myself with a nice ditch to sleep in or somewhere to hang my hammock up when a car pulled over.

A young couple and their five year old son, dam I didnt catch half the words they said. Really very ghetto Ecuadorians, the guy had a gypsy look about him. I didn’t think they would rob me with their son in the car though so I jumped in. Of course I would of anyway to be honest, I’m sure a bag full of dirty clothes and a tarp aren’t worth so much. They were heading to Porto Viejo, ok I’ll come too.

When I reached Porto Viejo I realised my mistake, the place was big, and shitty looking. They left me at the bus terminal but I kept asking to be left outside the city so I could hitchhike to Manta, a city which I hoped would be less rough. He wouldn’t let me though and shoved 2 dollars into my hand telling me I better get the bus then drove off or I would be mugged. He wouldn’t let me refuse the bus money which made me feel like a piece of shit for thinking that he might have robbed me.

I walked back out of the city, most people just looked confused to see a tall Gringo tipping along with his life on his back. Took about two hours before I got to somewhere I could sleep without being noticed in my hammock.

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Next morning I began hitchhiking again around 7am and got a lift with a young guy to the nearest turn-off for JipiJapa. I wanted to go to Jipijapa because of the ridiculous name. Apologies to any Jipijapians out there.

At the turn-off was a small village  with probably no name. I love when I end up in odd places like this. Its usually only possible through hitchhiking or if you cycle around the world, but I’m too lazy for that.

I used the two dollars the guy gave me for the bus to buy a breakfast which consisted of soup, a plate of rice, vegetables and chicken plus juice. Then the change also to buy three oranges. I love eating in the middle of nowhere, its always cheaper and the ladies are so confused to see a foreigner that they never try to up the price.

A nice old fellow brought me to JipiJapa. He insisted I take a photo of everything I see and show my family when I go home. I took a photo of him.

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There he is there now. Nice Guy.

I walked to the outskirts of JipiJapa following my compass and got interrupted by a group of drunks along the way. They were sitting under a tree drinking vodka.

“Gringo, Gringo come here”

“Hello”

“Where are you from”

“Ireland”

“Take some wine” one insisted, grinning, the drink was concealed inside a plastic bottle but I knew from the smell it was vodka. He was trying to get me to take a drink thinking it was wine. Then he would laugh when I coughed or spat it back because it was vodka.

His plan back fired however, I took the bottle then took a huge gulp and swallowed it in one like a mad bastard. Concentrating my face so that I didn’t convey any sort of discomfort.

“Weak, we drink much stronger in Europe, have any of you a cigarette”

I will never forget their faces of shock and disgust as I walked off trying to wave down cars.

Aren’t Gringos afraid of us drunks? Why didn’t he think our drink was strong? Why is he hitchhiking, are Gringos not all rich? Did he just finish our vodka? How dare he ask for a cigarette?

Times like this when your tipping along kicking rocks and whistling, that’s when I love hitchhiking, cars stop, girls rarely but occasionally blush and kids wave.

I soon bumped into three Ecuadorian students hitchhiking and we caught a pickup together to Puerto Lopez. Friendly kids.

hitchhiking ecuador

Puerto Lopez looked stunning, there are so many empty beautiful beaches on Ecuadors coast it’s crazy. Forget Canoa or Montanita, just drive around until you find an empty beach with no name.

Next we caught a pick-up to Salango, then another to Puerto Rico where they left me and I was back to hitchhiking solo on my loansome.

I jumped on the back of another pick-up truck and got to Ayampe. It was getting dark soon and the amount of traffic had suddenly decreased rapidly. I tried hitchhiking on the far side of Ayampe then walked back across the town because I was bored and tried again.

This time just before dark I got picked up by a young couple from Guayaquil returning home after a weekend on the beach. They were so cool, and asked lots of questions about Europe before leaving me at Montanita.

hitchhiking ecuador
The Nice Couple from Guayaquil

I began to search for a place to sleep in Montanita, I had heard lots about this town being full of stoners and hippies. After five minutes of walking towards a beach a black fella approached me.

“Hey, man where from?” (In English)

“Ireland, you”

“Cuba”

“Cool never meet a Cuban before”

He introduced me to some Chilean hippies who were getting high in the middle of the street. Apparently the police just turn a blind eye to this town populated by hippies making bracelets.

I’m going to stay here anyway for a night I decided after sharing the joint. I found a hostel, the sign said 7 dollars but I knew that was bullshit. The guy working there charged me five dollars, somewhere behind the dreadlocks was a brain which recognised 5 dollar tourists and 7 dollar tourists.

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Hitchhiking the coast of Ecuador

Next stop Guayaquil.

In April 2016 the town of Pedernales was hit by a horrific earthquake as were many of the neighboring towns in Ecuador.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the many people who helped me along my travels but especially the couple who allowed me to sleep in their back-yard and provided me with a lift from Santo Domingo to Pedernables. I hope to Christ the Earthquake hasn’t left your lives scarred.

 

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Hitchhiking from Colombia to Ecuador

Hitchhiking from Colombia to Ecuador

 Hitchhiking Buses in Ecuador – September 2015

The time had come to leave Colombia, I was bored of pretending to be an English teacher, plus trying to learn English from an Irish man is like trying to learn to ride a bicycle using a unicycle.

Even though the locals were friendly (I got the nickname “El Gigante Amarillo (The Yellow Giant))” I meet a lovely chica (shout-out to Gabby). I wasn’t staying as long as I had intended but I still had made a little cash and had learnt a lot more Spanish to help me along the road.

Leaving Ipiales I was technically an illegal immigrant since my Colombian visa had expired three weeks earlier. I had simply went across to Ecuador on the day of expiry, got their stamp and came back into Colombia living on an Ecuador stamp. The border between Ecuador and Colombia is extremely relaxed, you can walk across without stopping to talk to anyone.

hitchhiking ecuador colombia

So I got up early and walked to the border from Ipiales (took me about an hour). Then I skipped across the border and began hitchhiking on the Ecuador side.

No luck. Borders are always shit for hitchhiking and especially here with the way people fear drugs, the news in South America has people convinced their goldfish are dangerous.

I walked a couple kkilometers until I reached the turn-off for Tulcan and stood around hitchhiking on the main road for Ibarra.

A Colombian had told me that Ecuadorians eat dogs. Colombians from Ipiales didn’t seem to like Ecuadorians though since they cross the border with their superior Dollars and buy stuff in Ipiales causing inflation of the Colombian Peso. I disregarded the rumour as nonsense and passed the time trying hard to spot a stray dog walking around Ecuador.

After 45 minutes I was giving up hope and decided to pick up my backpack and try walking. While hitchhiking its always good to carry your backpack and walk where possible. People feel more sympathy when they see the rucksack on your back and are more likely to pull-over especially in Ecuador.

Two argentinian hitchhikers had by this time joined me too. Guy and girl, Franco and Jaqueline, two hippies playing music and selling bracelets to gringos on the road. We set out together in high spirits sharing stories and fags and soon got collected by a minivan.

The old lady and fella were happy to take us a few miles away from the border where we easily caught a ride with the first pick-up truck that passed, Ecuador’s Sierra is beautiful from the back of a pick-up. We sat in the back all the way to Ibarra. A beautiful ride only stopping once at a police checkpoint where one officer quickly asked about our passports.

In Ibarra Franco showed off his impressive road tripping skills. He got us free bread and sugar canes by telling jokes and complaining of hunger. Then he convinced a public bus driver to take us for free across the city so we could hitchhike on the northern side.

“No puedo pagar, pero puedo bailar” (I can’t pay, but I can dance)

And we danced our way onto that bus, at the exit of Ibarra we stood at a traffic light asking the stopped vehicles to let us ride. Quickly we got told to jump on the back of one of the pick-up trucks. The driver sped along at a fierce speed too, so we got to wave at all the cars that refused us (only like 5) as we over-took them.

After that Franco stopped another public bus and got us a free ride all the way to Quito.

Hitchhiking in Excuador was proving incredibly simple in comparison to Colombia.

In Quito we ate a 2 dollar almuerzo and I hit up an internet cafe to locate some couchsurfing, later we hung around the street and got offered free weed. Other Argentinian hippies started to materialise from the walls and drop from the sky as soon as the smell of weed got in the wind. Things were looking good in Ecuador, very good. I bid the now growing army of high Argentinians adios.

In the end I stayed three nights in Quito and then headed for the coast solo again for my first swim the Pacific.

Quito`s a cool city, many gringos and other foreigners, the people are friendly and the water is OK to drink from taps. On the other hand Ecuador is more expensive than Colombia since they use the dollar. Still I love Ecuador though, getting a bus here is completely illogical with all the pick-up trucks you can jump on the back of.

Special thanks to my Couchsurfing host in Quito David.

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My Argentinian Friends on the Road

hitchhiking quito

Retired Prostitutes, Mountains and Gypsy Weddings

The following events took place in the Summer of 2014.

Retired Prostitutes, Mountains and Gypsy Weddings. My Return to the Road

Just before leaving the Transylvanian wilderness I did climb to the top of the nearby mountain ridge. I in-fact spent a night up there freezing my bollox off. I was also convinced there was a hungry bear quite rudely clawing on the door of my circular metal hut too. The pathways have these huts scarcely scattered for stranded hikers or tourists.

Anyway the bear paranoia, freezing cold and howling wolves managed to keep me from counting any sheep. I instead sat there huddled in a ball with my legs tucked inside my rucksack shivering and watching the door of the hut which I had secured shut with my shoelace. Should I have an unwanted guest I was prepared to hurl fireworks in ill taste at the hairy cunts, some old Romanian men gave me the fireworks while I was hitchhiking.
It so happened that my train of thought that night was mostly my ex. Jaysus I could do with her body heat now I reckoned, but it wasn’t’ to be, choices had been made, some words said and I was now single and ready to hit the road hard. All that freedom from plans and attachments, I was looking forward to the road again, even if I would be missing some limbs from frostbite.
Dawn did arrive eventually though, and I welcomed it like a child welcomes Christmas. The sun meant warmth but not just that. Looking out over Transylvania as the sun rose was in a word, epic! That’s why I had climbed here, and I wasn’t’ disappointed. To this very day I still consider Transylvania possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been, definitely the most medieval, with it’s castles, shepherds and old fashioned farming methods.

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Two days later after some good sleep back in a bed I set out for the road once again. An old Romanian who liked to listen to Italian music dropped me into Brasov, he offered a ride all the way to Bucharest but I was content in Brasov. The real starting point of hitch-hiking journey number 2!

In the two nights I spent at a hostel in the town of Brasov, Romania I;

  • All too briefly meet a lovely girl
  • Got my first invitation to a gypsys wedding
  • Became acquainted with Brasov’s best Rapper
  • Meet a lovely retired prostitute turned backpacker
  • Washed my clothes

An eventful two nights. For the purpose of not wasting everyone’s time I will address each story separately and briefly (except the clothes washing as I really had little influence over this event).
Ok so first the lovely girl, I wont be going writing any poetry about it soon but still I was very much interested in the girl. Who wouldn’t be though? She was gorgeous, Polish, good conversation and she wrote her name and number on a postcard which she left on my bed beside the borderline unconscious me. It was very cooly done in my opinion, a wee smiley face and all to decorate my postcard! More on this later when I happen to be in Poland.
Just a couple of hours earlier then the departure of the Polish girl from the hostel (about 7am from the hostel). I was in the street drinking with gypsys. I had originally went out for some Palinka shots with a hot Hungarian tom-boyish girl and a gobshite Danish guy who pretty much sulked because his tinder date never showed up (first world problems eh!).

I lost them though and ended up talking to the other people who were last to leave the bar and I got invited to their wedding, how lovely. I absolutely promised to go before I left of course without getting the details or their names. What do you wear to such an event anyway? One of the girls did make some sort of advance on me I believe, not to toot my own horn or anything but she did ask her friend who spoke English to ask me to fuck. Wouldn’t of got on her to see over a wall though if I’’m honest.
Even just a few hours previous to all this I had meet the best rapper that the Romanian town of Brasov had to offer. He got up on the mic in the bar and spit some ryhmes in Romanian and all the girls bounced their asses like they saw on MTV. Strange experience really, the hood meets Soviet Europe. Not what I expected, throw back some Painka shots and its alright though.
Finally the retired hooker. I meet her the night after everything I just mentioned happened (sorry about the inconsistent Pulp Fiction style timeline here). She was an older lady, in her forties though still quite attractive if not all that fresh, like pizza leftover from the night before if you know what I mean. Back in the day ( twenty five or so years previous) she had been a professional call lady, working through newspaper adverts and such. She had an agent and all and raked in the cash before the Eastern European girls arrived. She spoke about the whole thing as if it were just whatever, a real interesting lady with some crazy stories. Now she backpacked a lot with her money and never felt embarrassed about being in her forties and staying in hostels or couchsurfing. Guess you haven’t got much care for the younger girls judgement when you probably shagged their daddy’s for money.
That concluded my two nights talking to strangers in Brasov. I heard from a friend who I had hosted in Budapest through couchsurfing that he was having a birthday party in Odessa Ukraine soon so that is where I began for. Undeterred by the news of pro-Russia rioting and the threat of civil war I was bound for Ukraine and a party.

Getting a Free Yellow Fever Vaccine in Colombia

The yellow fever vaccine is neccesary for travel to some countries such as Australia or Panama if you have been in a country where you could possibly come in contact with the infection, such as Colombia.
Some sources online say that the vaccine is required to enter Colombia but this isn’t true. You can fly into the country without expecting to be asked about the vaccine. What’s more is you can get the vaccine in Colombia, for free!

This was a welcome discovery.
I originally went about trying to get the vaccine in the US in New Orleans since I was working there before I went to Colombia. I enquired for the vaccine at a pharmacy, quite a funny scene now that I recall it. I was wearing a white wife-beater vest dirty from work and in my Irish accent politely requested any vaccine needed for Colombia as I was flying there in a week. The Black American lady behind the desk choose to ignore me, assuming I was a drug smuggler I guess. I had to wait for her colleague to finish with his customers to speak with me since I was apparently only visible to him.
He recommended four vaccines I think, the yellow fever one being the most urgent. It would cost something like $120 and I needed a doctor’s prescription. Since I’m not American he recommended a private vaccine place in New Orleans, probably costing around $150.
Well fuck that I thought, Colombians hardly have over a hundred bucks for the vaccine each. I will figure it out when I get down there.
I asked a taxi driver at the airport in Cartagena Colombia about the vaccine who wouldn’tt stop trying to convince me to take his taxi.
“”What is it you need?””
“”Vaccine””
“”What?””
“”Yell-low Fe-ver”,” I made a injection motion on my arm to symbolize a vaccine.
“”My friend if you need heroin, I can help you””
“”Forget it””
I asked at the Hostel and around the town. I found a lady wearing nurses clothes and asked her (I didn’t´t really speak Spanish yet). She pointed me to a door, definitely didn’t look like a clinic entrance but I was wrong.
A small room with plastic chairs. I gave the receptionist my Passport and took a seat. An hour later I had been vaccinated, handed a receipt to keep with my Passport as proof and it was all for free.
No side effects. I asked about other vaccines but the nurse said they weren’t necessary for Cartagena and I still don’t have them.
To find the clinic simply follow these instructions (its near the center). It’s best to arrive in the mornings on a weekday and all you need to bring is your Passport and a stabable arm.

Its very close to the party square near the old town where people gather at night to dance. If coming from Calle Media la Luna, the vaccination clinic is on the right hand side of Carrera 10B just beyond the church and before you get to the corner of Calle Larga Fatima.

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The brown door is the entrance to the clinic!
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View from the door of the clinic, taking a left here will take you back to the party square.

DEPARTAMENTO ADMINISTRATIVO DISTRITAL DE SALUD – DADIS (Department of Health)
Centro Getsemaní Carrera 10B No 25 -10 Calle Larga Casa Fátima 2 Piso

On Split, Dubrovnik, Mostar and Hitchhiking a Taxi

I stayed two nights in Split, a pretty town with narrow streets and pleasant beaches. Two nights was definitely enough though. There are a lot of British tourists there, drinking, tanning and being tourists so its a bit more expensive then other cities.

While trying to hitchhike to Bosnia I got talking to two friendly Chilean guys at a petrol station. They were driving to Krka National Park and then after to Dubrovnik in a rented car. They were nice enough to let me tag along intrigued by the chance to see the National Park’s waterfalls (beautiful by the way).

Myself out for a dip at the waterfall
Myself out for a dip at the waterfall

Dubrovnik was similar to Split except the tourists were mostly older, pensioner ladies with the same short haircuts and digital cameras that they can’t quite work. A nice old town though even if the bands are playing U2 covers for the tourists in the bars rather than Croatian music.

Going from Split to Dubrovnik too you have to cross the border with Bosnia and then return into Croatia a couple miles later, Dubrovnik is separated from Croatia. Which leads to a delay since the Bosnian border police decided to search the rented car because the Chileans had South American Passports.

Mostar in Bosnia turned out to be far more interesting even if it lacked the Croatian beaches. I had stepped on some cunt of a fish in Dubrovnik that stuck thorns in my foot but I didn’t seek attention until I was in Bosnia (when the pain got sharper). The doctors had a good laugh at the tourist who brought them an injury from the sea even though I was many– miles from water.

The Bosnians were friendly if a little reserved. Except for the guy who offered me a drag of his joint then asked for money, fuck off ye dick.

The country is generally beautiful yet awkwardly named (I think Bosgovia would have been a better name, sounds like a Soviet theme park).

The highlight of the cheap, relaxed town of Mostar for me wasn´t the amazing bridge that locals jump off but rather the Snipers Building. An abandoned bank (I think), the bullet-holed walls leaked emotions. I’m’ not one for spirits and voodoo shite but there was something quite… something about that building. Go and you will feel it.

I done some binge drinking there too with an Auzzie and then a Serbian woman who owned a bar drove us around town after we just about drank her entire stock of bottled beers.

Hitchhiking in Bosnia is simple too, maybe the easiest country I have ever tried. The mix of Communist comradely and Muslim good-will makes it ideal for backpackers on a budget.

I simply walked out of Mostar in the Sarajevo direction and got picked up by the second car to pass. Bosnia has no motorways so hitchhiking is possible absolutely anywhere a car can pull in. Thumbing is faster there than the petrol station approach.

An elderly guy left me at town called Konjic I think, he didn’’t speak any English. I sat and admired this towns bridge too and ate a tuna sandwich. I wished a newly married couple taking photos on the bridge congratulations, they thanked me without smiling. A solid Eastern European effort, she looked beautiful, Bosnian girls are beautiful though probably hard to impress, if you could just make one smile though that probably would mean she loves you now.

When I starting hitchhiking again a Taxi pulled over straight away. I tried to wave him on saying I was hitchhiking.

“”Get in””

I hopped he knew more English and threw my bag on the back seat then jumped in.

“”No money, you to Sarajevo””

That’s how easy hitchhiking in Bosnia is. Even taxis will pick you up for free.

“”I am Bosnian and Muslim””

“”OK, I’m Irish””

“We have many economic and too political problems here””

“”OK””

““I do not speak Turkish””

“”OK””

““Some people talk, go back to Turkey Muslim, I am not Turkish, I do not speak Turkish, I have never been. Understand?””

“”Yes, OK””

This continued for the next hour, he slowly spoke English always constantly validating his Bosnian citizenship, I hardly spoke at all. It didn’t’ bother me though. I was on the way to Sarajevo the starting point of WW1, a city I always wanted to visit.

I think the only reason this old man became a taxi driver and learnt his English was to spit his angry words about Serbs and Turks on the windscreen to tourists. Nice guy though.

Saved by the Dog

I reached up an knocked on the truck door,

“Excuse me, are you going to South by any chance, to Split or Dubrovnik?”

“No, back to Serbia”

A cold response, all I had got over the last two hours at this petrol station on the edge of Zagreb by the motorway.

“Thats OK, sorry to disturb you. The Orthodox Celts though, a great band, aren´t they Serbian?”

“Yes, where are you from?”

“Ireland”

“Our Celtic cousins” the truck driver replied, looking at me for the first time clearly happy with my nationality. Not smiling, Serbs don’t really smile much but still are happy. He introduced himself and the passeneger. I hadn´t noticed the second guy in the truck.

He could speak English because he had worked in Canada before marrying a Serbian woman and returning home. They were stuck here however in Croatia until his brother arrived. He told me that a Gypsy broke into his truck while he was having coffee and stole his Passport so he was waiting on documents from his brother to drive to Serbia. He offered to get some coffee while I waited, truckers love drinking coffee. It’s where I developed the habit of drinking coffee from, most Irish people just drink tea.

After an hour or so his brother arrived and I left them to their Serbian discussion. It was the early evening now and I still hadn´t found a ride South to the beaches. I had walked across two fields to get to this petrol station that I spotted on Google Maps since I couldn’t walk on the motorway (it was a big messy spaghetti here). To get down to the fields though I needed to lower myself down a bank and walk under a bridge. A bridge with three gypsy caravans underneath, when I had passed earlier in the morning they didn´t say much, only one guy tried to sell me an Iphone. He was more surprised that I was walking there then anything. To return now in the evening as it got dark didn’t appeal to me, especially since I was 99% sure that it was the same iphone seller guy who had probably robbed the truckers. It’s not racist, the Iphone was cearly stolen and the truckers described seeing a similar guy run from the truck.

The guy who worked in the petrol station was helpful, he gave me cardboard and a marker to make a sign. In truth I was completely ill-prepared. Still new to hitchhiking this was my first time potentially stranded and I had no plan-B or sleeping bag.

I learnt a lot that evening, like that bringing a tarp, tent or hammock and sleeping bag is a good idea. That tourists in Camper Vans or RVs are completely useless and never pick up hitchhikers. That hitchhiking after dark is still possible at petrol stations, while people are more cautious their sympathy to a hitchhiker is now higher since its dark and cold. That a Sharpie pen is absolutely essential and even if you move away from your bag to talk to someone you should keep a sign with your destination there just incase someone wishes to approach you.

I was sitting on the curb leaning against the wall of the petrol station when an Astra pulled in.

A German registration. I hadn´t seen a car that wasn´t local for hours.

“Excuse me, I´m trying to get South to Split. Are you driving this way by any chance”

“Split, yes”

“Great and you speak English?”

“So, So” Of course he did, them Germans are dam smart.

“Can I come?” I pleaded with the most genuine face one can pull.

“Sure, put your bag in the trunk. I am driving from Munich to my family’s holiday home in Split because my dog dosen’t like to fly”

The bulldog returned from taking a piss around the corner. The dog was the only reason this young German guy was driving and also the only reason he had stopped, so that dog could piss. I fucking rubbed the back of that dog’s ear enthusiastically, and did so the whole way to Split. A great dog!

Never give up hope of catching a ride to your destination, thats what I learnt too. Sure if hitchhiking was completely easy then no-one would take the bus. Embrace the difficulties on the road, they make reaching your destination that much sweeter.

Deep Chats in Croatia

Sometimes when your hitchhiking around people will see a chance to burn some built up steam with you. They see someone who relies on karma and instantly trust you with their stories secure in the fact that your merely a traveller passing through. Their words will never be repeated in the town by a travelling person they reason.

I have been an ametuer psychologist at times by simply not speaking just staying quiet and strangers have offloaded their life stories on me. I don´t offer any opinión or judgements and why would I? Sometimes people just want to hear themselves talk.

One particular conversation will stick with me forever, it was early in my travelling days and the first time a stranger had confided in me with an extremely private and emotional story. I don´t think anyone had ever spoken to me so nakedly before, I say naked because I can´t think of any other suitable description for her words. To the point, it intimidated me. Conversations were not meant to be so deep and blunt, especially not with strangers.

I was sitting outside at a picnic table by a bar, a band was playing some Croatian music and I was thinking over the days hitchhiking and contemplating my next move.

Find a hostel, sleep, then head on towards Bosnia I figured.

I took in the surrounding crowd, a lot of young Croatians smoking. Even the teenagers huddled in circles sharing cigarettes. A lady, probably in her forties stood over the table I sat at and said something in Croatian.

“Excuse me”

“O you speak English, do you might if I sit beside you”

“Of course, not”

I lifted my backpack off the seat and shuffled over politely.

Brunette, very thin, an aged but energetic face with yellow teeth from years of chain-smoking. She pulled out a pack of cigs, Marlboro Gold. I never refuse a Marlbaro Gold.

We got to chatting, though she talked more than I. She learnt English while working in a call center and always wanted to visit Ireland she claimed. She questioned my hitchhiking habits with an intense curiousity, everything was intense. She kept strict eye contact and never allowed a break in the conversation, always talking like silence was dangerous.

Rushed sentences quickly followed, born in Split, how the stars in Split are beautiful, a daughter about 15 who liked One Direction, have another cigerette.

Trust is important she claimed, trust is all that matters. When she lived in Split she would leave her car open and never lock the door of her apartment. She didn´t care that her boyfriend would complain and tell her to lock the door. Never, she needed to trust she told me. I was apparently trust worthy, I was a listener she said.

We got up and walked around the town a little, she continued to talk about her life and dreams lots of private stuff.

“You sure trust a lot” I said

“I know I can trust you, I want to tell you something”

“Go ahead”

“I was raped”

How do you respond to that? I didn’t, stuck for words I just returned her eye contact, completely shaken by her words, I wished she hadn´t said that. I felt awkward, like I had to say something, we had stopped walking.

She began telling me the story, 17, near her family’s apartment at night, he came from behind and had a knife to her neck. She didn’t hate him though, she hates nobody she told me. Even while it was happening she told him it’s OK, I don´t hate you´. She spoke the entire time, that’s why he never killed her she said, because she didnt hate him.

But you should, the bastard I replied, but she interrupted me. He isn’t all people, people aren’t bad she said.

How could she say this? The cunt wanted to kill her. She told me about her struggles with depression and boyfriends after it happened. Cnversation that went beyond my knowledge of conversations before. 21 years old and I had never heard anyone speak to me like so, raw. A night that had changed her life forever, that she had replayed in her mind countlessly for years but possibly only ever shared the story with one or two people, and I was one.

I didn’t need to get a Hostel, why not stay at hers she suggested we could have a few drinks, her daughter was at a friends, she could call her and tell her to stay the night there.

I knew what she was hinting at, she had just told me stuff she needed to say out loud. Private information. Some people might know you all your life and you will never have an intense conversation like we had, two strangers but not really now.

She really was a nice lady, sure old but the shadow of the beautfiul girl she used to be still remained. A good figure and piercing eyes.

“I better go to the Hostel, I have an early start”

I pussied out, to intimidated by a woman who wanted to tell me everything and spend a night together then wave me off in the morning never to speak again. I know if I was back their today as I write this story things would happen differently. I had much maturing to do on the road, and still do. I really regret not going back with her place though to this day. I know she is one of the most kind person I have ever meet and that conversation will leave her image imprinted in my mind forever.

I wanted to share that conversation because it was a big moment in my hitchhiking life, the strenght of her caracther has influenced me a lot on the road. I always am honest and never jump to conlusions about someone, who knows what they have suffered in the past?