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?”
“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”
“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.