Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali

Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali

On the Road in South America July 2015

Hitchhiking in Colombia is quite the thrill as you would imagine. But by God the place is really huge and waiting times can be long. Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali took me two days for example.

hitchhiking colombia

I was in Medellin at around 7am by the bus terminal with the plan of getting south as soon as possible towards Cali.

I approached a young Colombian guy and asked for directions to the nearest metro and he blabbers some incoherent stuff. Then he took a long puff from the huge joint I hadn´t noticed he was carrying.

“You want some my friend?”

“OK”

I offered him what was left of the weed I had, it had been a gift from a guy from Cork (thanks Eamon) I meet in Minca. He rolled a massive joint, fat as a ducks arse with no tobacco at all. Great I thought sarcastically. I´m going to be baked in time for the sun to rise up.

We smoked the weed then he gave me some deodrant, all the time complaining about the many police in El Centro. He took off again after saying something about needing to get to work. I hope he wasn’t like a bus driver or anything like that, the guy was heavy stoned.

In the center I had completely forgotten about my plans to hitchhike South and instead sat on a bench staring at the sky. It was probably around half 8 in the morning. Next thing a police officer approached me with a big cunt of a sniffer dog. He had a good smell of my backpack. Thank god I had just smoked off the last of my weed, and that I was wearing sun-glasses too.

I proceeded to sit at a cafe, read my book (For Whom the Bell Tolls), charge my phone and admire Medellin. Its obvious why Pablo Escobar based his empire here. The place is beautiful, nestled in between the mountains just grand and cosy.

Around 12 I was back with reality again and caught the metro to the furthest station south (Medellin is well organised and the only city in Colombia with a metro).

Hitchwiki says to jump out at Itagui, but I say don’t. There has been two additional stations built south of Itagui since that article was last updated I think.

I got out at the last stop La Estrella. I followed my compass south, crossed the canal (which flows to the north) and got directions to the Autopista (10 mins walking). The road forks here and if you go straight you will take the autobus route to Caldas, veer to the left and back over the canal towards Cali and Caldas directo. Climb the hill about 2km and you will meet three petrol stations in a row. Heres your best chance of gettting the fuck out of Medellin.

I tried some truckers but none were speaking Spanish I could understand or heading towards Cali. I guess most of the lond distance drivers would of already left by 8am. It was now nearly 2pm. I didn’t see many Cali registration plates, just Bogota, Medellin and some where called Cota I never heard of.

Some of the petrol stations in Colombia have free wifi by the way. I emphasis the some.

A four letter word like Cali is ideal for signage I supposed and grabbed some cardboard then stood by the Autopista. Some locals stopped for the chats, and blessed themselves when I said I was using Autostop, great I`m very optimistic now.

Getting out of big cities is always a pain, maybe after an hour and a half Alexandria pulled over. I didn’t believe my luck, a single lady wants to pick me up? That never happens. I didn’t believe it until she waved at me to come over. Perfecto.

We flew down the Autopista to somewhere near Jardin. She owns a hostel in Jardin teaches yoga and like so many girls in Colombia, is really pretty. She left me off by the river Cauca, I chatted with the locals a little then continued towards Cali. I had to get east to La Pintada and on towards the Pan American Highway for Cali.

An older guy in a security uniform on a motorbike stopped to collect me. If hitchhiking Colombia it is important to pack light with one bag so you can hitchhike motorbikes. After about 30km he pulled in to start working for the night but insisted I eat with him. He pulled a big plate of rice, chicken and cheese from his office and a glass of milk. Brilliant! I had planned on setting up camp by the river and cooking some rice I had, but this was much better. Dining like a king.

I bid my friend farewell, he definitely seemed overly concerned about me, insisting I take water and more food for the road, Gracias, Gracias.

I began walking again and didn’t catch another ride before dark so I picked up a nice dry stick and hopped over a fence, beating the long grass away to warn snakes of the Gringos arrival. I could see their holes in the ground as I carefully stepped down to the river and flung my hammock up.

I woke at sun-rise, gathered some water from the river to filter for the day and took off. I was back on the road before 7am and promptly got collected by another motorbike and by fuck did he drive like she were stolen.

He left me off at Pintada and I began walking south again, after about 3km I came across some speed bumps and decided to hitch there. The mountains climbed up to my right so there was absolutely nowhere for miles that a car could pull in. Speed bumps were my best bet of catching a ride.

Some local kid came to chat with me, people always stare at the blonde haired guy, its usually kids who will come and ask question though. I noticed people say Donde Vivenes here (where the v sounds like a b) rather than donder eres as in the North when asking where I’m from. Spanish is confusing enough, I don’t need Colombians going and changing words around from town to town too.

A trucker soon stopped for me, he used to live in the US 15 years ago driving trucks but had 20150624_100925forgotten English and had six kids. Muy Catholica I told him (very Catholic) and he seemed pleased with my input. He was bound for Manizales so I jumped out somewhere before there at a Peaje, these are pay tolls on the roads. Excellent for hitchhiking just after the cars are forced to slow down.

I stood for a half hour with my Cali sign, more cars for Cota passed. I can’t understand how I’ve never heard of a place with so many cars driving to it.

One truck came past with two guy riding on the back of it in between the cab and the cargo. They shouted incoherent stuff at me and had haircuts like gypsies curled up at the back. They must of literally jumped that truck while it was moving, absolute lunatics.

An old couple who had been eating in a nearby resteraunt called me over in Spanish.

“Where from?”

“Ireland?”

“Ireland?”

“Yes Ireland”

They looked absolutely shocked, probably wouldn’t of been that surprised if I told them I was from Mars.

They took me to near Santa Rosa, driving through beautiful countryside on the way. Coffee, tomato and bananna farms rose up the steep hills which dropped again as suddenly as they rose. I definetly felt some positive feeling emotions as I gazed out the window of the old Renault Clio. Colombia sure is beautiful.

“There is coffee in Ireland?”

“No, just potatoes.”

The lady gave me some lovely baked bread too. While driving through one small village she whistled at a store and the guy brought her a 2 liter bottle of Coke for free which she passed to me.

I was back hitchhiking again under the midday sun with 2 litres of coke I really didnt need. Colombia’s an odd place really.

  • They drink Coke and beer in the midday sun when I’m throwing back litres of water to avoid dehydration.
  • The rivers flow the wrong way all the time.
  • When you take a shit you are supposed to put your dirty bog-roll in the rubbish bin and not flush it.
  • If you can’t salsa then your weird.

I stood there hitchhiking and some kids approached, you can always tell when kids are little shit-heads with high opinions of themselves. Its made a lot easier when they all have Cristiano Ronaldo haircuts.

“Gringo, where from?”

“Colombia”

“No, your foriegn”

“Im from Cartagena, Colombia” (I tried to speak super fast and put on an accent)

Haha they were getting pissed off, now.

“Argentinian, Italian, French, American?”

“Irish”

“You smoke weed?”

“No”

Going behind a shed to smoke weed with a bunch of 14 year olds was not on my to-do list for the day. I did give them my 2 litres of coke though for their party and walked on.

Next I caught a van to Periera, a huge place altogether but luckily I was dropped on the south side near the Autopista and I began hitching again.

Next came my only drunk driver of the day.

“Hello I speak English because I worked in Chicago many years before. Can you hold my beer if I see police, also I have very much Marajuana.”

I turned down the free beer and weed though, I didn`t need to get high or dehydrated on the road now when I was finally making great progress for the first time in South America. He dropped me off by some guys selling pineapples and drove off.

In twenty minutes I was back on the road with Santiago a young fellow who had studied English in the US. Santiago is a cool name I think, sounds like a guy who paints naked women for a living or something like that. He drove me another hour or so and we had the chats about the Cocaine business in Colombia.

My next lift came promptly too, a super cute girl with lovely spanish. I agreed with everything she said wheter I understood or not, she was so dam pretty.

IMG_20150624_164900
See What I Mean

She left me at a Peaje, lots of cars for Cota. Seriously Where the Fuck is Cota?

I caught a trucker fairly quickly. He honked his horn at all other trucks and prostitutes and then at vehicles that weren’t trucks and women who clearly weren’t prostitutes too. I really think the guy had actually no honking standards at all to be honest.

He didn’t go to Cali but instead stopped just outside it in a town called Palmira. It was dark now so hitchhiking had become next to impossible and the area was too sketchy for me to camp.

I was approached by a local kid, around 15 years old. He spoke some English.

“Why are you here?”

“An adventure and to learn Spanish”

“Why, you are from Europe?”

“Yes”

“Then why come here. you have the opportunities in Europe”

Then he just kind of walked on looking upset. I know this isn’t a very long or meaningful conversation but it has stuck with me.

I later wondered why he spoke that much English, even a basic conversation is far more than most people can speak in Colombia. I wondered too about the long term affects of Colonialism on countries in South America? If it had different affects to the countries colonized in other parts of the world (like Ireland)? Is it easier for me to hitchhike and cross army checkpoints because I’m a white European than for a local? Do some people despise Europe a bit? I concluded these questions would be answered with further travel.

A bus worker said I could go to the Cali bus terminal for 6 Mil Pesos, I offered him 2 Mil Pesos ($0.90) and took the lift because the bus had wifi. I googled myself a hostel and walked from the bus terminal in about an hour.

I’m now writing this at the hostel, which has a swimming pool, breakfast, snooker table and computers all for 12 Mil Pesos ($5.00) and I can put my hammock up outside. Sleeping inside here is too warm I think. I`ll get cleaned up and head for Ecuador tomorrow.

Feels good to write again for this blog, I know its been a while but I promise to keep you updated more.

hitchhiking-medellin hitchhiking-colombia

Advertisements

Hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans

Hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans

The snow in Chicago helped me decide that I needed more sun and for that I was always going to head south. hitchhiking chicago new orleans

Getting out of Chicago was going to be tricky, hitchhiking is illegal in the state of Illinois (yes I know, how fucking ridiculous is that?). I used Craigslists Rideshare section to find a ride. A young Filipino guy by the name of Mark took me to St. Louis for free and I hopped out in the downtown area.

11080986_805403486207756_5626198161483164133_n
St. Louis arch thing
10408484_805403459541092_1070040385769729076_n
An RV Camp Party!

Nothing much was happening in St. Louis so I decided to head for the outskirts of the city and start hitchhiking towards Memphis or Nashville the next morning. I was standing outside a Walmart in East St. Louis because of the
rain, when an elderly guy approached. He warned me about standing around in East St. Louis “Your going get trouble” he worryingly claimed and told me to head a mile up the road and camp at the local RV Camp. I didn’t really fancy walking in the rain but after a minute or so a young lady pulled over and offered me a ride, she never picked up a hitchhiker before (I wasn’t even trying) but didn’t want me out in the rain she claimed and I got dropped off at the RV camp.

I tried to then sleep at the RV Camp but the locals were too kind, I was going to be allowed stay for free and be bought a pint too. Next came a belter of a session with a bunch of rednecks in some dive bar where every guy wore a bandanna with a cowboy hat over the bandanna.

When I did finally get to the road again I started at an on-ramp to the interstate in the Memphis direction (on the Missouri side of town). After an hour of thumbing the only people to stop were two police officers wondering what I was up to. I kind of thought the whole raised thumb was a dead give-away but then I had to explain to them I was merely hitching a ride as they plugged my name into some computer then pissed off.

Just as I was contemplating jumping in front of a car, one pulls over, at last. A young, friendly guy, and he drove me a few miles to a better spot and got me some dinner at the catering place he worked. He picked me up because “I was clearly a European because I was wearing a scarf”. I generally wear scarfs because I’m cold not because I was born in Europe. I think he was gay but yea who cares, maybe wear a scarf if your hitchhiking in St. Louis and you will get picked up by him.

The next spot was an on-ramp again but further out of the city where people might trust. Still all the black folks passed by looking at me like I got two heads and an axe, one group of white frat kids blew there horn and shouted cock or something…. hilarious. Then an old banger pulls over with two women in the front and a guy in the back, very rough looking but genuine I thought. She rolled down the window “You aint got a weapon?”, nope I replied a bit surprised by the question and hopped in the back seat.

Chain smoking and complaining about the government, my kind of people! The woman in the passenger seat had a scar on her face where she had gotten shot before in a failed car-jacking, that memory will remain with me I think for years to come.

They left me off on the interstate and I began hitchhiking again, right on the interstate this time instead of an on-ramp since the shoulder was definitely wide enough for a car to pull in. An animal vet picked me up, real quiet fella who wouldn’t normally pick up hitchhikers but did today, “paying it forward brother”, a very christian guy from my impression. He left me at a truck stop and I decided to find a place to camp since it was getting dark, I strolled up some country road and went into the trees behind a house, I figured the community watch was probably watching telly or something.

I woke up the next morning (on my 23rd birthday by the way) to an angry barking dog and scrambled away quickly and back to the road. I began asking people at the truck stop for rides. The truckers are useless in the US, they always just claim insurance won’t allow them to pick you up. A guy in a pick-up though agreed to take me no questions asked. A veteran, I have found these guys to be very useful for hitchhiking in the South. He brought me further down the interstae and then my next ride took me to Cape Girardeau and I got out there to go sit at the Mississippi River and grab a coffee since it was my birthday after-all.

11082542_806695656078539_1271149063788085359_n
Michael brought me to the Cape town.

I got talking to some locals around the coffee shop including some eegit frat types, a cute student girl and a wealthy lady who owned shares in the towns hotel. In the end I set up a date with the student girl for later and got offered a room in the hotel for free with a buffet breakfast (which I really abused, leaving the hotel with heavy pockets). Turned out to be a great birthday really, anythings possible in these smaller towns that tourists don’t frequent with an accent.

The next morning I didn’t feel like hitchhiking though and walked to the nearest Walmart instead and bought a rubber dingy boat. Inspired by the Mark Twain tales of Huckleberry Finn I was bound for Memphis on a $30 Walmart inflatable boat.

I spent three wild days floating on the river passing barges, meeting rednecks and camping until my boat sank (in the middle of the river) and I was back to the road. I’ll write up a full report of the river happenings soon.

Floating the Mississippi
Floating the Mississippi

I meet a guy trash picking on the road outside his house, after some chatting (I complimented the hand gun he carried on his waist) he brought me into his home. I meet his wife and he recalled the childhood sweatheart story and then dropped me back over to the interstate. Memphis here I come!

My lift back to the interstate
My lift back to the interstate

After maybe a half hour standing on the interstate thumbing a grown-up family pulled over to let me squeeze in the back. They were all crazy rednecks, but again friendly enough to leave me at a good truck stop. Again I tried the useless truckers who just wanted prostitutes it seems, hanging around after dark I made some friends including two Hobos also travelling the interstate. They were pretty negative about shit though and smelled bad, I reckoned they were never gonna get a ride or weren’t even trying so I left them to drink beer under their tarp and hung about the petrol station. A worker began chatting with me, I pretended to agree with his narrow minded opinions to gain trust and my cunning plan paid off when he said I could use the truckers showers. Great! But then I spotted an old Mexican pulling in with a cowboy hat and pick-up.

Mexicans are very useful on the road especially the ones who look like they used to hitchhike to work back in their Mexico days. He didn’t speak any English, like literally none, not even hello but had been living in the US 30 years, mostly in Texas. My broken Spanish managed to get me a ride the whole way to Memphis that night. I arrived on the outskirts of the city real late and slept beside an RV Camp. When I say slept beside I mean outside the perimeter of the property under a tree in my sleeping bag so as not to pay the $25 camping fee (ridiculous price!) then sneaked in at 7am for a quick shower and over to the nearest petrol station.

The very first guy I asked for a lift into the city center was a Korea Veteran on his way to the veteran’s hospital. He had a veteran’s license plate on his pick up so I asked him straight away and no questions no problems he dropped me by the downtown. Gave me a bible too. Why do Americans think hitchhikers are automatically sinners?

I kicked it in Memphis for just one night then I was bound for New Orleans. Mark the guy I originally got a rideshare from Chicago to St. Louis with was in town after being in Nashville for a couple days (I knew because we exchanged facebooks). He was driving to New Orleans the next day. I shot down to New Orleans so on the next morning and slept out by the train yard in the 9th ward where I knew there would be other travelers. I got a great sleep on some wooden crates under the stars in the heat not even caring about the mosquitoes the slightest bit. The snow of Chicago was a long ways away.

Waking up in New Orleans
Waking up in New Orleans

Hitchhiking from Bulgaria to Romania

Hitchhiking from Bulgaria to Romania

Hitchhiking from Bulgaria to Romania and across to the Hungary border at Nadlac took me a total of two days. It was hitchhike veliko tarnovo bucharestan enjoyable journey across Romania, one of my favourite countries to hitch-hike.

I began in the morning in a village a couple of kilometres from Veliko Tarnovo called Samovodene. I had been staying at my friend Cliff”s place called Trinity Rock’s Farm.

I began thumbing on the northern side of Samovodene and got collected by a young Bulgarian guy who spoke English from working at holiday resorts.

hitchhike trinity rocks farmOverall Rating : OK

Waiting Time : 1 Hour

He brought me to the border at Ruse and turned back. I was quickly told by Bulgarian security that I wouldn’t be allowed cross the border (a big bridge) by foot.

So I began talking to truck drivers and the third guy (Turkish) nodded to me, he had no English but knew I wanted to cross the border and had no problem with me ridding shotgun.

Once across the border he stopped for some Turkish tea (Chai) with his other Turkish trucker friends (Turks love tea). I got offered plenty of tea, biscuits and bread by the three Turkish truckers then they set off again with my guy driving to Bucharest.hitchhike bulgaria romania

He dropped me off on the outskirts of Romania’s Capital near Jilava on a ring road that goes around the city.

I followed the signs for Pitesti and started thumbing again.

Some young Romanian guys pulled over wanting a chat but they were only driving into the city and a Prostitute seemed to be angry at me for hitchhiking near her spot or maybe because I was a foreigner without lots of cash.

A trucker stopped for me though after about 30 mins.

Overall Rating : OK but not ideal, rough looking area

Waiting Time : 30 Mins

The trucker was a great gut (like most Romanian truckers), he drove along the motorway until Pitesti then radioed the other truckers to ask if anyone was continuing towards Hungary.

He found me a guy named Carlos that was driving that way and let me off, after waiting on the side of the motorway maybe 10 minutes Carlos an old Romanian guy turned up.

He spoke Spanish fluently which meant we cold have some conversation although my Spanish is basic. He drove for another hour then stopped to watch football and put some magnet scrammer thing under his truck then drove for a few hours during the night.

Carlos was going to Arad but had to stop for a few hours in Timisoara first. His truck had two bunk beds and he offered me one while he took a nap in the other. That was my first time sleeping in a truck.hitchike arad nadlac

After a 6 hour nap we headed to Arad and I jumped out on the outskirts of the city and began thumbing for the border.

Overall Rating : Great

Waiting Time : 20 Mins

Carlos had been great company on the road and it was still early in the day so I was sure I could make Budapest before the end of the day.

My lift to the Nadlac border was a young Romanian guy who wasn’t himself crossing it.

IMGA0397
The Hungarian that brought me to Budapest

I began hitch-hiking on the Hungary side and din’t have too much success. All the truckers were planning on resting after the border.

There was a petrol station with very little traffic close by but in the end thumbing near the border paid off and I got a lift directly to Budapest with a Hungarian guy in his forties who had travelled around Europe and Israel in his younger days via hitch-hiking. He was returning from work in Arad.

 

Hitchhiking from Turkey to Bulgaria

Hitchhiking from Turkey to Bulgaria

Hitchhiking from Edirne in Turkey to Veliko Tarnovo in Bulgaria proved quite difficult, mainly at the Bulgaria/Turkey border.

hitchhike edirne veliko

I presume the Bulgarians were a bit less trustworthy of strangers because of the amount of Syria refuges sneaking across the border at the time.

I had camped in Edirne the night before after travelling from Istanbul and began thumbing beside where I had slept.

The first car to pass by collected me, a Turkish fella and he brought me to the border then turned back, don’t really know where he was going originally.

Overall Rating : Greatcamping edirne

Waiting Time : 5 Mins

I had no luck what so ever at the border though. I waited nearly an hour just after crossing it then another hour on the immediate highway but with no luck (the traffic is scarce yet moving fast).

After walking along the highway though about a kilometre I spotted a hole in the fence that led down towards some service stations and restaurants for truckers. I had a bite to eat then continued walking from here towards Svilengrad.hitchhike svilengrad

After walking another 2 or 3 km I got collected by an old man who dropped me at a good “autostop” spot in Svilengrad for travelling north towards Veliko. I was very grateful for that lift after the hardship of the border.

At my new hitch-hiking spot it only took about 20 mins to get back on the road again.

Overall Rating : OK (Not very busy)

Waiting Time : 20 Mins

This elderly man had no English but I believe he claimed that he regularly picked up hitchhikers from all over Europe around the border.

He was only going to Cherepovo so I jumped out before then and tried for another car. There is no need to point out the specific locations because this route I took is full of small villages and it’s possible to hitch-hike anywhere on the road.

The next car to pass was a pair of Gypsys in their thirties with a banged up old Dacia, some part of my brain said to ignore them but my aching feet were happy with any ride so I stuck the thumb out and caught my first lift with Gypsys.

It turned out to be just fine like I expected (wouldn’t of thumbed otherwise) and I got let off in Polski Gradets. I walked out of the town and started hitch-hiking again on the side of the road.

My next lift took maybe an hour to arrive but I was glad in the end because the (mafia looking) guy drove ridiculously fast, and he had a mercedes with comfortable leather seats. He was only going to Radnevo though.

By now I was a little confused as to my location but I knew I was still heading in a northerly direction.

So after hitchhiking in Radnevo I arrived in Stara Zagora and since it was after getting dark I decided to sleep, I pitched my tent up by a small lane-way which was to the side of the E85 motorway just outside Stara Zagora. To me it looked like a Mechanic’s Garage was maybe at the top of the lane, I couldn’t tell in the dark.

After maybe one hour of sleep though I was awoken by a flash-lamp and the sound of a dog. I opened my tent to find four fully armed Bulgarian soldiers looking at me (more on this later) but luckily one spoke English and I talked me way out of the situation. Apparently the ground was Bulgarian secret service territory (some spy I would be).

I walked down the motorway another 500 meters and found a secluded spot in a wooded area without soldiers.

In the morning it was raining heavy but I really wanted to get to my friends place in Veliko to get tidied up and showered so I began hitch-hiking anyway. An elderly guy in a truck stopped for me even tough I was drenched (some people are just great) and he brought me to Kazanlak explaining in broken English how I had went wrong on my way to Veliko.

The road from Nova Zagora to Veliko by Gurkovo is much faster and used by the Veliko traffic no the Stara Zagora route. When coming from Polski Gradets I shouldn’t of veered west to Radnevo. He helped me get back on track by radioing other truckers too and found me one in Kazanlak for Veliko, and that’s how I finally got there in the end. Getting lifts in trucks can be a slower method of travelling but will often proove rewarding since no-one knows the roads better than them.

 Before : Hitchhking from Istanbul to Edirne

 After : Hitchhking from Veliko Tarnovo to Nadlac via Bucharest

 

Hitchhiking out of Istanbul towards Edirne

Hitchhiking out of Istanbul towards Edirne

This is bloody difficult (it took me two days) unlike general hitchhiking in Turkey. Istanbul is just too dam huge.

I began near Ataturk Airport (jumped in a taxi with a friend from my hostel who was getting a flight) and walked west, my plan was to get to Silivri then work my way up to Edirne off the motorway so that I could hitchhike. After there I was heading to Bulgaria.

hitchhike istanbul edirne

On the first day I walked for the whole day. It was a late start (like 3pm) and I was too hungover to bother talking to drivers so I never really thumbed either. I must of walked for maybe 7 hours following the D100 then camped in a field by the road putting my tent up after dark. The area was still residential and I spotted the local security guard who gave me permission to camp.

On the second day I kept my thumb out as I strolled along by the side of the D100 road and got picked up a couple of times in various locations. After maybe three lifts I was in Corlu and things were looking good to reach Bulgaria and in one of the cars the young Turkish guys were smoking some weed.

I however got into a bad situation when this other guys wallet fell out of his car when he let me out, (see Facing Arrest in Turkey). That wasted another two hours at least and it was getting dark.

I was however by then in Babaeski. I walked to the edge of the town and turned left at the hitchhike edirnejunction to get onto the D100 again. The traffic was moving very fast but I got collected quickly without even a sign. I really thought this spot was useful.

Overall Rating : Great

Waiting Time : 10 Mins

In Edirne then I walked through the city center. The place looked a bit dodgy to camp in (Refugees trying for Greece and Bulgaria around).

I found a nice place to camp though. A sort of park camping edirnejust after the bridge (marked in red), it had a friendly security guard who was working all night and had no problem with me camping on his grounds.

In the morning I hitch-hiked directly beside my park on the road just after the bridge towards Bulgaria and got collected by the first car.

After : Hitchhiking from Edirne to Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria)

Hitchhiking from Chisinau to Tiraspol and Odessa

I was staying at the Funky Mamaliga Hostel in Chisinau, a decent hostel for just a fiver a night. Chisinau is a cool city too, I wanted to stay a couple days but I meet David (French) and Tom German) in the hostel on my second morning. They too were hitchhiking.

They told me about a country I had never even heard about called Transistria or Prednestrovia, a breakaway state from Moldova. They planned on hitchhiking there that morning and I felt like joining them, some company on the road would be good. So I packed my bag and headed back on the road again.

hitchhike odessa

We caught a ride fast enough from the airport. If you take a bus there then walk back down hitchhike chisinau moldovaonto the main road where traffic would exit from the airport in the Tiraspol direction you will see a good spot with plenty of room.

Overall Rating : Good, plenty of room but traffic is fast.

Waiting Time : 20 Mins

So we were collected by Igor, a friendly short fellow with tattoos on his arms, hands and knuckles. He didn’t speak English (or Romanian like most Moldovans) instead he just spoke Russian.

As with all native Russian speaking people he spoke away in Russian regardless of the fact we didn’t understand. Russians will speak Russian until you speak Russian, simple as.

We gathered he was from Traninistria and proud of it too, we had our own local tour guide, which is probably how we managed to skip across the border relatively easily.

For more information about the border and money exchange see getting into Transnistria.

Transinistria is essentially a small slender strip of land between a Moldovan River and Ukraine. On the way to Ukraine we would mostly just see the capital city of Tiraspol and a little countryside. The city is chillingly communist with statues of Lenin, Russian Tanks, Soldiers and everything in Russian. It’s a cool experience to see the very quiet town of Tiraspol if only for a few hours.

Tiraspol-tank

We got our new friend to leave us off in what seemed like a city center so we could explore. Immediatley after stepping out of the car it was obvious we were outsiders. Especially David, (he’s black) the locals would stare confused looking and one kid even asked for a photo with him.

There are some gorgeous looking young girls here (dressed 90s style) and all of the guys seemed friendly as we strolled around. One group stopped to have a smoke with us and take a photo. The language barrier is unreal though, no-one speaks anything but Russian here and everyone seemed shy. When we had food in the one restaurant we could find it just had a Russian menu too. I didn’t see any ATMs either.

When it came time to head for Ukraine after eating some dinner we just started walking again and thumbing. People looked a bit scared in the cars though especially with a black guy (the only one in the country ever probably).

In the end a police officer came over to us, he signaled to wait then flagged down a mini-bus and ordered the guy to take us to the Ukraine border. We gave the driver like 3 euro in Moldovan money and everyone was happy.

It was a strange yet interesting experience in the country that dosen’t exist called Traninistria, it felt very Soviet and I felt like a celebrity there. I would like to go back someday and speak to the locals about their lives living inside this little territory with little chance of ever leaving. Learning of Russian would be needed though first.

Once across the Ukraine border we began hitchhiking again, it was surprising how easily we walked the border considering there was a civil war happening in Eastern Ukraine at the time. There was a lot of soldiers around too. Possibly fearing an attack from the Pro-Russia made up country of Transinistria. The border police just laughed at us “Silly Westerner with big bagpack haha, we have bigger problem to fix then bother check their passport”.

We didn’t have any success hitchhiking however, two fat Ukranian men pulled over and simply made money symbols with their hands before we realized we would need to pay. In the end we had to bargain a deal on the side of the road to exchange some Euros, and then pay for a lift to Odessa.

Ukraine sure wasn’t being the most welcoming country.

Overall Rating : Bad, unless your a girl since local girls seemed to not have to pay. This is ahitchhike ukraine bit risky too as many of the old men around the border were considerably dodgy looking.

Waiting Time : Probably not long, like 15 mins once you offer some money to chip in towards the Petrol cost, anywhere from 5 euro to 10 euro should suffice for Odessa.

 

The roads are horrible in Ukraine with potholes the size of craters but on the other hand the trains are very cheap. Travelling hundreds of km for about 10 euro on comfortable sleeper trains is possible. I would recommend this rather then the hitchhiking (unless you speak Russian). Maybe the atmosphere was only tense because of the trouble in Donetsk at the time.

 

 

Hitchhiking from Brasov to Chisinau via Iasi

Hitchhiking from Brasov to Chisinau

Hitchhiking is never fun when hungover, the main reason is that you miss out on an early start. Precisely the unfortunate reason I had to cheat on this journey and take a bus near the end when I went hitchhiking from Brasov to Chisinau.

300 of the 400 kilometers were hitchhiked however, and they were eventful too. Being in a near fatal collision and learning all about magic mushrooms. Really all you can come to expect from a days hitchking in Europe’s wildest country (Romania).

Hitchhiking BrasovI walked from the Old Town Hostel (where I had an enjoyable stay) to Strada Harmanului and began hitchhiking just after the roundabout. Its possible to hitch at the bus stop, a sign is recommended (for Bacau) a local actually went and made me one while I was standing. If you get sick of standing too there is a Petrol station maybe 300 meters up the road where you can ask the drivers for a lift.

Overall Rating : Good

Waiting Time : 30 Mins

I was picked up by “Coco”, least that’s what he said his name was. A young eccentric type in an Astra. He took me to Onesti Along a very scenic road through hills with great views of the mountains. His good English allowed for some deep conversation about the world and the necessary changes according to Coco.

He claimed to be inspired by many great movies, such as “Into The Wild“, camping and was in the middle of starting his own business selling fruit juice. Something I noticed about the younger Romanians whom I could speak with was how in touch with nature they are.

I don’t mean in a “hipster” save the world sense, they just seem to love camping trips and making campfires. We discussed magic mushrooms, apparently the mafia runs their distribution and part of the Bible was inspired by hallucinogenic mushrooms. Who knows?

I bid farewell to Coco in Onesti, he was off to romance his girlfriend, I walked on through the town in the Bacau direction.
hitchhike from onesti bacauI crossed a bridge and began hitchhiking again outside a restaurant with plenty of space for a car to pull in, using a sign for Bacau.

Overall Rating : Good

Waiting Time : 20 mins

I got picked up by a gorgeous lady in her forties, would it be rude to call her a “Milf”? There isn’t a doubt in my mind she fit the description anyway, (assuming she had children). She was accompanied by her husband and her brother, a mentally handicapped man. He sat in the back with me playing his game-boy. She was the only one with any English so the conversation didn’t exactly flow.

I gathered however that her father had passed away the day before (Rest In Peace) and the family were on the way to their home-place. Seems like a depressing time when you wouldn’t stop for a hitchhiker but hey! Romania is a bloody random place.

She dropped me off at the bus station in Bacau because when I told her I was hitchhiking to Moldova she got worried. This is a thing about Eastern Europe which get’s annoying sometimes.

Every country warns you about their neighbours usually claiming that there are lawless gypsys everywhere once you cross the border.

You don’t need to pay heed on these warnings but the Lady (Milf) was fairly stubborn on the subject. It took 5 minutes of tough persuasion and the demonstration that I had a phone before she was happy to say goodbye to me. Sometimes it’s a blessing that men are so much more likely to pick up hitchhikers, women often worry too much and seem to think up every conceivable possibility that could possibly go wrong and then convince themselves it will go wrong.

I strolled across the bridge then confident that I was making hay on my way to Moldova, I came to a Petrom which looked to have only local traffic so I continued along the road past an Hitchhike bacauimpressive Orthodox Church. Bored of walking and tired of my rugsack (hungover) I made a quick Iasi sign and stuck the thumb out.

Overall Rating : Surprisingly Good considering the traffic moved quickly.

Waiting Time : 30 mins.

I got collected by Marcel, and what a character he was, absolutely wired to the moon would be an understatement. He had no English but would scream in Romanian out the window as he drove and wave inappropriate gestures a lot, especially at the Gypsys. One Gypsy lady in fact flung a fistful of horse-shit at the car (a focus hatchback). Marcel truly was a mad old bastard (probably about 55 years old).

He got lost of course on the way to Iasi (not the last Romanian I would get lost with). Blamed his phones shitty satellite navigation (repeatedly banging it off the dash to make it function properly). He asked a man who was gardening at one stage in a village about directions and nearly got in a fight, as entertaining as it was to hear an argument in Romanian it really wasn’t a smart move. The gardener was carrying a massive scythe.

Eventually we got back on the main road to Iasi, after passing through many small villages cut off from civilization almost. With a single local well for water and sometimes (rare) no electricity and horse drawn carts everywhere, I had to wonder how Romania was in the EU. The country is very medieval in places.

At one stage a van pulled right out in front of Marcel on the main road after a fork where to roads joined each other. Marcel had to slam on the breaks after I let out a horrible shout. It was the van drivers fault to be fair, his daughter was standing on the seat blocking his view of the road but he drove on anyway. I will only say this once The driving in Romania is Lethal!.

I did eventually get to Iasi, (late) and began hitchhiking for Moldova. I asked a local where to hitchhike and walked to the spot, however it proved to be futile after maybe 2 hours trying.hitchhike iasi

Overall Rating : Bad

Waiting Time : 2 Hours Unsuccesful.

I guess to head for Chisinau I should of stood at the north side of the city not the east because the border with Moldova is north of Iasi even if Chisinau is East technically east. If I hadn’t been hungover I could of figured this out instead of standing like an eegit for two hours.

An old lady began talking to me and she was happy to walk me to the bus station, and I got a bus to Chisinau for about 8 euro if I remember right.

Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade, an Epic Journey

Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade

Hitchhiking from Sarajevo to Belgrade was definitely one of the longest and best remembered days I have ever had on the road.hitchhike belgrade

Hitchhiking at least 10 different cars with fishermen, farmers, business men and all sorts of interesting characters from Bosnia and Serbia.

I even got set-up on a date with one Serbian man’s daughter in one car.

The road was rough for most of the journey with low traffic but it was possible to hitchhike anywhere (at least until the Serbia border anyway).

I hopped from village to village in Bosnia catching lifts in Mk2 VW Golfs and VW Camper Vans which make up 90% of the rural traffic there.

The rides in Serbia were longer and much faster. In either country no-one spoke English except for one Bosnian, sign language and a map had to just about suffice.

I left Sarajevo in the early morning walking along the road to Donja Ljubogosta which goes through a tunnel just outside the city which is dangerous enough to walk but can be done (I did it). The traffic might be less then impressed.

A man in a bus pulled over after the first tunnel to politely shout something at me, when he realized I was foreigner he was a sound ambassador for his new country and offered me a lift. The place where he collected me being marked in red below.hitchhike from sarajevo belgradeOverall Rating : OK, no space for a car to pull in

Waiting Time : Had been walking maybe 15 mins

After getting dropped off near a petrol station at Donja Ljubogosta I strolled up the road 100 meters to the fork in the road. There was a few locals here already hitchhiking and I noticed some Serbia flags hanging from houses from here on, this part of Bosnia is home to mainly Orthodox, Serbian speaking folk who consider themselves Serbian.

I joined the queue of locals hitchhiking on the road over the bridge (at the green mark on the map) looking all natural and not like a bag-packer at all I hope. A sign isn’t needed just wait until your turn to be picked up.

Overall Rating : Great, mostly local traffic. You could try a sign for “Beograd” (Belgrade in Serbian) but its better to take any lifts you get and just to keep moving.

Waiting Time : 10 mins

A man in a van delivering bread to a bakery (mind blowing stuff) brought me a few miles to Sumbolovac. Here I just walked to the edge of the village and stood with my thumb out again where there was space for a car to pull in.

It only took maybe 10 minutes before I was on the road again. If you get impatient just walk along the roads with your thumb out whenever you hear the rumble of some banged up car coming around the bend and hope its a “comrade”.

This pattern repeated itself maybe ten times until the Serbia border. I won’t go into detail on each place I caught a lift because I don’t remember each village and it really dosen’t matter. You can thumb anywhere and walk anywhere.

Some traffic will go maybe two or three villages and most will be going only a few miles, just keep taking lifts. Don’t be bothered if the car has no seat-belts (I gave up checking) or if the driver is chain smoking (most were). Definitely act normal if the driver is drinking beer, I got offered beer in two cars by drinking drivers. Dogs were common too on the passenger seats.

The one guy who spoke English had a very long chat with me and took me to his favourite fishing location. He had run to Italy as a teenager (now probably a hundred) and took a boat to goatAustralia where he worked for many years. He truly had an inspirational life, and gave me his number in case I ran into trouble on the road.

Beside me in the van though was a live goat which he had just bought and planned on killing because he recently got good news. I shit you not.

He began to rant about the divide up of Yugoslavia after the wars and got quite emotional. I sat and listened as he recalled the good old days when there was no border between him and his friends. Not the first or last man I’v meet on my journeys to praise the days under Tito’s Communist Dictatorship. I didn’t meet a single Bosnian who praised the current state of affairs once.

On the road from Sarajevo to Belgrade not only is there some beautiful nature but you will meet all sorts of interesting “Soviet” characters like him, some of whom have barely left their little villages in their entire life.

Some places appeared quite lawless too and one old man asked for money when he collected me, I refused though saying I had none and he understood enough. Offering a cigerette in these situations usually will suffice. Carry a packet even if you don’t smoke because every Serbian smokes.

To walk across the border you need to first walk over a bridge (a river runs along the border). I encountered no problems from the guards and wasn’t searched. I immediately stuck out my thumb again after the border and quickly got picked up.

This time by a man with one arm and one leg, my jaw dropped when he hopped out of the old merc to open my door. He managed to speed along the road maneuvering with only half a body! He didn’t speak English but I assume he unfortunately stepped on a landmine. He clearly wasn’t letting it hold him back in life though, what a mad bastard he was on the road! Drove like a rally driver I swear.

I got dropped off at a petrol station where my driver hopped out of the car to yell at the attendant in Serbian to find me a lift to Belgrade. Possibly scared of the one legged Schumaker hitchhike belgrade to sabache quickly found me a lift with a guy who was heading to Novi-Sad.

The “not so chatty because I’m always on my phone guy” dropped me at the toll booth on the E70 motorway to Belgrade. An excellent and popular location to hitchhike to Belgrade that wasn’t a completely random spot on the side of the road.

Overall Rating : Great for Belgrade, just stand on the other side of the booth and a driver will collect you after they pay.

Waiting Time : 15 mins

The old man who collected me had no English but quite luckily his daughter did. He rang her up and gave me the phone. What a Gentleman if I might say, I had a date set up for the next day in the city. If you have ever been to Serbia you will know that 99.9% of the girls are extremely hot, so the odds were staked in my favor to land a humdinger of a lady, God I love Eastern European genetics.

All in all it took a full day to make this journey and it was without a doubt my most exciting day on the road that Summer. It was my first experience of the more Soviet parts of Europe too, where lifts are simple to get but no-one speaks any English. Offering a cigerette is all the communication that is needed however to become lifelong comrades.

The Balkan countries truly are scattered with beautiful nature, women and friendly people throughout the countryside.

Very very cheap too, cheap as chips in fact.

Before : Hitchhiking from Mostar to Sarajevo

Hitchhiking from Romania to Germany

Hitchhiking from Romania to Germany

hitchhke romania munich

I was hitchhiking from Romania to Germany because I needed to get to Memmingen Airport quickly for my return flight home to Ireland. I had began this journey in Istanbul and will describe my journey from the Romania/Hungary border at Nădlac to Memmingen Airport via the lovely Budapest.

I walked across the border at Nădlac after hitchhiking a ride there with a local Romanian guy. I should of approached the car’s at the border queueing to cross but I reckoned I could just stand with the thumb up on the other side. A bad decision really as this border proved to be a difficult one to hitchhike.

Upon crossing the border by foot (no issues or search) I began thumbing on the other side immediately. There was a long line of truck drivers queued to cross the border into Romania and a few crossing into Hungary but all of them waved me off. I suppose it was getting late (around 6pm) and they were planning on napping. Many car’s with German registrations passed but none would stop, most occupants looked Turkish also and I have had luck travelling with Turks but people seemed wary here.

The reason for this must of been the amount of Gypsys at the border in French and Spanish registration Tranist vans. They were collecting kids and sending kids back to Romania it seemed but for some reason the adults weren’t going to cross the border. From here in Hungary they could get back to France or Spain without crossing a border so the likely-hood was that they were iillegal living in the Schengen area. This created an air of suspicion around the border. There is also a petrol station a kilometre from the border but it was relatively quiet. So I stood at the border for 3 hours with a sign reading BP for Budapest.

hitchhike nadlac

 

Nadlac (Romania) and Nadylak (Hungary), the red marker is my hitchhiking spot, the yellow marker shows the petrol station. It’s worth a try at the station but I had no luck.

Eventually a Hungarian guy pulled over, he was in his late thirties and was happy to bring me to Buda, he told me all the stories of his life as a hobo travelling the world. He had worked in Israel, Spain, England and France just to name a few. Don’t know what I would of done if it wasn’t for him.

Overall Rating : Bad spot, dosen’t see much useful traffic. I reckon I got lucky considering I arrived late.

Waiting Time : 3 Hours (Budapest)

Once I arrived in Budapest late I rang a Hungarian friend of mine, she agreed to meet up and I stayed a couple nights.

When it came time to head for Germany I was hungover, like every time I wake up in Budapest. I headed for the petrol station/Mcdonaldshitchhiking budapest. This was my second time hitching here and by far the more successful. The more you hitchhike the easier it gets. Description on how to get here.

After about 10 minutes of standing around a Hungarian kid approached me of around 13 years of age. He asked of I spoke IMGA0398English and chatted a while. He asked his Dad to take me to Gyor with them, I was impressed with the kids confidence.

Overall Rating : Best option for hitchhiking from Budapest to Vienna, Bratislava or Balaton direction.

Waiting Time : 10 mins (Gyor)

I got dropped off beyond Gyor at the first petrol station (my second time here), a spot frequented by hitchikers. I soon found another ride  with a Hungarian man who spoke English. He told me the story of the time he Hitchiked across East Germany to Berlin as a teenager in the seventies. He lived in Austria now so his kids would learn German aswell as Hungarian and English (from him) growing up. He believed his effort to make them trilingual was a gift to them.

Overall Rating : Good, there are no busy petrol stations after the Austria border so getting a direct lift to Vienna is highly recommended and worth a wait.

Waiting Time : 20 mins (Austria)

My Hungarian driver took me past the Austria border and to an area where truck drivers park off the motorway about 25km from Vienna. Put “ASFINAG Raststation Fischamend, 2401 hitchhike viennaFischamend, Austria” into Google maps and you will find the exact spot. It was dark now and I couldn’t see anywhere to camp, it was a little car park beside the motorway with toilets and a couple Gypsys. Not sure what I could do I struck some luck when a Swizz car pulled in, and out got a man in his forties.

I asked him as nicely as I could to take me further because I didn’t want to be stuck here. I was lucky he spoke English given the fact he had his two young kids with him and a car full of luggage. He asked if he could see my passport (never happened before) but then its rare people with young children collect hitchhikers. Once he checked over it and was satisfied he rearranged his luggage so I could fit in, we chatted for a while but I soon fell asleep.

I woke up outside Memmingen Airport. Seen as the guy was driving to Zurich he was passing by Munich and Memmingen anyway. I really struck lucky here. If anything this highlights the importance of knowing what registration cars to approach right away.

Overall Rating : OK spot, not recommended as such but it has potential if you want to skip Vienna. Arrive early as there is nowhere to camp.

Waiting Time : 20 mins (Germany)

IMGA0400
My lift to Germany