May 08, 2007

One year on…

Well…

This really feels like writing with smoke. The last time i wrote on this blog has been over a year ago. and that is a simple expression of the fleeting passage of time. wow.

so am in italy at the mo. Its a sunny day, high of 27, low of 14 expected. and how to enumerate, list, discuss and ponder on the shenannigans of an entire year? to say the least its been one hell of an academic year; you arrive in a country not speaking the language, within a month you can defend, another month you can fight, another month you can inspire and then you cant really give a shit any more.

Italy is a funny country. god i love it, but the vanity principle is hilariously ridiculous and gets to a point where you feel like smashing those damn gucci sunglasses in their eyes, or burn those dreadlocks right off that scalp. not to say that there are not any vain people in the rest of the world. just walk around london, madrid, or even check out the gypsies with their camper vans and mercedes benz pulling it. ultimately it boils down to appearence, one’s reaction to appearence, and how you can make people react in a desired way. in short, micromanagement.

am off to buy a pair of sunglasses now… hey, when in rome…


May 01, 2006

That damn equinox

First blog in a looong while.

Its that time of the year; trees bursting with green, tulips have exploded in a multitude of colour, everything seems to be glowing with a nascent energy which for human is expressed through relationships beginning and ending, illnesses, and whole lot of rampant sex.

i really enjoy spring, but in the UK, it takes too long. i mean for God's sake its already May, one month for summer to come around, and its still damn cold, and changes in plant morphology are only now relatively appreciable. average temperature back home: 25 degrees. at least il be going back soon.

essays have been given in. Keynes, Marx and science. damn interesting topics when i finally got down to doing them. and as usual, my only regret was not having started doing them earlier. I finally have some relative understanding of how economic systems function (at the macro–level anyhow) and as such, the importance of the constant inter–relationships and inter–plays between factors that affect employment, interest rates and liquidiy preferences. With Marx, i read how much importance he placed on his view of human nature that affected the superstructure of his general theory of historical materialism, and as such, how indebted he was to Hegel. The last one, how important the west was in the growth of science, i ended up with a nagging feeling that my literature gave off the impression that the rise of science was, in relative terms, an historical accident. it just "happened" to be that Europe enjoyed the right conditions for the development of science; our ancestors had the right mindset, the right legal developments and the correct institutional arrangements that allowed the Copernican revolution to occur. All seems like a bit of a farce to me. will have to go deeper into that.

anyhow, its that time of the year, no more going out, enjoying oneself in the sun and starving oneself of vitamin C cuz exams are around the corner (1 month, 2 days at the mo). fuck it, im gonna sunbathe on the roof.


February 06, 2006

Final Journal entry

Day 7: Marbella to Tangier (19/03/05, Saturday)

I woke up a bit displaced, and then I realised I was in Marbella. At about 8:30am I believe. We headed for the beach to get some food, and more importantly, coffee. Dave is surprised by the quality of Spanish coffee, whether its in some sleazy bar or an up-market joint. Ah, coffee connoisseurs. We went back to the hostel, where Dave took a shower (I believe that was going to be our last shower in 3 or 4 days), we pack our bags, pay the hostel patron with many thanks and aimed for our last ride in that charity hitchhike.

We walked west to the outer part of town and try hitching by the roadside, with no luck. We take the opportunity to take a couple of photos, to actually prove we went on a hitchhike. At the time, a local told us to head 100 metres further down the road to the gas station we had actually been looking for during the past half hour. Despite the change of location our situation was the same. This being Marbella, for every shit Seat, Fiat, Polo, truck or van there would be 10 suave BMWs, Mercedes, Rovers or Audis. Marbella; a city for the rich and the corrupt. At this point I would never tire from people’s reactions to hitchhikers. Everywhere else we had been laughed at, smiled at, joked with or played with. Here, we were considered part of the Barbarian hordes. Most people would avoid eye contact, just in case Vandalism was caught by eye to eye infection. For jokes, we’d aim our efforts at 2 seater Porsches, you know “go on bruv, it will be tight, but we can all fit in”. There was an amazing amount of foreigners, so English was used quite a bit.

outside of Marbella
hitchhiking out of Marbella

Another sign was written, saying “AUTOSTOP DE CARIDAD” (“CHARITY HITCHIKE“), to pacify the rich snobs. Dave took the gas station exit, I took the traffic lights on the busy main road. I was in a good mood despite the overcast sky, and just took the opportunity to piss about on the road side. Young people laughed and pointed. Old couples looked bemused. Middle-aged couple looked away, especially those that were closest to me, the raving blond Barbarian with a sign for a weapon. This was especially the case when I decided to get on my knees and start praying at them. At one point I started jumping up and down and chasing after the cars, or getting into the middle of the road on a red light, which really got my crowd going; people started honking horns, laughing and shouting encouragement. It also got us a ride. The last ride of the hitchhike, the last leg of 1400 miles from the UK to Morocco, the ride given to us by the chief mechanic of Puerto Banus, Tedorino.

He stopped by saying he was en route to Algeciras, the reason why he was taking us being “Has estado pegando saltos como un canguro”, or translated, “You’ve been jumping about like a bloody kangaroo”. We piled into his van, throwing our stuff in the back and sit up front. As we were leaving we suddenly hear a rattle and a bang. Dave didn’t close the back door properly, and it flew open and the trolley in the back would have flown right out hadn’t it been caught on the door. We stopped quickly and let Teodorino assess the damage. Dave and I looked at each other a little sheepishly, and see each other thumbing it for another hour but thankfully there was no damage. We weren’t going to make the 3pm ferry anyway, so we had plenty of time to kill. Teodorino came back in, saying that damage control was fine, so we drove on. He told us he was going to Puerto Banus first to pick up his wife. We stepped down from the van and into the port, checking out the huge boats, speed boats and the occasional sailing boat. It was all quite impressive. Marbella, the city of luxury and mafia bosses. As we headed back to the van, we notice Teodorino, his wife and a common friend sitting in the front. We were relegated to the back of the van with no seat, seatbelts or comfort of any sort for the next 45 minutes. And since Teodorino didn’t understand the concept of using a brake, we flew around the back of the van a few times before realizing there were some dubious-looking handle bars on the sides, which I grabbed on to for dear life. It wasn’t very relaxing. Nor was the fact that I had a large, quickly revolving, rubber tire about 4 centimetres below my ass. What to do but buckle up… ah, I couldn’t do that either.

We drove down south. The Mediterranean facing my back, the mountains in front of me. Gibraltar loomed in the distance and before I knew it we arrived in Algeciras. Teodorino parked next to this decrepit old trawler or fishing vessel of some sort, about 70 metres long and 15 wide, rusty as hell, and apparently his. Newly his. He had just bought the floating heap of rust and was obviously proud of his purchase. We got off the van and clambered on to the ship, and realized that that was it. The end of the Hitch. No more thumbing it across Europe. To celebrate we take a couple of photos of us on the ship, and waited to take one with Teodorino. We waited quite a while, but he had taken his wife and some friends that had met up with him on the quay into the dark, dank bowels of that metal leviathan. T’was truly a monster of the deep. We took in a view of Algeciras which lay at our feet. To be honest, it was a carbon copy of Le Havre, but warmer and drier. We got off the ship, telling Teodorino’s friends to give him our thanks, since he was inmersed in a maze of iron and steel, and headed for the ferry.

Boat in Algeciras
Dave in Algeciras, on Teodorino´s love boat

As we walked to the ferry terminal, we noticed more Arab signs and Arab people conglomerating in the area. It was an appetizer of things to come. Whole families in cars were crammed on the road waiting to cross the straits and head home. We bought our ferry tickets and go to the waiting lounge (after being kicked out of the café because it has a costumers only policy), whereupon we ran into a couple more Warwick hitchhikers: a certain Joe and his female partner, who for the life of me, I cannot place a name on. We simply chilled. This was interrupted with the arrival of 3 more Warwick hitchhikers though: Chris, Liz and Lucy. Murphy, damn him, was certainly working overtime to make sure his precious law was observed. And despite trying to pass incognito, that Bitch, Irony was having a laugh. Of all the destinations, places and mishaps that could have occurred, we were stuck with them. Again. Hit 5pm we get on to the ferry and I get the Dutch passport stamped for the first time. We sit far away from the other Warwick hitchers, who nonetheless continue to pester us from time to time. We climbed on to the deck, and I bid my adieus to Spain and Gibraltar and greet the Moroccan coast, under a steel sky. As we walked down I was shat upon by a seagull. My guess is that it was from Gibraltar. And so much for that saying of being shat on by birds is a sign of good luck, we were stuck with 3 Warwick first years en route to Morocco. I passed the time by playing a bit on the Clié, which suffered an accident due to a faulty socket in our Marbella hostel. We also made economic amends, with Dave eventually owing me €100 as it turned out. After 2:30 hours of rocking to and fro, we arrived in Tangier. There was a big bustle to get out, and for some reason the Warwick hitchers stuck closer to us than warts would to an old hag’s ass.

But nevertheless, we walk the gangplank, in good pirate fashion, and touch African soil. Or cement. Anyhow, a new continent I have visited, a new culture to see. Night gently descends her inky veil across the grey dome of sky, and a minaret calls the faithful to prayer. And we walk down the port, into the Moroccan evening of uncertainty and pickpockets.

FIN


Sixth Journal entry

Day 6: Madrid to Marbella (18/03/05, Friday)

Dave woke me up at around 10am. After breakfast, we pack our stuff and lounge around, waiting for my Dad to show up. I gave Greg a tour of the garden and chat with Leah and Aks until my Dad showed up at around 11:30. I left behind all my U.S. documentation, since getting flogged in Morocco was not a tourist trap I wanted to experience. We headed for the service station outside of Ciudalcampo, where the day before Bas and Giuseppe had left from. We restarted the hitch by walking around the station, asking truckers and drivers to give us a lift south. But the truckers as well as the drivers were all either stopping in Madrid, going different directions, or were full to the brim. At this point, Dad ferried in Greg, Aks and Leah. We were now 5 hitchhikers looking for rides. Damn. Nonetheless, we pissed about, took some photos and played around with the hackey sack.

There we were, asking passers-by where they were headed, and generally receiving a curt “No”, until Rocio appeared. She arrived in a small, dark-red Peugeot, and I asked her where she was headed. “Me voy a Marbella” she said, “I’m headed for Marbella”, to which I replied “Oh mother of God PLEASE take me and my friend with you!”. Surprisingly, she accepts to harbour 2 complete, foreign strangers in her tiny car for the next 7 hours. She reminded me of a mouse; small glasses, dark hair, always carried her purse around with her, I got the impression that she secretly nibbled at table corners and bits of cheese wrapped in a napkin when no one was looking. All in all, she was a nice woman. We waited for her outside the service station with the unfortunate Aks, Leah and Greg (who would later end up getting a ride to Ciudad Real, via Toledo) and then pile into her small, cramped car. She was moving homes, sold a hotel she and a her Chef husband had in Vitoria and was starting a new life in Marbella, where her husband was now working as head Chef in a 5 star hotel. Word.

We drive off, heading south, getting stuck in the Madrid congestion (of course I would have to suffer a final bout of familiarity with the home city), but heading decisively for Andalucia. Rocio, as it turned out, spoke some English, so she and Dave could communicate and I could rest my brain from bi/trilingualisms. She was originally from la Palma, Canary islands, but had lived in Seville and San Sebastian, receiving a degree in tourism, even though she would have enjoyed marine biology a tad more. That’s life for you. It was not a particularly interesting drive, she studied English in Brighton, so Dave and her conversed on that note for a while. A lack of sleep was hitting us both pretty hard after our first pit stop though. We found out the main reason for picking us up, the unspoken contract; “I’ll help you two by taking you down south, and you two help me by keeping an eye on my stuff during the pit stops”. it was a fair deal. To be honest though, I would have though she would have been considerably more tired, after driving through half of the Iberian peninsula already. Dave took the back seat for sleep and I was relegated to being kept awake by Rocio’s chit chat, mainly on Seville, it’s beauty, and about the wonders of the 1992 Expo in that fair city, which I saw at the ripe age of 6. I couldn’t remember jack, but she filled me in on the details that my fuzzy memory decided to oust.

After about 3 hours of driving, we go through the paso de despeñaperros (or better said, the mountain pass of dogs being thrown over a cliff, you have to love Spanish bluntness) where I roused Dave from his slumber to take in the scenery, which was, of course, definitely worth it. We rested for another pit stop, whereupon we tried to coax blood into our asses, Rocio’s seats are uncomfortable as hell. There was also copious exampled of Spanish Chavalry, a mere 30 kilometres north of Granada. Not exactly the most comfortable smoking and leg stretching environment when you have 20 “malotes” shouting, sneering and jeering around you. We switched seats so that Dave was on the receiving end of mouse woman and her prattle.

Puerto de Despeñaperros
Puerto de Despeñaperros, heading into Andalucia

It was the last leg of the drive. For some reason the names of trees was a prominent moment of our getting to know Rocio. Names of trees in English and in Spanish. How should I know! Going past Granada, I could just make out the Alhambra, and enter we did la Sierra Malagueña, where the weather turned foul. Some amazing cloud formations, and the Mediterranean was a steel horizon of metallic ondulations. The coast was the Spanish coast, the concrete coast, cranes and concrete as far as the eye could see. Rocio also mentioned that Malaga airport is the busiest in Spain, to which an image of the average British holiday family popped into my head: All sun burnt and on a constant binge, the kids too. Rocio also explained to us why she decided to pick us up in the first place. “It’s all a matter of the first impression” she said. She trusted us because of our T-shirts (she assumed that we were indeed a legitimate charity hitchhike) and how I spoke (I was very educated and oh so English).

We finally arrived in Marbella, well after nightfall, in the old quarter of town. We clambered out quickly, and I nearly forgot my hoodie, since Rocio was in such a rush, trying to get home to her husband who had no idea that she had just travelled through most of Spain with a couple of strangers. Maybe she told him… We landed in Marbella at 8:15pm and we immediately searched for a hostel. The second one we saw gave us a prize; 2 beds, a bathroom and shower, all for €35 in total. It could have been far worse. We dropped off our possessions and went in search for some place to eat. Our good patron the hostel manager gave us some directions, and I gave Dave a genuine window of opportunity to lavish in the tapas tradition, in a nice terraza on the beach. After good food and good conversation, we got some coffee and postcards, and decided to go swimming. We headed back to the hostel, put in some trunks and towels in a bag and enter a couple of 4 star hotels in search of their pools. To no avail, the security was too tight or the pools were closed. We thought of the sea, but it was too cold and dark and Jaws kept jumping into my mind. I think there was even a buoy out at sea, and a naked woman on it too… We gave up, headed back to the hostel, I took a shower, watched some TV and went to sleep.

End of Day 6, 64 kilometres from our destination.


February 05, 2006

Fifth Journal entry

Day 5: Cotch in Madrid (17/03/05, Thursday)

I am risen from a stupefied slumber at 10am by Elena, with a horrible hangover. Bas and Giuseppe are leaving, and Elena could not for the life of her understand what the hell they were saying. I assist in making sandwiches, also making the time to go see everyone in the garden. As an afterthought, I really did not comprehend how I lasted so long after only sleeping about 4 hours. I went along with the pair and my Dad, dropping them off at a service station at the north of Madrid, next to Ciudalcampo (whereupon they waited a mere 5 minutes to hitch a ride down to Seville). I headed back home with Dad, and on arriving see Dave awake and relaxed (no shit Sherlock…)

We had a good lunch, relaxed a tad more at home, and then headed into the city to show Dave the scenes , after a tour of the family grounds of course. We went around Sol, the Plaza Mayor, La Latina, the Royal Palace and had some Pizza around Opera. After going by la Gran Via and buying a copy of Don Quijote de la Mancha, we headed back home, at dusk. Upon arriving home, I got a call from Aks. They had no luck whatsoever getting out of Madrid that day. They were even given direction to a homeless shelter. In their sullen mood, they requested to spend the night at mine. Graciously, I accept.

Madrid skyline
The Madrid skyline from Arguelles

Dinner: A HUGE amount of pasta is made, accompanied with plenty of cheese and wine. Also accompanied with a Casablanca feature. Major kudos to Dad for buying those “El Pais” Sunday specials. Photos of Aks and myself when having gone to school together, at the tender age of 5 or 6 were passed around, followed with plenty of coos and sighs of “aw shucks, how cute”. Sleep slowly took a hold of us. The next day would be a busy day. We finished preparing sandwiched for the following day and went to bed.

End of Madrid, end of the cotch end of day 5. Seriously, the end of the cotch. Really.


fourth Journal entry

Day 4: San Sebastian to Madrid (16/03/05, Wednesday)

We woke up early in San Sebastian, at around 7am. It was bloody well freezing in the room, so we dress appropriately. The other Warwick hitchers were still fast asleep. Dave and I head down to the 35degree angle, worn out wooden staircase into the city, and are overwhelmed by heat. It was a balmy 19 degrees outside, at 7:30am. Incredible. We could not figure out why our room was so cold. We got some breakfast in a swish café, croissants and coffee, and take a walk around the beach, marina and old part of the city. Culturally satisfied, we take our belongings, put on fairly clean clothes, and head for Irun via cercanias train. Taking the bus to Bahabia, we trek to the border. At this point we realise we have lost out handy, huge marker pen for our signs. It was probably left in France… poor bastard. We made signs for Madrid and then Vitoria, because luck was petering out fast. I was scolded by the guardia civil for hitch-hiking “in their presence”, upon which I leave their presence. We have become immunised against the noxious fumes of mingled exhaust, gasoline and piss that permeates all trucker stops it seems. We finally ask this trucker who was wandering around the area when we arrived where he was headed. Here starts Vladimir’s story.

I approach him and ask him in Spanish where he was headed to, noticing at the time that his truck’s license plate was Portuguese. I naturally assumed he was a Portuguese man. He replied in relatively good Spanish (any Portuguese can speak Spanish really) that he was going past Vitoria, which was on our route to Madrid. The day before, we spoke to Bas and Giuseppe who advised us to go through Vitoria, not Bilbao (The bastards arrived in Madrid the day before. They had to camp out in Aranjuez though, hehe). We found out later that he was also going through Burgos, which is a mere 2–3 hours away from Madrid, north from Madrid as the crow flies (which is incidentally how the road was laid), eventually finishing at Valladolid. Thus, we were on a route non-stop to Burgos. With any luck, we would be in Madrid by the late afternoon or early evening, if we did not encounter any hitch. We climbed on to the truck and start chatting to Vladimir, who as it turns out, was Ukrainian. The name was a dead giveaway, but until he told us his name I was convinced he was Portuguese, his accent was flawless (to me at least). He showed us photos of his wife and child back in Kiev. He had been living in Evora for the past 7 years saving money to go back to Kiev, living like a King. I reckon he mentioned he had a couple more years of driving as a trucker before he could move back.

After about 15 minutes of idle chat, Vladimir decided to move on, get on the road, move south, towards sun and sky. We sped down the motorway of the Basque country; moving into hills, mountains and villages, the sea and San Sebastian far behind. This was by far the most scenic moment of the journey so far. There was still bountiful amounts of snow on the mountains; remnants of the blast of chilled, cold Siberian wind and tempests from a couple of weeks ago that had brought traffic to a halt. All the truckers we had travelled with agreed that it was nigh impossible to travel through Irun on those days. On the route through Vitoria, ultimately ending in Burgos, we talked with Vladimir. Dave practiced his Spanish, and I attempted to translate Portuguese to the best of my abilities, generally enjoying a very pleasant drive to Burgos. There was no constant chat as was the situation with Adam, where I was mentally fatigued by the time we arrived in Les Landes. There was actually comfortable silence. And no smoking. He was our first encounter of a trucker who did not suffer the urge to fill his lungs with tar every 5 minutes (and us with the driver, it was a chain reaction. Anyone who lit up a cigarette would be promptly followed in succession by the other 2). During the drive I finished reading Pygmalion, and Dave came up with an idea for a movie script. It was indeed a productive journey. What was a source of amusement was Vladimir’s reaction to my reading and Dave’s writing on his Clié; He’d always look at us with the corner of his eye. At certain moments, to break the silence, I would talk to Vladimir on several issues, one being the E.U., how the Ukraine was a crossroads between the east and the west, and what countries bordered with the Ukraine (this was around Miranda del Ebro, crossing into Navarra). Pretty odd all around.

Alas Vladimir followed the same doomed fate as Gillaume, when he dropped us off in the center of Nantes. Instead of dropping us off in Burgos city, he dropped us off at a mountain port outside of Burgos, el Puerto de la Brujula. I will never forget that god-forsaken place. It was only 20 kilometres outside of Burgos and should have been, theoretically, a good hitchhiking spot. We got off the truck, saying goodbye and a sincere thank you to Vladimir (saying “what a legend” as we left, ironically). We had a lunch of jamon Serrano sandwiches in baguette bread as well as some good Spanish coffee. We resumed our hitchhiking tradition shortly afterwards. It took us 2 bloody hours to get off that mountain of Satan. Most of the truckers were very irritable and most of the cars were headed in the opposite direction. It may have also been the coincidence that it was siesta time for most people around then. Nevertheless, after 2 hours, a trucker took pity on us and decided to take us all the way into Burgos city. His truck was dustier than the Sahara and smelt quite stale. His name was Maturiño I think, something very old and very odd. But all in all, it was the chariot of the angels! It took us away from that remote hell hole. Maturiño was married to a Moroccan woman and lived in Leon, with his wife and daughter. He detested the police, and on a side note, we went past Atapuerca.

We arrived in Burgos at 5pm, and with our spirits low, headed straight for the train station to get to Madrid as soon as possible. Screw the hitch and it’s rules, I simply wanted to get home that night. 1 problem: The earliest train would get into Chamartin train station at 11pm, and the clubs wouldn’t be open in Chamartin on a Wednesday. The bus would get us in at 10:30pm at a cheaper price; we’re students, sod the hitch. It was 5:30 and the bus didn’t leave until 8pm. We had quite a bit of time to waste. We decided to visit the cathedral of Burgos, which was probably the nicest cathedral I have seen after having globe-trotted across Spain’s stupidly large heritage of catholic buildings. The stone was bleach white, light streamed in through various glass panels. There was a crypt as well as a museum, with sliding glass doors at the exit that gave the impression of a 21st century inquisition, leading to a “you are not worthy” anecdote. We strolled around the old quarter of Burgos, being constantly stared at by Spanish chavelry, occasionally taunted. We had coffee, wine and pan con tomaca (tomato and garlic on toast) and jamon Serrano. I also spent a good half hour looking for a cash point after the closest one was fiddled with by gypsies.

Burgos Cathedral
The Cathedral of Burgos, among other things to see in a 3 hour timeframe

We finally got the bus and headed off to Madrid. I crashed for some part of the journey, chatted with Dave for the remainder. And in we rolled into Avenida de America bus station at around 11pm. My Dad picked us up and took us home, exhausted but happy. Bas and Giuseppe were already there, cotching (the bastards not only arrived in Madrid a day early, but went through my food). We drop off our stuff, and had food, wine, a much needed shower, and headed into the city to meet up with Renata, Tom , Aks, Leah and Greg in Ducados café. Got trashed, had a few laughs, and in perfect tradition, headed off to the pub to finish the night in a swirl of Guinness. Unsurprisingly, everyone was astounded by the potency of Spanish copas, how late one can go out till. Renata and I concur in the surreality of having Warwick friends in Madrid, a truly unforgettable night. We headed back home whereupon Giuseppe and Bas crashed, and Dave and myself nurtured philosophical thoughts ranging on how the impressions and experiences one has, and how empathy can never be attained in truest form, until 6am. Disastrous.

End of day 4, home, sweet home


January 29, 2006

Third Journal entry

Day 3: Nantes to San Sebastian (15/03/05, Tuesday)

Nantes does seem to enjoy Dave’s and my presence. It was impossible to get out of the city the day before. We got about 7 hours of sleep when we woke up at 7:30am in “La Manufacture”, and was it enough sleep? There can never ever be enough sleep it seems. Damn you sandman. We had a breakfast of orange juice, coffee and plenty of jam and bread. Leaving “La Manu”, we trek a couple of kilometres, going over a couple of bridges onto the south embankment of the Loire, all in the purpose of hailing down our next good Samaritan. We discover that the French are best not approached in the morning (the intensity of finger wagging increases exponentially, correlating with the sun it seems. Mornings are BAD), but we nevertheless manage to entertain a few token French. We come to the conclusion that the fastest way to get picked up is to entertain the drivers. At this point in the hitch-hike we didn’t know this though. Our pattern the day before (the French pattern it seemed) was that we would either be picked up by truckers or by guys (or occasionally moms for about 4km, or part of the female student body) driving battered French cars. The pattern failed to live up to the standards of François and his old, yellow, model Citroen though. Nor did it predict that it would have the Bond 007 painted on the side, the 7 turning into the gun, and a loud fog horn for a claxon. Where Gillaume screwed up the day before, François saved by getting us the hell out of Nantes.

François, speaking only French, somehow conveyed to me that the week before he attended a huge festival where loads of suited up Citroens gathered. There were about 1000, one of the most memorable cars having the claxon modified to play the well know cavalry charge when pressed. He was a joker. Moustache, long hair, glasses, very French. He dropped us off a few kilometres south of Nantes on the motor way. It was not a very good spot, mainly because there was nowhere for drivers to slow down and pull up. We stood there for 45 minutes, waving at cars, trucks, ambulances and vans, but it was hopeless. Shortly after a cigarette break, a purple van pulls up. I run down to it and this guy tells me in frenglish that the spot was no good to hitch-hike (to which I muttered “no shit Sherlock”). The best bet we had was to walk down to the peage. "How far away is the next peage?" Only a couple of kilometres. "Really?" Oui. "Merde".

We pick up our stuff and hike the 2 kilometres down the French motorway on a mid-march morning. Road to our left, and vineyards to our right. The combination of physical excersion and improving weather, as opposed to sitting on our asses in a acclimatised environment, causes the sweat to break. And the curse of having to carry winter coats around. We finally arrive at the peage with half a bottle less of water, whereupon we relax, lie down on the grass, have a couple of cigarettes, you know, just cotch. However, the desire to continue south is still invigorating and the breakfast from “La Manu” is still surprisingly energising. We make a sign for Bordeaux and start to rip the piss. Our aim: Get peoples attention any way possible. We hail down cars, run after them with our sign, taunt them, pray for them, generally having a blast. Considering this was the best weather so far of the year, that spring was in the air, we were in high spirits. Clowns of the road we were. Put there by divine providence for the amusement or embarrassment of the French driver in his hallowed hall, the motorway. I write a sign saying “ESPAÑA ¡POR FAVOR!” so as to catch Spanish trucker’s attention, and in doing so, inadvertently start Adam’s story.

After running around and pleading, I saw this Spanish truck leave the peage and slow down next to us. Mild adrenaline rush ensues, we were leaving Nantes! I ran to the cab to ask the driver where he was headed: “Bordeaux, an hour south of Bordeaux”. Very good. His name was Adam, a Pole, who has been living in Lleida for the past 3 years (city north of Barcelona). We travel about 7 interminable hours with this guy. He’d never ever shut up. At first it was great. He spoke basic English, Spanish, French and German, fluent Polish (obviously) and Russian (a historical legacy he explained). As a footnote we found out that a truck works with 8.5 gears (as to the extra 0.5, I really do not know the benefits it brings), the horse power in trucks are incredible, that Adam was a devout catholic (a rosary hangs beatifically from his rear-view mirror) and has a daughter. He also offered Dave to try out driving the truck, which would have been interesting as a source of comic relief I suppose. We stopped off for a 45 minute break, where we ran into a couple of Spanish truckers, one donning a complete cowboy outfit; hat, boots, buckle, the works. We also gleaned in on to the truth behind trucker’s fame as to being heavy smokers. There would be a 5 minute break between cigarettes. Maybe even 6. Nothing less, nothing more. Apparently poles refer to overflowing ashtrays as “hedgehogs“. We‘d have to empty these friendly tarry mammals quite regularly. Adam also turned out to bear an intense hatred towards the French, and I mean INTENSE. He constantly cracked jokes on the libido of French men, supplying the evidence in the form of fornicating French wives. French wives would visit trucker stops at night for a full servicing. Some would even travel with their fuck-masters for a week or so, depending on when the trucker would tire of the lady in question. I garnered the impression that Eastern European truckers are devoted to their jobs. It gives good money to support their families (and French mistresses) and future lifestyles of early retirement, peace and bliss (and 10 apartments in Warsaw).

Our drive south with Adam became increasingly marked by the discussion of market economics. He kept on discussing possible business ventures, selling steel and iron in Poland being an example. All scrap iron in Poland was bought by a Russian who owns all the steel mills, thus a good venture is found there. Selling wood in Spain is also a good choice, since all the forests were cleared in the 16th century to give way for pastures for the merino sheep, in the wool industry. Adam would become increasingly passionate about these issues, to the point that he asked me if I knew any good hackers. I replied “perhaps, why though?” the answer? Simple: hack into Spanish banks (who apparently have the laxest electronic security), steal money, and invest itl in import/export. His last venture in this field was selling furniture, where he made €30000 in 3 months. It screwed up after he was incapable of finding any transport (please note, a trucker is stating he cannot find trucks to distribute his furniture). Thus, the scheme he had in mind was to spend some money buying 3–4 trucks and use them as we needed them. WE. Adam had in mind to have Dave and myself as his business partners. Once we made enough money, we would go into construction … Adam is without a doubt a visionary. A passionate one at that. Let the wind blow and see where the seeds of fortune land. With luck they will take root and grow, fulfilling his dreams. Good luck to you Adam. More pressing concerns are we arriving in Morocco. He was insistent in exchanging numbers. I accidentally gave him my dad’s. still have his though…

Adam finished his day, as promised, at an aire in Les Landes, an hour south of Bordeaux. Deep in the endless pine forests. Surprisingly enough I recognised the service station. In any case, he parks, we scramble out, and he helps us find a ride down south, to San Sebastian, Irun, Spain in general. If we didn’t find a ride, he offered to take us tomorrow morning. I was exhausted from his boundless enthusiasm though, and decided to let lady luck spin her unreliable wheel. We asked a few truckers, but they declined on grounds of insurance and job loss, even though Adam harped on about what a couple of “good guys” we are. Strolling to the other end of aire, we receive a few honking from one of the trucks. Turning around, we look at what was up. Lo and behold! Hitchers! 3 of them in the truck! They wave at us enthusiastically as they drive away, south… bastards. We started asking around and eventually a Spanish trucker agrees to take, albeit after much begging and pleading. The first impression was that the guy wasn’t exactly enthusiastic to take us, but the good Samaritan inside got the best of him. We waited for him to finish his coffee, throwing our stuff into the storage container on the back, alongside car chasses waiting to be assembled into full grown cars in Madrid. Thus, off we sped down to Irun, the town on the French/Spanish border.

I sit in the cabin/bunk bed, Dave sat in the “office”, and we chatted about his 35 year experiences of being a trucker, on how much Europe has drastically changed. He’s a native of Extremadura, the region of the conquistadores in Spain, but has been living in Irun for the past 30 years, with Basque grandchildren whom he loves immensely. He’s been all over Europe, Africa and some parts of Asia. He was even a trucker for the red cross during the Balkan wars, to which on his return from the mission, he told his boss “next time you need a job like that done, do not count on me”. he said it was the absolute pits. His favourite country in Europe is Italy, for it’s food, followed shortly by the UK. He stated that the Brits have an immense respect for truckers when on the road. We cross the south of France, entering the French Basque country, passing St. Jean de Luz and finally cross the border. We park and get out, finally in Spain. I no longer have to practice my French. The man’s name was ooold Spanish, something like Teodorio. In any case, he gets out, opens the compartment for us to retrieve our belongings, and is approached by the Spanish police. Damn. That bitch Irony would have had her day if we were to end our day in a Spanish jail cell. Nevertheless, Teodorio manages to sweet talk the guardia civil, being a good neighbour of these polite, firm men, explaining he picked us up at Biarritz or something, because he felt sorry for us or something. The police leave, and all glory be bestowed upon Teodorio! He even offered to drive us to the train station in Irun, in his Rolls Royce (truckers really do make a lot of money…), so we could catch a train to San Sebastian.

The Bay
The bay of San Sebastian

We arrive in the train station, after Teodorio explained how to get back to the border to continue the hitch. It is apparently impossible from San Sebastian. We climb out of the Rolls, thanking Teodorio immensely, when we run into the hitchers from the aire, south of Bordeaux. Seems that that bitch Irony is ultimately a subtle cow. Their names were Chris, Lucy and Liz, and from all possible encounters, are from Warwick. In their first year. We take the cercanias train with them into Donosti (Basque name for San Sebastian), and on account of one of them having been there before, latch on with them to find a hostel in the city. After 40 minutes looking, we found a decent one with no curfew. Guys in one room, girls in the other. We freshened up and hit the town for Donosti’s fabled tapas. We walk along the Concha beach and into the beautiful old town, where I explain to Dave the latest trends of Spanish chavalry, having come across Spain’s representation of the phenomenon in the center (mullet hairstyle essentially, with feather filled jackets and tight trousers). We ate really well, having had crab, Spanish omelette and something resembling a porcupine… Donosti, the capital of Spanish tapas. Heading back to the hotel, we ran into “S to the power of 6”: stoned Swedish surfers sur San Sebastian. They apparently arrived into the city after driving a day and a half from Morocco to catch a swell from the Atlantic, meaning good surfing. An interesting prospect for a lifestyle. Finding our Warwick team increasingly annoying, we find the hotel, and crash, sleeping very well.

End of day 3, finally in Spain.


spun out of a heliocentric universe

Arrived from London this morning. and i am feeling a void in my head. where thoughts should be, all i find is a mercurial churning, quicksilver spinning around the locus of my self.

went to london to celebrate the birthday of a good friend of mine, about 6 of us went, all on the megabus company (which btw is amazing; 2 hour trip from canon park to victoria station for about 3 pounds). we saw lyrics born and quantic, and in good fashion recieved a thorough alcohol-induced trashing. some more than others, i was pretty broke, and going into london armed with 25 pounds is not nearly half of what u should have to properly enjoy a night of that calibre. many anecdotes arose from the general chaos. attempted a failed flirtation with the fit little girl from the support act, where the common thread of a common language (in this case spanish) has oft than not, common results; namely a "oh really!? what are you doing here?" "and urself? u were amazing! can i get you a drink?" "oh sorry, i have to see some people, il try and see later though!"...

its amazing what sleep deprivation and booze can make one do. either pass out or summon energy from the most obscure sources. i wonder if the mitochondrial walls can function with alcohol. i suppose you'd create beer-fuelled twats exhuding vodka vapours. After 4 hours of sleep, where it started hailing-snowing when we got back home, a 2 hour bus ride and the lingering palseys of a beer occasionally striking you from the middle of nowhere, i am finally home and everything is a blank.

mercury is now slipping out of my ears, the yolk of my mind draining, and am looking forward to a few hours of mindless computer games, TV shows and movies. hopefully il wake up with actual grey matter and a couple of hemispheres between my ears, spinning around helios, me, the heliocentric universe of my mind. cuz right now, helios is a feeble matchstick and the planets of my reason of been flung out into the dark emptiness of vast space, the emptiness of my mind.


Second Journal entry

Day 2: Le Havre to Nantes (14//03/05, Monday)

We disembarked in Le Havre, dans la France, avec tout les grenouilles. It was 7:30 in the morning and the sun reveals to us all the majesty of this port city. And all the denizens of this vast metropolis came to greet us in the form of rush hour traffic, impatient commuters and a foggy cold morning with the industrial structures of any ugly port clambering out of the salty mist. We all walk down to a main road to buy some authentic, fresh, French baguettes, which being purchased at a gas station, were not very fresh at all. Cigarettes were also an issue but they could wait. Bas and Giuseppe got their first ride after about 5 minutes of waiting (which began their marathon sprint south), leaving Dave and myself waiting another 55 before being picked up by a student who drove us from Le Havre (thank god) to Caen, where she studies every day.

The drive was in a word, uneventful. My sputtering French, combined with French countryside and a French wine induced ferry crossing hangover left me attempting to win an uphill battle with the sandman. Nevertheless we did cross the impressive pont de Normandie which are 2 bridges that cross the estuary, which on this particular morning stood out from the haze. A couple of Chateaux crossed our path, as did some large forests, but considering the amount of wine that was drunk coupled with the fact that we only slept about an hour left us too tired to attempt socialisation with our dear lady friend-driver.

So this French woman drops us off outside Caen at a peage, where we quickly assembled some signs to take us south towards Bordeaux or le Mans. It took us about 45 minutes before we got a ride. Our attention grabbing skills were incompetent at best, where we received a mix of amused smiles and French glares. Quite amusing to say the least. Our second French driver was a young student visiting his parents from somewhere outside Paris I believe. My memory is not exactly elephantine. The drive went by very quickly, primarily because the sandman routed my forces on the left flank and I failed to see his pincer attack come, whereby I lost awareness. This left a rather awkward situation where our French patron was in the presence of 2 English (and very exhausted) strangers passed out in his car. If he was expecting a conversation he would have been in for a surprise, because at that point my French was rustier than the USS Maine, let alone my catastrophic defeat at the hands of the sandman. I came to the conclusion with those 2 drives that not only are the French extreme fans of Reggae, but that Bob Marley may actually be related to our constant yet unpredictable companion the sandman. I awoke to our French host wanting to drop us off on the motorway, but I kindly asked him to drop us off at the next aire, mainly because I did not really fancy receiving a full body cavity search from the Gendarmes for walking on the motorway. It turned out that the next aire was that of Mt Sant Michel, but there was no mount, let alone an ocean or a beach visible. I was disappointed that I could not see it, but finally managed to buy a pack of smokes, baguettes and had a proper meal. The weather turned for the better, getting warmer and clearer, and on that high we picked up our possessions and headed to the on-ramp heading south. We got picked up by a British trucker with a weekend habit of snorting coke (hopefully not on the job). So we nick-named him Charlie.

Mt. St. Michel
Le Mt. Saint Michel. We never saw it

It turns out Charlie is an ex-army man. He explains to us how he used to blag train rides around Carlisle (his hometown). It was quite tiring to keep up conversations with him. He apparently followed the family tradition of working in the transport industry. He was nice enough for dropping us off on the on-ramp to Nantes on the ring-road around Rennes. Unfortunately he missed the ramp and left us on the worst on-ramp possible. We were stuck there for an hour entertaining the silly French bastards, many who gave us the soon to be well-known French finger waggle accompanied by smile and offered explanations. The waggle consists of the driver using the hand on the steering wheel, where he lifts the index finger, moving it from left to right while driving by. The weirdest thing about this waggle is the fact that they try and explain to you why they cannot offer a lift, attempting to speak to you. But there are a couple of problems with this approach, a) I am standing on the road, stationary, and their car is going at least at 30kmh around a bend which infers that b) there is only about a 2–3 second window of opportunity to explain why they cannot give me a lift (because they are going to the supermarket, or they have to give something to someone, etc, etc, etc), let alone that c) the windows are generally closed. This sequence of events played itself out many a time during this lapse of time outside of Rennes. We effectively played court jesters at the hallowed halls of French commuters: the On-ramp. There were an incredible amount of ambulances which, in an amusing attempt, didn’t give us lifts. So there we were, stuck for over an hour. We sat, we stood. We laughed, we sulked. We waited there until a good sir came to us as an epiphany does; unexpectedly. This epiphany-like man didn’t fill out his pre-ordained role, but did us the majesty of taking us to the correct ramp that Charlie missed, and sped us away from that hell-hole after inhaling carbon monoxide for a good hour.

We walked on to the main highway and on to the correct off-ramp, offering aid to a British couple whose caravan had lost a wheel, flying off at the elliptic, a couple of seconds before we arrived. A few minutes after that incident, we were picked up by Gillaume. As it turns out, Gillaume is quite the legend. He is an ambulance driver (one of the many that drove past us on the on-ramp in Rennes, numbering at least 40–50 the hour and a half we were there) who drove a nice blue Audi A3 and was heading towards Nantes. On the drive south, I really practiced my French which was somehow rushing back, or, in this case, regurgitating out of my mouth with many a “erm, comme ça dit… q’el est le mot qui je cherche… un moment…”. Dave crashed for a while, and that was generally the best ride we had had so far that day. Very relaxed, and Gillaume turned out to be an interesting guy. He entered the city of Nantes while talking about his experiences of Morocco, and was nice enough to drop us off at the banks of the Loire, next to the centre of the city, at his own expense, quite out of his way. We started hiking, and realised that Gillaume had made our journey out of Nantes a tad difficult. To get to the main part of town we would have to walk a good 2km with all our stuff and on an empty stomach. Thus, Gillaume was sadly reduced in our esteem. Drove a nice car though. We walked a kilometre down the main road, on the banks of the Loire, which was picture perfect. Unfortunately for us we had no picture. We came upon a Lidl supermarket and stocked up on crumbly bread (no baguettes, came as a shocker to me), cheeses and ham, and decided to camp down on the grass by the road.

Turned out the picnic was one the most amusing events of the day. Nice food, a post-meal cigarette to enjoy on the river bank, the sun on our backs, and half of Nantes staring at us and our “SUD” sign propped up against the tree. People would slow down to read the sign, then to stare at us, trying to comprehend what the hell we were up to. This happened so much that in fact we caused a small traffic jam of very curious Nantian citizens. People honked, laughed and stared while we enjoyed our meal, a very surreal one at that. With all the hitch-hiking, I reckon that I should get into some show biz. That is all hitch-hiking is in the end, a lazy effort of getting from A to B, prostituting your charm and conversational abilities to your client. It was at this point that we came across the French chav. Not so menacing or perverse as their British counterparts, the French chav is still a group that makes us react with our basic instincts. This journey became an odyssey of watching the different styles of European chavalry in 3 countries. The Brits still win the cake by a long shot though. After packing our stuff and easing the traffic, we crossed the Loire and made it to the island of Nantes on the Loire, where we got picked up by a French woman. She ferried us across the other bit of the Loire and on to the southbound motorway, giving us back our sign-pad after forgetting it in her van (which was quite a cringe moment).

So once again we were on the French motorway, “en direction sud”, nothing spectacular considering we had been at it all day. Nevertheless nature takes its course and days must end in nights, however regretful that may be. We only waited a few minutes before being picked up once again, and the sun was closely shaving the Western horizon. A description of this French joker is needed; speaking in Frenglish, he is a mason who gave me an explanation of the differences in stones and slates in this area of France (something to do with tectonic plate movements and the conditions of the sea). He was also a severe reefer driving an old Peugeot, like half of his fellow countrymen. The other half drive Citroens, a statistic that would have made De Gaulle proud. This fact alone, the dusty old Peugeot, didn’t make me wary. What made we wary was when I noticed at first sight that he was a pot head of the greatest calibre. He had long hair, red eyes and dust caked his car. There was also a horse fly running up and down his coat. Whether he was aware of the fly or not, I do not know. All I know is that this guy was named Pierre.

Nevertheless, a ride is a ride. Dave and I pile in, and since I can speak some semblance of frenglish, I have the honours of being the go to buddy of Pierre’s fly in the front seat. We speed to what I understood would have been La Rochelle. We watch Mother Earth swallow Father Sol and the ensuing spectacle of dusk, and arrive outside La Rochelle. About 200km outside of La Rochelle. Outside a peage 200km north of La Rochelle and about 30km south, outside of Nantes. And 1km west of God-forsaken Montaigu. God, may he give Pierre lung cancer from his beloved pot and a broken skull from his precious slate… His mind moves slower than the continental crust he was attempting to explain to me and their migrations across the planet’s surface. To make it worse, we arrive in the late hours of the day, and all the light available is moving fast into twilight, which became dark within 10 minutes of arriving there. Night had us at our finest hour. We approached all the parked cars and rosary-decorated trucks with praying hands. But it was to no avail. The truckers were asleep and the cars empty. What else could we do? All we could of course. Thumb it out the hell away from that place. Stick out signs as our hitch-hiking brethren would do. The situation does not give much space for hope though. It was about 8pm and the commuters were all tired, French, white-collar labourers driving nice, comfortable cars, going home to wife, kids, dinner and TV. We waited a half hour, with our moods slipping every minute, and the prospect of crashing at the peage dawned as the likeliest scenario with each passing moment. We created another sign in pure desperation saying “PROCHAINE VILLE!”. I left it with Dave as I went to the peage and talked to the ladies working in the office. I asked how far away Montaigu was, if there were any hostels, as well as “how about you let us take kip in your office, we won’t cause a mess” talk. Montaigu has squat and there was no way we’d be able to sleep in the peage.

Lo and behold, I walk back to our possessions and Dave should receive sainthood. He hailed down a couple of students driving back to Nantes, with one of them being named Gillaume, our second in the day. We speed back to Nantes, finding out more about Morocco on the way, as well as a number to call once in Marrakech. That phone number was lost, but instilled in me the impression that the French really have a love affair with the Arab world. We clamber out of the car at the Nantes train station, thanking the students profusely for saving our lives from the Montaigu horrors and quickly find a hostal they recommended, “La Manufacture”. We pay up the €17 each for a night and breakfast and discover the annoyance of 20 minute timed showers at hostels. We have a quick meal of brie and bread (tip of the hat to Lidl there) and let the sandman enter.

End of day 2.


January 25, 2006

First journal entry

A forward: this trip involved 7 of us. by charity regulations, no group could be larger than 3 people, and all women had to be accompanied by a male. thus, the 3 groups were myself and David, the second group being Bas and Giuseppe, the third group being composed by Aks, Greg and Leah (the only woman in our extended group of 7). I believe that this trip marked everyone involved, one way or another. within 5 days we travelled through half of the UK, the entirety of France and Spain, not to mention areas of Morocco itself. We all met some ingenious characters, and suffered through the woes thrown our way. As said, this is only the journal of one of the groups.

Hitch Hike to Morocco: Journal

Day 1: Leamington Spa to Portsmouth (13/03/05, Sunday)

All started well. We were dropped off by Antony at the service station on the highway (M40) outside of Leamington. Dave and I look around at our future prospects of potential drivers, which, to be honest, is not exactly inspiring. We picked up a bottle of water and headed out to the station exit with our trusty sign. Nothing happens, cars keep driving by, people won’t pick us up… what is to be expected? Although, we did have a cheeseburger thrown at us by some chavs… what was even more remarkable was the fact that they stopped 20 meters away, enticing us, bribing us, but there is no fucking way that we’d take the ride. Besides, how can 2 hitch-hikers possibly fit into a Fiat Punto crammed with 5 chavs?

In any case, after about 20 minutes of first starting this journey, a mini, green and sparkling, gave us a lift. Jim was his name (not the car) and his vehicle was a soft haven of GPS, franz Ferdinand, conversations regarding NGO’s and the “need” for a university education, and £200. £100 for myself and £100 for Dave. That brought me up to £240 raised for LINK. Safe.

Jim dropped us off at a service station outside of Oxford (which we would come to know very well) and there we waited, full of unbridled enthusiasm at the pot luck of our first hitch (paradoxically it was also Jim’s first time to give a lift to hitch-hikers). We waited 10 minutes before another guardian angel descended from the heavens to aid us in this journey. An angel with no name, an old BMW 3 series and imbued with the personality of a peacock, vain and proud. He turned out to be an optometrist who quizzed us on our beliefs of the world, young as we are, and I fear came to the conclusion that we had no ambition (at least in my case, Dave did medicine which garners a favourable impression on our dear Mr. Peacock). An old cunt of a fool he was. To top things off, he was the main cause for my first arrest.

Mr. Peacock apparently dropped us off near the junction to the M25 where we waited in vain for about 25 minutes. We prematurely decided, ultimately quixotically, to trek the 800 metres to the M25 junction and get rides from there. 5 minutes into the walk, a car sided up behind us so quietly I nearly soiled myself when I realised there was a car right behind us on the motorway. I am pretty sure I did crap myself when I saw who came out of the car; a police officer, shouting at us as a teacher would to a student. He chided and then laughed when we told him our tale though. On the record, we would be “arrested” so as to be able to be taxied back to a safer junction. En route to this new destination, after giving our details, they picked up another pedestrian on the motor way. This guy was seriously fucked; reeking of booze, dilated pupils, not at all in his senses, and ultimately only a menace to himself (but then again who of us are entirely in our senses? I suppose the police would like to have us think that they are, protecting society from the likes of us. But then again, the police have their own problems…).

The police, being the sanest elements of society, dropped us off at a junction outside slough. Slough of all places. Dropped us off at the crappiest roundabout in all of England’s green and pleasant land. We wait for the police to leave (who have dropped a couple of rungs on the ladder of my esteem), smoke a cigarette, and wait. There was a golf course nearby, and for some reason I found it appealing to go in an explore. But the prospect of entering a golf course with all our worldly possessions as well as the idea of being hassled by men wearing the worst bastardization of a tartan possible gets the better of us. Besides, we needed to get to Portsmouth.

Beelzebub’s ring road was worthy of Dante. We wrote a sign asking for Portsmouth, crossed the ring road, and waited, which is no easy feat considering the amount of chavs that mocked, jeered and generally pissed us off. We were told by a kind Hippie who was travelling with his 2 daughters, as well as by a dodgy character who was checking us out that our general direction was wrong. So we cross the ring road again. And wait. We are then told by some characters that we should head for Slough or Reading, because all cars going off the on-ramp are heading for London. We finally get a lift from Raja, a taxi driver from Birmingham who was in Slough to attend his uncle’s funeral. He had seen us trying to hitch out of that very real purgatory from when we had first arrived there, an hour and a half before. Raja kindly takes us back to the Oxford service station where the good old Mr. Peacock had first picked us up, causing us to waste a good 3 hours in backtrackings and idleness. Along the way Raja gave us his number and asked for a small gift from Morocco to be sent to him. That number was quickly lost.

Back in Oxford. KFC was extra greasy, exactly how the Sunday driver families like it. I also discovered that the Eastern European Union was greatly represented by the many tribes of trucker companies standing down for the night in Oxford. All were negligent in listening to our qualms and appeals for help. Neither were the company bus drivers ferrying sleeping passengers throughout Europe. In the end we decided to send the hitch to hell and took a bus into Oxford. From Oxford we took a train to Reading, Basingstoke, Southampton and finally Portsmouth. To kill time I discovered the wonders of the clié, especially it’s bookworm game.

The ferry crossing
Greg, Aks, Leah and Dave on the Ferry

We finally arrive in Portsmouth, scram to the ferry and somehow obtain tickets at a far cheaper price than the other 2 groups, with 5 minutes to spare though. We meet up with Aks, Bas, Giuseppe, Greg and Leah for a few glasses of wine and general merry-making. It was impossible to sleep on that ferry though. I tried sleeping on the sofas, on the reclining chairs, on the floor (where my jaw and sinuses vibrated worse than a rattlesnake on heat), finally getting about an hour’s worth of kip on the sofas in the reception hall.

End of day 1.


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