On Saturday morning we awoke in Barcelona. Content with how far we'd come and full from the brilliant meal the night before.
We began the day with a bit of sightseeing, following a walking tour from the Lonely Planet. We walked around most of the city, taking in the views and being really touristy. We saw Gaudi's famous cathedral, 600 years on and still with scaffolding up! I got a bit lost and we ended up missing a couple of the sights, but that just creates more reasons to come back again. Before hitching off, we took one last trip to the market, buying fresh fruit juices and stocking up on olives. It was then time to grab our bags and try and find the start of the motorway.
This proved to be quite tricky. Following an old man's directions, we walked up a fairly steep hill and ended up inadvertently hiking up to a special viewpoint of the city. It was a fairly decent view but not worth the walk we did to get there! We headed back down and found a place to hitch from. It took a while, with numerous Barcelona City Tour buses going past and tourists taking pictures of us. Another Hitch group came along looking for a place to stand but as we were there first, they had to move on.
Eventually, we got picked up by a nice Spanish couple who we're going through the city, having just picked up a dog. They took us to a toll booth about an hour south. There wasn't much traffic coming our way but it was a better location than in Barcelona.
Now, here is where our dignity really starts to slip away. It was getting late and the lack of cars were making us worried that we wouldn't get a lift before it got dark. So, we started looking for places to stay if it came to the worst, to the point where we contemplated staying in a disabled toilet or hobo tunnel. It had started to rain (I claim that we're in Spain but the weather sounds more like home) but this seemed to work in our favour. A lovely, chatty woman picked us up and took us to the nearest service station. This was only about 20 minutes down the road but we also got a guided tour on everything we were passing.
It was really quite late by this time with just over an hour of daylight left. Despite our best efforts, we didn't get another lift (the amount of traffic at Spanish service stations is about a quarter of that st home) and went to sit inside. We discussed what our game plan would be. The final outcome of this was that we'd have to sleep rough and stay in the service station. It was 24 hours, so it wouldn't shut but I wasn't sure how kindly they would look on people sleeping in there. After a few hours of slowly wasting the time away, all other customers had left and only one staff member was on duty. Zoe made her move first. There was a children's area with soft, foam flooring which she used as a bed. A little later Jon and I joined her. I really regret not bringing a tent now, but as they say, hindsight I'd a wonderful thing. The night went by and we weren't moved on. There was no way that the staff didn't realise that we were there, as a lot of customers spotted us! At around 2.30 am,it sounded like the whole of Spain had come in but I daren't to turn around. It was nearly 6 when we got out of the play area and moved to a table, none of us had managed to get any real sleep.
It was time to wake up and start hitching stain as soon as daylight broke through and we were back out there by 7.30. It took about 90 minutes in the freezing cold wind (we we're layered up in at least 2 pairs of trousers and 5 top layers) before we got a lift. Habib, a Moroccan, was driving from Italy to Murcia, which was further than we could have hoped for. He pulled off about 30 km outside the town and left us at a roundabout, still we were 5 hours nearer to our final destination. It took another 45 minutes before we got a second lift into the centre of the town of Murcia.
I wouldn't recommend Murcia. From what we saw of it, it's a bit of a dump. We got some food, it was nice to not eat service station food and paying those prices, then headed off towards the motorway. We didn't have a very good position to stand in, Zoe had had a long chat with some old men about where would be best to stand but they just told us where we couldn't go. I was starting to think that we'd have to find a place to stay here and try again tomorrow, when a campervan pulled up. It's always when you start to give up when someone seems to stop.
We all piled into the back of the campervan and headed south. It was odd being back in a campervan, it seemed smaller than the one I had in New Zealand, but was still for 3 people! We ended up in a nice little coastal town called Mojacar, but Zoe assures me that it gets really touristy and not so.nice in the summer. Two of the people we're getting dropped off here and we were to switch cars and carry on to Almeria with the third driver.
This turned out to be the most eventful leg of the journey so far. The girl was going back to Almeria for university and was taking two dogs with her, so first of all we had two dogs running about the place. We had barely left and were driving along the coast when we got pulled over as part of a routine police check. The driver was breathalised and we had to pull in. She then had to get out and (I assume) do more tests. As she got out and shut the door, one of the dogs dived across the car and jumped our of an open window, running across the beach. We had no idea what to do. I felt like we we're being Punk'd, it was such a surreal experience. She came back and got the dog, found her documents and told is that she had tested positive for amphetamines, so she may or may not be able to drive. Again, we had no idea what to do. We could see her crying in a police van and thought the worst. What is the etiquette in this situation? Should we wait for her to tell us to get out? Should we do a runner? Should we go over and tell her that we're leaving to find a hostel in Mojacar? It took us about half an hour to decide but we went for the latter option. We got all of our stuff out of the car and went to approach the police van, but there she told us that once her friend had come and signed her off, she'd be able to drive again, and that she was still expecting to take us to Almeria. We got back in the van and waited. Her friend arrived and we went to a petrol station, where he got out and our driver continued on her way. It was a bit of an uncomfortable journey... She explained to us that she had been on holiday and had stopped taking drugs the day before, but they we're obviously still in her system, and that she had been fined 500€. We got dropped off at a youth hostel around 10.30, and she asked us for some.money as she was wiped out from tthat fine, so we gave her 5€ each, thanked her for the lift and secured a room for the night.
After the ridiculously long day, and very little sleep, it was a relief to have a bed and shower for the night. However, you can't lie in when doing something like this and we were up again at 8 to have our free (disappointing) breakfast and continue on our way. We've just got one last stretch to go, along the south coast to the west. Our target for today is to get to Malaga, but I'm so tired of hitch hiking I'd much rather get a bus! Alas, that would be cheating, so the sign will get written and the big foam thumb must come out again.