One man, One Home Run
It's 4 hours before my bus leaves and I've only just found out that the bus station is close to Maria's house. I could meet up with her for a bite to eat. I COULD do that, and I WANT to do that, but I can't find free wifi anywhere in this city! Starbucks, McDonalds, all of the other fast food places require you to register with your phone. The phone that I don't have. So maybe it's just not meant to be. I think I'll make the move to the bus stop soon, see if I can put my bag in the office and then watch a film. If they'll let me of course! If not, I'll just have to sit on my bag outside and play my ukulele or finish the book that I've been reading for the past 9 months. Something weird just happened; There is a picture of me at the Oktoberfest with a guy who has short black hair, thick black glasses and a black beard. I don't remember him because this was well into the evening of my first night at Oktoberfest. I'm currently sitting in a café and I look to my right, I see a guy who looks identical. Overhearing his conversation with a friend, he was talking about Munich. Armed with the photo on my laptop, I asked if it was him. We had a laugh, but no, it wasn't.
So, something funny almost happened. I spent the whole day waiting, waiting and waiting or when my bus was to come at 8:45, and at around 8pm I approached the guy who had been waiting for about 20 minutes. I asked him, in German of course: "Where are you going and how long do you have to wait?" to which he responded, in English "I'm sorry, I don't speak German". I immediately broke out of German and made conversation. That wasn't the funny part; We got so carried away exchanging travel stories that we didn't notice the time. Suddenly I had a moment of panic rush through my veins. I had anticipated something going wrong so close to the end of my trip, so much without issue, what's the time?! 8:50. I had noticed busses coming and going, have I missed my bus home? The last major trip on this monumental journey, have we missed it?!
No, we hadn't, there were 2 French girls still waiting and we were relieved when the bus pulled up 10 minutes later. The next 16 hours will be spent on the bus.
12 of which I pretty much spent asleep! This is a huge win. I remember waking up in Brussels and Amsterdam, dozing on and off around France and finally fully waking up around 9am to get off and have our bags searched. This is when I had another moment of panic. I had some snuff, a white powder which you snort to clear you sinuses, perfectly legal, if only a bit dodgy looking. It was 'Schenkt' to me (another word which we have no exact translation for, meaning somebody 'gave it to me as a gift') and I had it in my pocket. What if they search me, and find it? If they find a white powder on me, I can't prove what it is! And I don't want to spend any time in a French jail! I ditched it like a seasoned criminal, smoothly dropping it in a bin outside security and wizzed through customs and immigration at the French side of the channel tunnel. Time to go back to my home land.
I am now into my 3rd day of being in the UK and I'll try to do it in order without getting excited about yesterday and moving on!
My first sight of British land was coming out of the tunnel, I had stepped off the bus for a couple of minutes to stretch my legs and get some fresh(er) air. I was amazed not to see grey skies! England, you've changed! But that thought was quickly extinguished when I was reading my book and I heard a honk of a horn, looking out the window, I saw that in fact, England hasn't changed. A British lorry driver, with his v's up mouthing "f*** OFF!". I got into Victoria station almost an hour early, so thankfully I had time to grab some food and top up my wallet with some of her majesties finest! I hopped on the train and took the hour ride to Braintree where Lloren would be waiting for me, or so I thought. She wasn't there, which was unnerving. But it wasn't long before she and her mum arrived to pick me up! I was expecting us to take a bus ride, so it was nice not to be on public transport! We went to Lloren's Mum's and it was so good to be able to shower and catch up with Lloren, a whole 7 months have passed and it felt like the time between Thala and my Birthday (5 months) was a lot longer! Things were the same and it was amazing to be with her again. We went to her Dad's house, and glutinously devoured a mammoth sized dinner, exercising my new love for Lasagne. A few drinks were had and we hit the hay, preparing for the adventure that was conceived almost a year ago at Thala beach lodge. 'A Hitchhike from yours to mine'. But, it wouldn't be executed quite as planned; a straight trip.
I made a promise to a friend, my best friend, that I would visit him before setting foot in my home town. This laid out the route for our trip, go from Braintree in Essex, up to Birmingham to visit Jim, and then down to Yeovil. We set off around 10:30 to get started, via B&Q to buy a whiteboard. This also, didn't go as planned. What kind of B&Q doesn't sell a whiteboard?! Whilst we were walking around the store looking for some cardboard, I had a genius idea whilst walking past the bathroom section. A whiteboard marker wipes clean off glass, and... tiles! Perfect! For the fraction of the price of a whiteboard, we bought a decent sized, white tile. Yes, I am too proud of that. We set off from Braintree, starting to hitchhike at 11am, moving 3 times in 45 minutes following no success. However, as always with British transport, you wait for ages and then 2 come at once. A man in an old people carrier drove past signalling that he would pull in off the roundabout, whilst he was doing that, a woman in a nissan micra pulled up and signalled for us to get in. We made the quick decision to go with the man who has just made the effort to pull in off the roundabout. Sam had some fantastic stories to tell about his time in Israel and hitchhiking around Europe and I was reminded why I love doing this. This was Lloren's first hitch and it was off to a good start. A longer wait than usual, but a good, interesting first lift. We only got as far as the M11, but at the edge of the services, I had hope. Our next lift took half an hour to get and took us along the M11 to some services on the A14. This was where we would be for too long. We were making good time, but here we waited for an hour and a half and I was reminded why I hate hitchhiking. But to our surprise, we discovered that when we weren't paying attention, someone picked us up! The hour and a half with Lloren by the road was so much better than an hour and a half, or even just 20 minutes by myself. We got a lift from a guy named Kev, who was our saviour! His lift took us to some services on an A road before the M6 which meant we just needed to get onto the M6 and getting to Birmingham should be easy. We weren't waiting long at the services which had a small road leading from it. This is an ideal hitching spot and when Graham showed up in his van and asked if one of us would mind sitting in the back of the van, we jumped in. He was such a good guy and it's a shame Lloren couldn't join in the conversation, being locked behind a soundproof glass window! He took us the extra mile (or 8) to drop us off at some services despite there being an accident further down the road. When he dropped us, we went and got a couple of drinks from the petrol station, and stood by the exit lane, drinking them, not really paying attention, but still holding the sign in case. That's when Peter pulled in and picked us up. Amazing, we weren't even there for more than 2 minutes! Next stop: Birmingham!
I am at home, in Yeovil, I have a beautiful girl lying on my bed and I can't write about what happened between the last entry and now. There's so many people I have see now I'm back, but I think I'll just enjoy what I've got here for now and write about the rest another time.
I've been home for almost a week, and Lloren has just left, I don't know when I'll see her again, but I can't write about that. When I set foot back in Yeovil, my journey was over. I have so much more to say about Birmingham, and the hitch home. If I don't backtrack now, I don't think I ever will. So, when Peter, who was a god damn legend, dropped us in Birmingham, we got the bus into the centre and met Jim. The weather was so s***ty, but I didn't mind waiting in the rain for this. Seeing your best friend after 15 months is an unexplainable feeling. It was similar to how I described seeing my family in Germany. You've been through so many countries, met so many people and nobody compares to this familiar face which has always been there. We made the journey back to his and caught up, Lloren being there didn't hinder anything. Drinking, eating and watching TV consumed our evening before we headed up to Jim's room and just chatted, watched coupling and fell asleep. It had been a long day hitching, but it was certainly worth it.
The next day Jim got up early for work and left me and Lloren to sleep, which was impossible. Instead, we occupied Jim's bed for a bit of comfort before getting up and heading out for food. It was raining again. Lloren told me that the weather had been really nice before I got back. But I don't believe her. We got food for dinner and went into the centre to explore. Mainly sticking to the main shopping centre, I sorted out a sim card and was reconnected with the world. When Jim finished work, we went for a coffee, back to his and pretty much did what we did the night before; Drink, Eat, Laugh and Sleep. The next day was my final journey, my trip home. I'm glad I had someone to share it with, it's a weird feeling, going home after so many months. Slightly depressing, knowing that I would be grounded for the foreseeable future. But it would have been all the more depressing if I had just got the bus or train straight into Yeovil. Instead, we opted for a bit more adventure. One last hitch to see me home!
We left later than I planned, grabbing breakfast in a standard greasy café, builders drinking tea from mugs, eating bacon or sausage baps, HP sauce on the tables. Why, when people asked 'what is England like?', did I not mention this?! This IS the epitome of England. Oh, and it's raining again. We walked for about a mile, bags on back, tile in hand and headed along 'Bristol Road', which links to the M5. Shoulders aching, we picked a semi-promising spot to try while we rested. Chatting, joking and not paying attention again, we half-heartedly held the sign. I couldn't believe it when I looked back and after only 15 minutes, a car was parked in the bus stop, reversing towards us. Penny & Dave were an awesome couple, really genuine people. They took us just south of Bristol, only a couple of hitches away if we had the right spot. But we didn't. Or at least we didn't think so! We were on a roundabout which exits up to the M5 again. A choice of numerous entrances onto this huge motorway roundabout, we picked one and after changing the sign a few times, got a lift. Now, the reason for the final sign change was because of a lift I had arranged whilst at the roundabout. "If you can get to junction 23, I can take you home". Usually, I wouldn't accept such an offer when hitching for the adventure, however, this was from a police constable. That will do nicely then. It wasn't long after we changed the sign that we were picked up. Apparently it's good to have the junction number! We got there and low and behold, the police car was waiting, lurking in the shadows. Again, that feeling. This is somebody who has known me since I was a bump, effectively a second Dad to me. If my journey back into Yeovil was in a police car, driven by a man who has known me all my life, with a girl I met whilst travelling, well; I think that's a rather fitting end to my trip