Snowboarding is one of my favourite sports and standing up on waterskis is easy. Putting two and two together, I figured that wakeboarding wouldn’t be a problem. I was wrong. I was incapable of standing up on the largest artificial lake in Europe, so in the end, resigned myself to playing football on a floating raft, eating goats cheese, and drinking beer. I enjoyed these activities, but by the time came for me to get back into the water for a second attempt at wakeboarding, I had decided that I was too cold.
Leaving from my friends place in a small French town, I headed to Lyon. A very large town. I was picked up by a hilarious, fun French-Moroccan lady who drove me for several hours and pushed my French beyond it’s limits once again. She drove me all the way to Saint-Exupery aeroport, named after the author who wrote one of my favourite books. I hitched from here towards the town to stay at the apartment of my brother’s friend. The keys were in the mail box and I rang all the doorbells at the entrance of the building so that someone would let me in to the building. A rather disgruntled French woman greeted me inside, inquiring an explanation of my presence.
Walking around Lyon, I found many aged buildings and played around with creating time-lapses of the sky. I still have lots to learn.
Normally hitching, I experience difficulty at times, but in general, like life, everything works out OK in the end. I left Lyon on the Monday, with an absolute requirement to reach Desenzano Del Garda in Italy that day as I would be meeting some special guests the following morning. My Mother and Brother were flying all the way out from England to meet me and celebrate my Mum’s Birthday.
I walked for hours with my oversized backpack until I finally reached the entrance to the highway. Here I stood for a further hour, desperately hoping for someone to pick me up. They didn’t. I walked half an hour further on to a service station without luck, then further still and hitched, almost illegally, at the motorway entrance signs. A light fitter who was soon to visit Kuwait took me to a peage where I waited a further two hours before a lorry picked me up. The lorry drove me out into the forest and dropped me on a road with almost no traffic. I walked away from one road to another where a young couple picked me up. The girl was pleasant and spoke good English. The non-English speaking guy, who was driving, was desperate to impress and laughed loudly as he sprayed cyclists with his mis-fitted window screen sprayers. There are a lot of cyclists on the mountains. I was grateful to get out, only to find that he had left me on an almost deserted mountain road, far below the main road. I still don’t know if this was another one of his ‘funny jokes.’
Is there a proper name for a ‘window screen sprayed?’
On the deserted mountain road, I approached an Italian lady who turned up at the single building I had been left at, only to find that my bag wouldn’t fit in her car when she offered me a ride. She got her young Italian friend to take me instead. This girl had one of the best looking lip piercings that I have ever seen. It suited her face. She took me to the main road and I was left to hitchhike there, hoping that I would get a ride before the police found me. At this point I was still in France, although not far from the Italian border.
A French man and a lady who could have been his mum or his girlfriend finally stopped for me. The lady didn’t speak at all, but I found out from the man that they were travelling to Italy to buy alcohol because it was cheaper. I told him that people in England travel to France to buy alcohol because it is cheaper. Maybe Italians go to Eastern Europe to shop. It must stop somewhere.
We went through a huge tunnel. The man told me it was over twelve kilometres long.
I was left in a lorry park. Except that no lorries were passing. The day was drawing to a close and I was still around two hundred kilometres from my intended destination. My family would be arriving the following morning and I had no ‘get out of jail free’ card. I was completely stranded and had no hope of leaving the area without a ride. My ‘everything turns out OK’ attitude seemed to be failing me for once. I wasn’t sure how such a calamitous chain of events could have occurred in one such day. You normally only need one good ride each day to sort you out when hitchhiking. Somehow I had five rides and a hell of a lot of walking that hadn’t helped me half as much as I would have hoped.
I sat on the floor and sulked. The nearest town was over twenty kilometres walk.
A lady passed me in a car. I leapt from the ground and as she shook her head, my whole being took on a pleading expression.
She actually stopped.
She was more than apprehensive but it didn’t matter. She saved me from that terrible place and took me into Torino. From here I was unable to get a ride as darkness fell. After not eating during the day, I found a supermarket and bought a roll. When I went into the supermarket, I had to remove my bags. I walked on for ten minutes or so, eating my bread until I realised that I had forgotten my notebook (again). I had been carrying it loose when I entered the store and must have left it at the desk where I stored my bags. The time was 20h54 and the store closed at 21h00. It was impossible for me to make it back to the store with my oversized backpack. Weighing up the situation, the importance of my notebook overpowered all else. I jumped a wall and left my backpack behind it, hoping to return to it after finding my notebook. The backpack contained my laptop and camera.
It was worth the risk.
I sprinted all the way back to the shop. When I arrived, the shutters were already down but there was a staff member nearby. I ran to him, and despite the language barrier, a security guard understood what had happened. He disappeared through a side exit for several minutes until returning with my notepad. Thank-you Mr Security Guard. I think that makes him my notebook hero mark II, right?
It was now getting late and I was still in the outskirts of Torino. I attempted asking a lady how to reach the centre and she ushered me onto a bus, before yelling down it to see if anybody spoke English. I had no coins and the bus driver allowed me to ride without paying (this has happened a couple of times) as the one English speaking person on board explained how to reach the centre. I could see people all around had taken an interest in my predicament and a few of them became involved in the discussion. It was decided that I should ride to the metro station and take the subway to the main train station. When I arrived, I thanked the boy and headed into the metro.
An older lady who had been on the bus with me decided to be my self-appointed guardian when a train turned up, proclaiming that service had finished for the day. She carried one of my bags and took me back to the bus stop. Through a great series of hand gestures and talking to others, she showed me where I should go on the bus. I couldn’t explain that I already figured it out in about 30 seconds by reading the bus sign. Attempting to help, she prevented me from boarding the first bus for no apparent reason before proceeding to make sorrowful, regretful sounds until another bus came. At this point we parted ways. Eyes glued to the window, I counted the twenty-four stops we passed to make sure I got off at the right point. Italian buses are some of the worst labelled in the world and the bus drivers don’t really care if you get off in the right or the wrong place, so this was the only way for me to get where I wanted to go. In other countries, with even less labeling, the bus drivers normally make sure you get off where you want to.
I was finally able to take a train from Torino to Milano where I had to wait, sleep, and get moved on by the police, until my train at half six the following morning. I arrived in Desenzano Del Garda to find a beautiful lake waiting for me, as well as a castle, and the promise of delicious food.
I met my family a few hours later at the train station without any problems.
Despite the difficulties, everything turned out OK in the end. Relax and everything always turns out OK in the end.
If you believe it enough, it becomes truth.