Utrecht-San Sebastian hitchhike: The end is near

The driver is wary of our decision, but we convince him. So thus we watch our perfect lift drive off into the night…

We would like to have finished our journey here, but it’s just the start of our ‘depressing phase #3’.

Another UC couple is there – Wouter and Willem are sitting in desperation in front of the gas station. “We’ve been here for hours”, they greet us. They have given up hope but we, still warmed up by the beer, are optimistic about getting a lift. This time the gas station is open.  We propose the policy of ‘we ask one car, they ask one’. They are having none of this and propose they get the first lift since they’ve been there for hours. We then talk, exchange stories and fill the night with laughter. They’re convinced girls get picked up more easily, but we argue against – they know French and that is far more helpful. Few trucks and cars stop by, but drivers are mostly just settling down for the night. The morale gets lower as the night gets longer and Willem decides to take a casual nap directly in front of the door. We finish our chocolate and crisps as we usually do in desperate situations.

Casual

Wouter gets more aggressive and asks every truck driver, but no luck. Tina suggests she goes next (as she’s a girl). She talks to a driver in Spanish (?). He patiently explains to her that his company is worried about ‘seguridad’, thus he can’t take us. Tina throws a sad glance at the huge, empty seats in the truck. We return to our desperate poses outside the station, looking pretty pitiful, homeless and like moneyless students. After thinking for a while, the truck driver turns to us: ‘OK, dos (2) si’. He gives a more elaborate talk where he mentions something about 5k – I am wary of this figure and ask Tina to clarify with him. From what we get, he tells us he can leave us in Irun, which is in 5k from the centre of San Sebastian. We consider what’s better: at the petrol station, 35k from SS, or somewhere 5k from SS? We choose the second (which was Crucial Mistake #2). Me and Tina realize we can’t just leave the guys. We flutter our eyelids and Tina shows 4 with her fingers and says pleadingly: ‘Pero no somos companeros’ (But we’re friends) and makes the Sad Face. After another short speech in Spanish, he says: Vamonos! We ask: ‘Dos?’, he replies: ‘Todos!’ (everyone). Lift 20talkative Spanish truck driver, breaking his company’s rules. Our driver went over to talk to a driver of an identical truck, as one of the guys exclaims: “If he’s going to ask that man, he has already said no to me” Apparently Lift 20 has excellent persuasion powers himself, as the other driver did take the two boys – maybe he used the sad face. We were happy to be seeing the back of the station, getting closer to San Sebastian.

Surprisingly, at 2 am, on a Sunday, the small town of Irun wasn’t a very lively place. After wandering around and deciding where is best to hitch, we ended up at a road leading to San Sebastian via the highway. Off of this was a roundabout where police were conducting a drug and alcohol check. We weighed up pros and cons of whether people would stop if there was police nearby. It didn’t really matter though, as there were no cars passing by. Klementina goes over to the police and asks if this is a good spot. They say it is, so we continue sitting there, happy that it’s not cold at all. A local passes by and tells us “when the police leave, they’re going back to San Sebastian”. We get excited, as not only will we make it to SS, but will do so in a police car. Of course, as usual, this is not happening. Tina checks with the policemen and they claim they’re from Irun. Looks like we’re not sleeping in a bed tonight.

However, the policemen do suggest we might have more luck in the centre of Irun, which is 5k away from there. (Aha! This is the ‘5k to the centre’ the truck driver was talking about. To the centre of Irun, not of SS!) We agree to walk as it wouldn’t take too much to improve our situation. After a long walk in which we discuss English jokes and why they are (not)funny, we come to a new roundabout. We set up there, right next to the sign pointing to SS, and true, there are a few more cars here, but still not a decent enough amount. We consider tactics and conclude that four hitchhikers is scaring the drivers, so the boys stay to try their luck and we sit by the exit lane… snacking. By this point, it has become extremely cold. Fewer and fewer cars are passing. Klementina and I think this is not working and everyone is tired as 3:30 is drawing near. We agree we should call it off for a while and have a sleep. But where? Klementina attempts to get into some buildings nearby – all locked. Plan B: in the middle of the roundabout there is a subway with a bit of grass and some benches. “Looks like we’ll be real hobos tonight”.

Resting by the Road

The other three opt for sleeping on the bench as the grass is wet and will draw most of your heat. I agree this is true, but I don’t think I can sleep sitting up. So I place my towel on the ground and borrow a few of the boys’ card signs and try to sleep there. An hour passes and I awake to my hand completely cold and numb. I move it and feeling rushes back, phew. I see Klementina stirs as well. She says eight cars have passed since she’s awake – we should get back to the road. We wake up the boys – Willem is fast asleep as if he was in his bedroom, not on a freezing park bench. We start to hitch, this time me and Klementina, with new tactical positions. It’s not working out though, so we suggest the boys, instead of sitting by the side, to go and check lift opportunities on the nearby car park.  10 minutes later a car pulls up and says he can take four! Fantastic! Tina grabs the backpacks, I run over towards the park and call the boys. No answer. I can’t see them either, so I rush frantically trying to find them, but I can’t. I return to Klementina – the lift has gone. Thanks boys! If another car stops we’ll leave them! Tina goes to call after them. UCU! BOYS! HELLO UCU! (we don’t know their names).Nothing. What if they found a lift and they left us? We get back to hitch. 15 min later the ball and chain show up round the corner. I still don’t know what they were doing.

Another car pulls over and I rush again: San Sebastian?! Nope, it’s not a lift, it’s worse. The man claims they’re police and we’re not allowed to hitch here. Our jaws drop: “but the police at the drug check told us to come here!’’ Did they? The men are less stern now. Regretfully, we had to give in: if there’s a good place you can suggest, we’ll go there. But they can’t think of anywhere. “Take a bus”, they say. We can’t! They say something and go back in the car. I think they said ‘unlucky’, but Tina claims they said ‘good luck’. They drive off and we discuss what we should do. Rebelliously, we decide to stay in the same spot. Now we’re a bit more wary of the people in the approaching cars; perhaps the police will do a circle and come back to check if we’re gone.

Another car pulls over. Yells of excitement come from Tina, but she has to convince him to take four of us. Luckily we’ve had two days of practice in persuasion now, so he agrees.

Lift 21the knight in shining armour. Again, our story is not over here. He can’t take us to the hostel but can drop us ‘2km, maybe less’ from the centre. It’s good enough for us – we walked 5km earlier. We get dropped off near a train station. We asked locals for help to get oriented, and walked to the main road. Here we pulled out our SS map, kindly given by Google to us. With a little help of scissors and tape, it showed all the road names and was about a m2. Yet we didn’t need it, as Wouter had a smart phone and we were happy to follow his lead. We chatted and walked. and walked, and walked…

“This is definitely further than the 5km before. Where is this bridge we’re trying to find?” Obviously, Spaniards vastly underestimate distances. Eventually we got to the bridge and celebrated with taking photos. We were impressed by the surfable waves on the river, let alone the massive ones on the surf beach. San Sebastian was beautiful!

We decided to head to the hostel, our beds were calling us. Maybe we end this here? Nope. We arrive at the hostel to find out that we could not get a room at that time. But we can sleep in the lounge. Begrudgingly, we traipse over to switch on the light. but we quickly switch it off again, as we see the room is full of other sleeping UCUers. There are two couches free: Wouter grabs one, and Klementina the other. We go chat in reception  and come back – Willem had stolen Klementina’s sofa. Now we only get chairs to sleep on – so comfy. We both decline this option: I decide to sleep on the floor and Klementina goes back on the short sofa at the reception. Luckily, the reception has provided us with blankets (Tina is excluded from this luxury). I take one and then we sleep.

I wake in the night and there is still a spare blanket so I take it. Tina also wakes in the night.. to see a team who arrived after us getting a room! Dicks! Later – Willem steals my blanket! Bastard!

In the morning, Klementina had a nasty talk with the receptionist lady. Remember the couple who got a room before us? Well, that was the last available room! We now have to wait till 1pm, she told Tina. When the two of us greet in the morning, we’re both a little annoyed. “Have you put your name down on the list for a room at reception?” we get asked. Now we’re even more annoyed! I go, as Klementina is scarred by her previous interaction. Turns out we have to doss around in the hostel till one. Willem is still sleeping.

We grab some breakfast and at one we get our key and that shower we’ve been longing for. Our room is full with UCUers, which is nice. We head out to start enjoying our two days in San Sebastian before taking our separate ways. Klementina: Barcelona -> Brussels. Me: England -> Budapest. We grab a celebratory ice cream and lounge around on the picturesque beach. We had made it!

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