Distance covered: over 2000 km
Time taken: 100 hours
Lifts required: 13
Longest wait: over 7 hours
Shortest wait: 15 minutes
Police encounters: 4
On the 20th March James, Radeel and I set off for Tangier, Morocco from our rooms in college. After thirty minutes with the only people even slowing down being morans abusing us, we got bored and started walking for the motorway. Somehow this posh Downing alumnus driving his decrepit father around picked us up and, with the help of him and a friendly pig, we made it to the M25 for lunch. The rest of the day wasn't very eventful and progress was painfully slow. It got dark and cold really quickly and we were getting pretty damn worried about where we were going to stay overnight before a lovely couple picked us up. They got us chatting about their hitchhiking adventures back in the day and, to our immense gratitude, phoned their kids up to say they were going to be late back as they would drive us all the way to Portsmouth.
We only had to wait a couple of hours for the next ferry to France so stocked up on a delish curry while waiting. The overnight crossing was far from comfortable and when we got out at Caen it was revealed that Radeel had already lost our French road map. However, our spirits were immediately lifted when a British trucker picked us up and promised to take us all the way through to Spain. He was an excellent man named Mick who was able to simultaneously drive in a straight line, boil a pan of water on a camp stove, add milk to his tea and tell us about his eastern European mistress he was visiting on his journey. He also informed us that the only French words it was necessary to learn were "ham-bon", "frow-marge" and "bow-coop der van".
That evening we got drunk and, wisely or not, talked our way into a horse box bound for Burgos currently occupied by six hitchers from Sussex University. As a way of saying goodbye to Mick we secretly photographed ourselves on a camera we found in his cab and promptly passed out amongst the hay. The next morning we were dropped off at a truck stop a few dozen kilometres inside the Spanish border where the Sussex hitchers (including a housemate of David's) eagerly ran off and stole the only lifts available. Seven hours later it was night time, there were still two sets of hitchers waiting in a deserted lorry park and the next truck to arrive wasn't due until six in the morning – by then we were a little sceptical about our horse box driver's promise that this was a really busy part of Spain. I decided to take my life in my hands and risk the wrath of the nearby cops by running into the motorway and desperately trying to flag someone down. Brilliantly, a kindly gentleman stopped for us and, after a few communication difficulties we'd blagged a ride south. Anywhere would have been better than the godforsaken dead-end that is Burgos.
My brilliantly-constructed phasebook cut-and-paste jobby must have contained some syntax errors because instead of leaving us "outside of the city, por favor" the dude drove us right into the centre of Madrid. Despite every piece of hitching advice we'd seen containing the words "DON'T GO INTO ANY BUILT-UP CITY CENTRE AREAS EVER EVER" we were glad to get a decent night's sleep at a nearby aulberge de juvenile and profusely thanked our driver who claimed to be called "Frank". In the morning we shamefully cheated and used public transport because we were fully aware just how painful it would be trying to hitch out of Madrid. Even using the metro turned out to be far from simple, although it was infinitely better than the story we heard of a pair who were stuck in the city for half a week before they gave up and got a train. We found ourselves in Aranjuez where torrential rainfall promptly started and continued for the next four hours. Even when the precipitation ceased we had only moved 40 km all day despite catching three lifts and being busted by the police twice. What's more, the road we were on had been at a standstill all day because everyone was heading south for the Easter celebrations. We knew that if we didn't get out of Spain in a couple of days we'd be stuck there for another week because nothing happens in the country for the entire Easter weekend.
Desperation took over and we got in a white van with some very drunk Spaniards. We had to sit around some dude who was passed out on the back seat and share beers with the guy driving who seemed keener to talk unintelligibly at us than watch the road. To Radeel and James' great relief, they dropped us off fairly soon in the middle of absolutely nowhere. There was zero sign of habitation and no places to stay or hitch from. Just as we set off walking south in the hope of finding a small village where we could spend the night, someone pulled up and offered to take us up the road a little way to a hostel or something. Chatting to our driver, Hassan, it turned out that he was Moroccan and that, as he was going home the next day, he might possibly be able to take us to Algeciras. Woot woot. He spoke French, Spanish and Moroccan Arabic but with none of our group being linguists, communication was strained. Several broken sign-language conversations later, we thought we'd blagged ourselves a ride all the way to our destination. However, it wasn't to be so simple - after several misunderstandings and a lot of confusion about where we would meet, he dropped us off in a dead town and said he was very sorry but that he couldn't take us with him. Our devastated incredulity prompted a garbled explanation something along the line that he was worried that customs would think he had us as hostages. Unable to face the prospect of being so close to getting there, we desperately begged and pleaded with him in our best GCSE French. He couldn't seem to make any sense of us but merely drew a watchface displaying the time as 2 o'clock (morning or afternoon?) before speeding off.
The nearest bar closed at 11pm so we camped out there with tapas and beers until we were chucked out. Then, we waited outside in the cold on a petrol station forecourt until 2am in the hope that he would come to collect us. 2am came and went and it got colder. At quarter to three, just as we were about to give in, James got a phone call from him from which he only managed to decipher the phrase "en route". Almost an hour late, Hassan rolled up in his van piled up with possession as well as his sister and friend. We squeezed in between planks of wood in the back and he paced it through the night all the way to Algeciras. It was ace. He even helped sort our ferry tickets and, once in Morocco, dropped us of at Tangier train station. Here we avoided all the other hitchers milling about and booked a sleeper train to Marrakech.
Once in Marrakech, we booked into a pretty hotel for a few quid a night and spent a couple of days smoking shisha, oversleeping and eating the nicest food in the whole fucking world. Then we caught a bus around the back of the Atlas mountains stopping off at Todra gorge where my companions got ripped off and groped while all I could think about was eating mushrooms. Another two nights were spent being touched up by sweaty men at a hammam in Fès (gorgeous) before we shared a train compartment with a wanking man back to Tangier (less gorgeous). Here we accidentally hitched to a hotel in the medina opposite where William Burroughs stayed whilst writing Naked Lunch and partook of our last few cups of refreshing mint tea before heading back to Málaga for the flight home.