On the second week of our trip we hitch-hiked from the Highlands to the Scottish frontier, where Hadrian’s wall raises obsoletly, the ancient northern border of the Roman Empire, and from there trough the heart of Britain to London, undoubtedly one of the capitals of the world.Are there any bars in London ? - I wondered, quite anxious to taste a good Pale Ale.
It is a long way, rich en stories. Each driver has something to tell us. After a week we have understood that this trip wouldn’t be the same without the unvoluntary punctuation that hitchhiking allows, without the driver’s local knowledge that brings us closer to their culture.
From Oban to Edinburgh we traveled in the Mondeo of a Lighting Designer who had been contracted for the Scottish Parliament lighr design. At 40 or so he was thinking of retirement and buying a forest, a transitory one, so he could enjoy a good pension by selling the wood in 20 years time. Patrick – so his name- took us to Edinburgh. We had a tea in his house while Adam, the organic farmer we had met on the way up, came to collect us. In this way, Adam and Patrick met, two people who had been living in Edinburgh for years but were suddnely connected when giving us a lift. It’s rewarding to see the road connecting people. In fact Patrick was very interested in coverting his Mondeo to vegetable oil, following what Adam had done with his Sprinter.
Adam explained that there was a dinner with his family going on that evening and that we were invited. On the way we collected another friend of him, a french student who was also invited to the party. Just off from the road, we were treated to a carefully prepeared meal, all organic food, variety of beers and liquors….The conversation started about how happy europeans are. We all agreed that the excess of choices produces constant unsatisfaction. It is impossible to have everything, even when you have a decent salary, but specially in this case people are set in the pursue of the end of a neverending chain of desires that extends and extends…with each new mobile phone or car. We examined closely a photograph taken this january while we were hitch hiking in Payogasta (Argentinian NoerthWest), where kids were playing with supermarket bags as if they were kites. They have nothing, yet the smile in their face is broad. Adams parents told us about a cambodian man who visited their 5-bed house and was surprised at how poor they were, since they had animals or land… The french friend of Adam said that most of his fellow students considered themselves impoverished because they had student loans…(But the possibility of studying was taken for granted). At night we slept in a bed and were able to wash our clothes. That was happiness for us.
And that unpredictable pace of closed eyes snooker continued when Adam gave us the address of a friend, Luquitas, who was from our same town in Argentina. We met him at his appartment while he was decorating it for a fancy dress party where everybody was to dress as things starting with letter “L”. While he thought in the way to dress as lobster, Luquitas, who does a master in economy, told us how in Edinburgh, of similar population of Mar del Plata, people know more each other because of the circular plan of the city that forces everybody to walk troguh the same park and avenues. Luquitas made us benefit from an exquisit hospitality. We had a nice dinner and he allowed us to phone our families in Argentina. We stayed overnight and the following morning we hit the road, bound for the Hadrian’s Wall. We were also abbandoning Scotland for England.
Looking at the map is enough to see the influence this really tiny country has had in the daily life of the rest of the world. The names are well known, we pronnounce them daily even if we don’t know they are english cities. Hereford, a breed of cattle; Winchester, a riffle; Bedford, a truck that sometimes works; Chesterfield, a cigarette. At down we arrived to Haltwhistle. From there it ‘s a mille walk to the Wall, which is not far from the scottish border, which means that the scottish were never brought to heels by the romans. Let’s imagine the shame of the roman general who turned home with the news that he had lost to a legion of soldiers with skirt…Today Rome and Scotland are part of the same Empire that doesn’t need walls, but just passport checkpoints… In a traditional pub near by we sold some of our photographs, so we were able to buy a nice wine and some cheese and bread, which we took to our camping spot in a near by forest.
We arrived to London easily. Just three lifts. First, a DAF truck towing a long-since-out-of-service doble deck London bus to the car cemetary. The driver was of the kind that The Sun newspaper has brought to think that asylum seekers are responsible for the global warming… But he took us to Doncaster, wher ein 5 minutes we got a second lift with a guy who was just back from a year a and ahalf hitch-hiking trip from South Africa to Egypt. He had never heard of web based hitch hiking clubs, so he was pleased and surprised to hear about digihitch.com and autostopargentina.com.ar. Altough he was originally going to Nottingham within 5 minutes he said he was taking us all the way to London. It was already dark, we wouldn’t have made it without him.
First thing that amazed us of London was the prize of the tube: £2.80 one way. The second thing at surprising being that didn’t accept our scottish notes. The man on the other side was convinced I was trying to give him euros. How United is that Kingdom where the english look suspicious at the scottish and northern irish notes? While you can walk trough Europe using euros from Greece to Portugal…
In London we stayed in Werner Kraft’s place, a cherfully decorated appartment. Since Werner is so meticolous in his studies, each of the books that crowd the shelves are carefully labeled and classified... I really admire Werner's capacity of being down-to-earth in everything and, at the same time, keeping his adventorous dreams of travels intact. Werner studies sport science, but he is equally curious about the mathematic principles of chess and the logic of modern business development. We knew each other from yahoo hitchhikers mailing list, but this was the first time we met. We are in Bermonsey area. All South London is black majority area. It’s ironic that you have to go London to relax your sight from the english faces.
It was the romans to found the city in the north side of the Thames. The City, the finnancial district, occupies the site of the original roman citadelle. Who could ‘ve foreseen that that little hamlet would became the world capital for half the human population, under Queen Victoria? But power has always a boomerang effect. The sons of the conquered today come to London in the hope of a better future. At the bus stop, we asked directions to a girld who resulted to be from Santa Cruz de la Sierra, in Bolivia. Already in the center, it was a street cleaner from Ecuador to point us a cheap supermarket. This human diversity makes London a city full of options, that stresses most of the people we talked to. Too many things to do, to little time.
Each day in London we spent three times the money we were due to. Then, our diet was supermarket food. London was also our first encounter with the visas. We left our passports in the Syrian Embassy. We had to collect them four days afterwards. On the while , we left London for Cornwall. But that’s part of another chapter!!!