Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Hitchventure 2012: Day 4...

Rain rain go away. It woke me up... at 5:15!

I'd seen on the TV the night before that the rain was on its way but I atleast thought Id make it through the night ok. I dragged the tarpauline over me and rolled over. My hips always seem to hurt with these little foam camp mats and I couldn't get back to sleep. Baby wipe shower it was for me.

I trekked down the hill in the rain, bought a can of monster and a sausage roll from the Londis in Llanberis and sat waiting for the public toilets to get unlocked. That felt more laborious than waiting for hitches so I grabbed a bit of card from the Londis bin and set out. I was on the road and flying my 'East' sign by 6:45. Way too early. About 4 cars passed in an hour. Luckily Dug was in the 5th.

He was just on his way back from work. His friend had secured the civils contract of a stretch of road between Caernarfon and Porthmadog 6 years previous and the council paid them to conduct daily bat surveys on the local Hook Eared bat (?). It pretty much meant Dug had to walk a 3 miles stretch of road at sunrise and look for dead ones.

He was very informative. Apparently you can buy a bat detector! It works by picking up the sonar like sounds that bats use to navigate and, through their differing frequencies, the device then pops out a breed of bat. All of this was 'good for £140 a day!' or so I was assured. His Shiatsu Fall-apart told a different story.

Each town meant another tributary on to the A5 and more traffic and I was soon in Betws-y-coed. Hitching was slow. Drivers in Wales seemed to excuse them not giving you a ride by pointing in different directions and then holding their hands out through the windscreen . Then a G reg Golf rumbled past, slowed, braked and turned around in a car park. 

James and Gina turned around and shouted out 'Where you going?' I said 'whereva, England?'

They were going to Gloucester, just a few miles North of Bristol, my next destination. Awesome! I had considered hitching East to the motorways and then Service hopping back to the South East and home, but with a direct ride pretty much to my second option how could I decline?!

James played the most awesome compilation CD I think I've ever heard, I snapped a photo of the track listings for later. The reason they were driving from Wales down to Gloucester was that their friend, Tom, was on a walking adventure. He was walking around Wales, then hoping to go on to Ireland and Scotland, continually walking untill he raised £10,000. It was his 54th day and he'd raised about £200. Ouch!

To top it all off he had just had his pack stolen. The rats had been kind and un-tied his boots from it for him, but taken the pack and its contents. James and Gina were delivering a whole new pack with contents to him and were now on their way back.

I was knackered, sitting in the back of the car I started off my normal happy chappy self but I could sense I was starting to flake. We had a bit of a mad dash back as Gina had to be at work at 12:00. I suggested we jump on the M5 and James hooned it down the motorway dropping Gina off at 11:59! Just in time!

This is where Hitchhiking really does show people at their best. James was willing to drive 30 miles South to drop me in Bristol city centre and then drive back again. If you ask me that is humanity at its greatest.

I wandered round Bristol aimlessly for a few hours, surrounded by an enormous array of decent, well produced graffiti. Some were sprawled over 7 floors of office blocks and other high rise buildings. There was no way this was all done illegally. I later found out that this week was a festival devoted to Graffiti and that the best artists had been shipped in and had scaffolding erected to show off their skills.

The standard really was incredible. I've only really seen graffiti that is 'thrown' up in rushed minutes for fear of being caught.

This stuff was different. The artists had been drafted in, some paid, and time allocated without prying public or authoritarian interference. And it showed.

I still hadn't anywhere to sleep for that night. I'd seen on the map that there was a large green park just to the South-East but I didn't fancy another night under the stars, bat/sheep friends or not.

I sat in Maccy D's trawling the Couchsurfing listings for Bristol. I'd done the same the day before in Llanberis but I'd had no replies. I even posted in the 'Emergency Bristol Group' for people who arrived in Bristol and had no immediate accommodation.

I sent out about 30 'surfing' requests if you combine yesterdays and todays efforts. I didn't think I'd get a bite. I've never surfed before but I know from talking with the surfers I've had stay that it can be very hit and miss.

One profile stood out, a guy called Pat, and I sent him as humorous a request as I could, while still telling my plight. To my surprise he messaged back 30 minutes later saying that it wasn't ideal for me to stay and he was out of the house until 11pm at a dinner party. However he said that if push came to shove I wouldn't have to sleep on the streets.

This was encouraging and I continued to send request after request. I also clicked on the 'Activities' button. I've been invited to the Brighton and Hove CS Monthly Meetup and wondered whether Bristol organised similar events just on a whim. Voila! They DID. And it was tonite!

The Bristol Board Game Night was to be held at the Full Moon Backpackers Hostel. Perfect, Board games, company and a cheap(ish) bed if I could bare my wallet to stretch to it.

I sat in the garden of the bar staring down everyone who entered, eagerly expecting them all to be attending. Then Pepe strolled through and I instantly recognised his face as the organiser of the group from the site.

He walked over and extended his arm, obviously catching sight of my pack. Two others joined us shortly afterwards. Turned out all three were Spanish!

Now, when I read Board games I usually read Bored games. This night was not the case. We played such bizarre and interesting, thought provoking and skillful games that I wished I hadn't had the 2 beers before they arrived.

One involved a sort of snap competition coupled with a wooden Totem, another used little runes with numbers on and another a kind of pawn moving game but you could put up walls. It was awesome. I'm sure to buy the Totem pole one. 'Speed Jungle'

We played and laughed for a few hours until Pepe looked at his watch and said he had to leave for the gym at 22:30. I had succumbed to getting a room at the Hostel. £15, not too bad and it was the cheapest in town. I messaged Pat and thanked him for his offer but I was sorted.

Just as everyone was leaving the bar they all congregated at the end of the table and nattered in Spanish. I thought they were just chatting and supped on the half of cider that Hector had given me. Then Pepe came back. "I can't leave you here in the hostel. Will you come and stay at mine?" Sure. I'll stay, but I could sense some sort of hesitation in his voice. He explained that he was going to the gym and would call me in an hour.

He rang exactly an hour later and we walked to his apartment which was very nice. He explained his caution as he knew I was a hitchhiker. In Spain hitching used to be fairly common untill the 80's and now pretty much no one hitches. (Sounds a bit like England) This made him uneasy with my motives for being in Bristol and wanting to get a Couchsurfing host.

We chatted about politics, London riots, Spanish corruption and the importance of CSing untill about 12:00. I was knackered. Up at 5:15 with the rain and all. He offered the comfiest sofa in the world and I'm pretty sure as he said good night and shut his bedroom door I was out like a light. Good ... Night

Final day over at Day 5

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