To Hitchhike or not To Hitchhike – That is the Question

Русская версия сей эпопеи может появиться в случае наличия времени.
Another day of hitchhiking raises a question:”to hitchhike or not to hitchhike” relating to places which are not big cities lying on main highway routes, but they are small villages which are situated at the countryside and can be reached by peripheral roads.

This day I had to make only 130km from Aubagne to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in France. I knew that my desired destination is not a popular auto route, but I really wanted to visit it (later you’ll see photos and understand why), therefore forethoughtfully I planned to have a whole day for just 130 km to feel safe with my time.

As luck would have it,  Aubagne happened to be a difficult place to handle too. I started my trip at 8.30am and different people were taking me to different sides of Aubagne, each assuring that this would be a good way to go to my destination point.

What I learned is that drivers think (Oh, of course!!!) their own mind and not mine at all. They don’t wear my shoes when they agree or offer a ride. They think about their own direction and insert my route into their’s. No doubt any place can be reached by any road PROVIDED YOU ARE ON A CAR ALREADY, and this is what they do: they drop me at a point on their way from where they think I will continue. However, this place is one of the following:
– prohibited for pedestrians
– prohibited for cars to stop
– unpopular among cars in a required direction
– unpopular among any vehicles generally

Hitchhiker's brunchThus, it took me up to 2 hours to reach close to Aix-en-Provence (where I had visited before and enjoyed it very much indeed), which is one of route options and is 40 km far from Aubagne. However, nobody was stopping for me there, as I wanted to continue after the town and they, presumingly. were going only in the town.
In the end two Dutch ladies in their 40s with 3 children in their minivan stopped for me, as they had no idea about a direction indicated on my paper sign, but they were willing to help. They dropped me off at a petrol station in the town. I knew I had another 90 km to make and I still had the whole day ahead, so I let myself indulge in my brunch at one of cafes at petrol stations, where I bought a fresh french croissant and a cappuccino from a machine and “festivalized” them with cheeses!

However, I had to work hard before I got my car after it. Although it was a petrol station and I kept asking drivers personally, I couldn’t get a lift. I gave up personal touch approach and tried to stop passing cars at a small shoulder of the road right after the exit from the petrol station and after a while finally someone stopped. Sagely, he said that this was a bad place to hitchhike and he would bring me to a place from where there is a highway starting in my direction. So he did. He dropped me off under an interchange bridge, saying that road up was mine. Cool! But how can I get up there since there is no parking, no stopping area?! Here it is, my road, but I can not get on it as I am not on wheels but only on my feet! I spent here and there more than another hour trying my luck and I was still only about 60 km far from my starting point. And I had changed about 5 drivers by then!
I started thinking that to such a rare remote place of nature where I was going, I should probably take some public transportation and next time hitchhike only to big popular places.
Toll TerminalSo, I was very happy when at least someone stopped and I was happy to go in any direction so that I at least would change that dead place. This time I was brought to a toll terminal where drivers stop to pay for the road because it was what the driver had on his way, although, as I learned later, no one goes to my direction from there. And more over, there are less cars passing as that very road was a paid one!
There I had to wait for someone just to bring me somewhere where my route would start, as this terminal was another entrance to the same very Aix-en-Provence!!!

I didn’t dare losing my hope, but I was thinking of conclusions for the future. Not soon but someone came up for me. The driver actually passed me before and parked around the corner and he came to invite me for a ride to a better place for me. I had my phone right in my hands, so I shot an example of video about how things happen 🙂

He really took me to a better place in the next 10 km, from where someone pretty soon brought me to another place in 20-30 km more. Each time I was editting my understanding of my route according to the map on my mobile and instructions given by drivers. Intriguingly, I was already at a spot where I could write the final destination name on my sign board. It had been 5 hours since I started my way that day when soon happened the thing because of which, I guess, my day had been so long.

A car stopped. There was a man in his years reminding of my dad by his big belly.
He was going to his village which was 20 km far from my point of destination. He speaks quite poor English , which is a treasure considering that I speak no French at all. I learned that the man’s name was Eric and he was coming from Marseille, which is right before where I started from! He spent just one hour on his way, at the time when I did 5!! and I had changed about 7 cars!!!. I think my trip was so long because I had to wait for Eric (which is his name) to get my wonderful experience with that kind man! From his bad English I understood that 3 years ago he escaped from busy life of Marseille to a small village in the nature where he has a little house and enjoys himself. Once Eric also stopped for two Dutch hitchhikers and consequently they spent 3 days with him. He also told about his grown-up daughter and sons who come to visit once in a while. And when we were approaching his village, I was offered to have a look at it before I hitchhike further. I was going to meet a couchsurfer to stay at his place and meanwhile I was happy to stay around as it was only 3pm.
IMG_20140724_144934 - CopieIMG_20140724_145014 - Copie Not only village that I liked, but I also visited his home. I found his house look like a museum where he keeps variable collections on display.
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When we found out that we both were fond of cooking and food, we decided to cook and eat together that day, but before that Eric suggested that we make a trip to see his neighborhood.
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I called my Couchsurfing host to cancel my arrival as I understood that I got a big piece of luck here after long senseless hours previously wasted on my way.
That day Eric took me to see a beautiful lake going through lavender fields spreading wonderful aroma. IMG_20140724_165957 IMG_20140724_170625
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We also took a stroll in a provence style town visiting a flee market. I am supposed to be cautious with strangers, so was I. First I had doubts about that man when I agreed for his offer to see the village and then stay in his house. However, at the flee market he was meeting friends and they were talking openly, and at the lake view point he devoted about 10 minutes to talking to French tourists and telling them about the surroundings. I felt his good heart and just to make things clear I asked in a straightforward and naive way: “But aren’t you dangerous to stay with? Are you a good person?”, where more than his answer I expected to see his reaction.
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So, to my great relief and happiness I enjoyed a tour in the nature and nearby towns, got a treat on a non-alchoholic drink, and received local souvenirs.

image Another thing which also helped me to wave my doubts away was that Eric took me to visit his friends in the near village on our way back from the lake. They are a couple from Paris staying from time to time in Alemagne-en-Provence.
They both speak English and even from their intercommunication in French I got an impression that Eric was a wonderful person!
Pierre and Fabien interpreted for us certain moments of our communication which had been not clear to me and Eric and they invited us for dinner the next day.
For that dinner I also prepared a dish – Russian crepes with a filling.
And most part of the dinner they were discussing that hitchhiking is dangerous and I should not do it. But if not for hitchhiking, I wouldn’t have met them!! So, to hitchike or not to hitchhike?! That is the question!
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Later at home while I was taking a shower, Eric laid the table. How could that day starting in confusing mishaps be any better?!
Only if years and events of Eric’s life behind his shoulders had been less numerous… Eh… Se la vi. It was not meant to become a fairy tale like “they lived happily ever after”.

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