Flying South for the Summer

As your days are getting longer, sun getting stronger, the opposite is happening here for me in New Zealand. Silly time to go, you might say, but the way I see it is: I need money, I don’t wanna work over the summer and I’ve got a 6 month job offer on the southern hemisphere. Makes sence to me. Lets see where this journey takes me, it started off with a 25 hour plane ride. Not all in one go, of course.

The route went from London – Los Angeles – Auckland – Christchurch. The flight over to America was really weird. It was an 11 hour flight, so I tried to get some sleep, but going west, we were chasing the sun and when it was 2 in the morning my time it looked like midday outside. I wriggled about trying to get my massive body comfortable lying over two seats, but I’m just to big for that. I didn’t get any sleep that flight so when I land in LA, about 4 o’clock my time, the sun is just setting and I am exhausted.

I follow the signs to passport control and join the line saying ‘visitors’ .. makes me feel like an alien. The worst part about flying, for me, is the airports. I hate waiting in line, slowly being herded along like I’m a piece of cattle waiting to get milked. So, I’m waiting in line to get my titties squeezed by the man, so I can go out and play in the pasture. I’m waiting a good 20 minutes and I only have a hour and a half to change, but the gate opens in 45 minute and I have no idea the size of this airport. Big, I assume, being America; the land of  the supersize. So I’m in a panic and get out of line to ask someone in charge if I can cut the que. He doesn’t seem to know anything and asks one of virgin airline air hostesses if she can help, but of course she has no power this side of the plane.

‘Look, I’m gonna be honest, I don’t think you’re gonna make that flight’

‘Really?! There’s the potential for 8 guys up there checking passports when there are only 3’

‘It looks to me it’s gonna take at least an hour to get through customs, you better go find your place back in the que, you don’t wanna start from the back’

Fucking great! I find my way back in line and express my frustration and worry to my fellow passengers and they let me cut to the front. So I’m getting my passport checked. And finger prints taken! And probably retinas scanned from the picture they took!! I don’t have time to kick up a fuss about the complete invasion of privacy and just accept it with a clenched jaw. I grab my bag and rush through to get caught in another line questioning you on the contents of your bag. Thankfully this one moves quickly and I say frantically to the man up front ‘I have 2 tubes of caviar and a jar of jam I have another flight to catch in 45 minutes so if that’s a problem I can just chuck it now’ He lets me through without too much fuss.

I then pass a load of smiling Americans holding signs ready to greet their loved ones and I give them a look of slightly pissed off, frantic worry and confusion. I’m out of arrivals and try and find the departure I need, asking anyone in uniform on the way, thinking they might be helpful. I find my way to the right building, somehow in my sleep deprived, highly stressed state, with little help from the locals and ask one of the staff inside where I go to get through security and she points me back outside! I then asks a guy out there who says she’s completly wrong and points me to the right place.  I then show my boarding pass to someone who also tries to send me to a wrong place, because he thinks it a different air line so I pull out my printed ticket and prove him wrong and go through. Fucking stupid Americans!

I get through security comparatively fast and get to my gate with about 20 minutes to spare. Ahh panic over. I probably shouldn’t judge America on this small, super unpleasant experience, but I don’t plan to go back there anytime soon and this experience just proved my opinion right. They’re all fucking clueless… ok maybe not all, I don’t wanna be racist, but most.. To be honest the general population of most countries are clueless, because that’s the way their government want them to be, but lets not get into that now.

So the next flight is another long one, 13 hours and as we’re being boarded I’m sitting alone on a row of three seats crossing my fingers and holding my thumb that no one sits next to me. And they don’t 🙂 I get the closest thing to a bed I could possibly get and take advantage of it. I get, in total, about 6 hours of shut eye. This flight was the opposite from the first one as we’re chasing the night and it stays dark the entire 13 hours.

The pilot says his goodbyes and finishes by saying something in Maori. I get off, relatively well rested, about 6 o’clock local time in Auckland. The walk through customs and out on to departures was bloody lovely! There’s two languages on the signs; English and Maui and I go under this beautiful carved archway, honoring their countries Maori heritage. This gives me a real good feeling about this country and I feel ecstatic that I get to live here for 6 months.

The last flight is a short 1 hour flight down the north island to the south and as we fly over the mountain range I am in tears over their untouched beauty. I didn’t have my camera on me as we passed over the best looking ones, but I had to get out of my seat and get it out of my hand luggage to take some.

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Life keeps on rolling

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these. The last time I saw you I was in the South of France. It was there where I booked my plane ticket back to Sweden for the 18th of December, so I could spend Christmas with my second family. Min Svensk familj. The plan was to stay in Sweden a while after that, living with Lennart and his girls in the countryside, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s go back to the end of September, when I started the big hitch across France back to the UK.

I didn’t tell anyone I was on my way back to England, the only person who knew was Paul, an old friend of mine, who offered me over a month of paid work. I couldn’t turn down paid work at this point as I was on my last hundred euros, so I said my goodbyes and started hitching. Well.. my first ride was actually with a couple from the place I was staying at, who took me all the way to Dijon.

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Hitchhikers sunrise 🙂

It’s hard to remember every detail of that trip, as it was a couple of months ago now, but what I do remember was two damp nights sleep in fog. Hammock and tarp… not so good in fog.  And my last ride; an English guy, I found him a few kilometers outside of Calais. I was at a petrol station, a fairly busy one and asked inside if anyone was going to Calais. (That’s where a big ferry port is crossing over to the motherland) No one responded so I leave the building and position myself at the exit of the petrol station with my sign.

A van pulls up a few minutes later and the man asks ‘How good is your English?’ ‘I am English’ I reply. Apparently my pronunciation of ‘Calais’ was spot on, I fooled a native English speaker… probably not the French people though.IMG_2449

I spend the next few hours with this ride and he takes me across the water! (yes I managed a ferry hitch, didn’t have to pay, but this guy paid for the both of us on a business account. So don’t always count on a free ride across water)  I haven’t traveled much around the UK and see my first sightings of the White Cliffs of Dover as we sail across.

I then have a couple more rides to get to Brighton. When I get there, I’m in a total state of shock! I woke up that day, somewhere in the middle of France and now I’m back in Brighton! The city I know so well. I leave my last ride and put that familiar 20kilos on my back, shaking, in shock! I remember I kept saying to my self ‘How the fuck did I get here?’

I spend a few nights in Brighton before going to see my family back in London, still with no idea I’m back in the country. I knock on the door to my mums house and get greeted by girlish screams. 😀 So happy to see everyone, but that wasn’t everyone! It’s very rare I see all of my 6 siblings in the same place at the same time.

I get a facebook message from one of my sisters while I’m at my mums house asking if I’ll be online on sunday, as everyone will be at mums for dinner. I tell her I can’t be online, I’ll be hitching. Tehehehe. So a few more jumping out and surprising people 😀 Yeah that was fun!

I spend the next month working my arse off in Brighton, sofa surfing at different peoples IMG_2491houses, counting down the days until I could hold Lennart in my arms again. By the end I was spending most of my time with my good friend Franky. I fancied Franky when I first met him, (he knows this, so if he’s reading.. whatever) but throughout our friendship either he or I have been in exclusive relationships. I was curious to see what would happen with our friendship now that we’re both free, but we both had our hearts with some one who’s not with us, so I’m glad our friendship stayed platonic.

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One of my last days in Brighton I decide to leave my bike, unchained, free for anyone with a keen eye. This was the same bike I had when I lived in Brighton and she also carried me the 500km or so to Wales last autumn. Her name is Sally and I grew quite attached to that thing, but she is a Brigthon bike and she should be with a Brightoner. I left a note in the bottle for whoever finds it, in the bikes point of view, telling the new owner a little about her history 🙂

I spend my last night with Franky before catching my flight to Sweden, which I had to get up at 2am for! But totally Worth it for the view.

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So, as you can imagine, my frist day back is pretty dazed. I don’t spend long in Österlen before starting on a road trip. We go to Gränna for Christmas with plans to go further north for new years. The next two weeks was like a Swedish intensive course! All the new things I’ve learnt being put into sentences, I was surprised how much I could understand! But I was still too slow and shy to join in conversation.

Christmas with Lennart and his family was lovely and is celebrated a day early on the 24th! There was no snow when we got there and I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but around lunch time there was a big snow storm 🙂 My first white christmas! 😀

Lennart and I continue on our journey north to visit his friend, who lives in a community up there called ‘Skogsnäs.’ I was very introverted while I was there. Just listening , trying to understand. It became very tiring. It felt like I had been thrown in the deep end and it’s time to sink or swim and I felt like I was sinking. I noticed a change in Lennart too. I couldn’t help but wonder if he’d rather be there with Maria than me. A couple hundred kilometers from returning home he confesses that he and Maria slept together the weekend before I arrived after months of separation. That hurt! I tried to not let it, but the pain was strong and I wanted to leave. I called my friend Adam who lives in Stockholm, as I wanted to visit him before I left the country.

I thought I had my feelings of jealousy under control, I suppose I do to some extent, but I can’t make them disappear completely. I felt unsure about starting a life with Lennart in the first place and now I felt I was trying to build on unstable grounds, which the rational side of my brian doesn’t like. But love, in my experience, is totally irrational and tries to build bridges over canyons.

As the realisation hit Lennart, that I was going to leave if he can’t make up his mind, he started panicking and didn’t want me to go. I continue to Stockholm anyway to visit Adam, but plan to come back in a few days. It was really nice to see him and his family again and Adam was in need to some friendly affection, as he was going through a rough time at the time. Lennart got super jealous of the affection I was giving my friend, which wasn’t totally undeserved as me and Adam used to be lovers. It didn’t feel right to continue this path with Adam and I decided I wanted to be faithful to Lennart. I haven’t wanted to be faithful to anyone for over a year, so this is a big deal for me.

I’ve been living in the countryside with Lennart and his two teenage daughters for a few weeks now and I feel like one of the kids because I don’t have a vehicle or a  drivers licence. I’ve come to realise something that is actually quite obvious; it’s pretty much impossible to live in the countryside without a licence. And to obtain one here, in Sweden would mean bending around Lennarts life to make it work. Na not working really. I need to stop being blinded by love and do what I need to do for my life, which is get a drivers licence and a van… and think of a way to earn money that’s not location specific.

See you soon UK you rainy little Island. Teach me how to drive on the wrong side of the road, but in my own language and at my own pace. Hope to be back in Österlen for the spring/summer and grow something beautiful this year. ❤

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Renovations in the South of France

I find it hard to sit down and write a blog about a place I’m really enjoying. It means I have to come out of the moment and describe the moment, when I’d rather be living it! But, at the moment, my ‘in the moment family’ are all keeping themselves occupied so here it goes..

I’ve been living here, in a little village called ‘St Etienne de Gourgas’, in the south of France, for about three weeks now and am absolutely loving it! It’s a workaway that consists of helping a small community of 2 young families with renovations. The work means I get to learn how to do building things I’ve never done before, such as plastering. Quite an art, I’ve found out. And, best of all, I get to use power tools again! Being a backpacking carpenter means, I can’t exactly carry any tools around with me, other than a few little carving chisels. One of my first working days here I got to play with an angel grinder, man I’ve missed those noisy buggers!

Not only is the work here right up my street, but also the surroundings are.. pardon my French.. fucking lush! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves… with a little help from my annotations.

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Such a quaint little french house, I just had to take a picture
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I love seeing lizards everywhere since being in the mediterranean, this one was quite a slow one
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The river that runs throught the back garden of the property
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The ‘blue lagoon’ When I first got here the water was gushing through, you couldn’t see that rock in the middle and it was in no way blue, but when it’s calm it’s a nice place to swim. There’s also a place to jump in around 3 meters high!! Took me a while to hype myself up enough to do it, but I did. And then I did it again 😀
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Found this cool structure
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Found another one and later found out it’s a hiking thing, every one who passes, adds another rock

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The volunteers get a separate apartment and I’m living with three English people, a Canadian and a Dane so I’ve got no lack of native English speakers to converse with (Scandinavians are so good at English they might as well be native) and I must say, it is nice being around British humor again. The sarcastic words of hatred, you gotta love it! I mentioned in the intro about being in an ‘in the moment family’ because this is what I’ve found here. We eat most meals together; the volunteers and the hosts and on Saturdays we usually eat on the terrace and stay up play a French card game called ‘belote.’ There’s only one French person here, the host are; two Danes, one Polish and one French, but we have all started to love this game. It’s a little hard to begin with, but once you understand how it works, it’s really quite a clever game.

I went on a beautiful hike yesterday and I’m so glad I’m not a smoker anymore, (yep another attempt.. This one seems more permanent in my mind) the smells were incredible and I found many different herbs and flowers, mainly with my nose. Hooray for not smoking!! 😀 I also remembered to bring my little tree book and found a phoenician juniper tree, full of ripe berries. The consumption of juniper berries rung a bell in my head, so I harvested some. I later researched and found out they’re kind of a type of super food. Shit loads of healthy things in these little guys, I wish I got more.

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I started the walk barefoot and came acriss this terrain.. it was slow going
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It all paid of when I found this beautiful little stream and waterfall 🙂 After that my feet were pretty soar and I put my boots on

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My next move from here I’ll be doing a 1000km hitch to Belgium to help some guys convert an American school bus into a moving hostel.. Man I love my life! It could be yours too, just pack up and leave and sign up to workaway.org. Easier said than done, I know, but if you haven’t got kids, what’s stopping you really?

Hitching to the South of France

Leaving the place in Italy, was fairly easy. After a months rest I was ready to move on. The two native English speakers left a couple days before, and I felt, it is time!

The family seemed really shocked from the fact I wanted to hitch hike 630km to a little village near Montpellier, even though that was how I got there.. It’s how I’ve gotten everywhere! The mother of the family wouldn’t allow it and drove me to the bus station and put me on a coach through the ‘Mount Blanc’ tunnel. After that at least I’d be out of Italy and from previous experience, hitching through Italy wasn’t easy.

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I get through the tunnel and coughed up the other side in a little town called ‘chamonix’ I’m not on any main road and have a wonder through to find a motorway exit sign. Pretty little town… I forgot to take pictures. Just go there! 🙂

I wasn’t waiting very long and get picked up by this French metalhead on his break from work. He was a bus driver and on his brake he had to drive into the next town. I suppose he likes driving.. He seemed to be really enthusiastic about where he lived, Chamonix, It’s a very popular place for rock climbing and hiking, being at the foot of Mount Blanc.

He leaves me at a spot with a sign pointing to ‘Annecy’, so I write that on my sign and I’m not waiting long. I don’t know why people seem to think the French are snobby, they seem pretty friendly to me, but maybe that’s just in the south. I’m picked up by these two early thirties, still raving types. They talked a little about ‘free parties’ and I realize, I think I’m done with that part of my life.. At least I don’t crave it anymore like I did when I was a teenager. More into being good to my body than fucking it up and I don’t need chemicals to give me fake emotions, the real thing is much better! Don’t get me wrong, drugs are awesome and I’m glad the are part of my life. There’s just a time and a place and moderation is the key 😉

They drop me off in Annecy, in a seemingly good spot, but I’m waiting there about an hour and a half in total! After I While of holding my sign saying ‘SUD’ (south), just before the toll coming out of Anncey, I meet another hitch hiker. He’s French and on his way home, to Lyon. He tells me I’ve been waiting on the wrong side -_- After standing together on the RIGHT side of the road, we get picked up pretty quickly. I’m pretty tired after waiting in the mid day sun and sitting in the back, I have a little snooze. I felt safe in this car. I always hitch with a knife at the ready, but of this hitching trip it seemed pretty silly, everyone was in no way dodge and just genuinely nice.

I’m waiting in Lyon, near a bus stop by a really busy road, with all the traffic going south onto the motorway. What could seem like a good spot; plenty of traffic, a place to pull over and even a traffic light to slow down the traffic. But I was waiting a very long time for my next ride. I think, in three lanes of traffic, the drivers are probably a bit stressed and don’t want to piss off the traffic behind them to pick up a hitch hiker. Just try and keep a smile on your face and don’t worry about where you’re going to sleep tonight, there’s no way of knowing before it’s right in front of you.

After a while I put in my headphones and block out the city noise with a groovy bit of Chuck Berry, that keeps me happy.. Wouldn’t be a good idea to listen to ‘Rage Against The Machine’ while trying to hitch.

Eventually my persistence prevails and I get picked up by a very friendly French/Belgian couple. There in their late 40’s early 50’s, but their love is new and seems like a strong one 🙂 They stop their car when the traffic light was red and honk me over. The light turns green and they’re still there, the woman is standing outside the car, waving me over and pissing off the people behind them, some of which, half-heartedly try and get out of the lane, but then realize they can’t, sit there and salk. I wait until the light goes red again to cross, as they’re in the lane furthest away from me.

It’s because we saw you smiling, that we decided to stop,’ said the man driving.

‘I’ve been waiting over an hour, but you gotta keep up moral’ I reply. We drive through the French countryside, down to Nimes, which is shy of about 100km to where I need to be. The sun starts to set as we’re driving and it fills me with so much joy! Spending a month in the mountains, means a month with no sunsets! Where ever I eventually end up, it’s needs a good sunset.. Preferably over water.. Maybe mountains in the background 🙂

As I start thinking about finding a place for my hammock, or at least a hidden corner in a petrol station or something, Thierry offers me a place to sleep. I linger on the thought for a moment. Yeah, might as well, they seem like nice people, so I accept the offer. He has a beautiful house, up in the hills of Nimes living with his three inherited daughters, the daughters of his partner. They’re such a lovely family the daughters are all so close, they’re like best friends! And they seem to have lovingly accepted their mothers choice for a partner into their family. I have such a nice evening, being engulfed be the French language, more than I’ve ever been before. I know some words are similar to Italian, like the words for cheese and bread, for example. I also heard them say ‘voila,’ quite a lot, I know what that one means, but now I’ve heard it in a sentence. After dinner I tell them all about my travels and the girls tell me about their studies. Their ages range for 22 – 15. The oldest one had finished her studies in beauty therapy, the middle one was studying sport and the youngest hadn’t decided yet.

They were all quite ‘girly’ girls, with make up on and nails done. It made me think about the feminist fight for equality. How do we ever expect to be equal if we make ourselves up to be so different? It’s ingrained into a lot of culture; what’s supposed to be masculine or feminine, into language, as well. Such deep roots will take a long time to brake.. And I think most people are happy to play the part of their gender. I, however, am not! I think because of the fact I’m pretty much man sized, makes me feel I can do anything a man can. But, even though I feel this way, I will never truly be treated as one of the guys, because I’m not. I can always tell if someones being nice to me, just because I’m pretty and there’s a potential that, if they’re nice, I’ll have sex with them.

The unfortunate fact is; it does make it harder to travel alone as a female. Well, I might get a ride quicker, but it’s much more dangerous as a woman. Europes relatively safe, but to go east.. Kind of wish I was a man to explore those lands.. Been thinking about getting a realistic looking beard to hitch hike with, when I go east..

Anyway! Rambling a bit.

So… The next morning Tierry drives me to the toll, leading out of Nimes and I meet two other hitch hikers also trying to get to Montpellier. We’re not waiting long, I think hitching’s pretty popular in France, when we are jammed into a little car. It had 5 doors, but I think the boot was full, so there was three of us, with three, pretty huge bags. I managed to get mine in the foot room in the front and sat around it. The boys had their bags in their faces, it was pretty funny. I didn’t manage to communicate with the driver that I wanted to stay on the road and not go into Mountpellier, so I got dropped off in the center. Montpellier’s not very big and I was in no rush, so I had a little stroll through the city.

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I try and navigate myself to the right road with my tablet and compass, but when I get there there’s a ‘no pedestrian’ sign on the road I wanted to walk down :/ I wait there anyway with a sign to ‘Lodéve’. Bit of a shit spot, because there’s nowhere for the cars to stop, but I wait there a while anyway.. What else am I gonna do.

I look down the lane of traffic, going my direction and see a moped coming towards me. Should he be driving against the traffic like that, I remember thinking, but then I realize he’s coming back for me!! He doesn’t speak any English, but we manage to communicate with gestures and facial expressions and he said he could take me to a better spot to hitch hike from. Ahhh! It was so fun!! I wanna get me a two wheeled motorized vehicle!!

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Terra rossa: Thisis the super red soil I found in Novigrad, didn’t get a picture on the red soil in Lodéve

I then get picked up very quickly, French people are nice, and get taken to a place not to far from Lodéve. The place I actually want to be is in a little village called.. Let me look it up.. ‘Saint Etienne de Gourgas’ but fuck if I could say it right and get understood. My next ride is a family who live in Lodéve and as we drive, we pass that same super red soil I saw in Novigrad in Croatia. It only lasts for a minute and the soil is back to normal. It’s funny how focused that type of soil is. They drop me by the roundabout that leaves Lodéve and I try and call the Nibbańa people (the workaway I’m hitching to) as they said they could pick me up from there, but no answer, so I stick out my thumb again.

I get picked up by this aged hippy with a young daughter in a, not yet converted, campervan. She was clearly a free spirit. As I get in she said she’s not going far, only to ‘Saint Etienne de Gourgas.’ This was the first time I’ve heard it be said aloud and the little light bulb gets flicked on in my head. ‘Yes! That’s where I need to be,’ I say excitedly. I get out my little note book and show her the address I need to get to and she’s driving right passed there. We pass a house with a chopsaw outside and various building materials and conclude this must be the right place.

Hitching though the South of France I would highly recomemend, it was so easy! I don’t know why the Fench have such a bad rep in the UK, I’ve not met one Fench person that hasn’t been lovely.. maybe the north will be different, but you can never know until you experience it for yourself!

A Moments Rest to Digest

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I realised I’ve been hopping around quite a lot since… July, pretty much. My first workaway in Germany, (if you don’t count Wales and Sweden) was a really nice little place, working in the gardens, doing a little building work and watching the fireflies at night while I slept out in my hammock, but I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. I was very focused on my next move. I arrived on the summer solstice and I felt like I had to keep moving, so I didn’t miss the summer. I bought a bike (which is still in Germany) with the intention of cycling around the Netherlands and Belgium, but found a ride to Czech instead. I knew I wanted to get to the Rainbow in Romania and that was a good start.

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My whole experience with Czech was a bit of a stress, to be honest. My tablet broke, so I took it to the shop, which originally said it would be fixed in a week, so I hung around Prague for a bit. I don’t really like being in cities especially in the middle of summer. Also, being in a city is a drain on my slowly decreasing wallet. The shop then said it would take 3 weeks to be fixed so I found a couple of workaways, both of which I didn’t like, to pass the time. I eventually get back to Prague to find out my tablet can’t be fixed and ended up buying a new one. Not complaining any more. This new one is soo much better, it’s got a keyboard dock, with a SD card reader and USB slot! It was fairly cheep too, around £150. But still, on a wallet with no income, it’s quite a lot.

I then finally get to the rainbow, back to nature and am free to wonder around naked in the sun. Bliss… 🙂 Until I got ill, two days in and suffered for a week trying to recover. I eventually have enough of struggling to get to the ‘shit pit’ on time and decided I need some pharmaceutical and get a ride out of there to Austria. I’m only there a couple of days, crashing at my rides house, but I felt I outstayed my welcome and continued, with no real plan.

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Food Circle at Rainbow

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I end up in Trieste, Italy and couch surfed with a lovely girl for about four days. Not before having to cash out for a room my first night there, as my hitch hiking ride scared my out of just finding a nice bridge to sleep under. Another minus figure on my funds. I stay with my host enough time for my stomach to settle a bit and decide, as I’m so close to Croatia, it would be nice to see the coast.

I’m only there for a couple of days, as again, I’m cashing out for a place to sleep. Only hanging up my hammock around caravans and tents, but apparently that costs something.

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I’ve been here, in the Aosta Valley, for two weeks now and it’s great to be somewhere beautiful, not be ill (sorted out my stomach and anemia with some good diet and iron supplements) and not feel like I have to move again any time soon. And, it’s free!! I’ve only got about 200 euros left, but if I just workaway until it gets cold, I don’t need to spend much at all! Then I think I can face the trip back to London, to earn some money and get a driving license. Go there when it’s cold a miserable, suits it better 🙂

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I’ve learnt, not to choose workaways when you’re stressed and in a hurry. My next one, I don’t know what or where it’ll be yet, but I’ve been looking for places relatively near; France, Tuscany or Switzerland that are Swedish speaking. I’ve learnt enough Italian to understand when someone said ‘there is cake in the car,’ among other everyday phases like; ‘let’s eat,’ ‘let’s go,’ ‘today’, ‘tomorrow’ etc. But I mostly think in Swedish and find myself saying ‘ja tack’ instead of ‘si grazie.’ I’m ready for conversational practice with Swedish now, so that’s what I’m looking for, let’s see where I end up..

Tending The Vineyards in The Aosta Valley

I was really craving to be amongst the mountains and when I got here, that’s exactly what I got! Within the first hour of my arrival I get taken to see a local band playing in town. I fall asleep during the car ride as it was around 3 o’clock and my body wanted a siesta. When in Rome… or Valle d’Aosta. It was really good family atmosphere, and the music was really nice. There was a chocolate fair going on in the village afterwards and got, pretty much force fed, samples of chocolate. The Italians like to feed.

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IMG_2107The next day we climb ‘Mount Croquet,’ well the last 1000m of it, but that was enough for me. I was feeling pretty weak when we were nearing the top, I think due to my resent diagnosis of anaemia. Despite my lack of energy, it was a beautiful walk. When we were near the top my nostrils filled with a familiar smell. Marjoram? Oregano? ‘Timo’ says Beatrice. Oh thyme! The hills were blooming with wild thyme and she informs me that down the mountain, the season had already passed. We reach the top and watch the clouds move for about an hour before our decent. 

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WIMG_2145e spend the working days picking leaves, to expose the grapes to the sun to ripen and harvesting pino gritio. It’s a pretty bad harvest this year due to the amount of rain and a lot of the grapes are rotten. This means, the harvest takes a lot longer than it should and will result in less product to sell in the end of it. Doesn’t seem fair that more work equates to less money, but I guess that’s how it is in the life of organic farmers. The wet weather doesn’t seem to dampen the spirits too much and once a week friends and family come to help to make the process quicker.

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The Italians have this crazy strong alcohol called grappa, it’s like 70% and burns your lips going in. I’ve learned not to breath through you mouth straight after taking a swig, the fumes are intense. It’s really nice though 🙂 It’s made with the leftovers from pressing the grapes; the stalks and skins. Don’t know how it becomes so strong, it was hard for them to explain in English. Here’s a picture of them infusing it with liquorice.

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It’s really nice living with an Italian family and I’m picking up a fair amount of Italian without really trying, (I’m still practicing Swedish in my spare time) it’s quite easy, as only the daughter and son can speak pretty broken English, so you kind of have to learn the basics. To learn it fluently sounds a bit more difficult. There’s a Kiwi here who speaks very slow Italian and he’s explained to me how they change the ending of their verbs according to the pronouns. Which probably wouldn’t be too hard to learn, if I tried, but I’m still stuck on Swedish. Started to learn the grammar with this new app I found and find it really fun to work out how sentences are formed. If it were a game; I’d be on level 30 with Swedish and level 1 in Italian (This hypothetical game goes up to 100) and it’s much more fun to play on level 30 than the tedious level 1, where training hint keep popping up.

 

Since I arrived, five volunteers have come to stay: The guy from New Zealand, I mentioned earlier, an American girl; who’s at level 1 of Italian, an English woman, who used to live in Italy and is probably at level 85 of Italian, a Polish girl, who seems pretty good at Italian, I’ll give her… Level 70 and an Italian girl; level 100. At meal times we all eat together and the mother is very persistent that the food gets ‘finito.’ I think I’ve put on weight since being here! At first, I was still in the mind set of; ‘never refuse an invitation,’ but if I did that here I’d probably throw up. They won’t stop offering until you say no and even then they’ll offer again in five minutes. It’s pretty funny! 

 

I’ve been living here, harvesting grapes, in the Italian Alps for about a week and a half now and at first, living with this lovely family made me miss mine back in the UK and want to go back. Also, I was still on that diarrhea medicine for the first few days and was worried after they were gone, my shits would get bad again (Yep, talking about my shit again… You love it!) and I’d need to go take advantage of that free health care the UK has to offer. I was off the medicine for about half a week and my shits were still solid, so maybe the NHS trip can wait. I was still missing my family, but didn’t want to spend the autumn in London. Also, I have pretty much no money left and haven’t managed to find a harvesting job on the mainland and was looking up labouring work in and around London. Yeah it pays pretty well, but the thought of spending the autumn, in London, really deflated my travelling spirit. I then looked at harvesting work in the UK and found one harvesting seaweed in Scotland. Don’t know if I’ve got it yet, but if I do, it’ll give me a good excuse to say hello to the fam, earn some money and get a driving license. The fact I don’t have a driving license has been a lingering annoyance this whole trip.

 

Going back to the UK would be pretty convenient, for many reasons, but last night I had a lovely skype call with Lennart, my lover in Sweden, which made me want to carry on travelling … Until I completely run out of money. Rachel, the American girl, said there are some workaway hosts that offer a little pocket money, as well as bed and board, which would be better than nothing and so I started looking at a few of those and found a cool building project, in the south of France, renovating a medieval building. 

 

That was yesterday. Today, I woke up with an intense need to shit. For those of you that haven’t been following my shitty tale: It started about a month ago now, after I ate some dodgy mushrooms. I then had severe diarrhea for about two weeks and went to a hospital in Italy, who couldn’t give me proper treatment, as I’m not Italian and don’t have the right insurance, but instead, gave me some general diarrhea medicine. The medicine seemed to work and I was better while I was on them and a few days after they were finish, but now the familiar heaving of my rectum is back. Ok.. Maybe it’s time for that NHS visit… :/

 

 

 

 

Hitching to Nus

Before I left Croatia I had a plan to go and work with a guy in the river Como in Italy (which is in the middle of the Alps) to work on his boats. I had been craving the mountains ever since I drove through them from Graz, Austria to Trieste, Italy, but thought; since I’m so near Croatia, why not check that out first. So, with my salt water craving satisfied, I now wanted to spend some time in the mountains. The trouble was, I didn’t really like the sound of this guy and he said I could only stay for five days, which would mean spending a lot of time planning my next move. While I volunteer for my bed  board, it’s nice to just relax for a few weeks before I have to think of moving again.

So while in Croatia, in the camp site with internet, I sat, swinging in my hammock, searching for a better workaway placement. I knew I wanted to be in the Alps and put the word ‘Alps’ in, to refine my search and found an Italian family who need help in their vineyard. Much better!

IMG_2091I set off around 9 and walked back to the road with a sign pointing onto the motorway. I decide to try and hitch signless, as I just wanted to get back to Italy and then have a sign saying ‘west’. The place I want to get to is a little village in the Aosta valley called Nus. I’m waiting a fair amount of time, maybe 45 minutes and then get picked up be a Croatian guy going to the Italian border. He’s very chatty and can speak English pretty well and tells me all about his family and points out where he went to school, as we drive past. He also bought me an ice cream 🙂

My next ride is another Croatian who takes me fairly close to Milan. He’s a man of about 60 years and is bemused by the fact that I’m a woman, travelling alone. I tell him how I often volunteer for food and a place to sleep and then he say’s ‘maybe that’s ok for a day of two, but then the guy will ask for sex’ He was surprised I hadn’t had to sell my body for money or a place to stay and said he once picked up a hitch hiker, female, of course, and asked ‘you give me fuck?’ and she said ‘ok’. I had to reassure him again and again that I’m not like that and I find it annoying that, because I’m a female, men keep asking me for sex. It wouldn’t happen the other way around! It’s all talk, he didn’t try and touch me, and in the end, he concludes that I don’t want to have sex with him because he’s too old. I didn’t mention the fact I have a lover who’s 52.

My next ride is a trucker, who takes me even closer to Milan, he doesn’t speak a word of English, but he didn’t ask for sex, instead he offered cigarettes and I’ve decided to abide by ‘The Beach’ philosophy of ‘Never refuse and invitation, never resist the unfamiliar and never out stay your welcome’ … The ‘never refuse an invitation’ part has some exceptions, like unwanted sexual suggestions.

I must of been waiting a while for that ride, because by the time I get out of the truck, the sun is pretty low. The petrol station we stop at looks pretty nice and I decide to spend the night. I find a, kind of, hidden spot, behind a bush, unroll my yoga mat, lay down my hammock, string up the mosquitoes net in the bush and get in to my make-shift tent. There was a place I could of hung my hammock, but I wanted to stay hidden. I put my bag in my make-shift tent and hide any part of my belongings that would give me away as a female. I have a pretty good sleep, snuggled up to my bag, as I fell asleep at sunset and woke just before it got light. I got to see a beautiful sunrise and a nice early start hitching.

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Didn’t help much, as I was waiting an hour with no luck until a trucker waves me into his truck by holding a kettle out his window. I climb aboard and have breakfast with him; some strange Polish meat on bread with coffee and … Cigarettes. Ok I’m a smoker again. I went about a month with nothing, but still with cravings and had a few tokes on some spliffs going round at rainbow and since then people keep offering me cigarettes! This trucker is from Belarus and is super friendly. He speaks very little English, but we get by with gestures, simple English and bits of German. I say to him that ‘Italians no like auto stop’ (Auto stop is hitch hiking in German, Italian and probably more languages. More easy to understand than hitch hiking) And he agrees by saying ‘Italiano’ and then does a dismissive gesture. I finish my coffee and say ‘I go auto stop’ and point to where I was standing.

I’m waiting almost two hours and then am picked up by a French family in a camper van. They’ve come all the way from Turkey and are now on their way back to France. I spend my time, in the back, playing with their daughter. First we play with a sticker book and do some colouring in, then she get out her toys. Playing with kids is fun, it doesn’t matter if there’s a language barrier. I show them where I need to be on the map and they alter their route and take me all the way to Nus. So nice of them 🙂

From this hitching trip I’ve learnt that Italians don’t pick up hitch hikers. I said something along those lines as a facebook status and a friend of mine said it was the same 18 years ago! Little tip: Don’t try and hitch in Italy, they don’t even pick up a non threatening looking females.

Craving the Croatian Coast

It was always my plan to get to Croatia after the rainbow, but settled for just reaching the coast, but the coast of Trieste doesn’t have a beach, therefore, doesn’t have waves and doesn’t smell like the sea. It smelt more stagnant and was more like a port and, most importantly, I couldn’t go for a swim. 

 

IMG_2027So, even though I hadn’t totally recovered from my ‘rainbow illness’, (read earlier post for more details… or don’t if you don’t want to hear me talk about my shit) I was craving the feel of salt water on my skin. I managed a little paddle down some concrete steps in Trieste, shown in the picture, but that wasn’t enough. I start hitching at around 10 o’clock and make it to Novigrad around 13:00 in 3 rides. My first two rides were Croatian and my last was a girl from Berlin, coming down to the Croatian coast for her holiday. A popular German trip, I found out. Makes sense, it’s a better and warmer coast than what they’ve got up north.

 

She was actually planning to go to the same little town I had chosen for the beginning of her trip, before continuing along the coast. We camp together at a ‘camp site’ and she let me keep my stuff in her car. I say ‘camp site’ in inverted commas as it’s not really  camping. The place had around 500 caravans, owned by the site, that were set up like little homes, with front gardens and everything. I even saw one that had a big ass TV! But what eves, it was super cheap, costing me maybe £10 for two nights and I got to have the internet in my hammock! That was a weird collision of worlds for me. I’m used to being able to get out of my hammock, naked, take a few steps away and piss. Couldn’t do that here, but internet in my hammock was a fair price to pay.

 

As soon as we get here we’re both craving the sea and I mention to her that I don’t want/have any cloths to wear in the water. I’m happy when I hear her say ‘neither do I’. Every one on the beach seems to be in swim wear, so we find a slightly less populated area, strip off and head to the sea.

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The waves are strong and the rocks; slippery. We get thrashed around a little and it doesn’t seem safe to let go of our stability rock and go for a swim, so we go back to the coast. We’re covered in scratches from our little dip and we realise why this bit of beach is slightly less populated. We must seem like such n00bs. After a while, lying naked in the sun, I get told to put clothes on. Humph, I heard Croatia was ok with nudity, must have to find the right beach..

 

IMG_2052 IMG_2054 IMG_2053I decide to stay another night, as I haven’t heard back from my next workaway host and it would be nice to see a bit of the town, before I shot off. We have a really cheap lunch in town, which was really nice, for the price. Croatia is a beautiful and cheap place for a holiday as they haven’t converted to the Euro and still have their native currency of kuna. 9 kuna is about £1. On the way back from town we find a little spot of beach, infested with naked people. Hooray! The water here is much calmer and get to have a proper swim. After months of being in land during the summer, it feels so good to swim in the sea. 🙂

 

 

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The calm waters of the nudist beach
Beautiful sunset, with the silhouette of father and daughter, fishing
Beautiful sunset, with the silhouette of father and daughter, fishing

An Unexpected Trip to Trieste

I didn’t sleep much that night in the hostel, as I was desperately trying to find a couch in Trieste for the next night. My stomach won’t allow me to camp out just now. While frantically trying to find a host; either with couch surfing or workaway, I get an e-mail from a guy who lives amongst the Alps by the river Como, asking me to come and help him maintain his boats. That’s less than 500km from where I am now, and it’s in the fucking mountains! Perfect!! I wasn’t sure if I e-mail him first, as I did send off a load of requests to help on boats a while back, or if he just needed help. I quickly write a reply, confirming I would love to come. He said he had a load of cancellations in September and really needed help at the minute, so just searched for the term ‘builder’ and found me. It was just a coincidence I happened to be fairly close, in the same country, at the time. Either that or fate, how ever you wanna see it.

I was ready to start hitching the next day, but then I get an e-mail saying he can’t host anyone until the end of the month. So I’ve got just under a week to bum around and get there slowly. But that still means I don’t have a place to sleep tomorrow… I stay up until 2, which is pretty late for me, sending off couch requests in Trieste. After a while I’m too tired to carry on and fall asleep.

I get about 5 hours and get woken up by intense traffic noise. The hostel is right on a main road, by a traffic light. The worst amount of road noise possible, as you hear the rev of engines starting up, rather than just driving past. No answers from the potential couch hosts yet and I already wanna be out of the city. We came down a steep hill to get into the city so I start walking up one. After a while I get pretty tiered, as I have got my 20kilo bag on my shoulders, and half heartedly stick my thumb out, while walking backwards up the hill. Weird sensation, walking backwards up a hill, you should try it, but maybe it was intensified by the extra weight.

Anyway, I’m not doing this long, literally about a minute of two, before I get picked up and brought to a little village, just out of town, called; Opicina. Much nicer up here! I find a cafe/wine bar and sit down to check my couch surfing requests. Yay accepted! 😀 There are two ways to find a couch on https://www.couchsurfing.org/ : One is to send off personal requests to the different people, or you can write an ‘itinerary’ for the city you wish to visit. This way people who want to host, but have no requests at the moment, can see you need a place to stay in their city and can read your profile to see if they want to host you. A lot of requests get denied, because the hosts house is already full. Especially in the summer, I’ve noticed. Definitely worth doing both, I would advise. Also, to all you people who have a home in a popular city, why not become a host?! You get to meet a variety of interesting people and make connections with people form all over the world!

My new host is lovely and full of interesting facts about the city of Trieste. Trieste is one of the richest cities of Italy, due to it’s shipping trade from it’s many ports, so a lot of local residents of Trieste go to Slovenia or Croatia for shopping. Even food is cheaper! And with the border to Slovenia is only 10km away, it’s definitely worth the trip. In fact, the lady I hitch up the hill with said she was on her way to Slovenia. I find people that live on the mainland of Europe travel a lot more than we Brits, on our island. When other countries and other cultures are so close, why not? I’ve crossed many borders on my travels, something I hadn’t done before this trip, and most of them are just a sign displaying the speed limits of that country. If any of you out there are planning a Euro trip, I advise doing it by road, you really see the land change as you wheel your way through it. I never knew Hunger was so flat, for example.

My first night at Marianna’s we have a really nice conversation, of slightly broken English, about wanting to live in nature and grow you own food and be self sufficient. Something I didn’t expect to hear, coming from a girl with fake nails and does pole dancing for a living. One of these cases of; don’t judge a book by it’s cover 😉  

The next day we go and visit Miramar Castle with a couple of other couch surfers. It’s right on the sea front, just a bus ride away from the city center. 

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On our way back from here my stomach is feeling really bad again and decided enough is enough. I need a doctor! The next day I set off in the morning to go to the hospital. There’s no one around, so I just walk around until I find someone to ask for help. Eventually I find a doctor with enough English to be able to communicate and get redirected to the reception. A hidden room to a non-Italian speaker. Thankfully the receptionist can speak good English and I explain to her I’ve had diarrhea for around two weeks now. 

IMG_2014I get seen pretty quickly, get asked simple questions like ‘pain?’, ‘where?’ and get laid down on a hospital bed. A nurse comes and takes some blood and puts me on a drip without saying anything. In my mind, I’m laughing at the surrealism of the situation. After about half the drip has gone I get taken off of it, put in a wheelchair and get wheeled off to another department by a man who looks like he’s in the mafia.IMG_2015 He has a tarty looking woman waiting for him in the hall and they speak together in Italian, as he wheels me through a really strangely lit, symmetrical corridor. I wish I got a picture. By this time, my mind is in hysterical laughter at this situation. Where am I going? What’s going on? Why am I in a wheelchair? And why have I got this strange new piercing attached to my vain?! 😀 😀

 

I speak to a doctor, with very broken English, who explains I have anemia and I need antibiotics to help my condition, but I can’t be seen without paying. In the end she gives me the papers to my blood test results and says I need to go to a different clinic tomorrow, for the medication. I then get wheeled back by the same mafia man and his girlfriend is still waiting in the corridor we left her in when we got into the lift. She does the same walk back with him, chattering away in Italian. Such a nice sounding language.  Much nicer than the amount of German I’ve been around lately, although Germany wasn’t as harsh as we make it out to be either.

I get put back on my drip and finish the course. I imagine is good for me, replenishing all the minerals I’ve lost over two weeks of bad shits, so I just let it all happen with no explanation. The nurse with no English comes back when the drip is done and takes out my funky new needle piercing. When she’s all done she says ‘bye’ and point to the papers I have been given and says ‘tomorrow’

So, the next day I make my way to this clinic and get seen by a doctor with no English, but manage to understand I can’t get proper medication, because I’m not Italian. Makes me really appreciate the NHS! When I was volunteering in Wales, I found out; the NHS will treat anyone! I had a Canadian friend who got sick and was surprised he didn’t have to pay a thing for health care. By this point I’m close to tears, I just want to have a normal sit again and have the pain go away. In the end she gives me some general diarrhea medication and writes a prescription for stomach pain. Not the antibiotics I probably need, but they seem to be working so far. 

I did want to visit Croatia, since I’m so near, but it’s getting close to the date I said I’d be in Como, so I think I’ll just let my body heal and stay still for a couple of days. Marianna says I’m welcome and it’s really nice staying at hers, with her two playful dogs. It’s just a shame there’s no beach here. I did get sea water on my feet today though, on the steps in the picture..

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On The Road To… Anywhere

I’ve decided to not write a blog about the rainbow gathering, as it’s supposed to be spread by word of mouth, not through the internet. All I’m going to say is, it was lovely, but I got really bad diarrhea and left before I really wanted to. After around 10 days of bad shits, I’d had enough and wrote a ride share sign saying ‘ANYWHERE … towards the Mediterranean coast’. I’d had enough of being in land and wanted, desperately to see the sea again. 

In the morning I find a ride going to Graz, Austria and decided to take it. We spent 12 hours on the road and after wards we were all knackered and crashed as the drivers house. I was sharing the ride with two guys going to Germany, who would continue hitching the next day. My plans from there were vague, I just new I wanted to see the ocean again.

I spent a day in Graz, planning my next step and doing a bit of sight seeing.

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IMG_1965The next day I have a vague plan of getting to Italy, as I contacted a host in Tuscany a while back with a naturist campsite, and had spent some time at the rainbow wondering naked and free and don’t want to loose my all over tan. However, I really wasn’t in the mood for hitching, as my diarrhea hadn’t eased off, despite having taken some pharmaceuticals. This made me have the strong feeling of; I wanna go home. But where is home? My mums house? London!? I couldn’t go back there for more then two weeks without wanting to leave again. The city isn’t my home, I feel so out of place there. Creatures in clothing, with judging eyes towards my lack of shoes and hairy armpits. I felt more at home when I was at Rainbow, living with a bunch of hippies in nature for 2 weeks.   

It’s a slow start hitching, as I’m really not putting in the right energy and keep having the thought of ‘This could be a nice place to spend the night’ at the different petrol stations I was waiting at. My second last ride takes me across the Austrian/Italian border and we go through a magnificent mountain range. This is what my trip had been missing! Mountains!! Driving though the mountains really lifted my spirits and I remembered why I was traveling again 😀

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After this I get picked up by a Croatian hat maker on her way back from a show in Germany. I had a sign toward Venezia (Venice), but she was going to Trieste and it was getting late, so I decided to take the ride. Also this petrol station didn’t have wifi, so I didn’t want to crash there. She’s a really talkative and interesting woman, which makes a change from my last few rides, who couldn’t speak much English, and told me all about the politics around a city so close to so many borders. Trieste had many influences from Croatia, Slovenia and Austria. During the war, the border around Trieste shifted a lot and it also used to be part of Austria. Never knew Austria used to have a bit of coast.IMG_20140824_170605

 

As we pass a load of vineyards I ask her if she knows anyone who’s looking for fruit pickers. I’ve been trying to find some harvesting work, but it’s proving to be more difficult than I thought. I think for this sort of work, word of mouth is definitely better than the internet. Unfortunately she has no leads, as she lives on an island of Croatia with a population of 200. She also says she sometimes accepts help at her place for food and shelter, but at the moment her place is at maximum capacity. It’s a shame, would of been awesome to see her at work with her hats and bags on a tiny little island of Croatia, but she gave me her contact details, so maybe another time.

We sit and have a coffee together in the center of Trieste, watching the sun set over the ocean. Ahh… bliss 🙂 My plan was to just find a nice spot of street to lay my head down for the night, but she scares me out of it by talking of the mass amounts of professional thieves. She seems a little paranoid about it, considering she comes from an island with only 200 inhabitants, and parks her car in sight while we sit and have our coffee.

In the end, I decide to get a hostel for the night. I haven’t paid of any accommodation my whole trip, so one night won’t bite my budget too much. Also I really wanted the internet.. and to be near a toilet was nice too.