14 Auto Stop

In 1964 as part of a series called ‘Play For Today’ one of the plays was called Auto Stop (the French for hitch hike). It was about an English student hitch hiking in Europe, or “The Continent” as we used to call it. My uncle Ronnie watched it and mentioned it the next time we met. He was a provocative character and said to me “You’d never do anything like that.” I said I would and he challenged me by offering a choice of European cities that if I got there he would fly me back.

At the beginning of July 1965 my college friend Andy and I set off to Naples. We had six weeks as I was needed back home by 15 August to help with the harvest. We hitch hiked.

On the 21 September 2013 I left Montpellier. Not wishing to walk through the suburns I took the tram; I do love those trams. This linked up with a bus and I had plenty of time to walk across the road to the bus stop. I checked the timetable and it was due in about five minutes. Then I saw the electronic information board advising of an hour’s delay. Not good.

I waited well past the official arrival time and checked on the board which showed that the delay had come down to just under an hour so decided, reluctantly, to walk. Two hundred yards further along the way I was passed by the bus. Bummer!

I was really not at all pleased by this and certainly no longer felt like walking. And then it occurred to me to see if the old ‘magic thumb’ still worked and if I could hitch to my destination.

It does, but probably needs a little practice. After about half an hour a young man stopped and gave me a lift to exactly where I wanted to be.

It was great to be walking again and the feet are fine after their rest. Suddenly the scenery has changed to woodland and ‘Garrigue’ the typical hill and mountain scrubland of the Midi. This is MUCH better.

Also more walkers; first I met two young German girls who are over for a week and hoping to do another twenty nine kilometers today; then as I was having a breather a tiny figure appeared. It turned out to be a diminutive Japanese man who is going all the way to Santiago de  Compostela and then on to the coast at Finsterra, just another nineteen hundred kilometers or so to go then. And he’s doing it as rehabilitation following knee surgery. And he’s camping. And his pack is way lighter than mine. Hmmm.

The nice thing about meeting people on the Way is that you keep bumping into them. I saw the girls a couple of times but they are fast and have far to go and I saw the Japanese several times finally disappearing up a side road on the Way as I walked into Montarnaud,where I am staying tonight, in search of lunch.

I spotted a village brasserie and was just crossing the road to it when a call went up and it was the Germans tucking into omelettes. I joined them for a very jolly lunch after which they headed for the next village having given up on their original plan, it’s far too hot for that and I set off to find my accommodation.

I found signs to it but inevitably they just stopped so I asked and headed on until crossroads. I was just about to phone for directions when a lady in a car pulled up and asked if I was looking for the Gite. Turned out to be my hostess for the night. She offered me a lift but I chose to walk. As I turned round I saw that I had been standing under this

which I hadn’t seen but where I was headed. Doh!

Best day yet.

23 September 2013

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