Friday, April 8, 2016

Hitchhiking as Therapy

So… it’s been more than 5 years since my last entry to this blog.

The main reason spells Ofelia, I was blessed with a beautiful little daughter that turned 5 just a few weeks ago, this changed my life drastically and also took away all the motivation I had to write this blog.
I still have done some hitching of course, although not on the same scale as before.
Hitching Sweden
Still, I’ve had the chance to try my thumb in countries like Iran, Armenia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Serbia, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland and the Philippines since.
But that’s not why I wanted to write this entry. 

I’ve been feeling pretty down lately because of reasons I don’t want to talk about but the other day my sister was visiting my parents and I decided to ride with them home to Denmark just to get a change of scenery. Then instead of going home I made a last minute decision to just get the hell out of there, I had to be back in 8 days though because of Ofelia so I scanned for cheap flight tickets in Europe and found tickets home from Poznan in Poland for 10€ a week later.

So off I went, walked out into the rain, stuck my thumb in the air and made a quick prayer to the hitcher gods(take a pick)!
Hitching the Philippines withYuri
At the end of that day I was 750 kilometers down the road in Leipzig, Germany, next day Dresden and after that Wroclaw in Poland. Here I decided I would stay for a couple of days to explore the city and hang out with local people and other travelers.
Sadly, I got quite sick in Wroclaw so in the end I had to take a bus the last 150km to Poznan and fly home from there. I did a last hitch though from Malmö Airport to Malmö.

I wanted to tell you how amazing it is meeting all these people on the road from totally random walks of life, having deep discussions with some or just being grateful they are helping me on my journey.
It can be discussions about their lives, their relationships, what happens in the world, their families or maybe they are curious about all these things about me. You totally get sucked into the conversation and their lives and forget about all the worries you have back home.
Hitching Lofoten Islands in Norway
So in a way, the hitching works as therapy for me. Hearing about other people’s issues or their view on mine. This from a total stranger that you will never meet again (although there are rare occasions you do), so there are no restraints to what they might tell you or what you can tell them. Sure they might judge you, but they are just being honest. You get fully immersed in the hitching whether it’s the current ride or a ride you just said goodbye to and left an impression in both yours and their lives.
Being at home I tend to get stuck in my worries and issues, while on the road I live in the moment. I look forward to the next ride and the people I will meet. You never know what to except and one thing hitching has taught me is that never believe in first impressions or the prejudices I might be carrying.

Anyway, I wanted to give a short summary on the rides I was given during these days, as a tribute to these wonderful people and to show what diversity of people that actually do pick you up.

Leaving my sister’s house, I was first picked by a retired Danish gentleman which nowadays lives in France helping to build houses, we discussed how life differs living in France compared to Denmark during the short ride.

Next was a guy my age that was an ex-soldier, we had a lengthy discussion about the current immigration and integration situation in Denmark and Sweden.

After this another short ride with a guy my age that was on his way to his aunt to give her daughter an Easter Egg because she sent him a gækkebrev (it’s a Danish thing)

Next an elderly fellow named Egon picked me up. He was constantly laughing, smiling and being in a general good mood while speaking with a Southern Jutland accent, it had to be the hardest Danish accent I’ve ever heard! This was on Good Friday and he was driving around his tow truck working, he told me he much preferred to be working the whole Easter weekend then celebrating Easter, he liked working.

Hitching Transnistria, the sign says Chisinau
A German couple my age were the next ones to pick me up, Jonathan was driving while his girlfriend was sleeping in the backseat having a fever. I was riding with them for about 5 hours so me and Jonathan got a lot of talking done! He was currently studying his 3rd year to become a dentist, but he had already finished 6 years of studies before that to become a doctor and had another 3 years to go before he was done with the dentist part.
We discussed everything from the goals of our lives, the current situation in Europe, what makes us happy and why people always seem to choose money over happiness when given the choice?

The last person to give me a ride that day was a well-dressed curly haired gentlemen driving a fancy car, he spoke some English but didn’t really want to talk. Instead he had this monitor in the car on which he was playing music videos from the 80s. Blasting it out loudly in the car while driving at 200 km/h in the rain and dark while eating a Burger King burger with one hand! Made me a bit nervous but I only rode with him for some 20-30 minutes before he dropped me off in the outskirts of Leipzig!
Midnight Hitching in the North

The next day I experienced the issues of hitching in a country where you don’t speak the native tongue.
First a middle age lady picked me up, she did speak some English but was just way to stressed out to do any talking. She drove me a bit at 180km/h and then dropped me of at the ramp going back to where I was coming from! I wonder what was on her mind that day.

Next an older gentleman picked me up, he didn’t speak any English but was still a jolly old fellow! Where he dropped me off I ran into two other hitchhikers wearing red hoodies. They were on their way from the UK to Slovenia as a University Project, there were 180 of them in total and they all started at the same time. Interesting thing to do and compare experiences with J I also happened to run into 3 others from their group at the hostel in Wroclaw.

The last ride of the day was given by two rather young women and a small girl. The girl tried to talk to me but sadly my German is lacking quite a lot. They eventually dropped me of in Dresden where I found a last minute couchsurfing host, yet another great way to meet interesting people!

Hitching Crimea in Ukraine with Margarita
The following day the first car to pick me up was a couple on their way to the family Easter dinner. The guy was 35 just as me, he just left his job just as me, he was thinking about totally changing career and starting doing some more physical work because he wasn’t happy sitting in front of a computer all day long, just as me! Was nice running into someone that is going through the same journey as I’m doing, kind of. We also discussed why German people are so bad at English!

And voila, next car was a middle age man that didn’t speak any English..

The last ride to Wroclaw was given by a very talkative Polish guy named Tomec who had lived the last 34 years in England, he once went there on vacation and because of some Polish crisis at the moment he was given the choice to stay which he did. Nowadays he was missing Poland a lot though.
We spoke about a lot of things. The history of that Polish region, Polish food, women, how he had been tricked into becoming a father then how the mother had lied to their daughter about him and not letting him see her and finally we talked about children in general. Tomec was a very friendly fella which really cheered up my day by talking nonstop!
Curious onlookers in the Philippines
After this I was in Wroclaw a couple of days, most of the time sick sadly which kind of ruined the experience although I did have some great company there, mainly by an Aussie from Perth.
But on the last day I did get one more ride, I was having issues talking because my lungs were hurting but the guy that gave me a ride originally came from France but he had met a Swedish girl once upon a time which made him come to Sweden and now he had children and was stuck here ;)
We mainly discussed the cultural differences and the mentality of the Swedish people, agreeing on a lot of things! Sweden may be great for many thing, but the Swedish mentality is not one of them..

Anyway I’m back home again, but it really got my appetite for hitching going again!
Although if I do decide to write more here I really need to update the design and probably change the name of the blog ^^

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2nd of January 2011

“The Pearl of Africa”, that’s the words Winston Churchill used to describe Uganda. I have not visited any other African countries yet so I can’t say if he was right but I sure have enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. I’ve been here for a month and a half now and I stood face to face with Mountain Gorillas, tracked Chimpanzees, seen many different savannah animals and primates, climbed a volcano and stood on the border of Rwanda, Congo and Uganda and much more. And above all, I have experienced the Uganda people and culture.
Uganda lies just on the equator and almost the whole country has an altitude of over 1000 metres which makes it such and extremely fertile country, everything is green and flourishing and the sun seem to shine every day with a temperature around 25-30 degrees during the days all year around and around 15-20 during the nights in most parts of the country. So even though Uganda might be a poor country (although doing quite well in African standards) there is no shortage of food. The big problems here are instead the healthcare and education which is not very developed and not accessible to everyone. For example we came by a Boda-Boda accident where a small girl got her foot inside the wheel of the bike, so we carried her into our car and drove her to the local hospital only to find there was no doctor in at the moment, and they weren’t sure if he would show up at all during the day.
Then people here also tend to have a lot of children, about 7 on average, add then that you have to pay for your children to go to school and if you are a poor farmer (90% of the working population is involved in agricultural work) you cant really afford for all your children to go which means about only 38% of the population finish primary school and less then 15% enrol to secondary school. Then add to this that only 4% of the population has access to electricity, about 45% to safe drinking water and quite a harsh historical past especially with recent leaders like Obote and the infamous Idi Amin and you can see that there is and have been some obvious problems for the people of Uganda.
But still, I reckon a lot of people here live happier lives then a lot of people do in the western countries. You see kids playing everywhere and people laughing. In the evenings people sit outside their houses with only candles and play music, laugh, sing, drink and talk to their neighbours and friends every night. Compare this to back home where most people spend the evening in front of the TV on their own, day after day.
I also have felt very safe everywhere I have gone in this country so far, people are always helpful and friendly and don’t harass you like they can do in some other countries, if they want to sell you something or ask if you want a ride they ask you once, and if you say no they leave you alone. Only time I actually felt discomfort here was when I started discussing religion in a Matatu, they are mainly Christians here but also a lot of Muslims and animist beliefs and there is no problem between the groups, actually as long as you believe in some kind of god people think you are ok.
Getting around the country is really easy which brings me to hitchhiking, this is a hitching blog so of course I have tried to hitch here, several times, but considering like 95% of the traffic on the roads is public transport it is easy getting a ride, but you always have to pay. Even in the instances when a truck pick you up and you stand in the back or a private car they expect you to pay for the ride, thankfully nothing is very expensive, with a Matatu you rarely pay more then 5000 shilling (about 1,5 euro) to get some 30-40 kilometres. They have Boda-Bodas in towns (motorbike taxis) and Matatus (minibuses), buses, trucks and pickups that go between towns, and you rarely have to wait more then 10-15 minutes before you are on the move going somewhere. They do tend to get a bit overcrowded though! So far I experienced 24 people in a Matatu (there are 15 seats) + luggage, chickens and children. In a small Toyota Sedan we fitted 9 people and I’ve seen Boda-bodas with up to 4 people.
So the country is green and fertile almost everywhere, they have 10 national parks here and they grow all kinds of stuff, for example I’ve seen cocoa and coffee plants for the first time along much other stuff that I never heard of before. The national parks wary between big forests filled with monkeys to savannah reserves, sadly in the bigger reserves about 9/10ths of the bigger animals like elephants and lions and buffalos got poached during the Idi Amin era, but they are recovering quite fast now when Uganda has realized how much the tourist industry can do for them, sure its not the enormous amount of animals you can see in some other countries like Kenya but then on the other hand you don’t get the crowds of people and it is a lot cheaper! Also the travelling is quite cheap, you can stay in a good enough place for about 10000 shillings a night (3 Euros) and have a local meal for less then 2000 (0,6 Euro). The meals usually consist of a very large portion of carbohydrates like rice, matoke (mashed bananas) or posho (mashed white maize) and a smaller portions of beans or meat, not the greatest of culinary experiences but very filling meals, a workers meal. The bigger costs around here usually come whenever you enter a national park.
As a last note my personal view on Uganda and its biggest problem is the explosion in population growth, from 1991 to 2010 Uganda has gone from 16 million to 33 million people, so they have doubled in less then 20 years! Add a life average expectancy of 45,7 years and 13,7 mortality rate for children under 5 years and about 10% HIV and you quickly realize that some 60% of the population is under 15 years old. So these 60% are dependant on grown ups to take care of them and they don’t contribute to society, imagine when these kids grow up and if the population keeps growing at the same speed. In 20 years there would be 66 million people living here, huge amounts of unemployed people and the local food will not be enough to feed everyone. Then I think western and Asian investors will come in and buy land, start growing modified crops and employ Uganda for slave salaries and then sell the crops to the locals for much higher prices then their own food. It has already started happening with the tea plantations around here.
A sad future indeed and I hope it does not come true, but then they need to get educated, especially the women. But it seems that poor farmers value the boys more, so they send them to school instead of the girls which just leads to more children.
Oh well, I do love this country and the people here, the nature and all the new impressions I get every day of travelling, have never had so many new impressions in any other country and I still got another 1,5 month to go :D
Hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

1st of April 2010

The beat of German trance is flowing through the speakers and we are doing 150km/h on a busy Autobahn. The sky is grey, the landscape flat and dull without a single leaf on the trees to be seen. We pass town after town and big industrial cities, the wind is cold and bitter.
It is depressing, really depressing.
A week ago I was in New Zealand with all its small lonely country roads, green rolling hills and forests and blue beautiful skies.
As you might have guessed I am home again, I flew via Singapore to Frankfurt and hitched after a bad night of sleep at the airport the 800 kilometres north to Odense in Denmark where my sister lives and my parents were visiting unaware that I would be coming.
So my trip is finished for this time, now I will head back to Sweden and find a job and work for a while. Quite unexpected because I had plans to stay a whole year in New Zealand and work the ski-season there, but mainly because Veronica was back in Sweden I decided to fly home also.
The last week in NZ I stayed at the wwoofing place in Waihi and got a ride to Auckland the last day where I went for a quick trip in the city before leaving for the airport. It took me 66 hours to get from door to door (Waihi to Odense). So quite tired now!

I haven’t counted on how much I spent in NZ nor how many cars I rode with. Neither did I take photos of everyone I rode with.
It has been a very pleasant experience; NZ is a great country to travel in. It is very tourist friendly and probably one of the easiest countries to go backpacking in.
People need to be aware though that if you ever plan to go to New Zealand you don’t go there for the culture, history or fauna (unless you like birds). You go there to see the scenery and nature which is really in world class. Hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, hot springs and much more beautiful and attractive things.
It do sadden me to leave though, because New Zealand is so far away, literally on the other side of the world I think it will take very long before I go there again if I ever do.. There are just so many other places in the world that I want to see and that are much easier and cheaper to get to and travel in.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about my hitch in New Zealand and that you will come back and follow my adventures the next time I leave.
Last but not least, a huge thanks to everyone in New Zealand that did pick me up and showed me their country and incredible hospitality, I hope I can return the favour some day in some way.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

24th of March 2010

The other day I arrived at what I thought would be middle of nowhere, a dead end road. But it turned out several hiking tracks was starting there leading to different huts and other tracks, I felt all warm and fuzzy inside!
All around New Zealand you can find this, huts and tracks everywhere. Often passing or leading to rarely visited waterfalls or hot springs, the sad thing though is that DOC isn’t getting enough money to maintain all of them and so one by one they get closed down and eventually overgrown. Most tourists only ever hear of the 9 famous great walks despite there are so many other nice ones out there.
From Waihi I hitched just down the road 5km until I came to Karangahake Gorge which used to be one of New Zealand biggest gold mining regions, DOC has done a beautiful job restoring most of it and you can walk through the picturesque gorge passing swing bridges, old train tracks and old mining tunnels. I hiked through to a river campsite where I stayed the night. Was planning to stay more nights but seeing 4 rats while just going for a short walk and finding them at my tent when I got back I decided to keep going the next day to Waihi beach instead. From here I walked along a hiking track north for about 2 hours until I got to Homunga bay. I was expecting a beautiful beach for myself but it turned out there was already some 10-15 surfers there and humongous waves! I cooked my dinner and watched the surfers before I went to bed, the next morning I found that my bread had been eaten by rats (or possums). I still stayed the whole day on the beach and this day only one couple came by during the whole day, so nice and quiet. Stuffed my food just next to me outside the mesh of the tent (tent is to small to keep things inside) and went to bed only to wake up during the middle of the night to find that a rat was munching on my oats just 20cm away from me, cheeky bastards! Haven’t had any problems with the animals before when I hitched, don’t know what’s up with this sudden wildlife assault on my grub.
Next day I hiked out to the road, hitched back to Waihi then north and had a freaky day of hitching. First I made a quick stop at the library in Waihi and there just next to me sat a guy from Hawaii that had given me some bread at Tongaporutu, some 350 kilometres to the south, just 7 days before. I hitched north and got picked up by German girl that had been riding with a kiwi guy and was the first couple to pick me up leaving Tongaporutu at the same day as I met the Hawaiian! But it did not end here, a few rides later a polish couple picked me up, and guess what. They were the couple that picked me up the same day just when the kiwi and German girl had dropped me off! Weird..
The destinations of the day was Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove, both are quite known and popular places and that it was Saturday didn’t make it better. Hot water beach is a beach where you have hot water coming up from the ground at a certain area during low tide, so people dig their own small little spas in the sand. But it was very crowded and I headed on to Cathedral Cove instead which probably is one of New Zealand most famous beaches and starred in the second Narnia movie. It has a natural tunnel and several huge pillars as well as beautiful blue water, white sand and islands in the distance. When I arrived there was hardly anyone there but soon people started pouring in, on the north side there was a big beach party with about 30 people and on the south side where I put my stuff some 20 American youngsters came to camp the night. But I stayed anyway and slept the night under the stars on the sand, was a beautiful night. But still no peace from the wildlife! During the night I woke up by a mouse running over me and the next morning when going for a swim the seagulls went for my lentils!
I hitched back to Waihi because I found myself a wwoofing host there and that is where I well spend some time for now. This is quite a different host, more like a community, the hosts are a young couple, Brazilian and Aussie and there is plenty of other wwoofers staying in the house, 5 French, 3 other Brazilians, one German girl and me at the moment. The work we do is selling local fruits from the side of the road in a van in the surrounding towns; actually I quite like it because it reminds me of hitchhiking! Sit on the side of the road looking happy and tidy showing what you’ve got. And as soon as someone stops try to be as social as possible to get them to buy extra stuff. Just like hitching! :D

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

17th of March 2010

I have realized something lately. People usually ask me what I think of their country and I always have positive things to say. But in reality this is because it’s only nice and friendly people that pick me up, the grumpy, stressed and scared ones would never let me into the car to start with. This leads to me getting an image of a country that everyone is really helpful and great which isn’t in reality true. Good thing or bad thing? Well I can’t complain because I don’t have to deal with the sour apple, but it still gives a kind of warped image of the countries I travel through.
From Tongariro I hitched west to Mt Taranki which is another big volcano, but this one is on its own which makes it quite impressive and I am pretty darn sure it will be used as the Lonely Mountain in the upcoming movie The Hobbit. Sadly the weather around Taranaki is extremely unreliable and I didn’t see the whole mountain once during the few days I spent in the region. I did go for a short hike in the rain halfway up the mountain and slept for free in a hut before heading north. It was the WOMAD music festival starting in the north Taranaki region so tons of cars and hitchers were going through so it wasn’t to hard getting a ride. I headed north to Tongaporutu and the three sisters where I stayed two nights so I could catch the low tide and have a walk on this incredible beach, black sand with towering cliffs nearby, huge white cliffs in the distance and if I had been lucky Mt Taranki in the backdrop.
I headed further up and inland next heading for the Coromandel region. I did a few stops on the way, among one of them the highly commercialised Waitomo Caves, didn’t pay to go into any caves though. Other then that the only thing that was quite extraordinaire on the way was seeing my first Kauri trees which are these huge native trees.
For my birthday I stayed in Waihi, which is a gold mining town, in a shabby hotel with quite cheap rooms. Not exactly what I had in mind but the evening turned out quite fun anyway. Spent it with the 3 other hotel guests, one 70 year old aussie builder, one 60 year old kiwi with some weak version of Parkinson? And one middle age Indian guy. So I had myself a proper feed and shared a bunch of beers talking about all kind of things.
The last few days I have been a bit sick of being on the road so the upcoming weeks I think I will just generally drift around the Coromandel area, I don’t feel like stressing around to see different things. Maybe I will go wwoofing somewhere.

Friday, March 12, 2010

11th of March 2010

I will try to keep this entry as short as possible and let the pictures speak for themselves instead.
I started the hike 10 AM on Monday morning and finished it at 4 PM yesterday, Wednesday. About 2/3rds of the walk I was accompanied by a nice French guy, Gerome, which I also met at the camp ground the night before leaving.
I walked about 60 kilometres and with an elevation of over 1150 metres.
The first day the weather was great with a clear blue sky. The second day it started out well but when we reached the top of the red crater around noon it started getting really cloudy so we decided not to try the Mt Doom summit. The next day we hiked back and it looked really well but 50m from reaching the summit (after a 600m climb up the mountainside) the clouds rolled in and ruined all our views! Still I am very happy I did go to the top and got to see the crater and do the “run” down the mountain afterwards!
This has definitively been the best multi day hike I have done and one of the best hikes ever.
Enjoy the pictures!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

8th of March 2010

The area around Taupo and Rotorua has quite a lot of sights, so here is yet another entry with new pictures!
After having a steaming bath once again in Kerosene Creek I hitched to the area just north of Taupo and first checked out the Aratiatia Rapids which is created when they open the gates of the hydro power plant letting the water flow through the canyon, they do this about 4 times a day. From there Craters of the Moon was pretty close, an area covered in collapsed steaming and hissing craters where you walk around on a planked walkway for about an hour.
Next I camped in the nearby area at one of the most popular freedom camping areas in NZ, Reids Farm, just north of Taupo and the morning after when I woke up I hiked 30 minutes north to Huka Falls which is quite impressive, not a very big drop but it have some really strong rapids and is spewing 200 000 litres of water over the edge every second. From there I hiked south on the other side of the river (campsite was on the west side) until I came to the Spa Park Hot Springs which joins the river just north of Taupo. Because they are mixing with the river you can select yourself just how hot you want the water to be. The rapids, waterfall and spring all are part of the Waikato river which is the longest river in NZ and just amazingly blue!
Next I hitched south and into Tongariro National Park which is a World Heritage Area of both cultural and natural importance and the worlds 4th oldest national park (NZ oldest). Within it is 3 big volcanoes, the most famous being Mount Ngauruhoe, aka Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings trilogy! Last eruption from one of the volcanoes was in 2008, so they are still very active. Mt Doom hasn’t erupted since 1977 though. This is the place I looked most forward to on the whole trip on the North Island and today and the upcoming days I will be walking the Tongariro Northern Circuit which is voted to be one of the top 10 hikes in the world (either this one or the Routeburn, another NZ track, is always on those top 10 lists).
By the way, people who get divorced should travel to NZ and climb Mt Doom and throw that evil ring that have control over them in the crater so they get rid of it once and for all!! Mwuahaha, nerdylicious!
Edit: Lots of pictures in this entry, and because I have a lower resolution on my netbook compared to a normal computer it may look right for you guys reading this with all the pictures, but oh well..