At a work event recently we were asked what was the most adventurous thing we had ever done. I wondered, was it doing the 111m bungee jump off Victoria Falls from the bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe? Was it solo camping in a Malaysian jungle? Was it trying to buy carpets in Turkmenistan? After some hours I finally remembered about the hitch hike Faeez, Lutfi and I did from England to Morocco. That certainly qualifies as one of the most adventurous things I have ever done.
We wanted to have an unforgettable experience while helping raise money for charity.
How long did it take?
Although the organisers said it takes an average of 5 days to hitch hike 1200 miles (now the average is 7 days), it took us 8 long days. Check out our hitch route here.
Where did you sleep?
Heathrow Airport, cheap hotel in Calais, 2 nights in the homes of the kindest French-Moroccan guys in Paris, F1 hotel in Toulouse, a hostel off La Rambla in Barcelona and a sleepless night in the truck of a Peruvian driver and the car of a Hungarian guy.
We got lucky. We were sure we would sleep under the roof of a deserted factory or under a bridge close to a motorway, but never did.
What was the best part of the hitch?
Meeting Mohammed, Ibrahim’s flatmate. We met Ibrahim on the ferry crossing from Dover to Calais. As his car was full, he told us to give him a call if we got stuck in Paris, which we did. Mohammed ended up giving us the full Moroccan experience in Paris – he shared photos of Morocco, served us mint tea, and rescued us the following day by taking us to his parents’ home where we spent the night and had the best tagine (cooked by his mom) I have ever had in my life.
Did anything crazy happen?
A Spanish lady who picked us up in Malaga was high on weed. She asked if any of us knew how to roll the paper cigarettes to which we said No. She made me roll one and was pissed off at the lousy job I did. She instructed me to “take the wheel” while she rolled one herself while driving down the motorway at an incredible speed with an oncoming sharp turn. I thought we were going to die.
Was it tough?
Undoubtedly. We stood in our flimsy rain ponchos with our heavy backpacks in the middle of the windiest storm for 3 long hours in Calais. We were shivering from the cold and were drenched from head to toe.
Trying to hitch out of Paris, standing by the roadside for six long hours was also tough.
So was the 10 miles walk from Heathrow Airport to Slough.
How did you communicate? Did you speak French or Spanish?
Faeez learnt some French and I took some Spanish lessons. We also had some phrases translated into French and Spanish before we left explaining who we were and why we were doing the hitch. Unfortunately that didn’t help with making small talk last longer than 2 minutes.
How many rides did you get?
3 in the UK, 4 in France, 6 in Spain.
Were people generally kind?
Yes. There was the old Spanish couple who took us 5 minutes drive up the road telling us we’d get a better chance being picked up on the national road heading south to Valencia. There was Emily and Boris who drove us from Beziers to Barcelona despite having their Mr. Bean car packed with their entire life belongings. There was the Spanish sports journalist who told us to give him a call and spend the night at his place should we not get a lift out of Cambrills. There was Mohammed’s parents who sent us packing with food and Moroccan souvenirs after a big hearty breakfast. Many more including Greg, the 190cm Hungarian in pictures below.
Are you still in touch with anyone you met during the hitch?
I stayed in touch for a while with Greg the Hungarian guy who drove us from Valencia to Malaga and even visited and stayed with him in his family holiday home in Lake Balaton, Hungary.
Mohammed and I are friends to this very day. We attended each others’ weddings and he bought my son his first train set.
Did you cheat?
Yes. In the UK, we hopped on a train from Slough to London Waterloo and on another to Dover. Luckily the person checking tickets on the train took mercy on us when we showed him our charity badges. In France, we paid for a train ride from Calais to Paris after encountering another couple who had been trying and failing to hitch out of Calais for the last 3 days. In Spain, we took a bus from Barcelona to Tarragona and after failing to hitch out of there, we paid a cab to take us to the service station at a motorway. We also took a bus from Marbella to Algeciras.
Was there something you wanted to happen during the hitch?
Yes. We really wanted a big truck to stop for us. We kept praying for it to happen and were so happy when Henry the Peruvian driver picked us up one evening in Cambrills.
Didn’t you want to give up?
Of course I did! I must have said “let’s buy a flight ticket NOW to Morocco” every day. Luckily Lutfi would always talk some sense into me and we survived up till Marbella where we all agreed it was okay to buy a bus ticket down to Algeciras from where we took a ferry to Tangiers, Morocco.
How did you keep spirits up?
We sang a lot. Lots of Disney songs funnily enough.
What did you eat?
Some days we survived on breakfast bars, bread and the “serunding” we brought with us. Other days we ate much better. There was a whole baked salmon at Mohammed’s and Ibrahim’s. There was that incredible tagine at Mohammed’s parents’ home. Faeez had his first paella de mariscos and we made sure we had churros con chocolate for breakfast before leaving Barcelona.
What did you write on your signs?
We started off with a small whiteboard and markers but left it behind at a gas station somewhere in England on our first day. We ended up going down the traditional route of searching for cardboards and writing any thing that made sense, from something as simple as SOUTH in French and Spanish or names of the next closest town south.
What were some unforgettable moments?
Watching the sunrise in Murcia as we drove along Costa del Sol in Spain.
The joy we experienced every single time someone stopped for us.
How did the hitch change you?
I think hitch hiking is an amazing experience that everyone should try once in their lives. I have never done it again myself but will definitely get my kids to do it some day.
How was Morocco?
Amazing! If only we had more time to spend there.
Any last words?
Faeez summed it up best, relating to the song Me Gustas Tu which we heard in the truck with Henry.
“We’d like to dedicate this song to none other than the HITCH itself: the roads we traversed, the sights we saw, the sounds we heard, the smells we sniffed (?), the beds we slept on, the food we ate, the long days without a proper shower, the breakfast bars, the lifts that never were, the music, the sunrises, the sunsets, the road signs, the rest stops, the petrol stations, the cars, the buses, the trains, the ferries (hehe, Wani), THE truck, and of course, the people. Me gusta autostop, me gustas tu.”