The Dangers of Hitchhiking; Adventures in Spain
East Coast of Spain
We begin our hitchhiking adventures in Valencia, in search of small towns, communes, and deserted beaches with little actual hitchhiking experience. We are encouraged and advised by the veterans we meet during our preceding travels, and we are ready for some stories of our own.
As we are attempting to hitchhike out of Valencia, on the side of a busy street, an old man riding a bike stops to advise Tiffany. Only she can’t understand anything he’s saying, so she points at me and he crosses the street to where I am standing coloring my sign. He tells me he used to hitchhike a lot when he was twenty, and he leads us authoritatively to the best spot, where we wait with my new Playboy purse, sucking on watermelon.
An overweight man with multiple lip sores picks us up, and in the flurry of maps and language barriers I neglect to pause and size him up. We begin our journey with Fernando – an inquisitive and irritating man – who persistently inquires about our sexual preference, our boyfriends and our status with them, our opinion of European men, and whether or not we like George Bush. I try to keep smiling, because I think it is safer, and look out the window a lot.
When we are nearly there he begins to inquire, with a combination of bad English and perfectly good Spanish I can’t understand, how much money we will give him. “None,” I reply, trying vainly to explain to him, that “If we had money, we wouldn’t be stuck in a car with you right now,” at which point he offers to let me pay “the other way.” I am trying to get him to let us out of the car, while trying to keep in mind panicking is not the best option.
This is the guy who, a half an hour before, had given us an incredibly boring lecture about how dangerous hitchhiking is. Before I can decide what to do next, he explains that it was only “una broma,” which after consulting my Spanish dictionary I find out, is a “joke.” “Uhuh,” I say, as he tries to assure me he is not a creepy rapist. “Esta bien,” I say nonconfrontationally, and stare out the window again. Finally, he drops us off, in the middle of nowhere, and we breath a sigh of relief. “What a douche bag,” I say, and we vow not to get in the car with anymore creepsters.
Our next ride is from Abraham, who reminds me of my seventh grade math teacher Mr. Cherry, who had terrible coffee breath and was always smiling painfully at me. But Abraham isn’t actually anything like Mr. Cherry, he just looks like him a lot. We listen to Franz Ferninand and Coldplay and go with him to the hospital to have his arm checked out.
He drops us off at San Pedro del Pinatar, which according to the Czech Buddhist who doesn’t drink because he’s an earth sign, is a hippie commune of some sort, but is actually just a bunch of old people covered in mud. At the English bar where I had a disgusting cheeseburger, some guy told Tiffany about this really great place to sleep twenty minutes away. We’ve learned the persistent inaccuracy of people’s time estimates, but this one took the cake. After walking toward the middle of the ocean for forty minutes, with the distant horizon as our destination, we surrendered to the cement and settle down with the earwigs to sleep.
From San Pedro, we get a ride with this guy that Tiffany thought had nice eyes, but she didn’t want to make out with him or anything. He gives us a ride to the bus stop and a copy of his cd. We take the bus to Murcia, where we decide to stay for the night, only it’s pretty seedy and rainy, so we end up sleeping on the floor of the bus station. Only we don’t really sleep much, because creepy guys who reportedly work there keep waking us up to tell us to sleep on the bench and zip up our sleeping bags and stuff. One guy even gave Tiffany a physical demonstration of what she should do and fingered her jewelry while he was at it, “I like to touch stuff,” he said, and she was like, “I’m really not in the mood to have anyone hitting on me right now,” but she probably just closed her eyes and hoped he’d go away, which he did. At five a.m. when the station opens, I am shaken violently awake, as one of the many seedy employees yells “wake up!” at me repeatedly after I am clearly awake.
Then we took a bus to Almeria, and from there we hitchhiked to Cabo San Gato. In Cabo San Gato we are really excited because there are only like five people on the beach, but it is early, and as a few hours pass the beach is flooded with crying children. They didn’t want to go in the water, but their parents made them.
By the end of the day I am ridiculously sunburned in uneven patches. I can’t imagine another day in the sun, and so we decide to go to Granada, if only for a day, to see about the Rambutan guesthouse, whose website warns us this is no ordinary hostel and lists cactus and graffitti tours, paragliding, and a theatre under its credentials. We hitch a ride with a couple from Paris who take us a short distance to the intersection. I put on the two euro checkered pink and green sombrero with the orange flower bow and the teal ribbon and begin to hitchhike. It proves advantageous, not because it increases the frequency or quality of our rides, but because watching the variety of facial responses it elicits prevents us from getting frustrated or bored.
A dodgy guy stops for Tiffany and asks me where we are going. “Almeria,” I say. He nods. “Where are you going,” I ask. “Almeria,” he responds unconvincingly. “OK,” I say and jog back to Tiffany. “Creepster,” I inform her and we decide quickly she will tell him we are going the other way. She tells him we are going to Valencia, or something, and shuts the door before he has a chance to respond.
We end up hitching a ride with a normal middle-aged guy who tries to take us to the bus station. We have him drop us off at the wrong intersection, though, so we walk othe bus sation and Tiffany goes in to pee and have a coffee. I sit down next to the old woman who inhabits the ledge outside the station, perpetually in reclining position and wrapped in old blankets. She yells something at me in Spanish I don’t understand, so I scoot over a bit, hoping that will placate her. She sighs and grumbles pulling up her covers around her chest. I sit, watching a few punky bums spanging for change with a jester hat and a flute. Each person that passes shakes their head or ignores the two boys. One sits against the light pole, lazily playing at his instrument, while the other skips energetically about soliciting passerbys, depositing his coins into the other’s cup when he gets them and waving about with moral frustration at the people as they pass him by.
Impulsively, I dig around the bottom of my bag and pull out my juggling balls, swinging around to stand beside him. I nod with a smile and begin juggling, with limited skill and much enthusiasm. My companion – David – smiles and resumes panhandling with renewed rigor, to little if any increased success. Tiffany comes outside and sits next to the old woman and the careless boy-Christian. As she is writing in her journal the boys turns to her and says, “Your heart breaks.” I sit next to them and offer the boys some nuts. The old woman croaks at us. “She says she is hungry,” David explains, and we give her some nuts and granola which only mildly satisfies her. She continues to go on and David explains, it is nothing she says to us; ceaseless grumblings of the forgotten. I juggle with David a little more, to no avail, and Tiffany and I depart for the highway.
We walk a few miles, looking for the junction to Granada, and stop to wait. I put on my hat and sing Ani Difranco as Tiffany eats chocolate impatiently. A scooter stops for me and I say, “I don’t think we’ll fit,” pointing to Tiffany and our bags. Every car full of boys oggles us shamelessly, but they keep driving. After an hour or so a white work van stops for us and we pile in as he tells us he is going 40 kilometers short of Granada. He points to the mountains and says things I don’t understand, which don’t seem to require a response so, I nod and smile. He takes us to our exact destination using a computer navigator mounted on his rearview mirror. “Muchas gracias,” we tell him, tumbling out of the car onto the sweaty cobblestone of Granada, which is to become our final destination.
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