9.45am Sunday morning. Pete was late because he forgot his toothbrush and euros, Sean because he forgot his whole washbag and phone charger. Good start.
Beginning to hitch is always tough. That moment where you go to the edge of the road and stick out your thumb (or paw) is always an unnerving one. But once we got started we covered the England part of the journey very quickly (after we had got over the blow of realising that Pete had also left the map behind). We reached our ferry in Harwich in just three lifts, starting, ironically, with a German chap who left us in Croydon (where we bought a map). Next up was an ex-army man called Alan who took us through the Dartford Tunnel and dropped us in Clacton, sorting out the world’s problems on the way. Finally we were taken to Harwich by a pair of insect trainers called Martin and Kim, who told us in detail about the peculiarities of tarantulas and scorpions.
So we got into Harwich a little ahead of schedule, being seven hours early for our boat. But luckily, there was plenty of World Cup football on TV, and a small but perfectly formed pub nearby. The locals put the big screen in the back room on for us, either to treat us or to keep us away from them!
Once on the boat, we raised some more money and sorted out a lift, so we got a flying start out of the Hook early on Monday morning. Chris, his Finnish wife Mina and their giant dog Ollie took us a fair way down, to Utrecht. But it got tougher from then on, until at one point we found ourselves, tiring and sweltering, in a deserted service station in the south of Holland. Worse was to come once we finally reached , as we were dropped on what looked like a quiet yellow B road on our map which turned out in real life to be a dual carriageway! Star of the whole journey has to be Tom, who saw us, turned round at the next junction and came back to rescue us and take us the rest of the way to Cologne. He was half-German, half English and had an accent that you would hear if Hamburg was moved to Yorkshire.
Other bits and bobs we couldn’t fit in above:
- We discovered in Holland that Pete looked like a traditional orange Dutch lion and Sean a petrol pump attendant. Not sure if this helped or hindered our cause.
- Sean was summoned over by a little boy in a car at the Croydon services, only to be told that the lad didn’t like him and threatened with a pea-gun! Kids these days.
- The lowlight of the whole trip for Pete was losing his lion nose somewhere in Holland. He thinks that’s why the hitching got much harder.
- We were given a lift by the Dutch Nicole Kidman! She is acting in the musical version of Moulin Rouge – look out for it if you are in the south of Holland (and speak Dutch)
So we arrived in Cologne after 30 ½ hours, 358 miles and 9 lifts, to a cold beer (or two) and a city gone World Cup mad. By the way the pic to the left is of us boarding the ferry, taken by a bemused sailor.
Thank you again for your donation.
With best wishes,
Pete and Sean