We’d been careful to set an alarm the night before for 6:30am, but somehow we didn’t wake up until 8:30! Neither of us felt like we had slept much, it had been a cold and uncomfortable night. The park was going to be opening at 9, so we quickly packed up and jumped back over the fence, heading back to the spot we’d been at the night before. However, it wasn’t long before we realised we were actually in a terrible spot for the direction we wanted to go in.
So, we walked back through Calais and to the other entrance to the motorway at the other end of town. It was a cold day with a bitter wind, but it did get warm when the sun managed to get out from behind the clouds every now and again.
It was midday by the time we were standing with our signs in our new spot. On the way, we’d pilfered some new cardboard from skips and O had cut out a thumb shape on one piece to get us some extra attention.
After about an hour, a Gendarmerie (police) vehicle pulled over.
Although we were doing nothing wrong, it was a scary moment. Horror stories of people getting in trouble with the law in other countries flashed through my mind.
Two officers came over to us and asked where we were from and where we were going (they obviously hadn’t read our sign!), and one of them took our passports and went back to the car to talk on a radio.
“Lots of people come to Calais… They want to go to England… They can’t.”
The officer that stayed with us seemed slightly apologetic about the situation, while the other kept looking at us suspiciously whilst talking quickly in French over the radio.
After initially being asked to wait for a few minutes, we ended up making awkward, stilted conversation with one of the officers for at least twenty minutes. It had gotten cloudy again and we were getting very cold and fed up of the judgemental looks we were getting from passing drivers.
Eventually, they seemed to confirm that we were probably who we said we were and that we weren’t actually trying to get to England. They told us that we couldn’t stay where we were though, and that we had to go back into the town centre – ie. the worst place to try and hitch from.
We were cold, tired and had a little of the law-enforcement-blues, so before we did anything else, we wanted to find somewhere warm for a bit. There was a big sports/outdoor shop over the road so we headed there, thinking maybe we’d pick up some cheap sleeping mats (we’d been discussing this idea all morning after such an uncomfortable sleep). We wandered around for a bit, but they didn’t have what we were looking for. As we left, we noted the tents on display outside… if all else fails, maybe we can sleep there?!
When we left, the sun had come back out and we found a bench out of the wind. We sat down for a bit to soak up some rays and both immediately fell asleep for over an hour! We hadn’t realised how tired we were.
I woke up very warm, still in all my layers from the cold morning. We de-layered a bit and headed back to the road to find a new spot. We decided we would chance it and slightly disobey the orders from the police – it was a long walk back into town and we knew it would not be a good place to catch a lift. Instead, we went to the other side (closer to town) of the roundabout we had just been next to, to a spot we’d noted earlier. We decided we could play the dumb foreigner card if the Gendarmerie came back, thought it was a bit scary each time one of their cars passed us!
We took it in turns to have some food while the other held the signs. We buy all our road food at supermarkets so is generally bread + hummus based, but we branched out into tinned mushy peas and discovered that mushy peas and tomato puree sandwiches make a unexpectedly delicious road side lunch!
About half an hour after we arrived at the new spot, a car pulled up. Success!
We had ‘Rouen’ on one of our signs, as it’s on the way on one of the recommended routes to Spain we got from the lorry drivers on the ferry. It was a young couple who had pulled over and the guy got out and pointed to the sign, then to himself, then did a driving mime.
“Rouen,” he nodded.
They were obviously on the way back from somewhere, they moved a big suitcase off the back seat and moved around a few other bits and bobs to make room for us. The guy motioned that we’d have to have our bags between our feet/on our laps – that was, of course, totally fine with us. When we got in the car, they showed us on the map that they were actually driving all the way to Bordeaux! Our eyes lit up. Rouen was 215km away, whereas Bordeaux was 870km away – and only 220km from the Spanish border!
Our communication via the girl’s translate app commenced:
“Where do you want to go? We arrive to Bordeaux. It takes 11 hours.”
We couldn’t believe our luck and explained that we were going to Spain so as far as they wanted to take us would be amazing. They agreed to take us all the way to Bordeaux and we settled in for a long journey.
We chatted and got to know each other a bit more via the translate app. The couple were both twenty years old and from Calais but had moved to Bordeaux for work several months before. They’d just been home to visit the family for Easter weekend. They were fascinated by our journey, our way of travelling and our plans for the future and excited to be part of our adventure. They were incredibly sweet – asking if we wanted to see any more cities on the way, saying they’d stop and make more room for us (we refused, of course!), giving tips about what to do once we got to Bordeaux. We listened to music on the journey, lots of dancey stuff dispersed with some Snoop Dogg and Coldplay – they obviously had an eclectic taste, and listened to music in both English and French. They asked us to play some of our music, so we showed them some Devendra Banhart, TV on the Radio and Mark Ronson.
O and I both slept a lot of the way and we arrived into Bordeaux at 2am.
The couple dropped us at the train station in the town centre. We walked a little through the town and then found a spot by the river to lie down until sunrise. We didn’t factor in the sprinklers on the other side of the wall we were lying next to, and got sprayed a few times! But apart from that, we were surprisingly comfortable and dozed happily.