Spanish hotels seem to be great for late check-out times, this one in Murcia let us stay until midday. We took full advantage of this with a lie-in, a leisurely breakfast, showers and getting all the online stuff done we needed to (checking in for flight, uploading photos to our instagram etc.) whilst we had free WiFi.
I can’t believe it’s our last day! If we didn’t have commitments to get back to in the UK, we’d hitch back and make it a round trip, taking our time along the other side of France. But alas, we have our bargain flight booked to make sure we get where we need to be on time.
We went to a supermarket (called Super Dumbo, which made us chuckle!) to get some snacks and then found somewhere to sit in the sun and eat. Yesterday, we’d spied Murcia Vintage and knew that would be where we would be killing some time this morning.
At first we thought it was closed but then saw some people in the back and realised we just had to ring the doorbell. Antonio, a smiley man who seemed genuinely excited to meet each and every customer, greeted us warmly. He asked us if we were from London because he’d heard great things about the selection of vintage shops there.
“Can you believe I’ve never been to London?! I’ve been to New York… I’ve been to China! But never to London! I think maybe I would go crazy there, I would spend all my money on first day!”
We spent a while in the store, browsing the impressive selection of books, records, clothes etc. Antonio moved between us and the other customers in the shop, offering help and just generally chatting and even introducing people to each other. Ondra recently opened a second-hand shop with his sister in Brno, Czech Republic, so him and Antonio had a lot to discuss.
I found the perfect shirt for O – a very well made and in great condition checkered lumberjack in great colours that suit us both! It was meant to be €5 but Antonio said that for us it was just €3. He’s such a friendly guy who obviously is very passionate about both vintage goods and providing an enjoyable shopping experience. We hugged goodbye, exchanged Facebook details and suggested he visited Brighton as well as London to check out the vintage delights in a smaller, seaside location.
It was time to spend the last of our euros on snacks to last us the rest of the day, ie. the rest of our trip! To our delight, we found our favourite Spanish supermarket (Mercadona – we prefer it purely because they sell half a kilo of hummus for a mere €2.30) and stocked up.
We headed to a spot we’d found on Hitchhiking Maps, near the entrance to the autovía. During our morning WiFi session, we’d discovered that the airport isn’t actually in Murcia at all, it’s a half hour drive away in San Javier. If we’d realised this before we probably wouldn’t have ever bothered heading to Murcia itself, but just kept going along the coast! But, oh well, if we’d done that we wouldn’t have had the awesome ride in the 1987 land cruiser or gone into Murcia Vintage, met Antonio and got O’s perfect shirt.
It was a good spot, all the passing traffic was going in our direction onto the autovía. O had a sign saying ‘Auto Estopo por favor – San Javier’ and mine ‘Aeropuerto de Murcia – San Javier’. The layout of the road meant we were able to stand either side of the two lanes to get maximum attention and after half an hour there, a car pulled over. Unfortunately, so did the police. They didn’t do or say anything, but our potential lift was scared away. Luckily we only needed to wait another ten minutes for another car to stop, and we got in quickly this time.
Our driver was going all the way to San Javier, which was just what we were hoping for. We still had five hours until our flight so could easily walk the 4km out of town to the airport once we got there. A lot of our conversation was lost in translation, but he was interested in O being Czech and seemed to have some kind of connection with Prague to do with his work.
As has often been the case on our trip, our kind driver offered to go out of his way and take us all the way to the airport. Although we had a lot of time to kill, we were also tired and out of euros, so took him up on his offer gratefully.
So, we arrived at the airport with over four hours to spare! We had a picnic outside, then sat down inside to catch up on some writing and instagram and explore transport from Luton Airport to Brighton options on our phones. We downloaded national express and go euro timetables, and also found someone offering a lift on liftshare and sent a message.
The time in the airport somehow flew and it was soon time to board the plane. We left Spain at 21:55.
Yesterday, I’d been thinking how perfect it would be to end our journey by hitching a ride from the airport to Brighton. However, we were due to arrive at 23:40 and although I was sure there must be some people travelling onwards in our direction, it was also highly likely that some people would be staying nearby overnight before travelling onwards tomorrow. Despite this, we came up with a fun way to try and get us a lift – writing a little story telling people about our trip and sending it around the plane to see if anyone could help us get back to Brighton.
So, once on the plane, we got to composing our little notes – one for each side of the plane – I wrote a few words and O did a little doodle on the front (and came up with a little play on words for the title to get people’s attention). It was fun to think that we’d be transporting people back to being at school and sending secret notes around the classroom, but also a bit nerve wracking to be ask strangers for help.
When the seatbelt light went off, I got up, took a deep breath and approached the people on the front row of the aisle across from us.
“Excuse me, would you mind reading this and passing it to the row behind you when you’re done?”
The people looked confused and slightly annoyed.
I took a deep breath and flashed them a smile.
“It should become obvious once you’ve read it! It’s only short.”
They took it from me somewhat reluctantly and I hurried back to my seat. Luckily, we were sat in the second row from the front so with the other note I just needed to lean forward and pass it through the gap.
Over the next half hour we got a few acknowledgements from the rows of people nearest to us – ‘Sorry guys, we’re going north!’ etc. We observed people talking to strangers as they passed on the note and everyone seemed to be reacting positively, which was great to see. Throughout the flight, a couple of people on the way to the toilet checked to see if we’d gotten a lift yet and apologise for not being able to help.
We landed and had not yet arranged a lift. Despite this, writing the note and encouraging people to talk to each other had been a positive exercise and we were feeling good. As people left the plane, we received some more apologies and good luck wishes.
We had not received an answer from liftshare, so we decided to get on a bus to London Victoria. Arriving back in the UK was immediately a huge downer. I know this is often the case when returning from a holiday, but I also think there is a really tense atmosphere in England at the moment which seemed (to us) to be in stark contrast to Spain. On our trip, partly due to the way we chose to travel, we’ve been really lucky to meet many kind and helpful strangers, to feel welcomed in their cars and in their country. Yet, when returning to my own country, I felt unwelcome and in the way.
There was very little information around regarding where to find buses and how to buy tickets, and I witnessed a lot of rude and impatient staff dealing with people who had just arrived. We eventually found and got on our bus and dozed for the hour or so journey to Victoria.
Once at Victoria, we experienced more confusion and hostility from staff at both the coach and train station. After discovering the coach we were hoping to get to Brighton was sold out, we approached a member of staff to ask about the possibility of filling spare seats of people who hadn’t turned up. He told us that was possible and we just needed to ask the driver, so I ran to get cash whilst O stayed by the coaches. However, when I returned and we went towards the coach we were stopped by an angry little man in a high-vis with a clipboard, demanding to see our tickets. We explained the conversation we had just had with the other official, who we could see now was actually driving the coach we wanted to get on. He spoke over us, barking the same demand of a ticket, and wouldn’t let us pass.
“Why are you being so rude to us?” O asked.
The man then refused to speak to O at all and raised his voice even further to me. We walked away.
We picked through the rubbish and vomit and dodged the drunk people and the fights to get to the train station. We discovered that they close the station at night, only opening up just before a train departs. We entered the station at the next available opportunity and went to explore our options at the ticket machines. However, we were soon approached by a member of staff asking where we travelling to and we told him we were heading to Brighton.
“The next train to Brighton is at 4.30am, so you’ll have to leave until then.”
He motioned impatiently towards the door.
So, we returned to the coach station. It was around 1.30am and we were running out of options. We got a hot drink and sat down to try and decide what to do next.
At one point, staff started asking people to leave the coach station unless they were sat on a seat. There weren’t enough seats and there were quite a few people sat on the ground like us, including older people and children. So, once again, we were forced out onto the night streets of London.
I found it hard to understand why they needed to kick out people who were quite obviously just waiting somewhere sheltered until their buses arrived. Where are people meant to go late at night in London if they have a couple of hours to kill between transportation? There wasn’t even any open pubs in the area, which O found surprising as apparently in the Czech Republic there is always a twenty-four hour pub near to big train stations where you can happily nurse one pint for several hours without being asked to move on.
We wandered the streets for a bit, witnessing a few drunken brawls and feeling pretty miserable. Eventually, we headed back to the train station which to our relief was now open. We purchased a ticket and at last it was time to get on the train and sleep until Brighton.
We arrived around 6am and on the way from the station to my sister’s house we found a bag of unopened food outside Sainsburys! We helped ourselves to a sandwich and a samosa to snack on the way, and soon we were in bed.
From Brighton, we went onwards to Cornwall using a sort of organised hitchhiking platform called Pasty Connection – a group where people who are driving to & from Cornwall with space in their car can connect with others who need a ride. Another similar site worth checking out is BlaBlaCar where drivers post rides and petrol costs and you pay online before meeting up for your shared journey. These options tend to work out a lot cheaper than public transport and often can lead to friendships forming or at least some stimulating conversation.
The nightmare of dealing with public transport when we got back to the UK confirmed again that hitchhiking had been the right way to travel. For our next trip, it will be hitchhiking the whole way there and back!
Our chosen method of travel has also meant we’ve been able to afford to be away for much longer – if we’d been paying for accommodation and transport, we’d only have managed a weekend, but this way we’ve done sixteen days! For every uncomfortable nights sleep or frustrating hour by the side of the road, there’s been several inspiring conversations, unexpected events and beautiful camping spots to more than balance it out.