Last time Jim and I were so unsuccessful in our attempt at hitching this boat that we ended up giving up on our trip completely and going home. I have since scoured the internet and asked every hitchhiker I know if this hitch is possible, but nobody else seems to have ever tried it, let alone managed it. I decided to have one more attempt. After dragging myself out of bed at 3:30am to be sure of catching the first bus to Newhaven at 5:15am I managed to arrive well before the ticket office opened, still under cover of darkness…
I stash my bag behind a fence and amble around casually like any normal fare-paying car driver might do. The drivers lounge has the lights on but is empty. Several trucks are parked around the freight area but with lights off and curtains drawn.
When I see a light go on I wave and make my approach.
“Hello! Do you have space for one more?”
He doesn’t speak English. Or French. Damnit. Fortunately the word ‘Autostop’ seems to work for most European languages. Now he understands. He nods. Yep, he can take me… to Birmingham. Oh.
I am not dterred. In fact I am encouraged a little – at least he was willing to take me. I stand around a while longer until I see a huge beast of a lorry turn into the freight area from the main road. He judders to a stop in front of the little gate leading to the ticket office and climbs out of his cab.
“Hello! Do you speak English?”
“Are you going to France?”
“Got space for one more?”
He’s not sure. He will have to check the bookings. He doesn’t know how many his company has booked for, but he’s willing to have a go. Success! (Maybe…)
He buys me a coffee. We’re sitting at a table chatting to a bunch of security guards. Well, he is. I appear to be invisible. Possibly a good thing since I’m sure one of them is the guy who told me and Jim off for trying to hitch here last time (you can’t do that…you’ll get arrested…blah..blah…)
The ticket office takes a painful amount of time to open. Eventually it does. Nigel (my driver) has to change the booking from his usual truck to this one as his has broken down. They change the number of people as well: from one to two. Easy!
Nigel is great. One of the wisest and most open truckers I have come across. We are given a cabin on the boat with a bed each and a shower and free coffee to boot. A luxury crossing and it’s cut hours and many miles off my journey. Horray!
I made Nigel a little thankyou card while he was napping and gave it to him just before he dropped me off on the road to Rouen.