The Very Short Little Green Gathering(and subsequent adventures)

Lost Chance Saloon

When we first heard the Big Green Gathering might be cancelled, we didn’t take the news very seriously. We had already been onsite for a few days and had done most of the work on the bar we were building. The festival punters would be arriving in a couple of days and we could finally relax from all of the hard work and settle into much shorter shifts. Tragically it was not just a rumour. After two days of erecting marquees and three days of making benches, disbelief turned to anger-to frustration-to action. We had enough seating to sit over 350 people. We had the biggest and most beautiful venue onsite. We had almost finished creating it – even most of the decor was up. There was no question of us not having a party. That was one of the quickest consensus decisions I have ever seen.

I got the task of inviting people – trogging round site in the rain announcing that the Last-Chance-Lost-Chance-No-Chance-Saloon would be throwing a big party. Everyone said they would come. One guy asked if he could bring his horse. Ummm… ok?!

The party was quite a success. Most of the people onsite – several hundred by now – came down to our renamed ‘Lost Chance Saloon’ (we put some zero’s over the ‘A’s) The horsedrawn guy did indeed show up on his horse, which he rode into the marquee whooping and then tied up right in the middle of the party.

We all wore our best cowboy gear and wench frocks. Our beer had not yet made it to site, but plenty of people had enough to go around and there were some other outfits with cider to sell and no venue yet, so it all worked out ok- although we are still £6,000 in debt and I’m not sure what happened about the people who spent £2,000 on eggs. I didn’t notice any giant omlettes. One of the many small businesses who are threatened by a festival being cancelled so close to opening. But, I guess the police were probably quite aware of that when they put they piled conditions on that the festival had no hope of meeting. Read all about it ->hereherehere<-

I noticed that most people were trying to fit a whole festivals worth of drinking, drugs and flirting into one night. Frustration and desperation mingling nicely with beer and sweat. Still, a good time was had by all, despite the limited music available (how many hours can one put up with drum’n’base, occasionally interspersed with cheesy classics?)

The next day we burnt most of the benches we had spent days building and set about taking it all back down again. With come-downs.

Bristol

The Very Short Little Green Gathering ended in a downpour, flushing away any hopes we may have had of a group camping trip. By the time I surfaced from my tent the only lift left was going to Bristol. So I sat in the back of the van, dodging drips from the light-fitting while writing my diary and trying to figure out why I was going to Bristol. I realised I had actually been meaning to go to Bristol at some point anyway but had long since assumed I wouldn’t have the time. I sent out some text messages and decided to just go where the wind took me.

Bristol has a thriving squat scene. A lot of my squatter friends have moved here over the past few months after being worn down by serial illegal evictions by police in Brighton. I stayed in my friend’s squat and a few of us from there went out to the Occasional Cinema being held at a squatted Free Shop in St Pauls.

The next day my friend Emma dropped by in her van and took us all on a group outing to the woods. Emma is one of the people I’ve been meaning to spend some time with. Mark is another of those people. After dropping the squatters back home, Emma and I continued our adventure and drove out to Radford Mill Farm where ‘Money-free Mark’ has been living in his caravan without money for the past 8 months. Here I was pleasantly surprised to bump into Tasha, a girl I met on retreat in Spain. Tasha had seen Emma play in a bar in Bristol a few days earlier… Small World!

After a night in a comfy big bed in the farmhouse I had to again decide what to do next. I almost hitched back to Brighton, but discovered I had left my waterproofs in a friend’s bag in the woods in Bristol, so took that as a sign and got a lift back to the squat with Emma.


Tribal Voices

A text message had been doing the rounds calling all BGG refugees to a smaller gathering in Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Small World Solar Stage, Triban, Lost Horizons Sauna and Pachamamas Chai Tipi would all be there. £6 a night to camp in beautiful countryside by a river, with horses, a pub and hire boat. I decided to walk to the nearest motorway junction and stick my thumb out. I found the spot Emma told me about and it was a good one. After only a couple of minutes a dreadlocked man and his young daughter picked me up and took me fifty miles to a service station. After a bit of a walk up a service road I managed to cross the M5 and waited only a few minutes on a slip-road for a bubbly woman called Louise to pick me up and take me down the M50 to Monmouth. I had been intending to get out before that, but we must have missed both of the spots I chose on the map somehow. Never mind, Monmouth will be better then.

Some passers-by described the various routes I could take to Hay, and on a whim I chose the old slow winding road which would have virtually no traffic. Don’t ask why, it just seemed like the right decision. I found the bridge and gatehouse they described easily and on noticing the Green Dragon pub (I used to drink in The Green Dragon in Brighton before it closed down), I decided to ask someone there for directions. There were a few people outside smoking, but on instinct I headed straight to the middle-aged ponytailed man sitting alone. I asked if this was the right road to Hay-on-Wye.
“I’m not sure, I’m not from around here.. Why, where are you going? Are you going to a festival?”
I said that I was.
“Will you take me with you?”
“Ok.”
“I’ll tell you what, I need an hour to sober up. If you buy me a coffee, I’ll drive you there.”
“Alright!”

My drivers name was David. At the time I wrote this he was playing guitar by the fire having stayed up all night having a great old time. Each time I pass him, he’s telling a different stranger the tale of how we met and how he came to be at this festival…
“…And she looked me straight in the eye and I thought, I don’t know where she’s going, but wherever it is, I’m going there with her…”

I cannot get enough of dancing these days. Minutes after getting onsite I was donning my red frock and gyrating and vibrating to the Glitzy Baghags in Small World, realising I really never had any other option than to come here. The Tribal Voices Gathering reminds me of why I got into festivals in the first place. A small gathering made up almost entirely of festival crews and musicians, with a real free festival atmosphere and ethic. A steward rota at the gate can be signed up to by anyone who wants a nights free camping and a hot meal in the pub. The kind of place you could leave anything lying around and know the worst that might happen is some hippy would spend a few hours trying to find you to give you your camera/wallet/tobacco back. The kind of place where people make truffles with lots of amazing super-food ingredients and half a gram of mushrooms in each one and sell them two for a fiver. The kind of place where a whole tent full of people share mushroom truffles and learn how to blur the lines between performer and audience, spectator and stage. Where rolling around in spontaneous contortion yoga dancing madness, the only man to look at you strangely is immediately offered some truffles by the people nearest to him.

Monday morning arrived and I finally felt like it might be time to go home. After asking around I got myself a lift to the Southern part of the M25 and hitched from there. We left late and I only made it as far as Lewes before it was very dark and hitching was getting harder. I decided to give up and get a train. I saw the ticket conductor so decided not to risk bunking. I just asked him if there was a ticket machine. He said he had one so I got on and we started chatting. I told him how I’d hitched from Wales but had decided to give up. He was so impressed he told me he wouldn’t charge me for a ticket, bless him… Wait, did I just hitch a train?

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Rennes

There were three clues that told me I would be staying in a squat in Rennes. The first was my couchsurfing hosts profile saying ‘squat the world!’ The second was being warned I would need to say my name when I got to the door and the third was seeing the door itself.

On entering I have my suspicions confirmed by Manuel, my friendly Europunk host. The main reason I am in Rennes is after searching CS for the keywords ‘anarchist’, ‘vegan’, and ‘squat’ in France, his was the one that kept popping up. This is great – squats were on my list of things to find in France along with permaculture communities, social centres and protest sites.

I have arrived just in time for what Manuel nicknames ‘The Green Meal’ – green beans with pea soup and some other green vegetable broth that nobody can remember the English name for. There is also some nice French bread and some sweet stewed fruit for dessert. I break out my jar of vegan chocolate spread as well. It is everything I dreamed it would be.

Manuel explains that they go skipping at the markets a couple of times a week for vegetables. He has an old friend who runs a bakery and gives him whatever bread is left over at the end of the day. They also steal some food from supermarkets.

After dinner I get a tour of the building. It used to be several appartments and I get lost through room after room after room. Some parts of the building are in better nick than others. They have also been busy repairing, cleaning and decorating some of it. The nicest bit is the attic, particularly Manuel’s room which has wooden panels on the walls and a slanted ceiling. The worst is covered in damp patches and peeling plaster – a wall Manuel says they wanted to knock through but then discovered it was keeping the building stable. There is only one toilet in the whole building. A peak out of the back door reveals why – a row of toilets, each with it’s own door. One for each of the old apartments. How bizarre! There is also another apartment which is only accessible from out the back door. This one is very large and I’m told they will be having a gig in there on Saturday. It is also sometimes used for large group meals.

I choose ‘The Tea Room’ to sleep in. It’s in the attic next to Manuel’s room and has a heater, fairy lights, two sofas, bookshelves, a couple of coffee tables and a good supply of redbush and honeybush tea. The attic is where they all slept for the first few nights. This is confirmed by a row of hardy locks running down the inside of the main door up here. The tea room is now a chill-out space as well as a venue for small feminist gatherings. It also has a nice clean looking mattress. I get some allergic reactions anyway – probably from the damp and the dust (I am allergic to everything!), but sleep about ten hours in spite of it.

In the morning I do yoga in the other attic room – a large one with nothing but a sink, bare floorboards and a table made out of a large wooden pallet with bricks supported by two computer towers for legs. Yoga helps with my aching, but not much and I’m really feeling it as I walk around town on my unsuccessful mission to hire a bike (why is it so hard to hire bloody bikes in France?!?)

Before leaving the house I found Manuel dragging a shower cubicle out of the downstairs outside apartment. He says he is cleaning it up to use as a changing cubicle for their free shop. The shop is currently lots of boxes and shelves of clothes and books in the room by the one functioning downstairs toilet. I think I can successfully tick squats and social centres off my list of things to discover here. Mission successful! Tomorrow I am moving on to La Sorga, a permaculture community East of Bordeaux.

Newhaven to Dieppe – that elusive hitch

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.

I wait.

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?”
He does.
“Are you going to France?”
He is!
“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.

The Great Hitchhiking Adventure – Part 2: Toulouse to Ecodharma

Toulouse is a beautiful city. There are some places I go that I know immediately that I need more time in and this is one of them. It’s great to be travelling alone and without time restrictions and I decide to stay in Toulouse for a couple of days. Through some synchronicity I find a couch-surfing host quite quickly and am walking to his house when a man stops me and asks if I would like to join him for a drink. I immediately refuse.
‘Where are you from?’ he asks, seeing I don’t speak much French.
‘England,’
‘I have been to England a few times,’ he says, still walking beside me, ‘London, Swindon…’
‘Wait a minute…’ I stop walking, ‘did you just say you’ve been to Swindon?’
‘Yes..?’
‘I grew up in Swindon!’
‘No!’
‘Come on, let’s get a drink.’

Joel thinks I’m crazy. Crazy for hitchhiking, crazy for travelling alone, crazy for staying with strangers. He is not the sleaze I originally took him for, but is actually very polite, respectful and intelligent. He says he prefers to meet people on the street rather than in a bar where they will just be drunk. Sex is of course nice, but he is interested in meeting people for conversations also. It’s nice to have a drink with somebody friendly and we have a good chat.

The velos are bikes you can rent for a euro a day plus a sliding scale depending on how long you use them for. It takes me a couple of days to work out the system as there is nothing written in English about them, even at the Tourist Info Office, which is otherwise very useful. There are velo stations all over Toulouse and I constantly see people riding them around, so eventually I get somebody to show me. Once on one myself I realise they are not quite as romantic as they look when one is wobbling down a cobbled street vibrating fiercely. The bike is largely made out of plastic and has a large advertisement for HSBC bank on the side, but still, I miss the bike back home and this is a poor substitute but quite fun nonetheless.

I spent my first night in Toulouse with Franek, the couch-surfing ambassador for the city. Franek shares a one-bedroom flat with his sister Iris but loves having CS guests and would rather share a room with his sister than turn anyone away. There is another guest staying the second night, a German man called Matthias who I instantly take to. To avoid overcrowding I spend the second night with Franek’s neighbour, who we discover by accident is also a CS host.

I am in a campsite about as different from the one at Castelsarrasin as you could possibly get. Dodgy pop-dance music blasts out of the cafe-bar behind me. I’m sitting at a blue plastic table eating chips and drinking beer. My blue plastic chair has ‘Nestle’ emblazoned across the back. This ‘Camping Village’ charges €10 a night, €20 if I leave after 10am! They have taken my passport to ensure I pay before leaving. It’s such a shame because this is a really beautiful town, nestled right in the heart of the Pyrenees. I was expecting to arrive at Ecodharma today. I at least thought I would get out of France but no, I’m still here. I am wishing I hadn’t taken the advice of the man smoking outside the bar back in the town and had carried on to Andorre rather than stay here tonight. He’s probably an undercover tout for this campsite. I am intrigued to see Andorre, a tiny little independent country I had never heard of before, right on the French-Spanish border.

I had some good lifts today. Not long ones, but nice ones. One was a man whose name I have sadly forgotten. He’s a meditator too and we had a really interesting conversation while listening to the most beautiful music as we drove through the winding mountain paths and remote crumbling sand-coloured villages in the French Pyrenees. ‘It’s music from the desert’, he said. Really enchanting. My driver was the second who waited for me today, rather than the other way around. ‘You didn’t have your thumb out, but I guessed you were hitchhiking’, he said. He and his wife, both aged 50, have recently moved to this area from further north. He said he feels 22 again. His love of the area is infectious, especially as he tells me local legends and points out hidden landmarks.

The first lift that waited for me today was not so great. No, that’s mean of me, he was nice enough. He had his lorry pulled over and waited for me to catch up to him at the toll booth I was heading for on the autoroute out of Toulouse. Hitching on the autoroute is illegal, just like on British motorways, but you can walk along behind the barrier and it’s ok to hitch at the tolls where a lot of people also stop to use the public toilets. This driver seemed quite keen for me to take off one of the tops I was wearing and to let down my hair. He emphasised strongly how hot it was. He didn’t speak English, but made it clear in French that he was a man and that I was in fact a woman. I was convinced by him to take a very roundabout route through Perpignon. I changed my mind halfway and got out at Carcassone and headed south on the smaller D roads – hence still being in France.

I stop for a sandwich in the most beautiful place I have been to so far: a remote picnic spot outside a tiny village up in the mountains. It’s a crappy place for hitchhiking and I wait an hour – my longest wait by far since leaving the Uk, which I blame on the amount of ex-pats living locally – but I don’t really mind because the area is so outstandingly beautiful.

My first lift of a new day speeds through the mountain roads with dance music blaring – ‘you’re so sexy – sexy, sexy, sexy’ sings the woman on the stereo. My driver is heading to the first town in Andorre, which it appears serves as an off-licence to the whole of southern France. Andorre is not in the EU and alcohol is a quarter the price, a packet of cigarettes is around €2. My driver warned me earlier that there may be a ‘traffic marmalade’ and I see what he means as the queue gets longer and longer. It’s not only alcohol and cigarettes that are cheap, but also clothes, food and oil. We cross the border without any hassle. Au revoir France!

After a forty minute wait I finally get a lift out of Pas de la Casa, the first town in Andorre. It’s small but still very built up and has cows grazing on almost vertical patches of grass. I feel certain they will fall and crush the cars parked along the side of the road directly beneath them. Now my new driver and I take the wiggliest mountain path ever to this tiny country’s capital, Andorra la Vella.

I arrive in Isona after a semi-dodgy hour and a half long trip with a man in a tiny white van. I’m waiting for Guhyapati (‘G’ to his friends) in Bar Miami. I think I am the only English person and the only female apart from the barmaid. I seem to be an unusual sight. I drink my last half pint while waiting – it may be a while before I consume alcohol again. G arrives and greets me like an old friend, although we only met once before for a brief ten minute chat at the Buddhafield Festival. He has exactly the white landrover I imagined he would. I get in and we wind our way up an ever remoter road that turns into a track at steeper and steeper angles. G tells me a little about the centre and points out landscape features as we pass. He also tells me who else is on the retreat and it turns out I know one of them – he will be surprised to see me! There are only 8 of us, but another 3 will arrive over the next few days. My sense of exitement is growing…

The Great Hitchhiking Adventure – Part 1: London to Toulouse

I spend ages getting out of London – even longer due to waiting 50 minutes for the bus I left my tent on to do it’s round and come back to where I got off. Having retrieved my tent and found the road junction marked on hitchwiki.org, I wait patiently in the pouring rain with a soggy cardboard sign saying ‘France please!’ and a smiley face. After around 20 minutes a waiter comes out of a nearby pub with a cup of tea for me and discovering I don’t drink milk, takes it away and comes back with another – black with a bit of lemon. Bless.

My first lift is Adam. Adam has just started growing vegetables and has never heard of Peak Oil. I fill him in on all of the happy details. Adam is quite well travelled but has only been to what he calls ‘party towns’ to get drunk. Apparently this includes Cuba. I tell him about ‘The Power of Community’, the film about Cuba and how it’s handling the energy crisis. This sets him thinking… ‘hmm, yeah, there were a lot of people hitchhiking and it was a bit like that now you come to mention it.’ Telling Adam about my plans he just keeps repeating the same thing – ‘It’s like a different world’.

I meet another hitchhiker at junction 10 of the M20. We both have signs saying ‘France’ and decide to travel together until we get there where we will go our separate ways. Max has a more upfront method of hitching than me. He approaches cars as they are waiting at the traffic lights, knocks on the windows and asks for a lift. I stand by the turning with one of our signs. It’s Max that gets us the lift after asking around 15 cars. We get a lift to Dover with an Iraqi man and his Argentinian girlfriend. Max tells me about the number plate system for French vehicles which could be helpful for my hitching. Apparently the first two numbers indicate the region the car is from. I scribble down the numbers for some of the regions I will be passing through from the book Max is carrying.

Max paid £12 for a ferry ticket, but I have been reading about boat hitching for a long time now and want to at least give it a try. I have around fifteen minutes before they stop boarding foot passengers. There is a road with a long string of lorries heading past the ticket office, so I stick out my thumb and wait. Many lorry drivers shrug or frown at me but a couple smile and eventually one stops. Tom is Croatian and lives in Germany, on his way home now after six weeks away driving. At the booth I hand the man our two passports and a slip of paper Tom hands me. ‘What are you carrying?’ the toll booth man asks. ‘Oh, some crates, some pallets…’ Tom starts to explain. ‘Oh right, just stuff basically!’ The man laughs and hands back our passports. Off we go then! Tom has a laptop and internet in his cab. He asks exactly where I’m going and works out that I will travel 1300km in total from London to the place I am heading to in Spain: Ecodharma.

I am driving off the ferry in a truck with Manuel, my Portugese driver. Manuel is a little bit racist and thinks Indians are dirty, but other than that seems quite nice. I try to avoid the topic and get rather nervous whenever he mentions nationality. The time is now 8:45pm – an hour ahead of the UK – and it is already getting quite dark. Manuel is driving all of the way to Portugal but will stop for nine hours in Tours to sleep. Tours will be great for me – if I can hack driving all night to get there!

I sleep fitfully in the passenger seat for what seems like five minutes in every fifteen. I awake in the middle of the night to discover we have already passed Tours. Tours was actually somewhere I had wanted to visit on my route, but oh well. Manuel parks at a truck stop in the middle of nowhere. This is the end of the line for me as he will sleep now. I get out in the cold, thank Manuel and tentatively wander into the service station. I get some Euros from the cash machine, the first opportunity I have had, and buy two small road maps: one of France and one of Spain for €2.95 each. The man behind the counter doesn’t speak English. ‘Ou et… moi?’ I ask, showing him the map. ‘Ici?’ he points. I am just outside Tours to the South. It doesn’t look like there are many other towns nearby, and besides it’s only 5am. Thinking of Max’s technique I ask some men where they are going, but they just grunt at me and walk off. Another man asks where I want to go and offers to take me to Poitiers. I accept gratefuly.

My new driver speaks barely any English and communication is hard, but he does give me €20, offers to pay for a hotel or to put me up for the night (I decline both suggestions) and buys me a coffee at a service station and a mint tea in Poitiers before leaving me to go home and sleep. He says God told him to give me money. Thanks God!

I was hoping to spend some time in Poitiers, but the only bit I saw of it looked like Churchill Square shopping centre in Brighton (not good), and besides it is still early and everywhere is shut. Better to head for Bordeaux for breakfast and to see if it’s the kind of place I could spend the day. I’m picked up after a few minutes by a guy heading to Niort, only a few miles South. Ok, why not? His English is as bad as my French but we manage to communicate a little in a mixture of French, English and Spanish, which we each speak equally badly.
Niort is very pretty. I write up some of my travels while waiting for the tourist office to open. I’m feeling quite tired and hungry and looking at my map I can see why: no proper food in the last 70 miles. I have started measuring time in miles rather than minutes.

Alex and Stephan are heading south, partly for a holiday and partly because they like it better there and may just stay if things work out. My sign said Bordeaux, but since they are going to Toulouse I will just go there instead. It will probably be my last stop before Spain and I am amazed to have seen so little of France. I have moved much faster than I had imagined, but am making up for it now by watching crumbling yellow brick buildings and tiny French villages pass by out of the window. There are toll booths on French autoroutes, kind of a pay-as-you-go motorway system. We are taking the smaller roads to avoid some of the costs. I’m still munching my way through the pile of goodies I bought from the magazine-bio (organic shop) in Niort: Almond and hazelnut rice milk, tofu wieners, fake cheese spread, mushroom pate, chocolate, muesli, avocado, tomato and some fresh fruit. That’s all the money the man from Poitiers gave me but I haven’t spent any of my own yet apart from the maps. This food should last a couple of days.

The D roads, although very pretty, were taking too long, so Alex and Stefan decide only to go as far as Montauban. They drop me off a little sooner at a ‘campsite’ in Castelsarrasin. My tent is the only one here. Reception is closed, possibly non-existent and everything either doesn’t work (the lights and at least one shower and sink), or is covered with a thick layer of cobwebs and dust. It’s not entirely unlike a zombie movie, but I’m trying not to think about that as I sit in the dark writing this by head-torch at a round concrete picnic table. There is a phone, which I saw a man use earlier, but tragically I do not have a French phone card. Far from being a well needed night of solitude and brandy in remote French countryside, I spend ages trying to rid myself of the only thing that unnerves me more than zombies: a Polish man named something like ‘Wokash’. Having established that we have the biggest language barrier ever, with Wokash not speaking any English, French OR Spanish and me not knowing any Polish, we eventually manage to convey through the use of sign language, gestures and drawings that:

1. He is Polish
2. He picks apples here
3. He is staying in the caravan – the only other thing in this field
4. He does not like picking apples
5. He wants me to stay in the caravan with him

Wokash is a little more pushy about point five than I feel comfortable about, especially given there is nobody else around. I try to make it clear that I am enjoying time alone and wish to sit and read my book in peace, but Wokash persists in beckoning me to his caravan. Eventually I shout at him in English to fuck off, thinking that if he doesn’t understand the words, at least some of the sentiment will get through in the volume of my request. I wave my penknife at him for good measure as he shied away from it when I first took it out to make a sandwich. He finally wanders off looking a bit sulky. I’m still a little nervous and keep turning my torch off at intervals and listening out for footsteps but he seems to have gone. This just goes to show that wild camping is not all that dangerous really. I’ve wild camped with much better facilities than these and have never had this much hassle.

I am awoken twice in the night: once by a strange man saying there is a phone-call for me. I am groggy with sleep but am still pretty certain there’s no way anyone could be calling me here, so I say ‘no, it’s not for me’, zip up my tent and go back to sleep. The second time I awake to a familiar voice outside my tent calling me – ‘Joy, Joy’ (he can’t pronounce Jo). I unzip my tent. Wokash and the man who woke me earlier are both there. Wokash beckons me. I say ‘no, I’m not coming with you. Fuck off and let me sleep’. I turn to the other man. ‘You know English? Do you understand what I’m saying?’ He says ‘yes, he just wants to be your friend’. I tell them to fuck off a few more times, quite loudly, then zip my tent back up and yell, ‘I’m going to sleep now!’ They walk off laughing and talking in Polish. I am awoken no more. I see Wokash on the phone in the morning and he waves to me. I don’t wave back.

Escaping from London

I missed it by two minutes. How annoying is that? I ran all the way from Victoria tube to Victoria coach station and saw a load of coaches, including mine, pull out just before I got there. This was after I decided not to take the bus from Whitechapel to Victoria, instead ‘playing it safe’ with the tube. The Circle, Hammersmith and City and most of the District lines were down (for those not versed in London speak that means almost all of them), meaning it took almost an hour and a half to make what should have been a fairly quick journey. I decided to see things in a positive light. This was an opportunity for an adventure. I would not pay National Express an extra tenner to get on the next coach and I would most certainly not get a train. I would take the opportunity to investigate something I’ve been pondering for some time: Is it possible to hitch-hike out of London?

If you are the kind of person who often finds yourself missing coaches from London to Brighton then you may want to take notes…

The plan was simple: buses are only 90p a journey with an Oyster card and there’s a cap after £3. I would take London buses as far south as possible and then hitch from wherever I ended up. I was armed with four large maps which put together show the entire London bus network, including an enlarged central area (you can get these free from the travel office at Victoria). After 30 minutes of studying them I found my route. The number 2 (which I managed to get on for free!), the 468 and the 405 together managed to get me all the way down to Redhill. I got off the last one early and stuck out my thumb. Success! After only around 10 minutes a lovely couple in a rickety jeep stopped and picked me up. They took me all the way back to Brighton and the whole journey only cost me £1.80. 🙂