Thumbs Up to Morocco from France & Spain

Equipped with our backpacks and an array of cardboard signs we stood on the side of the M25 in London with our thumbs out. Our destination was Morocco, fifteen hundred miles away. Two cars, three lorries, one bus and two ferries later we arrived in Tangier, and what a memorable trip it was.

Having signed up enthusiastically for this charity hitch hike and spurred on by friends and family we hadn't stopped to consider the reality of our journey until now. With no transport, accommodation or trip plan it suddenly all seemed a little crazy. But then I guess the crazy ones are often the best and half an hour later we had flagged down a car and were on our way.

After making it onto the ferry in Portsmouth the next task was to secure a lift at the other end. After much begging, sweet talking and fluttering of eyelashes we persuaded a beguiled lorry driver into taking us with him to Bordeaux. We journeyed through the night taking it in turns to sleep. Our driver seemed trustworthy enough but we were setting out with caution.

At 4am we arrived at Bordeaux. Or that is to say we arrived at a yard with a café and lots of trucks that we were assured would be on their way to Spain. The scenery didn't exactly suggest we were in the beautiful wine country of Southern France but with no other choice we said goodbye to our friendly English driver. Slightly apprehensive and a bit bewildered we acted in true British style and headed for a cup of tea.

As the sun rose, the drivers began to stir and we ventured out to find out next lift. After just ten minutes of thumbing, a French truck pulled over. With a hole in the windscreen and a distinct aroma of wet dog it wouldn't have been our first choice but at 6am, after a night of no sleep, we were willing to try it. We made it to the Spanish border in one piece and relieved to be leaving our latest lift behind, we stepped out to continue our journey. We changed our signs for our carefully prepared Spanish versions and waited patiently. Soon enough a middle aged lorry driver picked us up.

Our new friend was called Alberto. He spoke no English and we spoke no Spanish. Alberto was keen to communicate with us and through a series of hand signals and the odd misplaced word we soon learnt he was from Barcelona and had been a driver for twenty three years. Travelling through the Pyrenees, every so often Alberto would stop to deliver a load, and to pay his respects a local bar or two. These bars were typical of those you see in art house films. Small smoke filled rooms full of old men playing dominoes. We were presented as his 'show and tell' items for the day and attracted much intrigue in these small Spanish towns. These are places that don't receive many foreign visitors and seem as if you have regressed back a couple of decades to a bygone era.

We had realised by now that this lift wasn't going to be the most direct route to Morocco but it would probably be the most interesting.

Back on the road we continued driving into the night. We passed Madrid in oblivion, for now it was just a mass of lights. Finally we finally stopped at a lonely hotel.

This lonely hotel was however filled with people. It was Easter time and as the Spanish never miss an excuse for a party, it was packed with locals enjoying the festivities. With us speaking no Spanish, the reception closed, and the bar tenders drunk, it a took quite a while to acquire a room. When we finally did we were fast asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

The next morning we awoke to the realisation that we had no idea where we were and indeed no idea which direction we needed to head in to get to Morocco. As we left the hotel our hopes dropped to find there was a total lack of traffic and no road signs. We wandered to a service station hoping to pick up a lowly driver. After 40 minutes it wasn't looking very good and the only vehicle about was a BMW occupied by a single woman. As my partner approached her I was adamant it was a foolish idea and assured him that no single woman would pick up two hitch-hikers, especially not in her nice car.

A few minutes later she beckoned us over and we were on our way to Southern Spain.

It turned out that our driver was a journalist from Madrid and fluent in English. A pleasant three hours later we were in the historic town of Cadiz, the fortified centre of this coastal region.

Again the country's festivities made it difficult to find a room. We trudged around trying every hotel along the way but severely disheartened with darkness setting in, our desperation obviously showed. Finally a hotel keeper took pity on us and let us stay in a flat that he rented out.

We woke to a beautiful warm day but with a lack of endeavour to find our next lift we decided to indulge ourselves and travel the last short distance to Algeciras by bus.

Three and a half days after leaving London we stepped off the ferry in Morocco. A country of contrasts and so different from European culture - our real adventure had only just begun.

Emma Jones

> Home Page






G Adventures reviews 

intrepid travel reviews