A Diary of a Hitching Holiday in 1982 - with LOTS of photos!
Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4
I awoke early again, and within five minutes, was walking towards Cahors.
Between six forty-five and nine ten, I must have walked twelve kilometres along a beautiful valley, which was possibly the most memorable part of my journey, and also one of the saddest parts, as I had nobody to share the experience with.
I finally got a lift with a theatre administrator who worked at Albi, Toulouse Lautrec's birth town. Albi was also the home of the Albigensians - not a football team, but medieval heretics, who believed that as God only created "good" things, and as mankind is "bad", mankind was the creation of the devil!
At ten o'clock, we arrived at Cahors and met Vincent and Sylvie again. For lunch, we had brains and bread - different to say the least.
That afternoon we went in Rico's car to visit Sylvie's sister, Josy, and her son Sebastian. Josy's husband, who was at work as an architect, had made a beautiful job of either transforming or building this villa-like house. Either way it was the sort of place that I would love to retire to. The front door was approached up a sweeping stone staircase to a balcony which overlooks a gravel courtyard, which had a wide gateway to the rural road on one side, and farm buildings on the other two. The courtyard had ample room for visitors' cars, and the almost obligatory game of boules.
The rear of the building also had a balcony, this one overlooking the Lot Valley, a large swimming pool, and the orchard-like garden, which stretched down the hill and seemingly forever; there were no boundary fences in sight.
The afternoon was spent by the seven of us sunbathing and swimming.
We returned to Vincent and Sylvie's flat, where Sylvie volunteered to wash some of my clothes, which was a welcome change from doing them in sinks at camp sites - washing machines don't fit into rucksacks very well.
On Thursday, I woke late, at nine forty-five, ate, watched TV, then helped Rico fix the brakes on his car, adding the words "press", "again" and "hold it!" to French vocabulary.
We went round to Jean-Paul's flat, and played guitar for a while, myself on the bass.
At five thirty, we went to a cafe for a while, and then to Macadam Restaurant in rue St André where I watched him preparing a cherry gateau in the kitchen.
I returned at eight o'clock to Vincent and Sylvie's flat and watched two good films on the TV. One was a "ribald old French romp", the other was German, with French sub-titles.
I awoke at eight thirty, packed and had some breakfast. At nine forty-five, I went to leave. Having said a tearful goodbye to Sylvie, I walked the three kilometres to the outskirts of Cahors and started hitchhiking. I had a 100k lift to Brives, a short lift to the start of the SemiAutoroute to the North of the town, and a lift in a Class III loaded with gravel, which climbed at walking pace from the valley to the plateau.
I then had a lift in a mini with four guys who I thought might have been too friendly - they offered to take me to a river where we would have had a picnic - I was more concerned that they were after the little money that I had.
I was then offered a lift with a young lady named Florence Urvoy, who took me through Chateroux and Bourges, to Charité sur Loire, where we stopped at eight-twenty for bierres pression which were paid for by two hitchers from the French Army who Florence had also stopped for. At nine o'clock, I hit the road again, and at twenty-past was given a lift to Cosne, a distance of thirty-two kilometres. I stopped at a small hotel-cafe for a coffee, and met an English couple who had arrived off the boat that morning and were booking into the hotel with their two children.
At ten o'clock I was picked up by the driver of a Class I HGV. After thirty minutes he stopped at one of the many roadside friteries that littered the roads to and from Paris, and was bought eleven franks worth of sausage, chips, beer and coffee. We were still travelling at midnight, and the sky was being lit up by lightning in the distance. At one forty-five on Saturday morning, we arrived at Calberson's inland port in Paris, where I was bought another coffee, this one from a machine in the depot.
At two thirty, I was given a lift out in another Class I in which I dozed as we travelled along the Autoroute towards Arras, where the motorway forks for Calais and Lille. Here I was dropped off, still on the motorway, just as dawn was beginning to break. I was given a lift in a car for about twenty kilometres to about 94k from Calais.
At six forty-five, I achieved my first lift from a "Brit" since leaving England, fifteen days ago, in an HGV III from Watford.
At Calais, I persuaded a Swiss gent, named Braun, to buy my tickets with his, and drive onto the boat with me as a car passenger in his car. As a foot passenger, I would have been charged 112FF instead of 92FF.
I got into his car, and met his family - his wife from Ireland and two girls, one aged two, the other who announced proudly, "I am five years old". Her father told to "keep quiet", as a ticket had not been bought for her, her father was pretending that she was only four.
We parted company on the boat, where I found a quiet corner and went to sleep.
As the boat arrived at Dover, I was woken by the ship's siren. I passed through customs without incident and made my way to the start of Jubilee Way, the road that rises above the docks, and up onto the cliffs above Dover.
The English lorry driver who had given me a lift in France picked me up and took me to London, where he dropped me off at twelve forty-five. From here I got a lift to the start of the M1, where there where fifteen other people waiting, including two Chinese youths with a sign, not bearing the name of their destination, but simply "School Test".
I was given a lift in an ex-GPO Escort van with two other hikers, one of which was dropped of at Northampton, where two more were picked up. The heat in the van was almost unbearable, as the radiator was not working properly, and the engine was being kept cool by the use of the car heater.
I was dropped off in the town centre of Coventry, from where I made my way back to my bedsit by public transport and unpacked. AndÔ Poole