Travel: Figueres hitchhiking HitchWiki police reckless adventure Salvador Dali Spain
April 16, 2011
If you want detailed articles of where to hitchhike, HitchWiki is the place to go. Most of the articles are accurate and up-to-date by fellow hitchhikers, and it’s a good reference to check whenever you want to hitchhike out of a city. There were three options, two of which were called out as a failure by other hitch hikers. There was only one option left, and I would later update the option as a failed way to go about hitchhiking as well.
When we made our way to the edge of the city, we couldn’t find where the petrol station that HitchWiki suggested, so one of my friends (a fluent Spanish speaker), [S.B.] asked one of the locals. We ended up having to cross railroad tracks and climb a small fence. This is where the crazy adventure began.
We split up into our usual groups. The other group was instantly picked up by an Italian doctor going toward Figueres, while S. and I had no luck for about 20 minutes. We walked toward the toll booths, hoping to find trucks going towards France (we were trying to get to our next stop, Nice). When we got to the toll booth, the workers stopped us. After a small exchange, they sternly told us that hitchhiking was not permitted on the highway because it’s too dangerous. They told us to take the next exit off the highway.
So of course, we just walked out of their sight and put up our signs again. And suddenly, a loud honk blew behind us. I jumped and turned around. It was other workers from the toll booth, who had clearly read our minds. One thing I noticed is that people in Spain are all very confused and shocked when you tell them you’re going to hitchhike — S and I would later find out that from some hitchhiking forums that it is nearly impossible to hitchhike in Spain. Well, you live and learn.
The toll workers made another speech about the dangers of walking on the side of the highway and hitchhiking. We told them that we were trying to get off the highway anyway (Lie #1), so they said they would follow us until we took the next exit.
What resulted was the equivalent of walking the plank off a pirate’s ship. We trudged on the side of the highway with our huge and heavy backpacks, while their neon yellow car slowly followed from behind.
“They could have at least taken our bags,” S grumbled.
After about 20 minutes of walking and laughing at what a spectacle we must have been, I turned around to see if they were still following us. One of the guys got off the car and directed us to the next petrol station, where we could eventually find a ride to Perpignan, France. With that, the toll patrol left and we continued to walk until we decided to eat on the side of the highway. We had already been on the same highway for three hours, and our other friends were almost in Figueres.
After we were done eating, we stupidly decided to try our luck again. We found the highway going towards Girona, France. As soon as we put up our sign, the police drove up to the ramp. We immediately put down our signs. They stalled for a moment and drove off. After two more minutes of trying to hitchhike, the police appeared again — this time with their sirens and disapproving looks.
I had no idea what S and the police were talking about, but from their faces and gestures, I imagined something like this:
Police: “What are you doing?”
S: “…Trying to get a ride to France.”
Police: “Why? Why are you walking on the highway?! It’s dangerous!”
S: “We know…”
Police: “Did you walk all the way from Barcelona?”
S: “Yeah…” (Lie #2)
S: “We were trying to exit the highway anyway…” (Lie #3)
After this tense exchange, they paused to think about what to do with us. Eventually, they made us get into the back of their cars so they could drive us to the nearest train station back to Barcelona city center. The seats were hard and uncomfortable — and it was also the closest I’ve ever been to getting arrested.
When we were dropped off at the nearest station in the Middle of Nowhere, Spain, an old man told us that there were truckers at a nearby petrol station who were all going towards Perpignan. However, a biker, who was translating for us, discouraged us from going because he said it was too dangerous.
We ended up taking a train to Figueres, where the others also ran into a similar situation as us. Only the police didn’t offer them a ride to the nearest train station.
Figueres turned out to be the birthplace of Salvador Dali, which was pretty interesting. We got to see the Dali museum, as well as interesting sights in the cute little town of Figueres.
The next day, when we were waiting in front of the Figueres train station to Cerebres, France (we were eventually going to take a bunch of trains to Verona, Italy), we met a heavily tattooed guy with a neon green mohawk from Berlin. He and his friend were stranded in Figueres because they didn’t have enough money to catch a train into southern Spain, and they also had trouble hitchhiking out of Figueres. We were amazed to find out that they had hitchhiked all the way from Berlin to Spain.
We gave him 10 Euros and asked if he had a place for us to stay in Berlin, since none of our CouchSurfing requests had gotten any responses yet. I gave him my notebook, so he could write down the directions.
“When you get to this house, it will have boots hanging from the window,” he explained. “You can’t miss it — it’s really colorful… and you’ll have to ask for a guy named Mogli. He’ll definitely let you stay there.”