Montpellier to Genova, Italy
26-27th November 2011
We took the tram to the last stop, as informed by hitchwiki website. Then we tried looking for that petrol station which we just couldn’t find. It took us 2 hours to find that bloody station, we ran across busy highways and climbed dividers. It was dangerous stuff and we do not recommend people to try that at home, only in desperation. Then when we found it, I was so tired, I just plonk myself down with that sign to Marseille/Toulon/Nice. Jamban was by now a pro-hiker, so he went to talk to people at the station. Finally a guy took us on and brought us to Marseille. He was originally from Albania, he loved playing his music loud, luckily it was reggae which both me and jamban liked and he doesn’t speak much English either but he was really nice and dropped us in Marseille where there were roads leading to the highway. Unfortunately, what we and possibly him too, didn’t know was it was the kind of neighbourhood that people would rather put a knife in you than do you a favour. Luckily, the next guy that picked us up knew that and quickly brought us to a nicer neighbourhood where he assured us it would be easier to get a ride from. His assurance was in vain, the stereotypes about class failed to deliver as it was as difficult to get a ride from the nicer neighbourhood too, eventhough a lot more people smiled apologetically at us. Finally, we discovered some flowers on the floor and jamban held it up with the sign with such debonair that a pretty young lady stopped for us. If we knew that we would have had flowers and grasses sewn onto our bodies! This lady said she could drop us in Toulon, where we could take a bus or train to Genova if it’s getting late. It was late, and we were supposed to meet the gadis rempah today in Genova, Italy and with the sun going down so fast, I had a sinking feeling that might not happen. The feeling sunk with a bang when our driver hit the car in front while lining up for the toll. It was a gentle bump but the 3 hormonally charged young man wanted to show their buckness by demanding payment. We ended up in police station with Jamban, who was the front seat passenger, as one of the witness. Our driver who had put up a strong front before the boys finally gave in in tears after making the police report. We knew we couldn’t ask for more favors. She was already late for her work in Hyeres and she told us there is an airport there. We thought we’ll just sleep in the airport for the night and leave for Genova the next day.
After dinner near her workplace, we tried to look for the airport. Road signs in France are as good as Malaysian’s, which mean they are dead confusing. When we stopped and asked some nice folks, they decided to drive us there. However, the day of misfortunes had not ended for us. The airport was shut. It was one of those budget airline airport that only open in the day. Airport should be like hospital, always open! Anyway, we had to park our butts somewhere and it might as well be here. Jamban went around scouting for sheltered grounds while I watched the bags. The guard came and told us we can sleep in the basement carpark. Jamban was sure he only made that as a suggestion and so we went to sleep on the first floor of the next building. The guard came and chased us back to the first spot. So after the hide and seek with the guard, we camped out with our sleeping bags and tried to sleep. What with jamban snoring like a train, the cold hard floor and just the idea of sleeping out in the open made my sleep a difficult one. I stayed up mostly reading the book, peeing by a tree three times and feeling quite upset at the condition of things. And then I thought to myself, I could have been alone and that would have been a lot worse. I look at the snoring jamban affectionately and thought, thank the universe at least I have a friend here. A friend whose constant positivity makes any misadventures feel like a one off experience one would tick off a bucket list. Sleeping outside an airport in cold winter Europe, TICKED! Played hide and seek with a guard, TICKED! Bang a car with angst-y young man while hitching a ride, TICKED! Sleep in the house of the person who picked us up, TICKED! I think I told him this, having Jamban around definitely heighten my sense of adventure and whenever I come to roadblocks or junction of decisions, I’d think, what jamban would do now. Whatever he’d do, he would serve it up with a big smile and generous portions of giggles.
I could not be happier when dawn came, the airport open at half past 7 and we were right there as soon as the door opens. We soaked in the warmth and I even took a nap while Jamban used the toilet. In the end, we took the bus back out into Hyere’s town. We managed to grab a quick breakfast at a quaint café in the pretty little town. The morning was cheering us on with bright sunshine and I felt that today would be a good day. We have decided to take the bus to Toulon, then train over to Genova. Last night drama and hard floor has left me wanting a little more comfort and convenience for today. In Toulon, we met the rudest person over the counter. We asked him if we could get train tickets and he told us off for not knowing that this is the counter for the metro, not the train. And when we asked where we can get bus tickets, he scolded us again. It was utterly bizarre why he was so rude when we were asking questions nicely. But we will not be deterred from enjoying the lovely morning, after getting the train ticket, I filled up on my first sushi on the trip while Jamban checked out the winter festival. On the train, I was thinking that finally, we are on the way to Genova today to meet our lovely friend Gadis Rempah. We changed train in Nice and witness beautiful coastline all through our train journey. Then evening came, and the train stopped, we were all asked to get out of the train. Me and jamban were a little dazed. We asked the guys working at the train station and discovered that we are in the last stop in France. The train is no longer going to Genova and we had to take a cab to the next town in Italy in order to catch the next train to Genova. As we were the last 2 people to get off the train, by the time we got out of the station, we saw that everyone else was already queuing up for the cab and it was a long line. We thought we won’t be able to make it if we wait in line. The rebellious Malaysians walk out to the main street and tried hitchhiking again. Then Jamban saw a cab on the other side of the road and I rushed over, running across busy street to the cab with Jamban shouting ‘careful!’ I told him our destination and he gestured for us to wait at the other side. It was with a big urgency that we haul our backpacks into his cab and informed him that we need to be at the next town’s train station in 30 minutes or we’ll miss our train. He assured us he’ll get us there in 20 minutes. We drove through the deserted immigration checkpoint between France and Italy and arrive at the train station in 20 minutes. We had 10 minutes to pay him, check for our train departure gate and get ourselves in there. Oh but the surprises has not stopped, when we look up at the train departure board, all the trains were cancelled. Our hearts sank, and Jamban saw that there is one train that is still due to depart and it was ours! We doubled checked and triple checked with our tickets, and truly our strings of misadventures had resulted in one good event, we will be going to Genova tonight after all! Jamban even got us a nice piece of warm pizza each for the train ride. Although the train was thoroughly packed, we were very relieved that finally something was going to plan. PHEW!! WHAT AN ADVENTURE THAT WAS!! Now I could sit back and laugh about our hitchhiking adventures with Jamban.