Monday, November 15, 2010

Hitch To The Unknown

My trip planning is a rather ad-hoc affair. I have a (very) rough idea of the entire route that I bashed out in a basic spreadsheet in 20 mins one bored afternoon, which takes in countries, a couple of stops in each and an estimated length of stay. As I get closer to places the view necessarily clarifies into something more distinct and detailed, and I have a more-or-less set plan 7-10 days in advance. So there I was on Friday in the early afternoon, standing by the beginning of the highway leading south, planning to visit the historical seaside town of Nessebar, some 90km away. A pretty straightforward proposition. After an hour I was getting rather annoyed, especially as the spot I had chosed was really quite good and there was plenty of traffic. But eventually a white family car pulls up with a young couple and labrador. Deni and Kamen were heading to the Rhodope mountains in the south of the country for the weekend and their route passed close by Nessebar, which was perfect for me.

The Rhodope mountains were definitely worth the 700km detour.

As we drove along Deni was explaining their weekend plans: some hiking, some chilling and general relaxation with a few friends and then she suggested I come along with them. I was torn. The offer was very tempting and it would let me get to see a part of the country that I wouldn't normally have got to see and also spend some time "observing the locals". But then I would be some 300km off my well-planned (OK, rather hastily-planned) itinerary and require some major rerouting. In the end it was a decision between the (more or less) known and the unknown, and I told myself that if on a trip like this I can't just go with the flow and see where the hitch takes me, then I'll never do it. So I said "what the hell, why not," and so off to the mountains I went.

It turns out that Deni and her friends were what I would call Executive New Age people. They had very standard jobs as real-estate agents and sales representatives for pharmaceutical companies, but in their spare time were into being vegetarian bordering on vegan, visiting sites with "strong energy", feng shui and reading spiritual literature. It's not my cup of tea and I can't say I agree, but what people decide to do to themselves and think privately is their business. To me they were very welcoming and inclusive and took the time to explain things in either English or Czech (one of the friends, Zori, had studied Czech and had even brought along a Czech friend of hers, so I got to dust off my Czech, which was very welcome). So I got to spend a very unscripted weekend, replete with superb mountain views, vignettes of everyday village life and some eminently healthy food (vegetables rarely make it onto my shopping list when I'm buying food on the road, mainly because the weight-to-calorie ratio makes them impractical). At the end of the weekend Deni and Kamen were driving back to Varna and so dropped me off in Nessebar, a couple of days later than planned and with a 700km detour, but very much worth it and with some new friends made along the way. So if someone offers you a ride that is different from your plans and looks uncertain, think twice before rejecting it out of hand, it may end up sending you down a pleasantly unexpected path that was far better than your intended one.


H said...

BTW Erik, you need to update your map trajectory. It's stuck somewhere in the Baltics :)

Someday, maybe when you finish the first leg of this trip to Iran, it may be interesting to read a summary of the profiles you meet via hitchhiking. Basically who are the people who help?

You've done it a lot and you can make interesting generalizations.

Erik said...

To see the whole trip trajectory you need to click to the next page of "lines". Google maps only shows 10 at a time.