Back on the road

The start

July 12, the night before I intend to hitchhike. The plan is to start hitchhiking the next morning, six A.M., from Leer, Germany through Denmark crossing two bridges, into Sweden, to meet an old friend of mine, who I did not have communication with for two or three years. Then to hitchhike all the way north, through Swedish Lapland into Finish Lapland, down south to Tampere, to meet another friend, who I have regular contact with. I prepared my backpack and went to sleep. The next morning, I listened to some music that reminded me of the five months that I spent hitchhiking through Scandinavia in 2012. I’m mentally preparing myself for the journey. A journey I want to do without Facebook, without daily communication with family or my girlfriend.

It is eight A.M. and overslept but I’m excited to start my journey. I looked outside, out from the caravan window and I saw that it was raining. I checked the online weather forecast but it seemed that the rain wouldn’t stop for the next 16 hours. I contemplated to start my journey the next day. My girlfriend called me on Facebook and I told her that the new plan was to leave the next day due to bad weather. Starting out in the rain for me is a no-go. Suddenly an hour later it stopped and I checked the forecast again. The weather would be good for the upcoming two hours. I called my girlfriend on Facebook and told her I was ready to go. We agreed that she would call me once a week on my Nokia, of which the battery lasts up to three weeks, if turned off. I would leave behind my Samsung (smartphone) because I did not know whether or not I would be able to charge it on a regular basis. I got sad and we ended the conversation and I prepared myself to start my journey. At the last moment I took the Samsung, in the hope that I would be able to charge it somewhere –maybe on gas stations– so I could talk to my girlfriend. I walked to the road where I would go west to the main road. I walked for about ten minutes until  I reached the road going down south, to Leer. I threw my backpack on the ground and lifted my thumb with a big smile –I’m back on the road, I’m fucking back! A few minutes later someone picked me up and dropped me between Oldenburg and Bremen, on a gas station, which was about 40km. It started to rain again. I covered myself with my poncho and raised my thumb at the entrance of the the ramp going onto the highway. I waited for about an hour and the rain started to seep through my poncho onto my clothing. A car stopped and I got in. She dropped me 65km towards the east, 75km before Hamburg, on a gas station. The rain continued and I raised my thumb at the entrance of the ramp. Two hours later a Christian couple stopped. I got in and they told me that they could drop me in Hamburg where the husband had a meeting for his company. They dropped me on the edge of Hamburg, on a gas station, and told me that if they would see me here on their way back, in about 20 minutes, they would pick me up and drop me on a better spot near the highway. The rain stopped and the husband bought me a sandwich from the gas station and drove off with his wife to the meeting. I waited 20 minutes and they returned. They picked me up and dropped me a little north of Hamburg, on a gas station. It started to rain slightly and I covered myself behind a road sign, where the wind would blow parts of the rain onto the sign instead of me.

Not more than 15 minutes later a car stopped and I told him “as far north as you can bring me.” He nodded and told me he was going to Kiel. Just before the road split to Kiel and Flensburg I saw the sign Flensburg going left and Kiel going right and asked the driver if Kiel was the right place for me to be at. He wasn’t sure and I decided to take my chances and go straight to Kiel without really looking at the map. Just before we entered Kiel I realized it wasn’t the right place to be and the further we went into Kiel the more I thought it was a bad idea because it is sometimes difficult to get out of large cities if you don’t want to walk all too many kilometers. Kiel is not a small city. The driver told me Flensburg was N-W but we were heading N-E and I asked the driver to drop me. He dropped me almost immediately. Now I was standing in the east of Kiel (red circle on the right of the map). Shit! This spot is fucked up. I went to the nearest gas station and checked the map that hung on the wall. The guy behind the counter helped me and I started walking (red line). By now it was late afternoon, around four P.M., and the rain had stopped for a while. I took the Nokia from my backpack. Turned it on and checked if I would be able to call. I dialed my girlfriends number using my Dutch SIM-card. I tried to call a few times but couldn’t connect. I turned my phone off again and walked some more until I reached a point where I had a choice: either I kept walking on the road that didn’t allow pedestrians or walk through the city to find a ramp going onto the highway, west of the city. I saw a bus stop and asked a guy who was waiting at the bus stop whether or not I was walking the right way. He told me the only way was to walk back and to turn south then walk westwards or to take the bus. I chickened out and waited for the bus. Paid €2.60 (out of the €50 in my wallet) and the bus (blue line) dropped me at the center of the city where I walked (red line) westwards, to the crossroads saying “Flensburg” (red circle on the left side of the map). Just before the sign I saw an official hitchhiking spot where I waited for about an hour. Here I realized how much I would miss my girlfriend and I wished for an internet connection. I turned on my Nokia and tried to call her. I couldn’t connect. A few minutes later a girl picked me up and dropped me on a gas station, N-W of Kiel. I put my thumb up and I got a short-distance ride to just before Flensburg.

It was around nine P.M., and I decided to wait for another ride on the ramp of the highway towards Flensburg. I waited for about half an hour when I gave up. Walked back to the gas station to find myself a spot to sleep and saw a small shop that was closed in the middle of the parking lot with a roof sticking out for about a feet. The weather looked good and I put down my stuff. Untied my bedroll and blanket and spread it out. I untied my shoes and laid down underneath my wool blanket made from Dutch wool. My first night was successful. I woke up not knowing what time it was and wet my hair, combed it, brushed my teeth, used some deodorant and prepared for the next ride. By now I still had about one liter of water.

Scandinavia

I walked to the ramp and got a ride fairly quick from a driver who dropped me a 27km east of Kliplev, Denmark. The weather was good and I was standing next to the road, happy, even though I was standing in the middle of nowhere. I reached Denmark! Back in 2012, hitchhiking in Scandinavia was easy. I hitchhiked from Savonlinna, Finland, to Mikkeli all the way to north in Finland and back down south into Sweden to Nynashamn in just three days, which was around 2000km. So I was happy and confident being back in Scandinavia. I waited for not more than 15 minutes and got a ride from an aged man who drove an old pickup truck. The man told me he lived in Hong Kong for a long time and was here on holiday with his wife. He dropped me on a roundabout, 23km back westwards and told me to take the ‘old road’, instead of the new highway. People didn’t like to use the new highway. I followed his advice after thumbing on the ramp to the new highway for ten minutes. I immediately got a ride from a woman and her 16 year old daughter. The conversation was odd and very negative, though, she invited me to have lunch with them in a park, half way to Kolding, Denmark. I shifted the conversation into a more positive one and we enjoyed some bread in the sun. An hour later they dropped me just north of Kolding, near the road going east to Odense, we drove about 70km in total. I stood next to the road for five minutes when I felt like taking a shit. I looked behind me and saw a few trees that held enough cover for me to take a shit. I took a shit, wiped my ass with water like we do in the Philippines and waited patiently and happy next to the road again. I was almost out of water. Not more than ten minutes later I got a ride from two older women. A mother and her daughter, Lillian, the driver. Her mom seemed to suffer from Dementia. We had a positive conversation when Lillian was about to drop me near a small restaurant, 30km or so to the east crossing the first bridge. I asked her where I would be able to fill my water bottles and she immediately invited me to her place, which was nearby. I filled the  bottles and asked if I could charge the phones and use her WiFi. “Of course,” she said, and asked me if I could babysit her mom while she could buy some groceries. I called my girlfriend on Facebook after the Samsung was fully charged. The connection was kind of bad (in the Philippines they have bad internet connections) but we were happy to be able to see and talk to each other briefly. Lillian came back 15 minutes later, invited me to stay for lunch while preparing it. We had a good meal, with Danish bread –really delicious! I was amazed by their hospitality and I invited Lillian on Facebook using her laptop. An hour or so later she offered to bring me back to the road.

The weather was still good and three or four rides later I passed the bridge from Copenhagen, Denmark into Sweden. In Malmo, while standing on a roundabout I caught a ride going north. The driver dropped me just a little south of Helsinborg where I encoutered for the first time a female hitchhiker. The girl told me that hitchhiking for her was more difficult in Sweden than in Germany. She was already standing there for an hour. We talked some more and she turned her back in disgust after a misplaced joke and I walked into the gas station to buy a Swedish map for about €6,-. I paid in Euro’s and got Swedish Kronor in return. I walked down to the ramp ready to put my thumb up while the girl waited at the gas station with a sign saying “Gothenburg.” Half an hour later a car with a mom and her two daughters stopped, I got in while seeing the hitchhiker still waiting at the gas station with her Gothenburg sign. The driver dropped me just east of Helsingborg and got a ride immediately after who dropped me at a gas station with a restaurant. I walked inside and checked if they had free WiFi. I noticed the WiFi was open and I connected. My browser opened a website where I had to accept its policy before using the internet. I found an electricity socket in the hall and I sat down next to it. It was around seven P.M. and I decided that I would try to find a place to sleep in this area. Before going into the restaurant I noticed quite a lot of trees in the area. I observed the restaurant and the hallway and found a shelf with trays of leftovers from customers. I looked around to see if there were any cameras and staff looking my way and I took a potato from one of the plates and I walked away. It tasted good and slightly warm. I decided to see if there was more. I took another one (the last one) but the taste wasn’t as good as the first one.  At ten P.M. I called my girlfriend and showed her the area, just outside the restaurant. She was impressed because it wasn’t fully dark yet. In the Philippines it’s dark around six P.M. In Scandinavia it depends on the time of the year. She told me she saw in my eyes how happy I was. At around 10:30 I found myself a place to sleep underneath a tourist information board with a short roof, just 500m to the east. That night I woke up hearing footsteps. The footsteps came closer and closer. Eventually the sound of steps were so close that I felt that the person was standing next to me while I was completely covered with my blanket. It felt kinda creepy and I thought if he attacks me I have no choice but to fight. I uncovered myself from the blanket and the person walked away. An hour or so later I woke up to pee. I went back to sleep and woke up a few times, as usual. I woke up at eight A.M. I prepared myself to hitchhike towards Nynashamn. I filled the water bottles in the toilet of the restaurant, wet my hair, combed it, brushed my teeth, washed my armpits and groin and walked to the ramp. I noticed that there were almost no cars passing and the sky became dark. After an hour I got bored and took the book Botany in a Day from my backpack to use in an attempt to identify a few plants near the road. For the ones that are interested in plant identification but don’t know where to begin, I suggest you read this article by Jacobi. The first one I identified was a plant in the Beeplant (or Cleomaceae) family. Suddenly it started to rain and I ran to the restaurant to find cover. I went back to the ramp when it stopped raining and tried for another hour, it started to rain again and I ran back to the restaurant for cover. I walked to the counter to ask the guy behind it if he had any food for me, in return I would mop the floor or clean the toilet. “No,” he said. I sat down on the floor to wait for the rain to pass. When it stopped raining I walked to the ramp where I

“Swedish second largest lake: Vättern. Free to drink and swim. But it is not open for fishing without a license. Don’t take away mankind’s wildness but instead take it out on industrial society that makes overpopulation, and thus over fishing, possible.”

stood for about ten minutes when it started to rain again. I ran inside and sat on the floor next to a electricity socket when the guy from the counter walked towards me with a sandwich wrapped in plastic. He passed me the delicious sandwich. I ate the sandwich and I walked to the exit of the restaurant facing the gas station. It was still raining, but slightly. I saw a woman filling her car with gasoline. I have never asked people if they could give me a ride so I walked up not sure how to ask. I had in mind that if I asked her if she would go north, and if she did not want to bring me she would probably say “no, I’ll go south,” even though she might go north, so I walked towards her and I came up with the idea of making it unclear of my direction and asked her “are you going north or south?” She hesitated to give an answer. After a few seconds of silence she said “north.” I asked if could go with her north. She hesitated, “well…hmmm…well…uhhh…” while looking at ther dog in the backseat. I thought she was going to brush me off so I decided to push it a little: “Don’t worry, I won’t bite the dog.” She replied “you never know.” Then I tried to make her feel more comfortable by telling her I had a wife and made a small story “Ha! You know, my wife, she’s very tiny, but she would bite the dog for sure. But me, no, I’m just me. Haha.” She laughed and walked awkwardly to the driver’s door in attempt to escape. I pushed a little more by looking at her. She said “sorry, no, I can’t take you.” I walked back to the entrance of the restaurant when I took the Samsung in my hand. Suddenly the girl called me over from out of her car “okay let’s do it.” I got in and she told me “my boyfriend will not be happy if he knew I picked you up, but I love talking. So….” She dropped me about 30km N-E on a roundabout when it started raining for a few minutes. Not more than ten minutes later a car stopped and I got in. The driver, a doctor, told me he was going to get lunch later but was able to drive me 200km north. He told me his hitchhiking experiences and invited me to have lunch –a buffet- – with him in his favorite restaurant just south of Jönkoping. I got myself a plate and stuffed it with fruits, nuts, veggies and meat. It must have been at least 1kg of food. I thought that it might be the only chance I got for upcoming days to get food in my stomach so I decided to get another plate, even though I was already full. I ignored my stomach and ate some more. My stomach started to hurt a little and I kept on eating. I emptied my plate and I rolled away from the table to get a cup of tea. I took a few sips from my tea but stopped half way. I couldn’t eat or drink anymore. An hour later the driver dropped me at Vätterleden, a restaurant with hotel, a little north of Grav, next to Swedish second largest lake. I walked inside and charged my phone and saw they had a password protected WiFi, I walked to the counter and asked the password. I logged in and decided to use google maps on my phone instead of the map I bought the day before. I took a nap in one of the comfy chairs in a lounge area. When I woke up my phone was almost fully charged and I walked to the ramp ready for the next ride. I ended up near Nynashamn a few hours later and slept behind a gas station with a roof covering me. The gas station had an open WiFi. I called my girlfriend. The next morning I took a ride around Södertälje to Nynashamn where I was dropped. I walked towards my friend’s apartment and knocked on the door. But it seemed that no one was home. I waited downstairs in the hope he was walking his dog or driving his boat. After a while I gave up, looked up to the second floor to his window and saw that someone closed the blinds quickly. We had a fight 2 or 3 years earlier that cut our communication. I walked back north to catch a ride. I got a ride but I made a mistake and I ended up somewhere else in the middle of nowhere while it was raining quite heavy and took a nap in bus stop. I woke up, the sky cleared up and I took another ride. The driver dropped me in the center of Huddinge. Where I immediately got a ride from a confused Indian woman. When I got in, she told me she was only able to take me a few meters (50 or so) up the road. When we drove off we started a conversation and she asked me what I was doing. I explained her my goals when she forgot to stop the car. She pitied me for being homeless and trying to do it without money. I asked her if there was any Hindu temple nearby and she offered to bring me there. Once we arrived we walked to the entrance where a few Hindu’s were talking to each other. She explained to the people in the temple my goals and they invited me in for food. The driver wanted to leave but I invited her to join me. She declined at first but accepted later and told me she was too tired to cook lunch herself. Half an hour later one of the guys from the temple offered to drive me to Värsta, where I was heading. I told him I was going to walk my way out. He insisted and told me it was no problem for him to bring me and that I was welcome to join them anytime I wanted. We talked some more and after a while the woman offered to bring me. I declined and thanked her for bringing me here and if there was anything I could do for her I would be happy to help her out. She said she needed help in her garden. We drove to her place nearby. She told me she wanted all the leafs to be removed from her lawn. I told her it was good for the tree to have its leafs on the ground as it gives the tree some extra nutrition during winter and suggested to put the leafs around the trunk of the tree so at least it gets some nutrition. She was happy to hear this and suggested me to do it with all her bushes and trees, including the prune tree in her garden. She offered me a place to sleep and I accepted. She had a big house just for herself, as her husband left her for a Swedish girl a few years back. She cooked dinner begin evening and I had a chance to keep my phone charged and called my girlfriend on Facebook, as I would always do when having the chance. I asked if I could use the sink for some laundry and hung my pants, socks, underwear and shirt outside to dry. At ten P.M. she went to sleep in one of the rooms on the first floor. I brushed my teeth and went to the garden to lay out my bedroll and went to sleep outside, instead of the bedroom she offered me. The next morning I asked if I could do anything for her in the house and we rolled up some Christmas lights when she offered me a red hoodie as a gift for helping her out. I accepted and told her I had to go again. She offered to drive me to a place which was easier for me to get a ride but I declined and told her I was able to walk my way out. She insisted and we drove to the highway where she dropped me off. When I closed the door she tried to make a U-turn at the middle of the road. When she completely blocked the road, two motorcycles approached rather fast and had to break in order to not slam into the car. One of the male motorcyclist with a woman screamed and yelled at the woman in the car. The guy reached out for the handle on the door of the car. The woman in the car got scared and drove off almost bumping into one of the other motorcycles. They looked around and drove towards me. “Do you know that woman?” one of the motorcyclists asked me, “yes, she dropped me off here. That was close huh!” with a sarcastic voice and a smile I added “never let a woman drive!” and looked at the woman in his back. The guy removed his helmet and said “yes, crazy! Where you from?” I told him I was from the Netherlands “but I don’t smoke weed.” One of the guys laughed and we talked some more in a positive manner. They were going to a moto race.

Copyright by Jeremy Grolman, 2017. All rights reserved.

For some time I had contact with a guy in Sweden named Niklas Taliaferro. Who I contacted this morning before the woman dropped me off. I asked him if he could teach me about wild edibles and referred me to one of his friends Johan Örlander. They both run an interesting project called “Naturliv.” Their goal is to live more in tune with nature. More info can be found on their website or Facebook page. Even though I consider them Ecomodernists, primitive skills can be learned from them. I contacted Johan to see if we could meet up. He told me he had an event coming up in a few days. I hitchhiked to Järna, a town just 37km S-W of Huddinge. I waited in the center and logged in on an open WiFi near a cafe. I noticed a church nearby, went in and asked if they had a toilet. I took a shit and filled the water bottles. Later I met Johan in the center of Järna. The guy seemed interesting as he wore green clothing, and self-crafted leather sandals of some sort, long hair and a focused look with a knife hanging from self-braided belt. He showed me a map of the area and explained me how to go to their campsite, near the lake Vällingen, where the upcoming event would be held. As I was completely new to dumpster diving I asked him if he had any experience, and if he could teach me how to. He showed me a supermarket just hundred meters down the road and explained me it was an option to check out the dumpsters inside there but it would be better if I go to a bigger town. We said goodbye and agreed to meet each other at the campsite north of Järna, two days later. I checked the map for any Hindu temples nearby. 8.4km west of Järna there was one. I walked a little north and two Hindu’s picked me up as they were going to the temple. Apparently a few hundred people from all over Europe were planning to go there the next day for a festival. When we arrived at the temple, there was a woman in the opening of a double-door who invited us in. I walked with the driver to the kitchen and we stuffed our plates with food. He talked and talked and talked about Gods and whatever more. It went in one ear and out another. As it was difficult for me to listen to it.

Lake behind the temple.

Hinduism is one of the first tools used by mankind to cope with the problems of civilization.

After I was stuffed I walked to the main hall and found an electricity socket. I noticed they had a password protected WiFi and asked one of the people around if I could use their WiFi. I offered my help but they didn’t need any, yet. Later that day I walked around the temple to see where I could spend the night. I found a nice lake just south of the temple with a few canoes laying on the shore. One placed upside down, underneath a tree. Now that’s some Mountain Man style! I spread out my bedroll and blanket underneath one of the canoes and sat down near the lake, on a small beach and enjoyed my view. Just before dusk I noticed there were a few beehives inside the canoe but ignored it. Just before I fell a sleep I heard a bee flying away from the biggest hive and thought that he –and the rest– would leave me alone during the night if I didn’t moved all too much. I fell asleep and suddenly I woke up with a sharp pinch on the right side of my chin. I brushed anything that I thought would be on my chin off and stood up. The pinch was quite strong and I said “What the fuck did I do?” and laughed at myself for saying it out loud. I went back to bed and woke up eight A.M. That day the Hindu’s had some ceremony and I was invited by one of the guys to join him for breakfast outside on one of the picnic tables. We had a deep conversation about industrial society and the need for wildness. He didn’t feed me his bullshit about changing perspective but instead said that I was right and that we need it. After an hour I walked back in, to do some dishes and offered my help again. But nothing was needed. I broke camp and packed my backpack.

Biggest beehive inside the canoe.

Begin afternoon I started walking towards the road but got picked up by two locals on the way. They dropped me on the way to Johan’s campsite. I got another ride which dropped me north of the lake. I walked down south to the lake. Half an hour later I arrived at the lake, on the east side of a bay. I dropped my backpack at a campsite I thought would be the one Johan mentioned and started scouting around, walking alongside the edge of the lake, to the east. Within 15 minutes I had spotted three squirrels. The weather was good. I tied my poncho to a horizontal pole already tied to two trees and spread my bedroll and blanket. I took the book Botany in a Day out from my backpack and started identifying plants in the area. I found the gooseberry, wild strawberry, chamomile, dandelion and burdock. Ate a few wood grubs I found on the way, cooked some rice with a hand full of random wild greens on a fireplace that was made by previous campers. It tasted horrible, but ate it anyway. I sat down near the lake and enjoyed the view while two guys were having fun water skiing. The sun went down and I went to sleep. The next morning I made some pine needle tea, by gathering two hand full of pine needles and added it to boiling water. Let it cool off for a few minutes and viola. According to some pine needle tea is full of Vitamin C. It tasted awesome! I decided to test out my tarp that I bought 4 years earlier but had never used before. The tarp was way too big for just one person and I decided to pack it up and leave it attached to my backpack. My poncho was big enough. As agreed I would meet Johan begin afternoon just a little north of the bay.

 

Campsite, east of the bay.

 

 

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