Distance travelled: 2653km
Number of lifts: 29 cars, 3 ferries
Number of countries passed through: 6
Days on the road: 12
Money spent: 115,92€
A picture says more than a thousand words they say, but despite the fact that I’m carrying 3 cameras around I can’t seem to quite grasp the beauty of this trip I’m undertaking. That’s because its charm, its uniqueness lies in the little things. An ice cream offered by one of your drivers, a laugh of a passing driver because of some silly dance you’re doing on the side of the road. The smile on your own face while passing the sign indicating you’re entering the next country. The sunset on a deserted beach while you’re cooking a simple meal with your favorite song on your iPod. It’s hard to capture these beautiful moments in a single shot, and I’m rarely in any of the pictures myself. Unfortunately that’s the fate of any solo traveller. Selfies can only get you so far, I guess.
I’ve come quite far since leaving my friend Dagmar’s place in Aarhus, Denmark, and have been looking for publicly accessible computers ever since. Unlike free toilets, napkins and WiFi they don’t have those at McDonald’s yet though. After saying goodbye to Dagmar and her boyfriend Magnus on July 22nd I hitched to Fredrikshavn in the north of Denmark. A guy that was completely tattooed from head to toe and who told me he was on his way home from shooting practice took me along for the last part and dropped me off right in front of the ferry terminal. Despite his black shirt with a skull on it he even was a nice guy, imagine. I went to the ticket office to buy a ticket to Göteborg, Sweden, and the conversation went something like this:
“When does the next ferry to Göteborg leave?”
“Tonight at 23h is the last one for today.”
“And is there still place on it?”
“Absolutely, it’s only half full so far.”
“Great, I’ll take the one to Oslo please.”
I like last second desicions.
Since the Oslo ferry wasn’t leaving until the next morning I waited for dawn and pitched my tent near a school and, after having scared the crap out of a dogwalking girl who noticed me shuffling around in the bushes, fell into a deep sleep. The following day I did some food shopping before boarding the ferry since everyone had advised me not to go empty handed to expensive Norway.
Ten hours later we arrived in a suffocating Oslo, suffering under the continuing heat wave of the past couple of weeks. I randomly blackrode a few buses and trams across town before deciding to head out to a park on a hill a little outside of the city centre. Apparently freecamping was allowed here, even though there was also an actual campsite on top of the hill. I climbed the thing despite my backpack using everything in its power to prevent me from doing so. Breathing heavily I eventually reached the camping site. The sight of other people putting up tents and the idea of not having to do so covered by darkness and hidden in the bushes I stupidly decided to put mine among all the other ones without paying. When I was younger I went camping all the time with my parents, and I don’t remember the camping officials ever checking up on tents or campers. I set up the tent, cooked myself some nice pasta and indulged in the book that I had started to read on the ferry: Into the wild, the story of a lonesome, romantic and adventurous hitchhiker who, despising the materialistic tendencies of the modern world, decided to leave everything behind to reconnect with nature in the Alaskan wild. And I felt proud for having come so far already.
Apparently they do check campers on Norwegian campsites though. Some guy passed by every tent and asked for the number and receipt of payment. Bewildered by his boldness to even doubt my honesty I could only stammer some lame excuses of “my girlfriend having the receipt”, and of course “she had gone showering.” The guy told me he’d be back and I left the premises with my tail between my legs, meanwhile undoubtedly shattering the record for fastest tent deconstruction and most awkward retreat in all of humankind. In the end I spent the night in the park just next to the fence of the camping, every now and then giving the poor guy a dirty look, as if it was his fault I wasn’t welcome anymore, only to be chased away the following morning by two attractive female police officers on horses. At least I had used the camping’s sanitary facilities for free I told myself.
In order to avoid further problems with Norwegian authorities I then went back to the camping, actually paid for a camping spot this time, pitched the tent and left all my stuff inside to go meet Lisa and Oli in the central railway station. They had been spending a week or so hiking in Norway and passed by Oslo on their way to Stockholm. We had a great barbecue next to the tent and at last had the last laugh by all sleeping in the same tent to avoid further financial damage.
The next day they took the train to Stockholm and I set out to thumb towards the same destination. My rides for the day were a forensic pathologist who had investigated the body of a guy who had been dead for several weeks (in this heat!) the very same morning, a Polish guy whose guinea pig died in the car during the 300 km between the Norwegian border and Goteborg, an 180 year old non-English speaking Swedish grandpa who drove accordingly, and finally a hipster guy with a beard that would have made former Belgian king Leopold jealous.
Despite the successful day I had only covered half the distance to Stockholm and only the following day noticed I had been camping in the garden of a psychiatric hospital. Needless to say I got the hell out of that place. The most dreadful, frustrating and unproductive day so far followed. I smiled, I waved, nothing worked. I stood there for 3 hours, walked a few km to some McDonald’s restaurant, ate a cheeseburger to lighten my mood and then stood there for 3 hours more. By the time I was picked up at last the fake smile had paralyzed my cheekbones to a degree that was painful to the naked eye. Two giggling Swedish 18-year-old girls eventually put me out of my misery even though they seemed to be randomly joyriding, taking wild turns left and right, inconsiderate of my already challenged patience. At this point karma finally decided to take a turn for the better in the form of two drivers sent directly from heaven. The first one, being younger than me, bought me a coke and cheeseburger just assuming I was hungry, the second let me take a shower at her house in Stockholm, washed my clothes, dropped me off at her favorite spot in a nature reserve next to a lake and even slipped some milk into the bag of washed clothes remembering our conversation from before about my lack of milk for a good mashed potato stew. Together they drove me for the remaining 500km to the Swedish capital.
I summoned Lisa and Oli who had arrived the night before and had spent way too much money on a hostel in the city center and together we pitched our tents next to a magnificent lake, surrounded by rocks and forests, completely for free.
The entire next day was spent swimming, relaxing, playing cards while seeking shelter for a short but powerful storm, and by the end of the afternoon I finished another book. I have to say I can only recommend Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho’s ‘The Alchemist’. The allegorical way themes like the meaning of life, the value of belief in a higher power and the importance of fulfilling one’s destiny are transferred to the reader in hauntingly sparse prose is breath-taking. More than once I had the feeling the author knew exactly what I was thinking and reacted through the actions of the characters. This is one of the bestselling books in history, and now I understand why.
We enjoyed the rest of the night around a lovely bonfire and a nightly swim, feeling like masters of the universe.