4hrs, 30km

He wanted a blow job in exchange for a lift.

The small, pervy man in a rattling tin can of a car pulled over on the side of the road, coming from the opposite direction. Surely he could see that you were a backpacker, and not a prostitute, but he called to you across the empty, sun-baked highway, from his window.

At first, you thought he might actually be a good samaritan. That’s what you wanted to believe, as you were in desperate need of one.

You were trapped on a stretch of national road between Nagykaniza and Letenye, the border between Hungary and Croatia. National Route 7, to be exact. It’s a hairy little distance of 30 km that literally weaves in and out with the much faster, more efficient, and certainly preferable motorway on which you had once been flying along, en route from Budapest to Zagreb.

All had been going well earlier in the day. Hours ago, a man had stopped to pluck you from the motorway. You soon realized that he spoke no English. Not one word. Nor did he speak even a little bit of German. But oh well, he was going your way.

He was a happy fellow. You guessed it was his first time stopping for a hitch hiker, and he seemed very intent to leave you in a good position. At a rest stop, he found a glamorous Hungarian couple and discussed what to do with you. Again, no one had the faintest ability to communicate with you in words, but you were ushered from one car into the back seat of another. The couple would be going to just before Nagykaniza, and they gestured that they would drop you at some point.

But where? It was unclear, and your large map of Europe lacked sufficient detail.

It was just minutes before they exited the motorway—took you away from the hitch hiker’s artery.

Whoa, whoa. Wait. This isn’t good for me,” you said.

The driver looked back, confused. “ Nagykaniza?”

Yes, but… well, yes.

On your map, you could see the national road, Route 7, weaving with the motorway. This is where they needed to turn, and they couldn’t very well drop you on the side of the motorway. There was little traffic, and fast cars hate to stop. Perhaps you could take Route 7 to the border, then get back on.

Armed with little information beyond your crappy map, you acquiesced, then tried in vain to pinpoint your whereabouts.

The car pulled to an abrupt halt. The couple turned to you and pleasantly indicatied that this would be your point of departure, a crossroad. Your road: one long, narrow two-lane highway flanked by green trees and fields, stretching infinitely into the distance. There seemed to be no passing traffic.

Fuck! Are you serious?!

Needless to say, you were an unhappy camper and could muster the resolve to neither smile, nor thank them. You idiot! You allowed yourself into this mess!

The couple slowly understood your distress, but rather than try to assure you, they merely shrugged as though to say, “We didn’t plan to pick up a hitch hiker today.”

The woman—with her long, talon-like manicured nails, fake tan, immaculate makeup, and hyper-moisturized face and hands—and the man—a muscular “sugar daddy” with shiny bling and a designer sweater—were doubtlessly content to be rid of their grimy passenger. They offered no consolation.

Crying seemings to be a daily occurrence on your trip now. It’s because of fatigue. Not depression. The trip has been great. When it’s good, it’s great; but when it’s tough, it’s tragic.

As car-less as the road appeared, two or three vehicles would zoom by every five minutes or so. You were at a loss for what to do. Head back 5-10 km to the motorway? Or try to reach the border via this lonely highway?

It didn’t matter in the end. You attempted to flag down every car that passed, regardless of direction. But no one stopped. The thumb didn’t work. Nor did waving your arms, or your map… Not even when you dropped on the edge of the road and cried in frustration.

If you were driving down an empty stretch of road and you saw a lone, crying female crumpled in a heap, wouldn’t you stop?

Did you look a complete mess? Was your contorted face forbidding? Or was it simply a Sunday—the worst possible day for hitch hiking?

It was an hour and a few kilometers of indecisive walking, first one way, then the other (in fact, you ultimately only strayed 500 meters from the cross road). You even got cheeky and walked down the center of the road, confronting approaching traffic with indignation, frustration.

When a man did stop, you were emotionally distraught. Your head pounded, and your eyes were swollen. He was only able to take you a handful of kilometers down Route 7 before leaving you on the edge of a small town.

“Croatia,” he said. “That way. A lot of cars go to the border this road.”

Not.On.Sunday.

What transpired was an arduous effort of walking 2 km, hitching for 3. Walk 2, hitch for 3. The problem was that Route 7 was speckled by tiny little towns, the residents of which were merely on return trips from Sunday errands.

Walk 2, hitch 3… and so it went until you got a final lift of, yes, three kilometers to Leteyne, which was still several kilometers from border control. The late afternoon sun was merciless, and you walked bitterly onwards, petitioning ever car that happened to pass, which wasn’t many.

That’s when the little tin can rolled to a stop and the man leaned called out to you through his open window.

“Babble babble, babble!”

You approached the vehicle.

“Babble babble?”

You said hopefully, “Zagreb.”

“Zagreb?” he confirmed, then nodded. “Babble, babble.” Hands waving, cutting through the air. “Babble…” Then both hands sliced the air in tandem, gesticulating an arrow which pointed to his penis. “Zagreb, babble babble.” His face wore the distinct suggestive expression that he wanted something positively sordid from a girl who was clearly in a compromised, stranded condition.

There was no point in wasting energy on insult. You offered not the slightest reaction, turned fluidly from the vehicle, and strode away. No reaction, and honestly, no surprise.

These situations, after all, have been quite the theme of the past seven weeks. They’ve also been a great topic for discussion, deriving numerous comments and speculations.

“You wear provocative clothing,” said one host, in Bucharest, referring to you medium-cut camisole, covered by long sleeves. Not this day. Your chest was garbed in a t-shirt.

“Hitch hiking involves a level of assumed risk.” That may be, but you were walking in the opposite direction anyway.

“Men might mistake you for a prostitute.” Highly unlikely, mistaking your giant backpack.

“Drivers see you are a Western tourist, and they assume you are free and easy.” You weren’t in Turkey, for crying out loud!

Nonetheless, no surprise. You’re well-acquainted with the frivolous male “sexual needs.” And if you are starting to sound like a man-hating dyke, unfairly generalizing all men, so be it. The insulting, impulsive, spasmodic quest for sexual gratification is an arena monopolized by men and their wishful thinking.

Anyway…

On you walked, and you finally saw, roughly three kilometers in the distance, the border control for the motorway.

You want that road, dammit! Fuck Route 7!

You illegally hurdled the barrier and slid down the embankment where Route 7 overpassed the motorway, and dropped onto the road.

Signs in every direction, all pointing to Zagreb. You chose one, back tracked, tried another. Meanwhile, the border control for Route 7 remained invisible—not that you wanted it anyway.

It was shocking, how few cars passed even on the motorway, and you consoled yourself about being stuck on Route 7, equally car-less.

Your head pounded with the rhythm of your footfalls. The three border guards got an eyeful as your solitary ambling figure approached their booth over the course of 15 minutes. You’ve been admonished by the police for walking on the motorway before. You wondered if doing so at a border control station would finally get you into trouble.

It didn’t. The cop spoke no English, but you’ve heard his speech half a dozen times before. He pointed to the Route 7 border station, now visible through the trees, some three kilometers away by a dirt path.

You surprised him when you burst out laughing. Of course! You expected nothing less. Why would they cut you a break?

A car had parked in the meantime and a man was taking a cigarette break, watching your interaction. You turned to him and tried to solicit a lift.

“Just to get me to the other side!” you exclaimed with an maniacal grin. ”Zagreb? Are you going to Zagreb?”

He nodded.

“Take me with you?” You felt like a puppet using exaggerated body language to demonstrate your points.

And then he outright refused.

“Hahahaha…. fine.” You began walking away, turned to look back every 20 meters or so, to see if he might change his mind. He watched you the whole time. Every smile, wave, plea, and signal of prayer elicited shakes of his head, shrugs, and finally a view of his back when he plopped back into his car to roll on without you.

Aw hell, what’s another three kilometers?

Not much, except for your strained back. Yes, it’s been bothering you in a new, bad way, and you can see that your right shoulder has sunk distinctly below the level of your left, leaving you with a crooked, stooped posture. And what else? You’ve been struggling with a raging heat-and-sweat-induced yeast infection. Nothing that hiking through a stretch of hell to make it all better! The last leg of your trip providing sweet comforts!

Sarcasm doesn’t suit you. Keep walking.

The Route 7 border station felt like a ghost town. Every car that did pass was legitimately full.

Head down. Keep moving.

At last, the ramp to the motorway! You could stop, rest, wait for another car… In time, one came. The driver slowed, smiled, looked genuinely like he would stop, but then made a wave of his hand that meant something like, “Oh, but I’m not really going anywhere.”

That’s okay!

He passed you, and went down the ramp.

You threw your arms skyward in disbelief.

“Come on! Really!?”

He must have been watching in the rear view. He stopped. Paused. Then his reverse lights flashed, and he backed the vehicle so you could get in.

Salvation.

Indeed, he wasn’t going anywhere, but it was far enough. He dropped you at a toll booth on the motorway and you were swiftly retrieved by a German shoe maker in an expensive BMW. Your four hours of hell were finalized in 40 minutes.

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Categories: Eastern Europe, Hitchhiking, Struggles | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “4hrs, 30km

  1. Angus

    tough day lass,
    making you stronger all the while, Mind the back, maybe find somewhere to rest up for a few days. Good couch in Paris when you need one.

    • L.

      Told you not to hitch on a Sunday! There is no traffic and trucks etc. aren’t going… Thank God, it could have been worse…

  2. Pingback: Evolution Of Travel « Fred Mertz' Triumphant Return!

  3. Pingback: On Being A Hyper-Competitive Traveler | Life Of Travel - A Memoir

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