Journey West (Fjällbacka to Stavanger)

It was 6am, completely light and rain was falling heavily. We had been so fortunate to have had an entire day of sunshine while we were in the town of Fjällbacka. Now we were leaving. Rain is not so bad on hitchhiking days so long as there is a spot to thumb undercover. We much prefer to be in a car when it is raining so that we can make use of the nicer days by exploring. We packed our backpacks in a hurry, ate breakfast and said our goodbyes to Lloyd. He had been so easy to get along with his positive attitude and we have no doubt he is heading for great places in the future. Best of luck brother!

We had a single plan for today; travel as far west as we could. We ran to Peter’s Audi to avoid the rain and packed our bags into the boot. Yet another act of kindness! He was dropping us to the next town where his son would then take us over the Norwegian border on his way to work. His son was just as kind and he was happy to give us advise and tips on Norway. Numerous times he talked of friendly banter between the two countries, something I was beginning to hear about quite often. Peter’s son explained that there were stricter border controls due to the refugee situation coming out of Syria and Iran and apparently gypsies from eastern Europe so he took us the old way to avoid any hassle. Once easily across the border, He dropped us at a petrol station. It was only raining lightly so we walked along the road to a section where cars had a gravel bay to pull into. We held up a sign saying ‘Oslo’, stuck our thumbs out and held an umbrella over our heads. We were going to learn in the next few days how our umbrella was possibly the best item we brought.Photo 30-06-2016, 9 19 59 AM

It would rain heavily for a few minutes then lighten before raining heavily again. Wind would pick up then drop. Typical nordic weather we were sure, having researched the weather quite extensively before arriving. Another important piece of information which was quickly gaining credence was the difficulty of hitchhiking in Norway. Everybody drove new, expensive cars and it would seem two shivering, wet, foreign hitchhikers beside the road had little impact. We had never felt so ignored nor had we received so many bad looks. We were beginning to doubt our ability to hitchhike in Norway. Sure enough however, a nice lady in a black Volvo pulled over and offered to take us to the next town which would put us on the freeway leading to Oslo. She happily reminisced about her past when she hitchhiked in the UK and we easily maintained a conversation. It was only 20 minutes down the road when she dropped us at a service station. We were away from the freeway slightly and traffic had dispersed in several directions just before the service station’s entry. Not a good place to hitchhike. Because of a roundabout having no possible area for cars to pull in and the entry ramp for the service station being a single lane, we were forced to choose one of the several exit roads and hope for the best. Luckily it had a small gravel area to pull into. The bad looks continued for 40 minutes before another friendly Norwegian was happy to take us 40kms down the road. It seemed our earlier prejudices were wrong, there were nice people here, you just had to wait for them to drive by.

It was now raining heavily and we were standing under the cover of a petrol station which was located only 30 minutes from Oslo. We continued to be ignored and nothing exciting happened except for an elderly arabic man edging closer and closer in hopes of hitching our ride. An hour passed as we shivered in the cold Norwegian summer before finally a man in a small, old car called us over. It seemed we received more attention from people driving older model cars rather than new. He was Serbian, however he had lived in Norway for the past 15 years. He did not speak English well and the first half of the trip was spent with him cursing Norwegians and their selfish culture. He was very passionate about this and slipped between English and Serbian as he talked loudly. regardless of his strong opinions, he very nice to us and offered us a piece of advise which helped us very much the next day..

Unable to figure out whether he had gone out of his way or not, we generously thanked him when dropped us on the other side of Oslo at a great petrol station from which to hitch west. We ate our typical bread and tomato/jam lunch while the rain continued to pour as if we were somewhere tropical. We wrote a new sign for the next town. We decided it was best to ask for short trips as it seemed people were not willing to go out of their way if you had a further destination. Beside the petrol station a younger man ordering a burger kept eyeing us and once finished, he walked over to where we stood, huddled in a small space just undercover from the rain.
“I will give you a lift if you promise not to rob me” was his introduction and we jumped into his new BMW, promising we would not. It was another 30 minute trip however in the process the rain stopped and the sun began shining. Dropped at another petrol station we stood at the exit holding a new sign ‘Kristiansand’, a town another 4 hours away. Time had flown by as we waited between short lifts and it was now 3pm. Before long, a lovely older lady and her granddaughter picked us up and offered to take us 2 hours  west to a town called Porsgrunn. We happily accepted the ride. She had taken a hitchhiking trip with her now husband back in the 70’s and just as the lady before, wished to repay the kindness they had experienced. Kayla and I were both extremely tired and as we began to near the town of Porsgrunn, we both found ourselves struggling to stay awake. We were dropped at a petrol station which had a supermarket and Hungry Jacks at 5:30pm. Too tired to continue hitching we decided to find somewhere to camp.

We connected to wifi and found a camp ground 2kms away. We began walking. We did not plan on staying there as it was too expensive. Instead, we tried finding a location that would allow us to sneak in to use their facilities. This plan failed. Norway being so mountainous, offered no flat areas to camp other than the man-made locations. We struggled to find anywhere where it would be possible for us to set up our tent and quickly began walking back to the service station. A long the way we stumbled upon an overgrown road which followed a small creek. The road led us to a grass patch underneath an enormous freeway bridge. It quickly became apparent someone else had been using this place before us and on further inspection we found numerous pieces of clothing, cook wear and bedding. It was not obvious whether it had been abandoned yet so we left feeling beyond tired. An encounter with an angry homeless person would have been very dangerous in our current state. It was another 6kms of walking before we finally found somewhere to pitch our tent. At the end of a farmers empty paddock, nestled amongst thick vegetation, we found an uneven slope of long grass. It was 10pm and we were homeless yet again. We cooked a quick dinner and fell asleep.IMG_0444

We woke to the sound of rain once again. Thankfully it only lasted an hour and in that time we were fully packed. We ate baked beans on our walk back to the service station before it began raining again. Standing beside the road with our trusty umbrella, it took us an hour before a friendly lady offered to take us to the next town. She dropped us at a service station which had another roundabout before the entry ramp. This seemed a very common setup in Norway, one which does not favour hitchhiking. Unwillingly, we stood on the entry ramp which provided cars with little more than a metre of gravel for pulling over. It was not a safe place but with the rain falling and many kilometres to travel, we were quite desperate. Our plan was to make it the entire 300+ kilometres to the west coast town of Stavanger. The roads leading in this direction were not freeways but winding mountain passes that made travelling a lot slower. Google suggested the trip would take at least 6 hours..

A young lady pulled over and it took her several corrections to make her way successfully off of the road. She went to the effort of getting out of her car and moving a lot of gear to make room for us. Once in we were inside, she was very friendly. She had never picked up a hitchhiker before but seeing as we were a couple, she explained in her own words  “ I have this big car to myself and am going to where you are, I may as well have someone to talk to”. She was traveling to a town 20km from where we wished to go. It was a 90km trip and during the entire time it rained heavily. We were dropped at another supermarket and petrol station. We ventured inside and bought lunch; salami and hot dog buns. Total price: 3€. Again it was a terrible setup from which to hitchhike so we stood awkwardly at the exit of the carpark so that traffic leaving the complex would see us. We were very lucky when another young lady pulled up within 10 minutes. She was travelling the remaining distance to Kristiansand and dropped us just before the town started. It was not a good spot as it was mostly freeway that led to tunnel into town. We had one entry ramp with a bus stop from which to hitch. Traffic was also extremely scarce.

We pulled out plan B.

Following the advise of the Serbian man we made a sign saying “We are Australian going to Stavanger”. We had not planned on pulling out plan B until we reached Kristiansand. Instantly we began receiving a lot more smiles and waves. People were much more interested but still nobody stopped. It was almost 5pm and we figured our travel goal for the day was no longer achievable. We could not see around the bend in the road and almost missed a guy who had pulled over and was yelling out to us! We ran the 100m over to his car where he explained that he was not going to Stavanger but would happily drop us to a location where most traffic would be. ‘What a champion!’ we thought and it turns out he had actually really helped us! Dropped in our new location where traffic was heavy and we had a bus stop for pull ins, we only needed a little bit of luck. After 5 minutes of holding our sign up, a bus driver who had pulled in to the bay began pointing angrily past us. We turned around to catch the back of a car leaving the bus stop. We could not believe it, we had missed a lift!

We stood holding our Australian sign completely disappointed in ourselves. Just as we began fear that we had missed our opportunity, a red 4WD pulled in. A young lady jumped out and opened her boot. In an accent that sounded like a mix of American and Norwegian, she told us to push our bags into her already packed boot. We squished them in and jumped in. It was now a full car. They explained that they were 3 best friends going straight to Stavanger to do a famous hike. We could not believe our luck and it was even better to get a lift with people our own age. Chat flowed easily, they were super cool girls, and even bought us a fruit bun at a service station, which apparently was customary when performing a Norwegian road trip. Heidi the driver, told us she had always wanted to pick up a hitchhiker and seeing as we are Australian she did not think we would be crazy. Having lived in the USA for 3 years she had seen and apparently it was common for hitchhikers to be dangerous. They told us later in the trip that they had actually driven past us and after a group discussion agreed to turn around and pick us up. We found this hilarious and cannot thank these three enough for helping us reach the west coast in our goal of 2 days. Thanks Heidi, Hilde and Iselin for taking us the final 200km!Photo 1-07-2016, 9 07 10 PM

Dropped in Stavanger at 21:30 we had no idea where we were sleeping. The day’s focus had been on getting to the west coast. We thought maybe we could camp once we arrived however we had greatly under estimated the size of the city. It was too large and pitching a tent in a city could be dangerous so we walked until we found wifi, weighed up our options and found a hostel on the other side of town for only 30€ a night. This was a blow to the budget but as we had saved money from the previous days we managed to absorb the blow. We basically ran to the hostel before it closed at 22:00 and were grateful we had a bed for the night. We stayed at Stavanger Pop Up Hostel (https://www.facebook.com/spuh2016/?fref=ts) which had a sick set up. Rooms were petitioned off in a large renovated harbour storage shed by simple walls covered in fabric. There were no roofs on the dorms which made it very communal and forced guests to interact. We cooked tea with a couple of others who checked in late and had no trouble falling asleep. We had made it! Now for 20 days of exploring the beautiful nature this country offers!

(738km hitchhiked, 26km walked)

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