Crossed The Channel


Crossed The Channel

By Emmanuel Marshall -

I get up early and Erik and I have a coffee together on the roof.  It's a sweet view up here.

London looks amazing in the morning with the cloud flowing off the Thames across the city skyline.

I head down to Whitechapel station to catch a train to the suburbs so I can hitch.

The station is closed for maintenance.  Bugger.

A friendly Londoner tells me I can probably get a bus, so I scoot across the street to the bus stop.

The bus gets me well into the outer parts of South London.  I get a train to Maidstone, right on the city limits and walk down the road to the motorway ramp.

Arriving at the motorway I discover that the M20, the main arterial road to Dover, is closed for road work.  Not my luckiest day so far.  The detour is sending the traffic along more minor roads, and the intersection is chaos.

There are cars and trucks backed up for miles.

I set up on the edge of the road, and wave my cardboard sign at the drivers crawling past me at a snail's pace toward the detour:


The traffic is at a standstill a lot of the time, so people can't ignore the grinning Australian on the roadside with his thumb in the air.

A truck driver rolls down his window and gestures for me to come over.

"You are going to Paris?" he asks me.

"Sure am" I reply.

"OK.  Today is your lucky day.  My destination is also Paris.  Come on, quick!"

As the traffic starts to move again, I throw my bag into the cab, and clamber up into the passenger seat.

"My name is Dan", my new friend informs me.  "Where are you from?"

"Australia" I tell him.

"I'm Serbian" Dan tells me.  "I want to go to Australia one day, but tell me something... is it safe?  There are many crocodiles in Australia, yes?"

"Only in the jungle" I reassure him.  "They like their privacy.  As long as you don't try and cuddle them you're pretty safe."

The road to Dover is not long, but Dan and I have plenty of time to chat.  The traffic is bumper to bumper for ages.  We go about 6 kilometres in the first hour.

We get into the Dover truck depot around 6 pm.

Dan submits his customs paperwork, and the clerk at the customs house tells him there are some omissions in the paperwork so there will be a delay.  We wait around in the grungy cafeteria for half an hour and then decide to take a walk down the Dover pier.

There are heaps of fishermen slinging lines into the sea. At the end of the wharf we find 'Mel's Cabin', a tiny bunker in which is contained two very friendly Englishmen, who insist on making us a cup of tea, which is very lovely and British of them. Finally, around 1 am, the clerk calls Dan to collect his paperwork. We clamber into the truck cab again, and roll down the driveway to the ferry terminal. Dan parks in the hold, and we go upstairs to the truckers cafeteria.

The channel ferry is well set up for truck drivers.

We have hot showers, help ourselves to complimentary hot cocoa, and gratefully collapse into armchairs.

Barely an hour later, the ferry docks in Calais, and we drive out of the boat and onto French soil.

The first thing I observe about Calais is that it is raining hard.

Dan drops me off at a service station on the motorway to Paris, and here I am... hitchhiking in France.

I'm in the service station right now.  I'm waiting for the rain to stop, or to fall asleep on my feet whichever comes first.

Hopefully I'll be reporting to you from Paris soon.  Stay tuned.

If you see a scruffy looking guy with a backpack sleeping in the service station outside Dunkirk, wake me up and give me a ride, hey?  ;)



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