Within 2 hours of my early morning exit from the city centre park, I was back beside the ‘fast road’ to salute the morning rush-hour traffic.
The first onramp had no stopping area and surprisingly no car offered to stop. A further 1 hour walk down the hard shoulder to the next on ramp was well, a half metre better. Walking on the hard shoulder is illegal and at times when the shoulder decreased to the size of a loaf of bread I can understand why this law found its way into our lives. But when your tired, you haven’t eaten, I guess you sometimes forget. The two hours walk from the park, was a difficult enough task, with no map, navigating back to the fast road was simply a matter of finding that universal motorway symbol. A symbol that did not appear often enough and resulted in traipsing over already trodden footsteps. But then these signs are really for the benefit of cars not for footstep travellers.
So all I could do was persevere and persevere I did. Not more than 10 minutes pass when an older couple whisked me off to the nearest service station whilst emphasising that I should only be waiting for lifts there, even slip roads are illegal waiting grounds. The south of France is starting to feel very unaccommodating.
Service stations really are a hitchhikers supermarket. You have food and drink available. Polish truck drivers with vodka and card games. And a constant reminder of how many people enjoy the company of their empty seats. Well we don’t all like to have a friendly Englishman around for the duration of our journey do we.
Noticing many cars number plates began with GE. An indication if perhaps correct was that this car was bought in Geneva, ergo the drivers of thus vehicle might well and truly live there. So with a few pieces of cardboard still in my pack I scribble those letters down in big bold ink, and to no surprise I was back in a car with 20 minutes. I was heading to Geneva.
This couple, probably in their late 60’s were of the friendly ilk, their language skills limited to their native tongue and with my c in GCSE French, our conversation was a mixture of mime, pointing, nods and shakes of the head. At least we all laughed at our in-ability to communicate, something if anything made the journey pass by in the blink of an eye. They were heading to Lausanne, so just shy from exiting towards their destination they stopped at a rest stop. As I grab the bundle of procession’s in the boot I look round to see one of the elderly couple approach a nearby car who’s owners were just about to set off and in his best English, my previous driver musters the words ‘He’ and then points at me and mimic’s with his hands a driving motion. Looking at the number plate on the other guys car are the area letters of Berne, the Capitol of Switzerland and the home of a few of my Swiss friends. Brilliant!
Once acquainted with my new drivers, I somehow obtain the information this couple live just outside of Berne. If my French was not bad enough, my Swiss German was even worse. And as Switzerland has 4 spoken languages, communication was going to be a sore point whilst passing through. But if I wanted to travel easily, I would go by train or plane, the challenge therefore Is part of the reason to travel this way.
As the dark seeped its way into the day, every now and then the driver would point out the window and say something about the landscape or lake, well as far as I could tell this is what he was talking about but when nearing Berne, ‘where’ and ‘you’ were spoken amongst a flurry of Swiss German words. I wanted to say ‘the centre of Berne’ and ‘find an internet shop to contact my friends’. This was obviously again a game of mime. Fortunately in our tech savvy world, mimicking a telephone and computer was not so difficult.
With a feeling of guilt at dragging my kind drivers into the centre of Berne we pull up in a car park near the train station. The driver was insistent on finding me some more help. He wanders over to a group of people standing outside smoking, he beckons me to follow him and rambles off some more peculiar words to the smokers. Then ‘I speak English’ finds its way from the mouth of a rocker looking chic.
After a gracious goodbye to this generous couple me and the rocker start footing steps towards a place where computers hang out.