In true wilby style, the past month has been wild, unpredictable and a little bit crazy. The road east led me first to Prague where I stayed up late trolling bars for a place to stay the night. 99% of the people I met were tourists staying in hostels and were not able to host me. Finally all the pubs closed and I was out of luck, stumbling drunkenly down the early morning city streets. I eventually found a little nook safe from the rain and out of sight, over the fence of a river boat charter business. "At the end of the day, you always find somewhere to stay," I laughed to myself as I passed out hobo-style in a pile of blankets I'd scavenged from the street.
Early starts are standard when swagging out because 1. it's usually not very comfortable, 2. it gets bright as soon as the sun comes up and 3. if you'resleeping somewhere you probably shouldn't be e.g. a work site, you want to bail before the morning shift finds you camping under their smoko table. After 5 hours of pretty rough sleep I was up and on the street table grazing coffee. I had a pretty good hangover that morning and it didn't take long to get the shits with the city. Everyone was either a tourist or an import trying to sell stuff to tourists. I just wanted to talk to a local about the history of the place and get some directions to a nice park but no one would stop for a chat. I decided that I'd be better off out of a capital city so I jumped a train to the highway and hitched a lift to Brno (Czech's second biggest city).
I arrived in Brno after dark. The weather had been pretty rainy the past couple of days that I'd been on the road:I was out of dry clothes, didn't feel like staying up late looking for a host and certainly didn't feel like another cold and wet night on the street, so for the first time on my journey I finally gave in to the internet and reluctantly loaded up couchsurfing (shame). I made contact with some American guys who said they could host me despite the late notice and spent the weekend hanging out with them. It certainly was convenient to find friends online but it did take a lot of the adventure out of arriving in a new city. I guess I just found myself out of energy for a new city adventure. I had a pretty relaxed weekend in Brno, catching up on sleep and getting ready for the next leg of the journey.
It's amazing how ya body works, you can be on the road for many long days, walking 5–15 km per day with a 20+ kg pack, hitching, using lots of energy being friendly to people who pick you up, only getting 5 or so hours of rough sleep per night, waking up to do it all again and somehow your body does it. I guess it knows that if you give up in the middle of nowhere with no access to food, water or shelter from the elements then you'll be up a shit creek without a paddle. Then, eventually you will get somewhere and meet someone who will invite you to theirhouse, sit you down and say "make yaself at home". Once you get comfortable and your body knows it's safe it'll just shut down, dead to the world for 12 hours. Your host will be poking you like, "I dunno, I just invited this traveller home and he snuffed on the couch." A bit of comfort will mean the world to you once you've been roughing it a while.
From Brno I got a lift from a couple of young blokes, an Aussie and an Englishman. They were on a road trip and invited me to go camping with them. I ended up travelling with them for 6 days through Czech, Austria and Slovakia, and we got into some mischief. Get a few young blokes together with an open road and no fucks given and you'll be in for a wild ride. We were constantly lost, disregarding the local laws and exploring the unknown. It was a bit of fun! I hadn't driven a car in months and the little 3 door chino was the first right-hand drive I'd seen in even longer. I offered to be the designated driver for the trip, partly to be a good bloke but mostly to treat my inner rev head that I'd been neglecting. The 1.1L powerhouse wasn't breaking any land speed records, but I got to have a bit of fun with her, punching bucket bongs on the bonnet, drag racing trucks and pullin' handbrakies in the wet, much to my new friends'amusement. We had a lot of fun together and after 6 days of madness, far too much faffing about, countless parking tickets, two run-ins with the cops and yet somehow zero arrests, it was time to go our own ways. Good one boys! What a ripper!
I made it to Budapest, and within minutes met a young bloke on the street, had a quick chat, then was offered a place to stay. He took me up to his apartment and gave me a mattress on the floor to crash on. Nice one! I had heard that going to the dentists in Hungary was cheap, so I thought I'd take advantage and get a wisdom tooth pulled out that had been giving me a bit of trouble. I told my new flat mates I wanted to get the tooth pulled and would need a space to recover for a week. They said it was no problem to stay, so the next day I went to get the work done. I spent a whole week's budget on the job which meant I had to get serious about pirating. Using a scrap piece of cardboard from the bin, I made up a sign that said 'will tell jokes for food' and hit up the market places harassing people. I did pretty well and it would only take a few hours to make enough money to buy food for the day. Occasionally I'd meet a group who would buy me lunch and take me to the pub. I liked when this happened:though it meant I would make less money for the day, I would get a yummy feed, half cut and good company, which is all I'd spend the money on anyway.
After a week of being a pirate I had caught up on my budget and regained my health, soit was time to hit the road. I made it out to a highway rest stop and arrived just in time to see an old Ford camper van pull in, a bloke jump out, and stick his head under the bonnet. I walked over and told him I knew a thing or two about engines and asked if I could help. He told me that the air filter was blocked and putting his fuel consumption through the roof. At the rate it was going, he couldn't afford the fuel to get home. I helped him put together a makeshift filter out of an old rag and some leccy tape. "That'll get ya home mate," I said with a grin and a thumbs up (sometimes I impress even myself). I mentioned that I was hitching to Istanbul and asked if I could get a lift. The bloke, Silvio, told me I was welcome to join him but he was going into Romania. From Budapest there are two routes to Istanbul. The more direct way through Serbia and Bulgaria and the slightly longer way through Romania. I decided to join Silvio in the old camper, at least until the next rest stop and see what happened.
Silvio was a legend! He was a chiller and a true pirate, he didn't have much but it was always enough, sort of reminded me of myself in 20 years. I decided to travel with my new mate into Romania and find my way from there. We drove together for two days and I spent the night in the back of the camper, which saved me because it was bloody cold outside. Winter was coming in quick with the temperature getting below zero some nights. Silvio said ıt was too cold to be hitching, and getting caught out in the middle of nowhere with sub 0 degrees would be totally fucked. He told me to sleep at the airport in Bucharest once I got there because it would be safe and warm. Then he gave me an awesome pirate challenge. He said it would probably take 2 or 3 days to hitch from Bucharest to Istanbul. But if I was to stay at the airport for 2 or 3 days, where it was warm, and asked people for money to buy a plane ticket then maybe I'd get lucky and be able to fly to Istanbul… pirate challenge accepted!
Silvio took me as far as Sibiu, dropped me at the turn off to Bucharest, gave me some food for the road, a shot of some local spirits and sent me on my way. It took me half an hour to get a lift to Bucharest (250 km from Sibiu) and by that night I was safely in the airport. I had a feed and got an early night so I'd be fresh for my first full day at work in yonks. I've done a bit of cold canvassing before, but usually only for 10 bucks to buy a sack of goon. Saving up to fly to another country was next level, especially in Romania, one of the poorer countries in Europe. I knew it'd be a big day.
The day got off to a slow start and I began to give up hope. Lots of people gave me dirty looks and told me to get a real job. By around 10 o'clock and after asking around for 3 hours I'd only made 2 euros; at this rate I'd be there for a week. I figured I'd take my chances on the road and went out of the terminal to catch a bus to the highway. As I waited by the bus stop, a girl came up and asked to borrow a lighter. I handed her mine and started having a bit of a chat. She asked me what I was doing at the airport, I told her about the challenge, how I'd bitched out and was going risk the weather and hitch ıt. ''That is an awesome challenge,'' she said as she pulled 5€ from her wallet. ''You have to do it, here take this. Don't go, you have to stay and finish the challenge. Wilbur, YOU HAVE TO STAY!!'' Wow... It was a pretty clear sign. I like to believe that things happen for a reason so I put my bag on a luggage trolley and restarted my quest with new hope.
By the end of the day I'd made 40€ plus food. The flight to Istanbul was 140€. I still had some work to go. I was looking at the departures list and noticed a flight to Larnaca. "Where is that?'' I wondered and had a look on the map. Turns out Larnaca is in Cyprus, an island south of Turkey. ''That's sort of in the right direction...'' I thought, pondering. At the ticket office I learned that a flight there was only 100€. I pulled out my phone and googled the weather in Larnaca… 28 degrees and sunny. Change of plans, I'm saving up to fly to Cyprus. I figured I've got 60€ to go, if I put a solid day in tomorrow then I could be on the flight by the day after. I found a quiet spot to roll out my swag to get a good kip in.
At around 3 in the morning I awoke to notice a young girl sitting not far from me. She was on a stopover and had a few hours to wait for her connecting flight. She asked when my flight was. ''Errr, I don't have a ticket yet,'' I said and explained the mission I was on. I didn't ask her for any money because it was the middle of the night and I was happy to be off the clock so we just sat up telling travel stories. When it was getting close to her flight she said, "Come with me to the ATM, I want to help you." We walked to the ATM where she took out 50€, handed it to me and said, "Here ya go man, you're going to Cyprus." WOOOOHOOOO I'M GOING TO CYPRUS!!! I did a little dance in the terminal and gave her a big hug. Wow, it still blows me away how willing some people are to help. Thank you Lisa! You're a fair dinkum legend! I waved her off at the security gate then went to the cafe to buy a coffee (rich fella) and watched the sunrise. It was going to be a great day.
It's funny how things work, I spent all day working hard only to make 40€. Then when I stopped trying and went to sleep, I woke up to just the right person sitting next to me. I don't understand how this life works, but it seems to be that the less you struggle the easier life becomes, and not the other way around.
Cyprus is great, I love island life. Shorts, t-shirt, sunshine and beaches. I met many friendly people who were willing to help me on my journey, offering me a place to stay, food, money or just someone to talk to over a coffee. I spent most of my time in Limisol, a small city in the south of the island. After a few days I almost felt like a local. I was friends with the skaters, coffee shop owners and residents, bumping into people I knew on the streets and being invited to join them on little adventures. People here were incredibly helpful. The hospitality I was shown here was possibly the best yet.
Limisol was cool, I could have spent a long time there, but after 5 days ıt was time to move on. I got a lift to Nıcosıa, the capital, and went to the Iranian embassy to enquire about a travel visa. The information I got was that it would take at least two weeks to come through. That was a bit too long and I asked if there were any other options. The guy told me that if I go to the embassy in Istanbul then I could get a visa same day. I figured I could get to Istanbul quicker than two weeks so once again my plans changed in an instant. I crossed over the border into the Turkish occupied side of the city and hitched a lift to Girne, a harbour town in the north of the island. I've been asking around the harbour and pubs for any information on yachts heading north that I could hitch a lift with, but it seems that the season is wrong to head north and everyone is heading south for the winter. I did find out though that there is a ferry that takes cargo and trucks over to Turkey on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Apparently it is possible to get a free lift over if a trucky accepts to take you on as a passenger. I'm going to talk to some truckies by the harbour on Monday and see what I can work out.
So that's where I'm up to. Trying to pirate my way across the Mediterranean Sea and onward to Istanbul. We'll see how long that plan lasts.
"Whichever path Frau Destiny sets beneath this seeker, this pupil of the universe, is as good as any."
— Xavier Renegade Angel