Strength had been regained after a night’s rest with the lovely couple that had taken me in, showing love and care, on my first days of heavy shoulders. Nervous, the day of the festival I had come back to politely request to unburden myself of some weight. Upon arrival, the words “It is Danus!” came from the balcony, soon followed with “Yes, you can sleep!”. Certainly a moment I will never forget, such as many more. Once understood, my request had been accepted, after which the lady went down to the kitchen to prepare a meal to fill the stomach before the festival.With deafened ears and sweltered by the sun I had returned to collect my luggage guarded by Anglo, the sweet dog. A nephew of 12, one I met over phone call last visit, had been present as well. The old couple had convinced me to stay for the night; playing board games, having conversations and warming by a fire. For the best, when a storm hit the city. Besides, the rest was needed. So fully rested – packed with extra food – I took off, departing the Baltic Beauty and traversing Poland once again.
One hand filled with a brewsky and the other up with thumb out. A previous driver, stopping there where most wouldn’t, had been so kind to drop me on a road where they would be more likely to pick me up. About a minute or twenty away. “Grab a beer!”, he had said. It had been early in the afternoon, yet who was I to decline such a polite offer. Holding a can, my mind began to wonder if it would affect the alacrity of drivers to pull over. Silly me, when a short while spent staring at passing cars later, the brakes of a small Volkswagen forced the vehicle to stop moving, ending up next to me. My ride into the land of the white eagle had arrived, with a Polish driver for coming hours. Not only was I able to traverse a great distance, I was also gifted with a good conversation and a bag of Mcdonalds finest burgers. Then I exited the vehicle at a gas station near the road that continues.
Within the same minute, I had found the next ride that would take me further. As I waited for them to get ready, I began chewing at my burgers. With bites as if from a hungry hippo I worked two of them down my throat. Dry buns, a burger overdone with plastic cheese on top. Yet it tasted.. heavenly. A stomach rumbling and starving gladly feasted on these simple burgers. The big-bellied man waved. Headed to Bialystok, a ride muted, more so than the night that had fallen upon us. Fast however. Ogling at the pointer for the speed, I thought us to be at German highways. No complaints from me though, the sooner the better.
Alone, in a part of the city I did not know. It was dark, nearing night. Streets were empty, except of a lady clamping on to her cigarette. My legs paced her direction, in hope of getting any wiser. English was not understood and her Polish words were lost with the wind. Perplex I stood, speechless, when in Dutch she spoke to me. My tongue was in a knot, when I had to switch to a language not used in weeks and not expecting to for a while longer. For many years she had lived in the Flemish part of Belgium and now she stood before me, to guide me into the direction I needed to go. Aware of the location of my destination, I thought it time to rest. Hidden behind a bush on abandoned rail tracks seemed just fine.
The blazing sun had dawned hours before, already spreading its heat all around. Sleeping, my head had rested on the soft rail tracks. My stuff was scattered, such was my mind and the motivation of rising was nowhere to be found. Even the tent decided to work against me, holding tight to branches. Nothing to complain about on that front however, it being one of the easiest to fold. With a mood giving me a chance to fall in for Oscar the Grouch, I began to follow the endless, hot, boresome road out of the city. Hours of hiking and hitching, hitching and hiking passed without a single car slowing down. On foot I had now left the city and all the while hope had left me. That, until one man was willing to grace the brake with his foot and steer a mere meter to the right. Immediately, my lips arched in a smile and I leaped towards the car. A friendly man. Alas his destination was job-related and a mere city away. Twenty kilometers is as far as I went from the spot that I had given a resentful look as we departed.
Seated before a plate with a top-notch schnitzel and fries, a cup of tea to the right, I couldn’t help but think “This is not so bad after all..”. If only I knew. Two life stories later, the guy rushed out to reach his appointment. Relishing, I enjoyed my meal. Bite after bite, I let my tastebuds feel and savor every moment. Not something I took for granted. A meal that made the day slightly worse in memory to what was to come. I grabbed my backpack and moved outside, a belly satiated. Without lingering, the first attempts at hitching were made. Revulsion, contempt and gruffly replies I got. If I was lucky at least, when not being held for a ghost. Manacled to my spot, with highway surrounding me, I threw down my backpack and leaned against it waiting. Waiting for more cars to pass by this strip for gas or a refreshment. Not many did and when so, all the answers were the same. Hours crawled. Motivation and spirits lowered. My face reddened from the sun. The clock went round at least 7 times. Another decline from a trucker; “Sorry pal, we are with two.”. Dejected I slugged back, until the horn called my name. To my luck, the elder man would sleep in the back, emptying a free seat for me. The capital as aim, we took off.
On the middle of an empty highway I was dropped off. Lost of directions I played frogger, heading to where my instinct guided me. Walking along the sidetrack of the road. I was nowhere and I was heading nowhere, yet I continued. Continuing towards the light that shone bright from the IKEA. All seemed fine, until the sidetrack ended. That meant I had to follow the steep hill down, hoping to find my way amongst these small villages. Step by step I moved down the slippery stones with an unpleasant foreseeing. My feeling was correct as gravity got the better of me and I tumbled down. Pants torn. Exhausted and thirsty I walked the last meters to find a field decent enough for my accommodation. Reaching my water bottles, both were empty. “Maybe tomorrow, from my new – temporarily – neighbours…” I sneaked into their garden to lessen my thirst with some fruits, but it was far from enough. Dry-mouthed I went into my tent. No need for sheeps to be counted, as when my eyelashes touched, I had been sound asleep