We woke amongst the scattered remnants of old gas pumps and industrial chemical containers. This was the first time we had seen the station in the day, and it seemed to be just endless agricultural land stretching in every direction. We had now been stuck in the area for a day, on what should have been a relatively quick trip to Madrid, and it was starting to feel as if we were never going to leave.
By the time we got our things together it was late morning, and what looked to be a busy service station actually had no more than a trickle of cars coming through it. Slightly disheartened, but with no real choice at this point, we began to prepare for the day. Although it wasn’t ideal in terms of traffic, this was one of the few stations with a free shower, which was a hell of a relief. It is surprising how much of a difference a shower can make to your state of mind.
This was probably the first point at which tensions started to really fray. We had been three people for the last five days, and in some stressful situations. Normally, the lows are covered by the highs, but when you are stuck without a ride, the bounce you get from being picked up never comes. It means that a screw-up, small or large, can cause some serious problems.
After floating the idea of splitting up, for the sake of getting a ride with trucks, we decided we would stick it out, and stick together, to make it to Madrid that day. This proved to be a good idea, as not too long after a pair of Italians pulled up — and they were heading to the Madrid airport!
Although it was a very small car, we squeezed most of the bags in the trunk, and the rest around ourselves, and piled into the car. It was here we committed a cardinal sin of hitchhiking, being so tired: one after the other, we drifted off to sleep and then suddenly came to, at some times being woken by our faces literally hitting the bags we were holding. But the ride went on, and we eventually stopped for coffee, giving us a chance to wake up and get to know our saviors.
The ride was typically mad, with the car swerving across lanes as the two guys in the front waved their arms and shouted at other drivers in Italian. Despite the chaos, we made it to Madrid and at the airport said our goodbyes as Bogdan Kamuta headed back to Lisbon, and our other companion and I headed for Cuenca. We had made it to Madrid, if only for a couple of hours, and were looking forward to staying with a friend for what felt like some well-earned rest.