August 10, 2017 by Eden Flaherty
Hitchhiking From Lisbon: Day 3 — Braganca to Salamanca (well, almost)
Atlas Correspondents Eden Flaherty and Bogdan Kamuta are hitchhiking from Lisbon to Spain. Continued from Hitchhiking from Lisbon: Day 2 — Reaching Bragança
Waking on the hill, feeling a little worse for wear after the midnight visit, we were greeted by the sound of digging. The entire area around the small church is being renovated and a whole construction crew had rolled in early morning and started work. Luckily, they didn’t seem to care at all that we were there and just ignored us.
We packed the tents in high spirits with the view stretched before us and began to look at our maps to try and figure out our route to the next town. It turned out that by being driven to a better camp spot, we had inadvertently travelled more than 10km inside the park and, with the heat picking up, we weren’t looking forward to the hike back.
We made it down the hill in what seemed like a journey back in time, with people working in the fields and sheep corralled in the shade. We avoided the local dogs and arrived at the road that headed back to town. We collapsed on the side of the road, the sun beating down, and a pair of cars from France stopped for our first ride of the day. Split between the two cars, it was a short ride out the park and back into Bragança with a bunch of kids roadtripping from France.
After chatting to a guard at the Bragança bus station, we discovered that we were exactly halfway between two gas stations: 30km east or 30km west, and no buses heading out.
It being early afternoon, we weren’t too worried, but still anxious to get out of town and on our way to Salamanca, so we hiked to the entrance of the highway heading towards Spain. Our colorful sign made for a short wait and we caught a lift with a pair of sisters. Driving straight past their house, dropping off one sister, we were taken along a series of winding rural roads through the natural park. We passed by villages of tumbledown houses and beautiful rivers, and ended north of where we expected to be, in an almost deserted gas station just outside of Puebla de Sanabria.
This was basically the equivalent of a hitchhiking eddy, with few cars, many trucks, and no rides. What should have been a relatively straightforward stretch across the border was quickly turning into a very long wait.
Three hours passed and a loud, shaking Land Rover pulled up to the service station. At this point, we were willing to take a ride anywhere just to escape the station, and when the driver said he was heading east, we grabbed our bags and jumped in.
This became one of the more interesting rides thus far. As we chatted, it turned out that he had moved to Spain from Western Sahara, and he began to explain the conflict there. The conversation drifted from conflict to emigration to literature, eventually with us discussing Shakespeare and the fact that the driver was a poet with published works in Arabic. It is rides like this that make the waits worthwhile, when you meet people who you would never cross paths with in on other travels.
Unfortunately, he was heading the opposite way to Salamanca, but due to a lack of service stations and a great ride, we gave up on our original plan and headed to Leon. Another great aspect of hitchhiking; the semi-random nature of where you are going, and the freedom to head wherever the ride may take you.
It was getting on and we were dropped just outside of Leon in a mess of junctions. Still not having arrived where we planned, we were tired, hungry, and the temperature was considerably lower than where we had been. But we regrouped, and with a hop across the road to a different station, we quickly got a ride into the centre and wandered through the ancient twisting streets inside our unexpected stop.