People are nice. We forget this and assume the whole world is out to get us.
My faith for humanity was restored to me on the first day of my Spanish 500 mile hike that began and ended at the coast. I went through the Picos mountain range and into some very remote areas where people were sparse.
I had been walking for 8 and a half hours and my body wasn’t acclimatised at all. My pack weighed 26kg (more than it should’ve because I’d decided to self support as well as bringing all my camera equipment.)
It rubbed my hips with each step but it didn’t seem to bother me until I took a glance at them the following evening- red raw and lumpy.
The weather was scorching and I dreamed of my next self inflicted break so that I could take a swig of water and search for shade. I never realised just how much I loved the taste of water. Every step I’d imagine it on my lips and think why had I taken it for granted in the past?!
At 6pm I still had 6 miles to go to a small hostel. I was on a quiet road that trailed alongside the mountain slope. I took a break to sip the now very appreciated water. I sat on my bag exhausted and in my dehydrated and rather confused state, I decided to hitch hike.
I’ve only ever hitched with guys before and never alone. There’s a lot of bad stick about hitch hiking that the only person that would pick you up would be the village murderer. I took my chances. I was hot, dehydrated and my feet couldn’t take the pounding that the tarmac road brought.
I sat on my pack waiting. Nothing came. My feet throbbed with the release of my weight from them. The blood rushing back, making them swell. My leg and back muscles began to seize up thinking that they’d stopped for the day.
To get up now would be agony.
I tried to think what I’d do if I saw a car but I wasn’t sure. Try and look the driver in the eye was the best I could come up with.
Around the corner of the mountains side: a car and my chance . I stood up with my map in hand. I knew I already looked haggered and desperate so I wasn’t acting.. I raised my eye brows in an innocent ‘please help the poor blonde girl’ kinda way.
He didn’t even slow down. Bastard. He looked sketchy anyway so I wasn’t too fussed.
There was another car soon after his. I did the same thing, expecting for the same reaction but this man slowed down and opened the window.
I hobbled over and poked my head through the window. I asked if he spoke English. ‘A little’ he replied. Fantastic- the first person I had met today who could say even a word.
I pointed to where I wanted to go on the map and he signalled to jump in. I heaved my rucksack into the boot of his car. It just about fit.
His car was clean and the kind of car one buys when they’ve retired with their partner and only share one car between them. He was obviously married.
We shared minimal conversation on the way to the destination. He really wasn’t lying when he said ‘a little English’
We arrived and I felt so impressed with hitch hiking. I’d be sure not to let this be the last time.
I waited by the car as the hitch hike man went to ask about the hostel. Closed.
I scanned the area for a place I could put my tent, there was none.
The man told me to wait as he got on the phone. I was passed the phone to speak and there was a man who said hello. The hitch hike man had phoned his son who could speak good english. I was told by his son to ‘Follow his father’.
I put my trust in the man on the phone and got back into the car. We drove back on ourselves.
I hadn’t a clue where we were heading, but I didn’t mind. I trusted this stranger but had no reason to. I had no reason not to trust him either.
We arrived at a small village. Mountains towered over the village covering half of it in shade.
A 30-something man with a beard approached on a very small bike and began circulating the car. I had a single thought; ‘hitch hike man has brought me to a Spanish gang and I’m about to be sold.’
He hadn’t and I wasn’t.
The man on the bike was the hitch hike man’s son, Juan. He introduced himself with a smile. Juan told me that there was accommodation in the village but that it was expensive.
Things progressed and it was decided I was to stay at Juan’s house and he would cook me dinner and breakfast and in the morning, take me to my original starting point for the day. I couldn’t believe it.
I got back into the car and was taken to Juan’s house. A cute, small, wooden house. Juan and his cousin were painting the house so dinner wouldn’t be until late.
I met Juan’s mum. She greeted me like a long lost daughter. She had no english but persisted to make conversation and take photos of me.
The village elders sat across from the house, watching us. Juan told me they’d lived here all their lives and never had they seen a hiker walk through their village. Especially not a young english girl.
I was told to treat the house like my home. I took the main bedroom and flung myself across the bed, trying to come to terms about what had just happened.
That night, Juan shared stories and wine with me. I was so taken back by the kindness of the family and the willingness to help.
It put a smile on my face and reminded me just how kind us humans can be. I won’t let myself forget that again. People are nice.