The Sea of Refugees in Northern Paris


The Refugee Camps in Northern Paris

Soon afterwards, I moved my ass and went on the road again. I was going to hitchhike from Paris to the Netherlands and then to the annual Hitchgathering!

What? You have never heard of hitchgathering? Oh my…… What do schools teach these days?…… 😀

So, hitchgathering is the annual gathering of hitchhikers. It had been happening for ten years. 2017 was the 10th year anniversary, thus it was an extra big one! WOWO, including a pregthering in Portugal, a main gathering in Germany and an aftergathering in Ukraine. The main gathering was in a small village called Riebau in Eastern Germany.

You know, I had already done most of the traveling I wanted to do when I first set my foot on the road. Also, I really needed to make some money. Essentially speaking, I was going to stop major traveling, for at least 5 years or so. I know, you are getting a heart attack reading this. Stay calm, stay calm, the ambulance is on the way/Wei!

My way/Wei to bid farewell to my world journey was to attend the main hitchgathering!

On a gloomy morning! I took the metro to the north of Paris. According to Hitchwiki, the best hitchhiking spot was within walking distance from there. I walked out of the underground metro station. The moment I emerged, the pungent smell of urine attacked me and I almost fell down on the stairs.

I had a good look around. This place was basically full of Arabic and African people. The bus stops had been wrecked and there was a lot of garbage on the ground. The trace of urine on the pedestrian lane was as clear and artistic as a post-modern painting, fauvist style for sure.

I buckled up and continued walking to the my hitchhiking spot. However, within two minutes I saw a square on my right. The square was covered by urine, shit and tents. There were hundreds of African men hanging around. There was a garbage bin made from a gasoline tank. The garbage was overflowing and attracted millions of flies! I was stunned. For the whole time I did not see any police. The local residents walked around, tending their own business like nothing was happening. The French were indeed calm people.

I had to walk under an overpass and the pedestrian lane was full of tents and sleeping people. Many of them stared at me. I felt uncomfortable. Please, do not think ill of me. I had contact with Africans. I volunteered in Uganda and hitchhiked in Eastern Africa. I was not a racist. Just honestly speaking, I did feel unsafe. When I finally arrived at the hitchhiking spot, I realized that it was too near to the refugee camps. Some tents and refugees were just 10 meters away from me. All the drivers were scared to pass this area and nobody stopped.

This was a new situation and was not yet updated on Hitchwiki.

I was trapped.

I walked on and on, trying to find a better spot, to be a bit further from the refugee camps.

I found a spot, but that was already essentially on the highway. The cars drove too fast to stop.

I was trapped.

When hours later somebody did stop, I immediately got into the car without asking where he was going. ‘As long as he was going somewhere, it’s better than here!’ I thought.

It turned out that he was only going for about 5 km……

He:’I saw you there and I thought “What is this guy doing here? I must help him!” That’s why I stopped.’

Lovely people!

It was not the first time when I thought I would be doomed in a difficult situation but people extended their help to me.

The place where he brought me was quite difficult to hitchhike. It was essentially a Muslim neighborhood. I stood in a perfect location for 3 hours under the scorching sun. The only vehicle which stopped was going to a different direction. Hitchhiking in Muslim neighborhoods in Europe worked quite differently from hitchhiking in Muslim countries. Iran was so far the easiest country to hitchhike for me and Turkey was also pretty easy.




I took the tram and headed to the nearest train station. When I stepped out of the tram, I saw smoke everywhere on the square in front of the train station. There were many Africans and the noise was enormous. There were two possibilities. 1st, there was a huge party going on. 2nd, a riot was unfolding. Curiosity drew me forward and Bang! I was wrong. There was no party nor riot. The square simply was turned into an African market, with hundreds of people grilling corns and chicken everywhere. I walked into it and the smell was intoxicating. Vendors were shouting and waving their corns and chicken. There were a few African women in their colorful dresses moving around bringing corns to different stalls. The delicious smoke brought me directly back to Uganda. It was essentially surreal! If not for the two French policemen walking around and eating grilled corns, I really thought the tram had brought me through another dimension and I ended up in Africa.

After eating two grilled corns, I took the train to get out of Paris.

As long as the refugee situation persists, I strongly suggest you to take a train to really get out of Paris and then start hitchhiking. Paris is too spread-out to easily hitchhike out of.




Legs of Hitchhikers

I was so exhausted that I fell asleep in the train and forgot to get off at my stop. Two hours later, when the conductor, a respectful bespectacled middle-aged man woke me up I was already approaching Belgium……

Long story short, I eventually got off at Valenciennes.

I had contacts in Gent and Brussels who could host me.  Therefore, I should hitchhike to either Gent or Brussels. To get to either of them, I would have to first get to Lille.


I felt clearly that the nearer I was to Belgium, the gloomier the sky became. Now the sky was like the face of a baby who was about to cry. No, it did not look nice.

I walked to the best spot for hitchhiking according to hitchwiki. There were many cars, as it was already the rush hour and many people just finished work.

When Marcel took me in his little car, it was already 5:30 PM.

Marcel was a tired middle-aged man with a stable job. He was tired so we did not talk much. Me? I just woke up from my power nap in the train and was full of energy…… So I started jumping around.

When he dropped me in the outskirts of Lille, it was fast getting dark. There were some broken buildings around me and the streets looked almost deserted. Wind blew and several pieces of garbage started flying around. The only reminder that this was not from a horror movie was the shabby bus stop just a few meters from me.

I thought: ‘In case hitchhiking does not work out, I can always take the bus to the city.’

Soon I found out that the bus stop was also a deserted one and during the 1-hour time when I was there, no bus passed.

So today the keyword was ‘trapped’. I was trapped again I guessed. 🙂

Nowadays it had become extra difficult to hitchhike a truck as most truck companies specifically stipulate that drivers are not allowed to take hitchhikers. Therefore, when a truck actually stopped at the shabby bus stop, I thought the driver just wanted to take a piss. He jumped out, with a cigarette in mouth and a red face, looked around. I thought he was looking for a proper stretch of bush to release his bladders. Nope, he was looking for me.

”Monsieur!’ He threw his cigarette butt on the ground, trod it and waved to me.

I walked to him and meanwhile screening over him and his truck. That was a big white truck with a container with the sign of COSCO on it. The truck was about 3 years and 24 days old and was well maintained. The driver was about 33 years and 5 months old. His hairstyle reminded me of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,  not the murderer, but the chain saw. Yes, his hair had so many ups and downs next to each other that it resembled a chain saw. His face was red, either from excessive sunshine or from alcoholic consumption. On his right cheek there was a black mole. He appeared rough but kind to me, although his face looked a bit too serious.

He: Sir, where do you want to go?
Me: Brussels or Gent, either is ok.
He: I am going to Rotterdam. I can take you to Brussels.
Me: It’s all right for you to take me?
He shrugged and maintaining his stern face: Yes! Why not! It’s my truck!

I climbed into his truck. The interior of the truck looked clean and well maintained, except for the pungent smell of alcohol and cigarette.

Off we went.

He indeed had drunk. However, if you know something about experienced long distance truck drivers, you will know that even after 3 bottles of vodka and 10 bottles of beers, they could still drive single-handedly while having a loud philosophical discussion on the phone with their wives. Especially in the Balkans truck drivers are known to be a better driver when they get drunk.

No, he did not drive single-handedly. Nor did he have a philosophical discussion with his wife. He remained a straight face for 15 minutes without saying a word. OK. That was not completely true as he did burp twice.

I had had drivers who preferred silence and from time to time I also enjoyed silence on the way. Seriously, it was tiring to always try to find something to say. However, this was a different situation. The silence was stifling…… It felt like the silence before the storm. It was getting dark and the traffic was thin. He did not turn on the light in the driver’s cabin. I felt suffocating, not from the lack of oxygen, but from the darkness, silence and his alcoholic breath.

I: So, where are you from? Your accent does not sound French to me.
He: Serbia!
I: Ah! I have wanted to go there, as I heard hitchhiking was rather easy and people were kind. So how is Serbia?
He: Good!
3 minutes of awkward silence.
I: So you drove all the way from Serbia to France?
He: Yes!
I: It must be a long way, did you take other hitchhikers also?
He: Yes!
3 minutes of awkward silence.
I: Do you like your job?
He: So so.
I: What are you carrying in your cargo container?
He: Legs!
3 minutes of awkward silence.

‘Legs?!’ I thought. That sounded very interesting…… and also unsettling……

I: Eh……What kind of legs?
He: Hitchhikers’ legs!

My eyes suddenly opened up and there was a piece of compressed air in my throat which was about the explode but simply could not explode. He moved his head to see me in the mirror and suddenly burst into a thunderous laughter.

He: You should see your face! Hahaha!

I hit my head with my palm and started laughing also. He was just playing with me.

5 minutes of laughing and joking later.

He: You sure you don’t want any Rakija? It’s really good!
I: No, thanks! I am really ok.
3 minutes of silence.
He: You sure you don’t want any beers? It’s really good!
I: No, thanks! I am really ok.
3 minutes of silence.
He: You sure you don’t want any wines? It’s really good!
I: No, thanks! I am really ok.

Have you ever heard of Serbian hospitality? They get even more enthusiastic when it’s about alcohol.

When he dropped me near a metro station of Brussels it was already dark.

I jumped out of the truck, smelled the cool air without alcohol and thought: ‘Don’t you just love the road!’ 🙂

To be continued



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