Wednesday 29th of march 2017.
This was the day! I crossed the first border, and I officially arrived in an unknown land for me. I already went to Brussels but never in Gent, this is why I choose this destination. People I talked with who had already been there were always saying good things about this city!
This morning as usual for the hitchhking days (Yeah I’m already talking about hitchhiking routine even if hitchhiked only 3 times in my entire life 😀), I woke up early to go to the hitchhiking spot I chose (I saw another little fish on the way. See the post “Street Art in Lille“).
I took a bus and then the tramway to go outside of Lille and reach an entrance of the A22 highway which is going directly to Belgium. Gent is even indicated so that just means that I was on the good direction (good point)!! The weather is cloudy, the shinning sun of the day before disappeared and didn’t seem that it wanted to show up again. Sometimes I even felt few drops of rain… I was highly hoping that it wasn’t going to be worst than this. I made walked several times between the A22 entrance and the traffic lights located a bit before… I hesitated… Hitchhikers marked both spots on the hitchwiki.org map. Finally I chose to stay close to the traffic lights, because it seemed easier for people to stop without any danger than it was at the highway entrance.
I took advantage of the red traffic lights to walk close to the cars, showing my “Gent (A22)” panel with a big smile and then when the traffic lights went green, I was walking back. This ballet seemed to never had an end.
Really few trucks (even little ones), essencially cars with only 1 person inside. I’d say that 30% of the cars were going to the A22. Not so much belgium cars and when some were showing up, there were not often taking the highway. Drivers were mainly wearing nice suits and looking at me with an uneasy smile… I had the impression to scare them, I was feeling a bit out of step. But I’m a sympathic hitchhiker 🙁 !!
I took me 1h30 (but with this weather and temperature… 1h30 can seem really long) before than Maarten, a belgium guy with a refrigerated truck stopped to pick me up till Courtrai (or Kortrijk) at a perfect hitchhiking spot on a gas station. Maarten is often picking up hitchhikers when he see some. My backpack will spend the time in the -17°C fridge… (I checked quickly mentally if I had nothing in my backpack which could not support this temperature, but I wasn’t worrying a lot). Maarten even offered to me a chocolate bar. There really are some adorable drivers who are well taking care of hitchhikers.
So… I was heading to Belgium!!
The gas station which is located before Courtrai, I can say that I don’t have a lot of memories about it… I had just the time to get out of Maarten’s truck, take back my frozen backpack (which had some snowflakes on it!!!) that a young girl seeing my “Gent” panel waved to me saying that she was heading straight to the center of Gent with her father and so that they could drop me off there.
That litterally compensated the 1h30 wait in Lille!!
They were coming from France to Gent to find a dress for a friend’s wedding. I realised at that point that Gent is a quite big city.
They were really nice, the girl was asking me tons of questions about travelling that I attempted to answer. I felt at the beginning that her father was not really enthousiastic by all these questions which was letting think that she wanted to go travelling herself too some days. But finally, it played the game and the stress seemed to leave him a bit on the way.
They droped me off somewhere in the center of Gent. As I don’t have any functionning GPS, I attempt to ask someone where I was exactly. I think I found the only person who had no orientation sens at all but she finally managed to tell me an approximated area of where I was. I succeeded to locate myself then and went on the way to meet my host, Maarten (Apparently it’s a common name here 😉 ).
On the way, I made discoveries that confirmed me that the city seemed really cool. In less than 2 minutes I found several pieces of street art. It finally took me 2h to arrive at Maarten’s place because I couldn’t resist to stop to take pictures.
I was already planning to visit the center which is splendid, to see all the street art I could, and I definitely wanted to ride a bike because it seems to be one of the things to do in Gent (I never saw so much bikes at the same time).
(You can change the photos thanks to your mouse 🙂 )