the last rides

There’s no noteworthy cathedral in Colchester, but it does have an old castle housing a decent museum on the city’s history, which dates back to Roman times when it served as a regional center until it was burned down by Boudicca’s troops. Though there’s not much to do in town my host makes things more interesting. She’s working towards a PhD in philosophy and she invites me to visit a play with her and some friends.

I get up very early on my last day in the UK to take a train to the ferry terminal. It’s actually only roughly 30 kilometers away, and not hitchhiking the final stretch of my three and a half year hitchhiking journey seems like a cop out but I really don’t want to miss the ferry.

Things don’t start out well however when I get to station to catch a train to Colchester’s main station. The ticket machine is out of order. A guy working there tells me to buy a ticket at the main station. So that’s what I intend to do when I ask a conductor guarding the entry gates to let me out so I can reach the ticket machine. He looks a bit puzzled, but after explaining things a bit more he lets me pass. However, this ticket machine won’t read my card. I go back to the the guard,. No problem, he says, just go to the ATM outside, and pay for the ticket in cash. So out I go, but again my card is not being read. I go back and I ask if there’s any way I can catch the train. As I speak I hear how incredibly stressed I sound. He’s not having it though. But by now two or three other employees are listening in to the conversation. I tell him I really have to catch the ferry and one of the guys tells me to go to the main ticket window and buy a ticket there. He lets me pass the gateline. I don’t know if he meant this remark as some kind of compromise, a way of letting me dodge the fare, or at least pass this first hurdle without losing face. But that’s how I interpret it and get on the train.

I try to find some distraction to calm my nerves by striking up conversation with an elderly guy who has a dog. Through an incredible stroke of luck, when the ticket inspector comes by the guy pulls out a thick wad of old train tickets. The inspector takes a quick look, says thank you and walks on. He must have thought we were travelling together and my ticket was hidden somewhere in the pile.

I’m incredibly thankful to the guy, though I don’t go through the whole trouble of explaining the situation. But I find out that his destination in Holland is not too far from my parents’ house. And seeing how he’s walking with a cane, a dog and luggage, and will have to switch buses a few times, I offer him a ride in my mom’s car when we get to Hook of Holland. So even though I didn’t personally finish my trip hitchhiking, I ended up traveling for free and even gave a ride to someone else.