The Way Back II – Riding with Wolves

Now we all have our things in life that we need to deal with, some people cant wait to get that fast car, a house and kids. Some people cant wait to make a promotion and some people think its alright to screw someone over to get what they want. Some people steal and some people kill and most of us waste. As this empire is drawing to a close theres a little bit of blame that comes all our ways. Poor choices in our life make us lash out, sometimes at friends… Where Im going with this is that we all have our fears and our doubts and it makes us not our optimal selves, now not everybody is cut from the same cloth. To me there is some Universal Truth, some base layer that all humans posses. Finding your outlet however and trying to become a better person for it – is completely personal and optional. Being on the road and truly testing myself is where I find my outlet..2 days left until my grandmothers birthday, 2 days left..

I walked up to the 3 sketchiest mofo’s that I could see and they looked at me alerted but slightly interested. A small guy that seemed like a true Slav (Romanian A). A square blockhead kind of guy that looked like he strolled straight down the Caucus mountains, got in a van and drove to France (Romanian B) and 1 more astute fellow (Romanian C) that just made his life by being a carrier for whatever he had in his trunk this week. 

Romanian A & B almost spoke no English but Romanian C did, very well even and I asked them if I could hitch a ride. They were talking among themselves in what I believe to be Romanian and after 30 seconds I wished them well on their journey and started to walk away. They called me back and the Romanian C said that they were discussing things (obviously).

They had this setup in mind where Lucy + my backpack could go with Romanian B in the trunk, I could sit with Romanian C and the Romanian A had sympathy but basically wanted nothing to do with me or it. Alarmbells, can you hear em? They went off all around in my head and of course the red flags were extremely obvious BUT I was on a mission and according to my life philosophy, Im probably going to find common ground with anybody. Everybody has their reasons to do what they do and the setup they had in mind was probably just as much a failsafe for them as it was a barrier to me. 

While pondering my options, Romanian B managed to tell me in the most broken English – its a chance, its a chance. Yes it is my friend, yes it is. 

After shortly weighing the options I decided to take them up on their offer, put my sleeping mat in the back of the van of Romanian B and got in the van with Romanian C. I wasnt allowed to smoke my own cigarets and the guy insisted that I’d smoke his. Marlboro’s ya know, No time to not cowboy, no time to roll my own. I texted my brother the license plates of the vans along with my current location/the direction we were traveling and saying that I would check-in every hour or so to make sure I wasnt on the side of the road, face down in the mud somewhere.

Red flags aside, these guys were fucking interesting. Romanian C told me that he did a million kilometers in the last year alone and we were only 10 months into the year. His itinerary was that he was going to drive to Hull (Northern UK) by Friday evening and then he wanted to be in Bulgaria by Sunday. Their driving represented this statement and it became very clear that the vans they drove, even if they had very heavy industrial equipment in the back, were an extension of them. They literally were their vans. Driving these heavy ass vans across Europe to them was like operating an electronical toothbrush or flipping through TV channels for us mere humans.

To me it felt like getting on the rollercoaster or an airplane, you already made your choice and now its out of your hands. You might as well enjoy yourself a little while youre at it.

As we flew over the Pyrenees the guy looked at me, radio in one hand, map on the steering wheel, steering the car with his knee and talking in Romanian to his fellow wolves. A flash in the distance signaled the beginning of rain. The guy looked at me still holding his map folded out over the entire steering wheel and his radio in one hand and he said to me; “Are you scared?” with a slight Russian pronunciation. I told him that I wasnt and that I had faith in him. 

‘This is your captain speaking’. Were going to fly this aluminum cage to your vacation destination. Maybe the plane has been checked, maybe not. Maybe the pilot is doing cocaine in the bathroom, maybe his co-pilot is some suicidal maniac thats going to park the plane on that mountainside over there.

Nah, I already made my choice as soon as I got into that van and now I lived or died by that choice. A warm sort of relief swept over me that I didnt have to worry about it anymore. Could have been the feeling of a prey going limp in the jaws of a predator but I didnt feel like a victim at all. Nor did they treat me this way, Romanian C asked me asked me at some point what if he grabbed a knife and stuck it deep in my belly, opened the car door and just left me on the side of the road and I explained to him that he could and that it would fully be his choice for a handful of quarters and dimes, not to mention a doG. He took a liking to that answer. 

Romanian C and me got along just fine, we talked about politics and the state of the World. Romanian A & B popped in over the radio every now and again to ask him some questions about how its going and at some point they asked why the fuck would I ever walk across several countries. They were slightly impressed if not blown away, it gave me a sense that I felt along the way many times where people are just in awe of how fucking crazy it is what youre doing, I find these reactions priceless although hard sometimes to give a good answer to that.
A wolf can be a solitary animal but they form packs because it exponentially grows their opportunities, wolves as a packhave a clear division in roles and hierarchy as well as some above average, problem solving capabilities, this while tempering each- and looking out for each- other. These 3 people were a pack, they rode together, dodging tollbooths like a log left over a river to cross it, riding the highway like it was a river and howling to each other and discussing strategies and plays. Living on the fringes of society, being on their own for their own but much sense of self – they did not need or have.

There were multiple reasons why they wanted to dodge any form of authority, maybe they had something sketchy in their van (which I dont believe) or maybe because all authorities, anywhere, always gave them shit for just being Romanian, Wolves be Wolves.. Its the stigma and the fear that stigma causes that really fucks em. These guys to me were straight shooters if not a little bit rough around the edges, living out in the forest of highways is hard enough as is and ofcourse youre going to get rough, Wolves adapt. HUMANS ADAPT!

We had a couple of pitstops where they offered me coffee and I got to checkup on Lucy and ofcourse checked in with my brother, I would say this was an exhilarating but pleasant experience overall. Romanian C explained to me that all his money basically went to his family in Romania straight away. That and the cigarets he was chain smoking constantly. To get something like a cigarets or coffee or a fucking ride across the border(!) from people like this really makes you think about luxury and the needs and wants in life. Life wasnt easy for them and they were getting shat on every other corner they drove around. Still grinding on, still trying to do good in this world (at least from my perspective).

I found common ground with these scruffy, hard working people and they helped me along on my way immensely. That day I had 3 rides and I shaved almost 700km off my journey back home. Today had been the 4thof November and I had a very good shot at reaching home just in time for my grandmothers birthday. They dropped me off in Bordeaux and then made dinner, they also insisted on giving me Romanian asparagus (?) soup (photo) and I felt like a pup in the pack for a moment, one of the most memorable and nicest ride Ive ever hitched. Daunting at first but then overcoming it and having a rare sneak peek into a world thats normally hidden from us, not to mention they were pretty nice cooks. They nicotined me, fed me and helped me on my way tremendously. Funny enough I was also their first hitchhiker ever. I hope I left a positive impression.

I slept upright with Lucy on my lap at the side of a gas station since it was my middle name anyway and since putting up my tent would have only put attention on me. Even with a long-line of survivor Wolves like Lucy guarding my stuff.

Safety first people..