It was just after 8am when I left the house. I knew that my first problem would be getting out of Kitzbuhl itself, as it was obviously up in the mountains and so I couldn't exactly walk to the nearest motorway. So all I could do was stand at the side of the road and hope that somebody would take me at least that far, and then I could start making my way home properly.
Fortunately, I didn't have long to wait, and before long was being driven the 15 kilometers or so to the first service station on the motorway, and I only had to wait there for half an hour or so before someone stopped for me and offered me a lift to Munich. This was a good hop to begin with, all the way through Austria and into Germany, so I was happy with the way my morning had started.
The ride passed in peace, and after a few hours I was dropped off on the outskirts of Munich. This I was not particularly happy about, as we had approached Munich from the south, and I wanted to continue north beyond the city. Ideally, I would have preferred to have been dropped off at the exit before, or even better, the service station before, as this would have given me a fair chance of getting a lift beyond Munich. It wasn't to be though, and now I was in a position where every single vehicle was going into Munich, which was no good for me.
There was nothing else for it, I would have to walk around the outskirts until I could find a road heading north.
It took me about six hours to walk from one side of Munich to the other, but eventually I found a slip road leading to the motorway heading north. It was far from an ideal place to stand, as the traffic was flying by at around 100 kilometers an hour. My best and only hope came in the shape of a lay-by at the side of the road. All I could do was stand on the edge of that and hope that somebody would stop and take me to a safer place.
I was stood there from around 4pm until 9pm before starting to think that maybe the best thing for me to do would be to try and find somewhere to pitch my tent for the night. But there was little chance of me finding anywhere suitable nearby to where I was, which would mean another hike to who knew where.
After a little thought, I decided that my best option was to stay where I was, and just wait and hope that somebody would arrive.
It was just after 11pm when I finally got a stroke of luck, and two guys stopped for me. They pointed out that I wasn't in a particularly safe place for hitch-hiking, which I was obviously already well aware of, and then told me they would take me to a good spot to continue my journey. I thanked them profusely, just glad to be away from the death-trap that I had spent the last seven hours or so stood at, and we were on our way.
The ride lasted about fifteen minutes, and instead of dropping me off somewhere near the main motorway as I had been expecting, they actually took me to a petrol station in the middle of nowhere. I figured I had been the victim of some kind of practical joke, but as there was nothing else to do I decided that I may as well at least try to get a lift. I decided to give it 20 minutes or so and then I would give up for the night and get a few hours sleep.
I was not expecting much from this place, especially at this time of night, so I was shocked when the very first car pulled up, and the girl driving asked me if I was any good at map reading. I advised her that it was one of my specialties, and she informed me that in that case she would be grateful if I would jump in the car with her and make sure she didn't get lost on her way to Amsterdam!
This was a huge stroke of good fortune, and I was more than happy to act as a navigator for the duration of the journey. At around 4am she decided to park up to have a rest, and dozed off for an hour or so. By 8am, 24 hours after I left Kitzbuhl, I was already in the centre of Amsterdam.
At the time I began my travelling, I would have tried to hike to the outskirts to try and get a ride heading west and in the general direction of the UK, but I had learned a lot on my travels. Before I did anything else I had a little walk around, getting acquainted with the place, and then, instead of wasting my time trying to get out of a city I had never been to before, I got a local train to the airport, and decided to start hitching from there instead.
I picked the airport for a few reasons. For a start, it was much easier to get to than hiking to the edge of town would have been. Added to that was the fact that most people leaving the airport would be just returning from some kind of holiday, so probably feeling refreshed and happy, and the size of the airport meaning that people would literally be coming from all over the country to fly from there, and it seemed a good place to try and hitch a lift.
I ended up waiting around 20 minutes before I was picked up, and this was only a short ride but at least it got me on a motorway and going in the right direction. I spent the rest of the day getting short 20-30 kilometer rides, with breaks of up to an hour or so in between. It was fairly slow progress, but I wasn't overly concerned. I was at least moving. I was moving fairly slowly yes, but moving was better than being stuck in one place for hours on end.
By 11pm I was within sight of the coast, and one more, fairly short ride from there took me down to Ostend. From there, I could get a ferry across to Ramsgate, although I would have to wait until the morning to do so, as I had just missed the last one of the night.
They had a nice warm waiting room though, so I was happy enough with that. I was almost home, and had yet to pitch my tent. I was making really good progress, and was fairly certain I would make it home the next day.
The first ferry across from Ostend to Ramsgate was at 7am, and I paid to go aboard as a foot passenger. Once I got off the ferry at the other end, I had a small comical moment when I saw a group of customs officials stood there staring at me, wondering what to do with the scruffy bloke that had just got off a ferry from Belgium carrying a snowboard!
I could almost sense their confusion from the way they were looking at me. Belgium? That country next to Holland? With no hills? So what's with the snowboard?
I smiled at them as I walked past and bid them a good day, half expecting them to decide that I must be smuggling drugs and call me in for a full 'inspection', but they were happy to let me carry on unimpeded.
Now all I had to do was get onto the English motorway system, and work my way up to Manchester. I knew from my map that there was no motorway servicing Ramsgate directly, and didn't really feel like walking until I found one, so stood by the exit to the port, hoping to get lucky with one of the cars that were beginning to leave the ferry I had just arrived on.
Most people just went flying past me, although a few offered me hand signals that I didn't translate as them trying to encourage me on my journey home. Then a car with a couple went past me, and I could see from looking that the car was ram packed full of bags and other things. Even if they wanted to pick me up, there was obviously no way I would fit in their car with them.
So I was surprised when they stopped and reversed back to me, and the driver told me that he was dropping his girlfriend in London and then heading to Manchester, and if I could find a way to get me and my gear in his car I would be welcome to a lift.
This was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I somehow made myself, my backpack, my tent, and my snowboard, magically small enough to fit into a space around the size of a very small dog. Only to find as I sat down that said space was already occupied by a very small, and now very upset, small dog!
Unperturbed, I somehow wriggled my way into a tiny space and managed to just about close the door behind me, and off we went.
Within seconds, I was looking forwards to arriving in London so the drivers girlfriend could be dropped off. Not because she was unpleasant, far from it in fact. But because she was sat in the front seat, and I knew I could fit in there very comfortably with my snowboard once she was gone!
It took a couple of hours before she was dropped off, and I managed to fight my way out of the backseat and sit in comfort the rest of the way to Manchester. Once there, I was dropped off around five miles outside town, but that was fine with me. So what if it was the busiest bus route in Europe, and all the students were just heading into town to begin their Friday nights drunken debauchery.
That wasn't going to stop me, snowboard and all, from getting a bus the rest of the way home! At 7pm on Friday night, less than 60 hours after leaving Kitzbuhl, I walked through the front door of my mothers bar. To be greeted with the question;
"What the fuck are you doing here?"