Robbery is what happens to other people. Other people who are not as clever, careful and streewise as you. But my story tells you what the reality is ..it's not that simple .... anyone can get slowly sucked into a nightmare.
I was spending the winter of 1989-90 touring Europe and the Mediterranean.
I had previously travelled around the world extensively by train, buses and plane, but my favourite mode of travel is hitch-hiking. I have found that there a lot of people out there just waiting to be kind to you. In almost every country I have got to eat and stay with the natives, which gives you a much great understanding of the culture than just being a standard tourist. I've been stranded in the desert in Australia, hitch-hiked from Brisbane to Cairns (more than a thousand miles in a day and a half), been given a lift in a huge great armoured police truck in Malaysia etc. It really is the best way to travel. You set off; find a good spot and off you go. Usually you get a front row seat and someone to talk to without the hassle of driving or working out timetables. OK sometimes you have to be patient, but you set off when you want and of course it's usually free.
Well it could be dangerous so you have to be careful, but on the other hand some one could pull a knife on you in the street and statistics say you are much more likely to be killed by someone from your own family than by a stranger.
So there I am a well experienced streetwise hitcher not feeling to good, because the normal 20 minute waiting time has drastically increased in France. In this particular day there is a lorry drivers blockade of the Spanish border so it's taken me 12 hours to travel 60 miles. Then wow I step out a car and a German guy dressed in a T-shirt and cycling shorts runs up and offers me a lift to Barcelona which is more than 160 miles away. Well that's what hitch-hiking is all about ...you have it tough then something great happens.
I put my pack in the back of his VW with his big black dog and get in the front. He speaks reasonable French ,Spanish and a little English so I understand that someone broke in to his van and stole his passport and money. In fact I can see that the quarter light is broken. I take everything people say with a pinch of salt, so it doesn't worry me. There is a massive queue of standing traffic at the border as the guards are only letting the traffic cross in one direction at a time. He chats with border guard in fluent Spanish. He claimed he knows the guards, because he actually works for interpol in Barcelona and flashes me an ID card. Again I'm sceptical when I was in New York everyone seemed to have a fake police ID card. Maybe he was, maybe he wasn't ..what difference did it make to me. But then his conversation started to take a disturbing turn. "yes I'm a bisexual, in fact I'm getting bored with my wife and I'm into boys at the moment"..
OK he's a little weird , but a least I'm going to get to Barcelona tonight. Finally the guards waved us on. "Matts" drove fast flashing his lights, switched on a police like siren forcing the striking drivers out of the way. Jeez I think maybe he really is a policeman. We are waved straight through passport control and immigration and arrive in the duty free zone and pull up outside a bureau de change.
Matts advises I change all my Francs to Pesetas. I told him I didn't have any Francs left anyway only pounds. He said that I wouldn't get a very good rate so I said I can get some money with my bankcard. He said we should go to a cash machine in the town because the bureau wouldn't take cards. I couldn't understand what the hurry was. We drive on through Spanish customs. We pull up, outside a bar and he says there is a cash machine across the road. unfortunately it doesn't accept my card. So he drives me to another where this time he insists on coming with me as the instructions would be in Spanish. Actually they came up in English and I make a note to be careful as he stands behind me as I enter my pin number. Then he reaches over and pushes the button for 25 000 Pts and said you will have to wait a long time for the money. Sure enough it did ,but he was ready and reached over and took the money. Saying I'll take this for the tolls and pay you back tomorrow. I'm thinking what's going on. Then I rationalise ah he wants me to lend him some money so he can get home. Perhaps this aggressive attitude is just the German way. Anyway he's a big weird guy so I don't want to antagonise him by making a fuss.
Then we go and fill up with petrol and pull over into a restaurant, where he says he will treat me to a meal. Whilst eating he says I should come to his mothers house the next day for some real Spanish food, then he will pay me back. I was surprised if he was German how come his parents lived in Spain ?
"Yes my mother 's Spanish" ,
"but you speak with a German accent event when you speak French it's with a German accent. ",
"Well my father's American and I am German because I was born there, you see my father was in the services. My sister also speaks German so at home we speak in German and Spanish. In fact I speak 6 languages"
He said that he had lived in England for 6 months working with Scotland Yard, but he didn't like England. He said he had been coming out of a gay pub and had kissed a friend. The police had come up and said "No gays in England" weird !
I was relieved when I went to the toilet and came back to find my jacket and bag were still there.
Back at the van he lets his great big dog out to drink some water and keeps talking about how he would like to see me in cycling shorts. I laugh and say it's OK for him but I'm definitely not gay. For some reason he insists I show him inside my rucksack to prove I don't have any cycling shorts. Maybe he's robbing me, but I know so much about him and could identify him to the police after all I know about his vehicle; I make a mental note of the registration number just in case.
We arrive at a toll gate. He wanted my credit card . Again it became more plausible when he gave me back my credit card. A protesting Spanish lorry driver tries to stop us, but he waves his police card out of the window and we get through. So he really is a policeman after all I am thinking. I was already quite worried and had taken the precaution of keeping my small bag with me in front.
We drove further and he borrowed the card again, this time he kept it saying he needed it for the next
His sexual talk began to get even more uncomfortable, but I tried to keep my cool. We pull off at a bar, because he wants a beer. He says I should give him my credit card, because his mum works for visa. Now too late I smell the bullshit thick and strong.
Back on the road he says I didn't drink much beer. I'm feeling drowsy and my imagination starts to work overtime did he drug my beer, If he has I'll be powerless, maybe he's going to rape and kill me , snuff video, that's why he doesn't care that I know the registration number ! I hope we get to Barcelona soon. I fold my credit card in half son that he won't be able to use it. Then we pull up at another toll booth and he says he needs my credit card to pay the toll as the tolls are so high. Of course I didn't know how much the 25000 pts he had was worth. His explanation is feeble, but I don't care if he robs me all I want to do is get to Barcelona alive and get away from him. So I hand him another card. I gave him my visa debit card instead of my credit card, because even if he kept it he wouldn't know the pin number .
As we near Barcelona his confidence increases and he points out the sights. We now reach the city centre, he pull up and explains carefully I should get out and book into the hostel just 15 m away. I said what about my bag he said I should leave the bag in the back whilst I checked if there was room, I said he should come with me as I didn't speak Spanish. He said he had to stay because he wasn't allowed to park there and he didn't want to leave the dog. As I stepped out I realised he would drive away, but I was kind of relieved at least I was still alive. As I reached the hostel door I looked back and he was still there. I went in but looked back again and of course he had gone,,,,
I charged down the street , but his van disappeared into the distance. I met some Americans who really helped me out by taking me to a police station and translating. Even though I had reported the theft straight away ...we later found out 25,000 pounds had been spent on my card.
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