Last week I hitchhiked from Cardiff to the North Wales coast for a feature I’m writing, a piece loosely inspired by recent reports from the Guardian, Telegraph and others about the pros and cons of installing high-speed rail links to Manchester and Leeds.
As Wales has neither motorway nor railway joining the north and south, I reckoned it’d be interesting to see how the supposedly dying art of thumbing a free lift stacked up against the train (four to six hours via England, £70 walk-on price).
Some things I learned:
- Hitching out of urban centres is a total nightmare. Getting to Merthyr Tydfil took three hours; another three and I was in Snowdonia.
- Making a decent sign, having a shave, making eye contact with and smiling at drivers will get you a long way.
- Standing by the side of the A470 in the Taff Valley with trucks pounding past is a bit scary.
- There’s no particular type of person who picks up hitchers. But all my drivers combined kind motives with boredom and the desire for a bit of lively company.
- Taking a hearty pack-up helps give you the stamina to provide your chauffeurs with the banter they crave. Keep up your end of the conversation and they’ll spill all kinds of interesting dirt.
It took me seven hours from breaking out my sign at Gabalfa, north Cardiff to hitting the Menai Straits at Caernarfon. The fish and chips I had there weren’t really seaside quality, but they still tasted pretty sweet.