Sunday, September 21, 2014

Birmingham and Stonehenge

While still in London, once Julia told me we were going to Birmingham, I said I wanted to go to Stonehenge the day after the party. She told me that even though she had been in England for four years, there were lots of attractions she hadn't visited and that she would come along with me. Yeay! A partner in crime. There was only one condition: I wanted to hitchhike. And thank goodness, she was all for it! I explained that  my motivation to go to Stonehenge, aside from the typical 'must see' reasons, was because of a music video by a music comedy two-man-band from Norway. I showed her the video and she was hooked! After that day we would constantly have that song stuck in our heads, humming it every so often. It's catchy! Here is the video if you'd like to understand why the frenzy.

Once we arrived in the late afternoon to Birmingham, we started walking down the main square. A curious display of very modern buildings beside very Gothic churches caught my attention. This was a cool and interesting city that we only zoomed through to get to the party.

Things had already started when we arrived and food and good tequila (not the Jose Cuervo junk) were served on a very colorful table. The classic stereotype Mexican hats were floating around the room. It turned out there were two birthday girls, but the one I became most acquainted with and who was Julia's long time friend, was Rea. She was a petite, smart and adorably fun girl! Just like in the movies. You know, like the best friend of the main character who is always cheery, fun and outgoing.
So after many Jello-shots, normal shots, beers, fajitas, roasted marshmallows, the typical Americanized 5 de Mayo piñata and some salsa dancing, we were off to sleep.
The next morning was the big cleanup project and while trying to help I saw a bunch of beer boxes. I asked Rea if I could steal a piece of one, and with a perplexed look, she said "sure". Then I asked her for some scissors and Julia for a sharpie. This triggered Rea's curiosity to ask: "What are you doing?" to which I answered, "Making a drawing of Stonehenge". "We are hitchhiking there today," said Julia."Are you guys nuts?" she replied.

We just grinned and laughed in response. "Wait, if you are going to hitchhike you need to take these, they'll get you the rides," and with that Rea turned around, picked up and gave us two big extra colorful Mexican sombreros. Boy was she right! We said our goodbyes, wished her a happy birthday again and thanked her for the good fun. We walked to the highway, laughing our heads off at how ridiculous we looked but assured by what Rea had said. Well, said and done. We stopped at a spot, turned around, put out a thumb and in 5 seconds there was a car stopping for us. Rea full of grace, I'm calling you a prophet.

Once in the car, the man that picked us up said he couldn't take us to Stonehenge but to a gas station where lots of people went in every direction. He told us he worked with kids with special needs and dedicated his life to that. We only had a short talk, but he was very kind and wished us well when he dropped us off at the station. The next wait was a bit longer, for about 25 minutes. Many people as they passed by would actually apologize for not being able to help because they were going in the opposite direction, or were just too full. So sweet!!! Finally we got a ride with a middle aged couple. The man also worked with children with special needs and even though we never knew exactly what his wife did she told us that in her youth she had gone diving off the cost of Belize for research on the reefs and the sea life found there. They took us a long way, and we chatted happily until another big station. They were sweet enough to give us their number in case we needed help later on. Starving, we went to get a burger, and and not knowing where to stand to get our next ride, we considered that the employees at Costa looked like a nice lot. So, we decided to ask them.  
The boys were more lost than we were, they gave us random instructions until one said it would be better to go to the other highway but it was pretty far off for walking. A second later he said that one of his coworkers had just finished her shift and could probably drop us off there. She looked up after hearing her name, listened to the boy's explanation and said, "sure, I'll give you a ride". We got in her car and crossed to the other side of the highway to  pickup her sister that also worked in Costa, and then we headed to our new hitchhiking spot. The whole time they were rambling about how crazy we were for doing this, getting super psyched to do it themselves one day. They dropped us off and there we were with our thumbs up in the air again. The wait was around 10 minutes, when a woman stopped to give us a ride. She was coming back from one of her son's national motocross competitions. She said he was in 10th place but that he had probably dropped down to 13th by now. Oh by the way, he is only eight years old. She told us all about his competition and we were impressed about how cool and relaxed this mom was. The ride was short, leaving us at a weird intersection with a roundabout with zooming cars. It was starting to get complicated and a bit late. Thirty to forty minutes went by until a young man stopped to pick us up.
He was going to pass right in front of Stonehenge and could drop us off there. His story was split between sad and awesome. He worked for a government department which was in charge of taking kids away from dysfunctional families. He told us about some cases which were horrible and even though it sounded like a heartbreaking job, he worked at doing the right thing for the kids, which made him quite awesome. Another awesome thing was that he lived on a houseboat and could move along the canals all around England. We flooded him with questions about, electricity, and water, and showers and how it all worked. It was very interesting but we were close to our destination. It appeared in the distance. Our ride pointed it out and told us we had to walk down a rocky road to get to the entrance. So a few minutes later he dropped us off and we started walking. We noticed that there were a lot of trailers and people eating and camping out. We took a few pictures of Stonehenge from the distance, and a lady with a very friendly dog came and took some pictures of us.

We kept walking and found this disheveled mid-50's woman in a a dirty flannel onesie along side a very blond and dirty 3 year old looking intently at the ground. We stopped to ask if they needed help with something and they said that a bracelet had broken and they were looking for the beads. As we looked around to help, she asked us if we had come for the Equinox in two days. We told her we had no idea it was happening and gave her the beads we had found. She gave us both a full embrace and sent us on our way. This looked just like the 70's and we had both been hugged by a true hippy. It turned out that the ticket to enter cost £14 and you couldn't even get to the rocks. There was a sidewalk constructed around it and you had to stick to that path. We went up to one of the guards and asked him if there were somewhere to see it closer without paying £14. He told us to walk through a field a few meters away and that we would get a pretty close view from there. And it was actually pretty close, I'm glad I hadn't wasted my money on just a few meters closer. As we were entering the field, we met two guys who were about to leave for Reading and we asked them if they could give us a ride. They said sure, so we took our pictures with Stonehenge and the sunset in the background, listened and sang to Stonehenge by Ylvis (julia had downloaded it) while the boys looked at us weirdly, and we were off again. We had to walk through a field  and a piece of forest to get to the parking lot. We chatted all the way. It turned out the boy driving lived in Reading but was from Brazil and the other boy was Couchsurfing with him and was from California. They dropped us off in the wrong place to get a ride. No one was going to London. In the end, we gave up and walked to the train station to catch the 11:30 p.m. train. We were in London in 17 minutes. Jürgen was back from his trip and waiting for us to get to the apartment. We were so exhausted that I don't remember when I hit the couch. It had been a wonderful fun day and we had met all of these awesome people that not only gave us a ride but told us about their lives. It was curious that most of them were dedicated to helping others. I guess that's why they gave us the rides. It's these little things that make us have faith in humanity once more.

 For the full picture album click here!  

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