Friday, 16 September 2011

Couchsurfing to Utrecht (the next leg of the adventure)

Hello friends,

A lot has happened to me since the last update to this blog, I have relocated to a different part of the Netherlands, met a load of great new people, played music in loads of new places, and learnt lots (as always, it's good to keep learning).

At the end of August, Beauty and I were looking for somewhere to stay in Amsterdam, there were not many options available, since it was new student time and there are not many living options in Amsterdam anyway (it's a rather popular place for people who like living in houses rather then just living outside with nature). August had been an interesting month, yet again we had been hit with several days of continuous rain, or "European Summer" as it should probably be called.
It was time to move on and get on with some more creative adventuring.

We were introduced to the idea of couchsurfing by a friend while we were looking for somewhere to stay. Now, if you know nothing about couchsurfing then let me enlighten you a little. Couch surfing is an online community of travelling souls that like to meet up, have a coffee and a chat, and possibly offer up a couch for you to sleep on while you are visiting somewhere. It feels to me like a version of facebook for travellers. Search for 'couchSurfing' in google (or any other search engine) and take a look for yourself if you are interested, I can't be bothered to post a link to it.

Our little secret beauty spot in Amsterdam
Anyway, Beauty and I searched for a nice couch to crash on and some lovely people to meet in Amsterdam. It proved quite difficult as we quickly discovered that people that offer up a couch in Amsterdam receive close to two hundred trillion requests a day (give or take a couple of trillion) and have trouble even replying to tell you to find somewhere else to stay (I don't blame them, I wouldn't respond if I was them).

We met with an amazing American woman called Melissa, she is a travelling writer living in Amsterdam, and she has an amazing way of explaining things. We sat and smoked a few with her and laughed lots.

We decided to look outside Amsterdam and find somewhere else to go explore, and we settled on Utrecht. It wasn't a hard decision thanks to the great profiles the people who couch host in Utrecht have.

So on a cloudy Sunday (after a Spanish birthday party), Beauty and I attempted our first hitch hiking. We walked from Dam square to the south of the city where the big road joins it to head down to Utrecht. We didn't have all our stuff with us (of which we have far too much to be travelling, so every time we have moved location we have had to do it in two trips), but we still had my guitar and a backpack each, as well as a shopping bag full of mini supplies (cheap chocolate, crackers etc.). The rain once again decided to come pay us a visit as we were walking, so we took refuge under a bridge and ate plain crackers and watched the wet people cycling along. Once the rain cleared, we headed out towards the big main road, finding it difficult once we got off the foot path, we decided to turn back and head to the edge of town to try and collect a ride from there, rather then down on the big motorway thing (as you might be able to tell, I know next to nothing about cars and roads).

Trippy lights of Utrecht
Standing at the end of rijnstraat, we had our little 'Utrecht' sign and our smiling faces, but it was already getting quite late and darkness was starting to descend on us. The cars sat at the traffic lights were we standing by as the drivers either stared us out, or avoided making any eye contact whatsoever. After half an hour our smiles were fading and our patience and trust in our abilities to get a free ride to Utrecht were waining fast. We called up Jasper, our couchsurfing host in Utrecht, and explained that we might not be able to make it there so we will crash out for the night in Amsterdam and find a way to Utrecht in the morning. Jasper said it would be fine for us to arrive late, so we took off our defeated faces, plastered smiles back on and headed to the train station to pay for our way to Utrecht.

Ahh the trains in Amsterdam, how fun they are. We were down on the south part, so headed to the nearest station (station RAI) with the hope of getting a single train down to Utrecht. We were a little stoned at this point and our only money was a single crispy €50 note. The ticket machines at station RAI were not giving out change, so there was no way our lovely single note was going in one of them. We headed up to the platform to check out which train would get us to Utrecht. There wasn't one going from RAI to Utrecht, so we asked a Dutch couple which would be the right train to get. The informed us that they too were trying to get to Utrecht and we should get on this train with them. So we did, we got on the train and straight away were approached by the conductor (the Dutch couple had tipped him off that we were looking for Utrecht based transportation). The conductor was a scary looking bald man, someone who would look better suited to the army then train conducting (I assume he was kicked out of the army for being too mean looking). Cowering under his scarytude, I asked him which train we need to get to Utrecht. He explained that we needed to change at blad-de-blah, and then get on another train to slap-de-bak, and then get another one to Utrecht. He then turned and walked off, before I asked anything about tickets (which we didn't have!). The train reached the next station (station something or other), and fearing that we would receive the wrath of army conductor man if were to stay and be caught without tickets, we jumped off the train. He shouted at us from the train "you don't want to get off here, this is the wrong station". We stood staring at the train times, ignoring his gruff tone. The train pulled away and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Crossing the platform to the other side, we decided the best thing to do would be go back past station RAI to station Zuid and try and catch one from there. Standing on the platform (still ticket-less at this point) was a female conductor woman who looked a bit scary, AND a police woman who was assisting the conductor in busting naughty ticket dodging people like ourselves. We boarded the train when it arrived, as did the conductor and police woman. We stood ready to make our case as to why we didn't have tickets, but luckily for us, they walked the other way up the train, not coming anywhere near us. Tensions ran high for the short journey, and once we reached station Zuid we hopped off and quickly ran down to buy tickets (thanks to a small pack of curly fries from BK to split our note and give us change). We went back to the platform and relaxed, safe in the knowledge we were now un-bustable in the ticket department. The next train to Utrecht came shortly after and we were on our way.

Arriving in Utrecht rather later then originally planned, we had a quick smoke and then walked to Jasper and Liza's house, meeting them on the way and starting our couch surfing adventures properly. Jasper and Liza were amazing hosts, so friendly and open, funny and kind. We stayed with them for 3 days, in which time we quickly fell in love with Utrecht (a calmer version of Amsterdam).

The turning point was the spooky goings on at Averecht...but that's a story for another blog...

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