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Category: Hitchhiking

The Outsiders

The Outsiders

Hitchhikers meet some of the most interesting people. Or at least they did when I was thumbing rides between 1968 and 1972, mostly in the US and Canada, but also in Europe and Africa. I even got picked up by some very nice moms whose own kids were hitchhiking. They felt an obligation to offer lifts to young people since other drivers were picking up their children. I told the moms that it was kind of them to stop for…

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Singing the Mauritanian Blues

Singing the Mauritanian Blues

The dusty little town of Bir Moghrein, where I was dropped off in early February, 1972, was not the end of the world, but it was pretty damn close. It is located in northern Mauritania, a very large but little known former French colony, one of the last remaining countries where slavery is illegal, but still widely practiced. A long conflict with Polisario guerrillas (the Sahrawi national liberation movement) which began in early 1973 still continues. Happily, I missed the…

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Adventures in the Sahara

Adventures in the Sahara

I loved my night alone in the Sahara Desert. It was sharply cold, the skies were crystal clear and I have never seen so many stars. I got my sleeping bag from my backpack, climbed inside, and lay there beside the cargo we were able to save from the fire, staring up, mesmerized by the fabulous spectacle above me. For the first time in my life I experienced absolute silence. There was a peacefulness and joy to my solitude that…

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The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild

It was a lovely January afternoon in 1972 and I was lounging at a pleasant rooftop café in the old quarter of Marrekech, sipping mint tea, declining hash pipes, and swapping stories with a handful of fellow backpackers whom I’d come to know in the past two weeks. We were a happy bunch because the ancient Moroccan city was fascinating to explore, the food was cheap and delicious, we rented bikes and pedaled into the countryside, and there were a…

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Four Dead in Ohio

Four Dead in Ohio

Tin soldiers and Nixon’s comin’We’re finally on our ownThis summer I hear the drummin’Four dead in Ohio I have only participated in one major protest march and public demonstration in my life, but that one time was an experience I will never forget or regret. As it turned out I just barely missed witnessing one of the most bizarre events in American political history at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. My good friend David Clyburn had just finished his…

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Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation

It was November, 1971, and after two months of hitchhiking around northern Europe and having wonderful experiences, I realized it was time to head south like a migrating bird as winter closed in. It took me three days to cross France and when I reached the Spanish border, I headed west on a whim along the north coast of Spain, instead of due south towards Barcelona, Madrid and the Mediterranean beach resorts, as virtually all the other remaining backpackers did….

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Posters, Passports and British Snobs

Posters, Passports and British Snobs

I had a fascinating, if occasionally scary time in Northern Ireland in 1971, but I was relieved to leave (London) Derry and cross into County Donegal in the Irish Republic. My experiences in Belfast and especially the No Go areas of Free Derry were eye-opening and unforgettable, but I was now entering the part of Ireland I had really looked forward to travelling in. I made sure to find a somewhat disinterested Irish border official to stamp my passport because…

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A Stranger in a Strange Land

A Stranger in a Strange Land

I was having a great time hitchhiking around Europe in 1971, interacting with locals and other backpackers in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and various places in Scotland. Virtually everyone I met was friendly and every place I visited was interesting. One fellow traveller I got to know in Inverness advised me, “If you like Scotland, you’re going to love Ireland.” I hadn’t thought much about Ireland but since almost all my ancestors came from there I thought it would be fun…

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An (Un) Reasonable Amount of Risk

An (Un) Reasonable Amount of Risk

I was shocked and deeply shaken when my pal Mick handed me a London newspaper with a terrifying front page story about wanton bloodshed in Uganda. The timing and the news could not have been much worse for me. It was January 23, 1984, the day before I was scheduled to fly from London to Nairobi, Kenya, on my way to Uganda to hike the spectacular but notoriously difficult circuit trek of the legendary Rwenzori Mountains, better known as the…

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Festival Express

Festival Express

“I don’t know where you’ve been all week, but we’ve been at a party.” – Janis Joplin I always enjoy Canada Day because I love this country the way every immigrant does. On this July 1st I will celebrate it by telling the tale of my favourite Canada Day – 1970 in Winnipeg, two years after I emigrated to Canada and five years before I became a citizen. That day is part of a larger narrative – the greatest rock…

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