This was basically a charity event – meaning we did it for charity.  At Leeds University, I am part of a group called Raise & Give (RAG).  Students join this group and raise money for selected charities across the world.  In return for students raising money, RAG organizes adventures for the students.  For example, you can go skydiving if you raise £300 for a selected charity, or climb Mt. Kilimanjaro during the summer if you can raise £2,100.  The whole point of doing these is to raise money, or else you could easily go on these adventures at a much cheaper price.  For the Amsterdam hitch, I needed to raise £150 for a charity based in Amsterdam which develops parts of Guatemala.  The charity is called Ninos De Guatemala.  In the end, around £13,000 was raised for Ninos de Guatemala during this Amsterdam hitch alone.

Day 1 (leaving England): On Thursday (Feb 4, 2010), I set off to hitchhike to Amsterdam.  We were split into groups of 3.  Basically they wanted at least 1 male in each group.  Since I joined RAG by myself without other

Ferry from Hull to Zeebrugge

friends, I got paired up with 2 girls who needed a male in their group.  So the 3 of us all hitchhiked together.  We needed to be in Hull, England by 5pm on Thursday.  Our initial plan was to drive to the east side of Leeds, and try hitching from there.  Unable to find a ride there, we decided to take a train to Hull and begin our hitch when we arrived in Belgium.  So we took a train from Leeds to Hull at 2:40pm, and got to the Hull ferry port by 5pm.  The ferry would take us from Hull, England to Zeebrugge, Belgium.

The ferry ended up leaving around 7pm that night, and it was about a 12 hour ride to Zeebrugge.  The ferry had several bars, a dance floor, many restaurants and shops, a casino and game room, and quite a few people.  It was quite a nice ferry from what I expected.  I ended up playing Bingo that night, listening to some great music, and then dancing the night away.

Day 2 (The hitch): We arrived at the ferry port in Zeebrugge, Belgium around 7am, but it took us about an hour to get packed up and to finally get off the ferry.  When we got off the ferry, about 120 people from the RAG group began to walk out of the ferry port and to begin hitching.  We walked to an intersection where many cars would be heading toward Antwarpen (the next city we wanted to hitch from).  After standing there for around 3.5 hours, we walk to a service station about 0.50 miles away to take a break from

Hitching out of Zeebrugge, Belgium

the cold, the rain, and to finally sit.  After about 30 minutes there, we walked around to all the people at the service station to see if any of them were heading toward Antwarpen.  One guy told us that the place we were standing wasn’t the best place, and gave us directions of where to stand next.  So we walked back to the intersection where we previously stood, and then proceeded to walk to where the guy suggested.  He suggested to walk about 0.75 miles toward the train station, and then there would be a large round-about.  He said after the round-about, there would be a sign to Antwarpen, and he said 90% of the vehicles traveling there would indeed be going to Antwarpen.  A different group of hitchers said that the round-about was around an hour walk away (as they were told by a police officer), so we weren’t sure if we’d ever make it to the round-about, but it was worth a shot.

So, here we are, at 1:30pm, almost 6 hours after we docked in Zeebrugge, and we hadn’t even left the ferry port, even though we had to be in north Holland eventually by the end of the night (we had a hostel booked for this night).  We contemplated just getting a train out of Zeebrugge so at least we could try hitching elsewhere.  However, I was determined to get a hitch to Antwarpen, especially because we hadn’t even tried to hitch out of this brilliant place.  So we started to walk toward the round-about that the guy at the service station told us about.  After about a 15 minute walk, I could see the roundabout in sight.  I realized that it was indeed about a 0.75 mile walk, and not an hour walk as we were also told.  So we get to the round-about, and on the opposite side I see a sign pointing to Antwarpen.  We talked near the sign, and down the road a bit more to get a clear place to stand which would also allow potential drivers to pull over and pick us up.  After about 10 minutes of hitching there, we truck driver pulled over to give a hitch.

This truck driver was driving a semi for P&O Ferries (the company that provided the ferry ride over to Zeebrugge in the first place).  He was a Dutch guy, in his older 20’s, and was a real nice guy.  We told him we wanted to go to Antwarpen and eventually get to to Amsterdam.  He said, “well, if you’re going to Amsterdam, I can lift you past Oosterhout.”  He was carrying a load that was going clear into Holland, and just south east of Utrecht.  After about an hour of riding with him, he said he needed to break at a service station and meet someone in around 45 minutes.  So we stopped at the station for a break.  We were more than willing to wait here, since he was lifting us about 75% of the distance we needed to go.  He was really polite, and offered to get drinks, and food for us.  He even called his boss to see if he could potentially take the load to Amsterdam and pickup a new load – this would enable us to get clear to Amsterdam with him.  He said if that didn’t work, he’d be willing to take us to his company, and then drive his own car to Amsterdam to lift us there.  It was amazing how much work he wanted to go through simply to get us to our destination (but we didn’t want him to go that far out of his way, he was already doing us a big favor).  After the break, he took us up near Hardinxveld-Giessendam (near an intersecton where he was heading east when we needed to head north).  He tried once again to convince his boss to let him go to Amsterdam, but he had no luck.  So he dropped us off at this service station and went on his way.  He was an absolutely amazing person, and very generous to give us a lift.

Aviengo Hostel in Amsterdam

We began to hitch out of this service station, and after about 20 minutes, we found a guy who was heading to Diemen (just east of Amsterdam).  He offered to take us up there, or drop us off in Utrecht where we could most likely catch an easy lift from there to Amsterdam.  We decided to have him drop us off there.

After about 20 minutes of hitching at this new service station just north of Utecht, we met a guy who told us that almost all the traffic going near this service station was not going to Amsterdam (apparently the previous guy who lifted us to this place dropped us off at a bad spot).  This guy told us that he was heading to Bussum (just south east of Amsterdam) and that he could drop us off near the correct highway that would enable us to get to Amsterdam.  He was a really nice guy as well – he was a 20 something male, who is a pilot for some small airline company in the Netherlands.

After dropping us off at a petro station in Bussum around 6:45pm, we began to ask people to see if anyone was heading to Amsterdam.  While the 2 girls asked around, I held a sign (that said “Amsterdam) near the road to try hitching.  After about 25 minutes with no luck, a guy told us to walk about 100 meters up the road and try hitching from there.  So we did, and in about 5 minutes,

Amsterdam at the night of arrival

someone stopped to pick us up.  This guy that picked us up has lived in Amsterdam since the mid-90’s, and was telling us all about it.  He asked where we were staying, and drove us right up to our hostel.  On the way, he showed us all around city and gave us suggestions on what to see.  Once again, a very friendly, generous, and polite guy.  Every person I’ve met from the Netherlands has been this way, it is incredible.

After checking into the hostel, we relaxed for about an hour, before meeting up with some other friends who had arrived in Amsterdam (and were staying at a nearby hostel).  Considering how long it took us to get out of the ferry port in Zeebrugge, we were fortunate enough to arrive in Amsterdam quite early, and were able to explore a lot of the city that night.  We ended up going out to a coffeeshop, and then explored the Red Light District, and lastly ate dinner (a very late dinner, but it was the second meal I had in about 24 hours, so it was very tasty).  We decided to sleep until about 9am the next morning and meet at around 10am.  So that was the end of that day – a very exciting, productive day, and an amazing experience.

Day 3 (Exploring Amsterdam): After meeting up, we went out to breakfast together.  It was me, my 2 girls, another group of a guy and 2 girls, and lastly a guy and a girl who hitched together.  So 8 of us in total.  I ate an omelette for breakfast and it was delicious.  I ended up paying 2.50 EUR for a bottle of water there since I was very thirsty (and they don’t give free water

It was foggy, but was able to snap a decent pic of a nice building

anywhere).  Everyone else had a glass of orange juice which was 3.75 EUR.  The omelette itself ended up costing 6 EUR.

After breakfast we began to walk the city for the rest of the day.  Amsterdam is full of really beautiful buildings, canals, and bridges.  We went into many souvenir shops and miscellaneous museums, such as the Amsterdam Sex Museum.  It basically has everything you could think of related to sex over the past 200 years.  Use your imagination.  About mid-day we walked to the Anne Frank museum, but there was a line wrapping around the street, so we decided to postpone that until the early morning the next day. Late in the night, we went to a gathering organized by the charity we raised for, Ninos de Guatemala.  We stayed there for about 3 hours, before heading back to a pub near our hostel.  On the way to the pub, we realized that the streets near our hostel and the pub were lined with prostitutes in all the windows.  Just a little surprise you get used to in Amsterdam! The pub was called “Doors” and they played a bunch of Doors music, as well as Jimi Hendrix and many other old classics.  It was awesome.  Before we left, we played a couple games of foosball at the table they had there.  After that, we headed back to our hostel and called it a night.

Day 4 (more Amsterdam before departure): this Sunday was our last day in Amsterdam.  We had to be at the central station by 5pm to catch a coach to Rotterdam which would bring us to our ferry back to Hull, England.  We decided to wake up early to tour the Anne Frank museum before it got too crowded.

The group in front of one of the crazy museums

It opened at 9:00am, so we decided to get there around 8:40am.  Once we got there, there was no line at all and we payed the 8.50 EUR to get in.  This building was where Anne Frank and here family lived during the time of the Holocaust, and it is now a museum.  I thought it was decent, but nothing too impressive.

After that, went to eat breakfast at a pancake house.  I ended up getting a pancake with banana and peanut butter and it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.  It cost 9 EUR for that alone, but it was delicious and well worth the 9 EUR.  We then walked toward some museums, and after seeing long lines, we decided to go to the Heineken brewery and tour it.  We were recommended it by many different people, so we definitely wanted to check it out.  It cost 15 EUR to get in, but it is a suggested 1.5 hour self-guided tour.  The first part is basically just posters and history, and eventually you get to a room which the floor moves and they show you how they make the beer (as if you were the beer yourself).  It was quite cool.  Shortly after, you go to a bar where they tell you a bit about the beer color, etc., and then they give everyone a half pint.  Then after going through a few more rooms (which have comfortable chairs and videos playing everywhere), you get to the official bar where you get 2 more half pints for free.  They have tables with virtual beermat’s on them, which was really cool.  After drinking there, we went to the Heineken shop before leaving to eat.  Even though the estimated time of the tour is 1.5 hours, we ended up spending around 3 hours, and it made the 15 EUR worth the price.

Since the brewery took much longer than expected, we had to hurry a bit.  We had to pickup our bags from the hostel, as well as get a quick meal before we got on the bus (dinner selection on the ferry is very limited and very expensive).  We ended up getting

In the Heineken brewery

some chips (or french fries) for dinner (they give you a mass amount of chips and spread ketchup or mayo across them, and give you a toothpick to eat them).  From there, we had to find our way to the central station and find where the bus was at.  Once at the station, we looked for restrooms, and they all cost 0.50 EUR to use (absolutely ridiculous).

Finally, the two coaches arrived and took us to our ferry port in Rotterdam.  Once we finally boarded, we dropped off our stuff in our room, and went to check out the ferry.  This was a different kind of ferry than the one we came across on, but they were similar.  This one was much larger, and had many more people.  It did have the standard casino, game room, dance floor, restaurants, bars, etc.  The rest of the night we basically just played some Bingo, danced and sang, and watched some people sing on stage, it was a great night.  We also checked out the deck at 1am in the middle of the English Channel – it was cold to say the least.

Day 5 (arriving home): I woke up Monday to see the ferry was getting ready to dock.  I had slept about 4 hours the previous night, but I didn’t have too hard of a time getting up (I think I’m getting used to it).  After packing up, we got off the ferry and waited to board our coach from Hull to Leeds.

A guy performing "Piano Man" on the ferry home

The coach was scheduled to leave around 9:00am, but it ended up being delayed an hour so we sat at the ferry port and played cards (with a deck of cards from Amsterdam that was crazy).  Once we finally boarded the coach, it took around an hour and a half to arrive in Leeds.  I had class from 9:00am until 6:00pm that day, and was determined to attend all of them.  Since we arrived late in Leeds, I missed my first class, but I did indeed attend all the remaining classes, and was glad I did.  I arrived back home around 7:00pm that night to make dinner and then sleep.

Overall, the trip was incredible.  I met many awesome people on this trip, and by the end of the trip I felt like I knew them so well even though I had never met them before the trip.  It was an amazing experience, and I’d highly suggest you check out Amsterdam at least once in your life.  It is a place like nothing else in the world (as far as I know, and from what I’ve been told).