Hitching Through Algeria
04.02.1965 - 08.02.1965
We got as far as Constantine, in two lifts. The driver of the first vehicle, a car, wanted money, which we did not give, and we were dropped halfway. The driver of the second vehicle, a van, put us in the back, on top of a load of sacks full of powder. It was pitch black in there, but there was a small hole in one wall, and a picture of the countryside was clearly projected on the opposite wall as we drove along - it was like watching a movie. We were dropped in the amazingly constructed town of Constantine, perched high up on either side of a very deep ravine, with several spectacular bridges joining the two halves. I was unable to take photographs as my camera has suddenly packed up. There is something wrong with the shutter action. We had to walk about two miles through the town to the outskirts, but after about three hours wait we had little hope of obtaining a lift further onwards, so we hitched back into the centre. We got a ride from a man who suggested we could stay at the Jesuit high school on top of the hill, and he went out of his way to take us right up there. The people at the school were extremely friendly and agreed to let us stay. Before leaving, the man in the car gave us a name and said that if we rang the Aero Club in the morning, a friend of his was flying to Algiers, and it might be possible for us to go with him in his private plane. Terrific - though it sounded too good to be true. We were given separate rooms in a new section of the building, and had a pleasant evening meal, during which we also learned that one of the persons at the college would probably be leaving Friday or Saturday for Algiers, if his car was repaired in time - another option if the plane trip fell through. Things looked really rosy.
Things don’t look so rosy. We awoke to pouring rain, which soon turned into snow, and we were sure that the plane would not leave. After spending almost an hour and a half on and by the phone, waiting to find out, we found that our suspicions were correct. It might leave tomorrow, or the day after. No good to us. The car would not be ready today either. We decided not to go out onto the road again, as the weather looked uncertain, but to write all day, stay here again tonight, and if the plane or car did not leave tomorrow, then we would hitch out, come what may. That is probably just how it will be. Meanwhile, we are quite comfortable here.
No plane or car today either, so we left after breakfast. Pere Godart, the principal, drove us out to a suitable spot on the road, and so began probably the most excellent day’s hitchhiking we have encountered. The weather was uncertain, but after about twenty minutes a car stopped, a small Fiat, and we got a lift through Setif to Bordj Bou Arreridj. There was a Bulgarian Doctor and an Algerian in the car. We got a free coffee and a packet of cigarettes also. On the way we passed a lot of snow in the fields and on the mountains. We were dropped the other side of Bordj in drizzling rain, and after only ten minutes obtained a ride in a truck going to Bouira. The driver was friendly enough. We had to walk through Bouira, and then after a short time thumbed a lift in a Peugeot going all the way to Algiers. It was a fast trip, and as it was raining when we arrived we were taken round to within quick walking distance of our address, les Peres Blancs, the White Fathers. They gave us dinner and put us up for the night. Constantine to Algiers took only nine hours, and we went from one comfortable place to another, and we spent no money all day. I don’t know how long it is since we have done this.
Set out for the city from Maison Caree where we had spent the night and were turned down at another address, in Rue Polignac. Went to the post office, and then got a bus to the Youth Hostel. Only problem now is the busted camera. I am not terribly impressed with Algiers, except for the fact that it is very French looking. There seems to be a definite air of decay. All of Algeria is like this. It is less than three years since the end of the brutal War of Independence, and what looks good now is only what is left over from French colonial days. Nothing appears to be going on, and the place is gradually becoming a mess. There are huge blocks of almost completed flats, but they have not been touched since the revolution. Most Algerians seem fairly friendly.
Took the camera into a photographic shop in Algiers and found that it only had a piece of film stuck in the mechanism. With a few turns of the exposure knob it was fixed. What a relief! And it didn’t cost me anything. We wandered around the city a little and found some parts to be still very French and others Arab. Ade spent two hours arguing with some petty officials over a minor detail and accomplished nothing. He does it for the sport. I couldn‘t be bothered, and just get irritated. We got rid of the remaining Tunisian money for Spanish pesetas with a Canadian at the Hostel who was heading that way. We thought we were going to be stuck with it. Have done all we want to do in Algiers and will leave in the morning.