Monday 24th November. Charleston, South Carolina -> Brunswick, Georgia, USA
It was only about 170 miles to Brunswick, Georgia and I got off to an early start after David left for work. By the law of averages, I'd likely be in Brunswick by early afternoon. Well, it seems the law of averages will make an ass out of you every time. It was almost dark by the time I reached the interstate, only about sixty miles out of Charleston. That in itself had been an effort, with no less than five separate lifts, the first of which was courtesy of a couple of friendly cops who didn't like to see me hitching in town. Normally I try to get out of town before I start thumbing, but after a long walk in the already warm sunshine, my shoulder was aching. I've pulled a muscle somehow, and I couldn't face the further three mile walk to the edge of town. I gave the cops my saddest face, and they took me out to city limits. Thanks guys!
My destination for the day was the 'Hostel In The Forest' just outside Brunswick. Eleven years ago, when Cosmo and I drove up the east coast, we stopped to have a look at this incredible place. We had a vehicle to deliver to New York, and sadly didn't have time to stay overnight in their unique accommodation, but I'd vowed to return one day. I couldn't describe how exciting it was to be this close to realizing that dream. Now, here I was just an hour and a half away, and I was having the worst day's hitching on this trip so far. I'd wanted to get there as early as possible to make the most of my forest experience, and it was looking increasingly unlikely that I'd make it there at all. If I didn't get there tonight, I'd have to sleep by the road, and that would really knock the wind out of my sails.
It was too dark to stand by the road hitching. I chose one of the gas stations just off the interstate, and spent the next couple of hours trying to canvass a ride from a motorist. Finally, a young guy in a van gave me a ride, but he was only going about halfway to Brunswick. Another intersection, another gas station, another couple of cups of coffee, and eventually a ride in a semi trailer. I might make it after all. From where he dropped me, it was two miles to the Hostel. If it hadn't been raining, I might've walked it. As it was it didn't take too long to find a friendly motorist at the nearby gas station; the mixture of desperation and excitement on my face must've been too much for him to bear. He dropped me two miles up the highway.
Through the rain and darkness, I'd spotted a letterbox with 'hostel' written on it. It was on the westbound side of the divided highway, but I was sure the hostel was on the opposite side. That's how I came to be wandering up and then back along the highway at eleven o'clock at night in the pitch blackness, waving my flashlight around, searching for anything that resembled a driveway into the thick forest. Eventually, the beam of light fell on a break in the trees, and illuminated a sign directed the weary traveller to follow the dirt driveway. It was a long, long driveway; at least half a mile. I was walking at Olympic pace, arcing the flashlight back and forwards across the potholed track. It wasn't a comforting thought that all my spare rechargeable batteries were flat, except the two that were actually in the flashlight. If they chose this exact moment to die, I'd be stumbling around in the muddy forest, totally blind. Dim lights became visible through the dense vegetation, and in spite of the burning pain in my shoulder, I couldn't help but almost break into a run. I'd made it!
There was yellowish light coming from one of the domed buildings in the central compound and I could see people sitting around in a large room inside. Like an excited kid arriving late for a birthday party, I bounded up the three or four stairs, swung the screen door open and burst into the room. A dozen or so faces stared up at me from soft couches and armchairs. The manager Travis was expecting me, and greeted me with a firm handshake. The other hostellers welcomed me with handshakes and even a couple of hugs. Within minutes, I felt I'd met everyone on the property. They were reading, or knitting, struming guitars, or patting on bongo drums. One girl was painting blue flowers on a flat palm-sized rock. A man in what appeared to be a woman's blouse and skirt was handing out slices of freshly baked cake. He insisted I take a piece, and I was glad I did. It was delicious, and the first real food I'd eaten all day, unless coffee, sunflower seeds and chewing gum count as food.
Travis said the 'Honeymoon Hut' was available, if I wanted it. That was fine by me, especially since it was the nearest. Other treehouses were scattered over quite a wide area, to give each one a feeling of privacy. The girl who'd been painting a rock, offered to give me the 'short tour' of the facilities. I feel bad for not remembering her name, but I met so many people in those first few names, and I was still frazzled from the day.
My treehouse was just a short stroll on a timber boardwalk from a compost toilet and the 'Angel Shower', as well. The Angel Shower is a completely open air shower, supposedly with hot water but when I tried it later, the water didn't warm up after several minutes. The other showers, behind the domed buildings, did provide the promised hot water. This shower is open air on one side, but under cover and sheltered from the front. It's called the 'First Shower' because it was here before the Angel Shower. I grabbed sheets and blankets from the laundry room, and feeling less sociable than normal, settled into my treehouse.