Travel Story: Hitchhiking Patagonia | Perito Moreno | Police & Naked Invasion
Heyo strinky ones! How are you? Coming up with another crazy hitchhiking story!
If you search back on this blog page, you'll discover some of the most bizarre traveling experiences I have endured over the years ― be it hitchhiking or cycling around the world. The insanity goes from sleeping in public toilets, under bridges or by the road, all the way into inspiring contemplative moments. The storytelling of today's post is no different.
What follows is part of a book that I'm writing about my experiences hitchhiking remote areas of Patagônia ― both in Argentina and Chile. This chapter is focused around the Ruta 40, between the intersection of a road heading to El Chaltén and the town of Perito Moreno.
Remember that this multi-month hitchhiking experience lived in 2017 is covered partially and overly simplified on older blog posts, not to mention that my writing was not as polished back then. However, If you want to know what happened before this chapter, consider reading a post from years ago entitled:
If you are interested on the book, drop a comment and I'll let you know once it's out of the oven. Enjoy the reading!
Resume from the previous post: I got stranded at an intersection in the middle of nowhere in Patagonia, with nothing but a box of really spicy sushi a driver gave me. From there I couldn't hitchhike, as there were no cars. So I ended up sleeping by the road. Continue below...
Often times those who don’t perish on a storm, or for a hellish Sushi of any sort, get rewarded for being brave and positive. The following storytelling muses on how the planets align in a certain way, sometimes sending good souls across our paths. Sheer luck, some will argue. I say it's perseverance and patience. Wild and weird situations are part of the process.
January 27th, 2017. The parched land had sucked all the rain from the night before, stamping arid cracks on the depressed steppe. The absence of an inspiring sky transformed the landscape into a dichromatic painting. Dry bushes hid the Choiques, with their brown-and-gray feathers. The surroundings matched with a Martian like resemblance. The gusts barely howled as I prayed for the sunshine. Rubbing and blowing air into my hands while tap-dancing didn't prevent body shivering either. I clung to the old aluminium army mug and moved out of the shallow ditch to access the situation while sipping coffee.
Across the road, the desolated intersection had proclaimed another victim; we waved at each other and, against all odds, the fellow backpacker found a ride to El Chalten. Meanwhile, my Journey’s plan aimed some 500 kilometers North, then a sharp West into the Chilean territory and finally an exploration of the famous Carretera Austral. But to get there, first I needed a ride.
On the wild Ruta 40 horizon, emerged a car southbound, opposite to my goal. It got closer, and closer, and stopped. A police car… it’s today that I go to jail... ― I thought. The driver had his hand next to his ear. He might be checking the characteristics of a skinny-dirty-ass backpacker.. ― I joked. So, the black-and-white vehicle turned around and parked right in front of me. As the window rolled down my buttcheeks clenched. Oh shit.
― Where are you going? ― The officer asked.
― Perito Moreno… ― I shuddered.
― Hop in… ― He demanded.
I was in no position to run for dear life, nor I believed a police officer would allow me to go on the front seat next to a loaded shotgun. Without complaining I jumped in.
― First time I ride a police car….. ― I began. The officer kept on looking ahead and turned the radio down.
― I’m going to the next village, not far but better for you there. ― He said.
― Oh yeah, better to filter the traffic going north… ― I said.
The agent of law maintained a blank look on his face throughout the few minutes of our trip, as expected from someone who was on duty. Although I didn’t see a particular reason for severe law enforcements on such a remote place of the world. Who on earth would go so far to commit a crime? How can one commit a crime when there’s no one around? ― I thought. Of course joking about that was pushing the luck too far, so I dropped off and thanked for the ride.
Not only a cop drove me to the town, but the town recollected the Old West. Ruta 40 cut it straight in the middle, from where a few gravel alleys diverged like a fish bone. Outside, nothing but a cat lazing under the sun and a restaurant sign swinging and creaking with the wind. In hopes of filling my belly with a meal incapable of assassinating me — like the Sushi from hell — I crossed the street to inspect. Closed until March.
― What the fuck! ― I ranted in full Italian gesturing.
No cars to hitch a ride, no people, no anything. Not even dogs to bark at a stranger’s presence. What kind of town doesn’t have dogs? So, out of pure dauntless and for prevention sake, I decided to explore in search of a meal and a potential place to sleep on the streets. Following the rules for crossing the streets — even in a secluded village — I looked to the right, then to the left. Brain fried under the hat and a breakfast was long needed, for such I thought I had seen a mirage far into the distance. A car is coming! ― I thought.
The sedan got bigger and more clear, I lifted my thumb and… it stopped! It stopped!!! ― I celebrated. The second car spotted all day, packed with a family, and still they stopped to lift me. Unbelievable! We shoved my backpack in and banged the trunk door. Our agreement was to go north, where exactly was still in arrangement.
― What city are you going, friend? ― The driver asked. He had a sing-song tone, different from the Spanish I was used to.
― Hasta Perito Moreno… ― I said. Are you guys Chilean? ― I continued.
― Chilean? Noo, this car is reeen-ted… we are from Colooom-bia! ― He said while sporting a smile. ― Mira! It’s your lucky day… we are going to Perito. ― He laughed.
As if the situation wasn’t perfect enough, he continued.
― And you know… we never take hitchhikers, but my son said there was space at the back, so why not? ― He said.
Experiences like this are what make hitchhiking exciting and inexplicable. It’s not about saving money, it goes way deeper than that. One day you are eating Sushi, the other you meet a Colombian family in Argentinean soil with Chilean plates. Their son lived in the US, the daughter in Europe, yet we managed to understand each other and laugh about the absurdity of my journey. Speaking about my experiences lifted their eyebrows and jaws dropped followed by a burst of laughter. There was mutual admiration between us. I depended on them, and they trusted their whole family to a dirty stranger.
When we got to Perito Moreno, the matriarch handled me some money.
― I can’t accept! ― I said, even though deep inside I needed.
― No, no. Take it, buy food and have a safe journey! ― She insisted. My cheeks blushed and we hugged, I was on my own once more.
I hurried to the supermarket and scanned the shelves like a hawk in search for nutritious products. Here comes the art of broke-packer consuming; you have to compare, go back and forth, substitute and go as far as checking the weight per price ratio. But in the end, if you don’t finish with rice, pasta, tuna fish and crackers, you have failed. The next mission of a broke-packer is always finding a place to sleep, the earlier the better. Not having a cellphone enriches the process ― say goodbye to google ― and the only alternative is to engage and ask around.
― Follow this street, cierto? Five blocks turn right, cierto? Then cross the park, there a big playground. On the other side you’ll see a white wall with a blue gate. cierto? That’s the municipal campsite. ― The lady at the supermarket said.
― Cierto! ― I said.
Following simple instructions led me to the Camping Municipal de Perito Moreno.
― Buenas tardes! ― I said while swinging the heavy backpack from my shoulders and placing on the ground. ― I’m traveling without much money... I wonder if you exchange work for the night… ― I explained.
― Night for work? ― The guy said with a smile. ― But we don’t have no work here… ― He continued.
― Well I can help cleaning or whatever… ― I insisted. He finished drinking his mate and laughed, then taped me on the shoulder.
― Don’t worry, you can stay! ― He finished.
The campsite expanded over a huge grass area with shades below some Eucalyptus trees around a central building where the kitchen was. The showers steamed the room, and the pressure was enough to rip out the stickiness of my carcass. I must’ve lost a few kilos on the cleaning process, without exaggeration. What's more, for the first time I managed to trim the little bush considered as beard, and that rejuvenated me a few years. Thinner, younger and clean, the ultimate gift from God came as a grotesque plate of pasta with tuna followed by a full night sleep. What a joy!
January 28th, 2017. As soon as the birds sang, I jumped out of the tent. Life outside suggested that the world was set for a new round of epicness. And indeed, so listen to this. Whenever I speak about that morning on the 27th, people grinch and shake their heads, but it is true, believe it or not.
Since the next cleaning opportunity was unknown, I grabbed a towel, hygiene kit and slided into the slippers in anticipation to delight on a meditative shower. The cabins were side by side and the front covered by a plastic curtain, like any normal gym locker room. For the sake of privacy, I picked the last one and went about my own business. What's new about this you may say, it’s just a guy showering. Then the locker room filled with women voices speaking at the speed of light. What the fuck! ― I thought. The shuffling sound of slippers on the floor headed on my direction as the voices grew louder and echoed on the ceramic walls. Why are there women on the men’s room? ― I questioned myself. As they preferred the cabins exactly next to mine, I no longer believed they had mistaken the men’s room.
― Sorry! We won’t take long. ― Someone shouted as they realised I was there.
Out of utter confusion I rinsed the shampoo and pulled the towel from the bench on the corridor like a ninja. From the space between the curtain and the wall, I spotted one of the ladies peeking at my cabin in search for my nudity. Fuck this. I don’t care... we are all naked strangers anyway… ― I thought. From that moment on I embraced naturalism, dressed my underwear and opened the curtain to pick the rest of my clothing, ignoring the opposite sex. The corridor was filled with women gossiping, waiting for their turn and not giving a flying duck about my presence. Breasts wobbled as free as they came to life, forcing me to look away — as if they cared — in respect for their privacy.
― You finished using here? ― The 40-ish lady asked.
― Amm, y-eees… ― I flinched.
Lost on that madness of orgiastic proportions I pulled my trousers up and dashed out of view, just to later burst laughing at the incident. Until this day I have no idea what the hell happened there.
Would you be interest in a book full of crazy and complete stories? Drop a comment down below!
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~Love ya all
Disclaimer: The author of this post is a convict broke backpacker, who has travelled more than 10.000 km hitchhiking and more than 3.000 km cycling. Following him may cause severe problems of wanderlust and inquietud. You've been warned.
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