Travel Story: Meeting Strangers | Chile | ¡Pichanga Is The Best!

in TravelFeed11 months ago

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Digdy-digdy Readers! How are you? Coming up to share a story focussed on people!

The most enjoyable aspect of the content creation space are the endless possibilities to express thoughts and share experiences. The reason I say this, is because it's stunning to follow the contests — be it photography or writting — challenging us to go beyond the cliche of any category.

One prime example is the Writing Contest promoted by @invisusmundi and @travelfeed entitled:

Contest: Kindness I encountered from strangers while traveling

On this contest, the writer is encouraged to share their best experiences with human deeds while on the road. No doubt this is one of the most fascinating aspect of any trip, capable of building up a person's character.

When you are on the extreme side of budget adventuring — like myself — the human interaction and empathy are part of the everyday life. In fact, the more I create travel articles the less the stories develop around the places, but rather about the people.

The most relevant adventures I undertook involved walking, hitchhiking or cycling, which more often than never led to encountering kindness. Hence, it is difficult to select a story for the contest; they are all over the blog!

As a result, I'll share with you today a simplification of a paragraph of my upcoming book. One that addresses the subject and, moreover, is a story that recollects me of an amazing family, whose friendship remains untouchable. Enjoy!

Warning: This is not an image intensive post!

Carretera Austral, 2017.

To locate the reader on the whole story, I'll start with a briefing of the parts I had to cut to make the post shorter - full story is on the upcoming book. In summary, I was Hitchhiking Patagonia, from Brazil down to Ushuaia and backwards along the Andes. At this point I was traveling with a couple who shared the same route. We were departing from the house of another travel friend - Melanie - where we had spent a few days. It goes from here...

¡Pichanga Is The Best!

February 7th, 2017. Those days in El Blanco renewed the physical and mental energies, like a detox to build up confidence to carry on with life after a hungover. Living on the road is fascinating in many ways, at least until you grow tired of the everyday routines, which resume around finding a safe place to sleep and finding cheap food. Not saying it’s an experience that isn’t worth living either, it’s a unique venture that builds up your character across a huge spectrum of desired values. Yet, every so often a detox is needed to appreciate the comforts and spoils of our conventional life that we don’t encounter on the road. How many times do you think about the fresh water coming out of the faucet at home? Or the warm shower? Or a cozy bed?

El Blanco also left some unfilled gaps on the knowledges I wish I had extracted from Melanie’s wonderful family. Such as learning how to make those delicious round and soft cheese. Or the art of baking bread — every morning — without getting bored of the task. How about the legendary Salmon fishing with a horse, something only believable if seen, can’t deny. All those ordinary activities of their lifestyle, valued only by being there. In no other way do these doors open, no matter how many videos or documentaries you see, it’s something you have to live for yourself.

Outskirts of El Blanco

Five minutes of thumb lifting got us a ride to Coyhaique, where half of my money went on the ferry ticket to Chiloé, and the other half in supplies for the Carretera Austral adventure. Two or three cans of tuna, pasta, crackers, bananas, the cheapest cheese available, bread loafs, salami, oat meals, power bars ― all bought with a handful of Chilean pesos.

Once everything find a corner inside the backpack ― and you smash clothes here and there to make room ― the only hindrances in life are daylight and hunger; or a desolate road that glues you in place forever, limiting progress.

In comparison to those days on the pampa, the Carretera Austral was a dream of easy rides, no matter the absurd ways to hitch a ride. For example, the rear box of a pick-up outside Coyhaique with a nuts driver who flew down the road and around bends as we clung for dear life on the back. The driver, whose manners I don’t recall, dropped us off near an alternative intersection with a dirt road. There, the wholly pleasant vision was a wooden chapel surrounded by soft grass and small white flowers. Right in front, an abandoned bus suggested that the humble bus stop had had its glory days long ago. The sky turned into a pinkish painting behind the peaks to the west as the frigid Patagonian breeze penetrated through the layers of clothes. If night wanted to force us into sleeping on the road, the chapel seemed reasonable. But not today, not just yet!

When the last glimpses of light gave away behind the Andes, a double-cabin pick-up ― the only type of vehicle in Patagonia it seems ― hit the brakes, squeaking the tires on the asphalt and coming to a stop a few meters from us. Typical pre-ride conversation followed, arrangements settled in a matter of seconds; that’s part of the surprise fun of hitchhiking.

We are going to Puerto Aisén… but we can drop you at the intersection. ― Said the driver through the window.

Puerto Aisén laid to the west by the Pacific coast and we desired to keep on going north, so we accepted the offer and hopped on board without hesitation. For the most humdrum of the minds, this is nothing but another ordinary ride, right? Well… life on the road insists on gifting the hitchhikers with unusual good karma, to say the least. Or perhaps, we don’t perceive astonishing deeds as much on our regular lives? Fact is, one simple ride with a dear middle-aged couple was enough to change the course of our destinies.

At the expected intersection, we stopped ― again at a small bus stop ― below the yellow gloom of a single lamppost. The surroundings hid behind complete darkness and the grass field after a wire fence seemed to be overgrown and swampy by the drizzle. Juliet stood there with arms crossed and a foot tapping on the floor. Louis dropped his backpack to inspect the bus stop. The place was just a bench with a roof. Won’t be a comfy night… ― I thought.

Meanwhile, the pick-up turned around to head to Puerto Aisén just to come to a stop again… and stood there for what must’ve been a few seconds, which felt like minutes.

I guess they’ll not leave us here… ― I said.

They turned around once more and approached the little bus stop; the window rolled down.

― … Chicos… ― The lady hesitated for a second. ― It’s late… why don’t you come to our house? You can continue tomorrow… ― She continued.

We looked at each other letting go a relief smile. Louis shrugged and lifted the backpack. Saved on the last minute.

The two angels named Gustavo and Margot had never seen us, yet pondered and for some reason, decided to greet three strangers into their home. How on life would anyone do that on a big city? We know that allowing a traveler to shower on our house, without a doubt has the potential to improve their life, still most people don’t. Why is that?

Their house was a classic Chilean two-story wooden house, pretty humble ― it doesn’t really matter. The important aspect was how bonded the family was. I still remember the steps rushing down from the narrow stairs when we got there. The two young figures hesitating as they saw us, their widened eyes not understanding what the hell was going on.

Chicos, these are our friends, say hello! ― Said Gustavo.

You won’t believe where they are from! ― Completed Margot as she hanged her jacket near the door.

Their sons, whose semblance looked very alike, blushed and stammered a dab upon approaching us. Although, out of uttermost politeness, shaked our hands softly.

Nice to meet you! I’m Hector. ― The older started.

And I’m Gustavo, but people call me Gustavito. ― The brother said.

Let me guess… Gustavito, after your father? ― I scoffed.

You are right! ― He smiled.

Because of experiences as a teacher before the journey, I immediately understood that Hector and Gustavito were extraordinary kids whose shyness required a slow approach to conquer their trust.

Have a seat anywhere kids… ― Said Margot when we entered the peculiar living room. A shelf with books and a few nautical trinkets caught my eyes.

Do you sail, Gustavo? ― I asked. The few nautical objects attracted me.

No, no. Those were my dad’s, you can see the photo there. ― He explained and pointed to the frame, a black-and-white photo of a young sailor.

Gustavo and I cook and sell food to companies… ― Said Margot. ― In fact, I’ll prepare something for us!― She continued, then disappeared behind a door leading to the back yard where the industrial kitchen was located, separate from the main house.

She’s the best cook around. Wait and see! ― Gustavo joked as he searched for something inside the cabinet. He came back with a wine bottle on his hands.

As time passed Gustavito and Hector gained trust and started chatting, their particular fascination about Brazil delighted me, and the more I grew amazed by their politeness and culture. Talking about the Brazilian fauna sparked their eyes, especially Hector.

I should go there one day! ― Said Hector.

Well.. you’ll be my guest. ― I said. He looked at his father searching for approval. The positive returned as a hand gesture.

Gustavito was more interested in computer science, games and film production.

Film production? Really??? ― I asked in surprise.

Special effects. ― Said Gustavito. Louis laughed from across the room.

You should talk to that guy then, he’s a filmmaker! ― I pointed to the stinky half French, half Mexican.

From that moment on, the boys opened up and discussed all sorts of subjects; from school goals to odd questions about our lives and countries. Those were not futile kids whose lives are wasted around useless video games, their culture and portrayed manners should be a role model for other teens the same age. Gosh. How old were they? Fifteen? Sixteen? Naive kids, indeed. Shy? Questionable. But that’s nothing for someone with such enviable intellect.

Across the room the sound of a cork echoed, leaving no doubt.

For the night! ― Gustavo said as he inspected the bottle with his glasses on the tip of his nose. ― See… Chilean selección... ― He handled us the bottle. ― The finest on my collection. Only for special moments! ― He said enthusiastically.

The table set for seven was meticulously arranged with cutlery for entrance and main meal. First, a warm soup with fideos and vegetables, something that recollected the winter back at home. Then, the tree of us froze when Margot brought the humongous square bowl filled to the top with all sorts of goodies. We babbled in incredulity. Margot noticed our raised eyebrows and laughed.

This is a simple Chilean meal. ― She pointed.

This…. this.. how ca..? This is just fantastic! ― Louis pointed out.

It’s called Pichanga. ― Margot said.

From the ingredients I could recognize olives, eggs and fries?!

I lack the words, Margot! What is in there?! ― I stretched to look.

For the Pichanga we use everything that’s remaining, per to say. ― She started. ― There’s sausage, meat, fried potatoes, eggs, cheese, tomatoes and everything else. Please, help yourselves! ― She said while chuckling.


Every cook has secrets, but Margot won us with the fragrance of olive oil, onions and garlic mixed with spices. There’s no other word to describe but heavenly. The chaotic mix of everything, matched with Gustavo’s fine wine, sealed a marriage that I challenge anyone to find on the world’s most expensive restaurant. To top it up, as optional, the famous Heinz mustard, just for the extra bitter.

Night went as far as two or three in the morning when Margot arranged places for us on fluffy beds in the boy’s room. The talks that night went all over the place, remarkably proving the importance of exchanging experiences. Our worlds were so contrasting, yet so connected through life philosophy. Diverse ages, languages, backgrounds, societal positions, you name it. Nothing made us different when it came to appreciating a moment. Why can’t everyday life be like this? Why does modern society have to be so hateful at times?

And you want to know what was the best of it? They were comlete strangers a few hours prior...

Thanks for reading!

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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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