It`s 9 O`clock in the morning and El Bolson is waking up. Fully packed we open the door of the hostel. A cool breeze freshens up our faces and clears our noses. We turn around one last time to shout a “Ciao! Suerte!” to everybody and then we`re fully ready to hit the road. It`s freezing cold. The morning mist has left a silver glance on the grass in the park. It`s about 2 kilometer walk to the beginning of the highway. We quicken up the pace to warm ourselves up. The heavier we breath, the more steam appears from our mouths. As two walking locomotives we pass the gas station. I turn around and start walking backwards. Pretending I have done this trick already a thousand times I put my right thumb in the air and start moving it up and down.
An old Volkswagen pulls over. The poor car is clearly on one of his last drives. The window of the passenger’s seat is turned winded down and two young blokes smile at us with their charming yellow teeth. “Where are you guys going?” asks the driver.
“To Esquel” I answer. I closely observe the boys and then let my eyes scan through the car. The boys start talking with such a heavy accent, that I cannot understand a word they`re saying. Grant comes standing next to me and softly I whisper to him: “Grant, I think we might have a `Pineapple` here…” (Pineapple is a code word we use in case we don`t trust a possible hitchhike) “Come on Sanne, you silly goose. Those guys look pretty trust worthy”. Grant smiles and bends over to talk with the boys. “Can we come with you guys?” Grant asks. “Yes you can, but we are not going to Esquel. We can take you to a village 50 kilometers on the way. From there you can continue you trip.” I decide to leave the shadows in my thoughts behind en put by backpack in the back of the car. We take place at the backseats and close the doors of the car with a firm swing. “Do you guys want some matè (a traditional strong tea)?” asks the guy on the passenger`s seat while I holds his matè cup high. “Ow yes please!” says Grant pleased and takes the mate cup from the guy. After a couple of sips he passes the cup to me. With a touch of despise I smell the matè and take a tiny small sip. “They might as well have poisoned the matè..” I think to myself. The boys are lost in conversation. Their accent is so heavy that I have to focus really hard in order to pick up some parts of the conversation. “Where shall we take them?” ask the driver`s seat boy. “I don`t know, what would be a good spot?” responds the driver. I feel my palms getting sweaty. Yesterday another driver told us 5 local girls has gone missing, probably because of human trafficking. All kinds of doom scenarios are rushing through my mind. “Grant, if they turn off the route, we both pull open the doors, push our bags out and jump out of the car!” I whisper softly to Grant. “Ow come on Sanne, what is wrong with you? Just relax.” We get into a small little town. The driver turns the car of the main road. A small flash of panic rushes through my body and I make myself ready to jump out of the car. Then the car, suddenly stops. “Here we are!” says the driver. “Here we are?” I reply, still astonished I didn`t end up in 6 pieces at the back of the truck. “Yes, we discussed on the way what would be a good spot to drop you guys of. We work 5 kilometers out of town. At least here all the traffic comes through going south. They have to slow down as they enter town, so it`s more likely for them to pull over and take you guys.” An unbelievable sense of releasement rushes through my veins. Those sweethearts, with clearly not a penny in their pocket have made a big turn to help us out. Filled with gratitude we give them a package of biscuits, a hug and wish them all the best before they drive of into anonymity.
We`re not even fully settled on the side of the road, before the next car pulls over. A retired man form Buenos Aires offers us to take us to the next town, 100 kilometers away. “Wow if we continue on this pace, we might get to Chile tonight!” Grant says hopeful. Again, we are perfectly dropped off at the next spot. We`re we repeat the whole hitchhiker`s ceremony of dropping our bags, picking the perfect spot to stand and try to keep ourselves entertained in the meantime. Unfortunately, traffic seems to get more and more scarce, the further south we go. With an average amount of 1 car per 10 minutes, we try to pass the time with the game`celebrity heads’. Once, after the 20th game, Grant finally guesses he is the Dalai Lama and I get to the insight that I`m Marilyn Monroe, Grant had come to the stage that I was fed up with it (and that`s mild way to describe it). “Come on Sanne. We`re already waiting for four hours now. It`s cold, it`s getting late, I`m done. Let`s go the information center and find out what time the bus leaves, so we can at least catch a bus out of this hole, before it gets dark.” After some attempts of keeping hope, I finally gave in. We put our backpacks back on and walk towards the office. Over there the lovely lady told us it would be at least another 3 hours, before the bus would come pass, so we decided to give it another go in the meantime. As soon as I put my thumb up, a car pulls over. “Where are you guys going?” asks the driver. “To Esquel, could you take us?” “Yes of course, jump in.” Answers the guys who introduced himself a couple of minutes later as Francisco. “Normally, I never take hitchhikers, but I was sitting in the restaurant and saw you guys coming back. You looked so disappointed, I couldn`t leave you there.” “Ah thanks a million, that`s so sweet. Where are from?” I`m from Chile. I had to go to Argentina for work. Normally I would fly, but the people of the airline are striking, so I took a rental car. A long ride from Coyhaique....” “Coyhaique?! You`re from Coyhaique?!” I interrupted him in his story. “I`m sorry, but we are on the way to Coyhaique. But as we are hitchhiking we thought it would take us about 3 days to get down there.” “Well if you want I can take you there. It`s a long drive though, about 9 hours to go. But yes, I could definitely use some company.” I give him and Grant a high five. “Amazing! We must have been waiting for four hours to meet each other `pope` Francisco.” giving him a wink. What a luck. I look outside. The landscape is stunning. “You see Sanne.” I think to myself. “Everything happens for a reason. Sometimes it just takes a while before you see it."
After a burn-out it was time for a change. I quit my job, sold my stuff and bought a one-way ticket to the Dominican Republic. What was supposed to be a 4 month adventure turned into 2,5 years and counting......
Photo by: Vanessa Marques Barreto