“Pablo! Pablo, mi amor, how are you doing?” So happy to see our old friend again, I don`t even give myself the time to pull off my backpack. Filled with enthusiasm I run over to his desk and give him a warm hug. As always Pablo has a big smile on his face matching his calming karma which could easily beat the brightness of the Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela. Grant follows me and gives Pablo a hand. Pablo, a short, balding man stands in between us. “How were your travels in Ushuaia?” He asks while he looks up into our eyes. “Ow Pablo it was amazing! Unbelievable, the nature, everything. Absolutely mind-blowing.” Pablo gives us a gentle stroke over the shoulder. “Please take a seat my friends. I`ll make some mate and then I want to hear everything about your adventures.”
We had met Pablo a week before while hitch hiking to Ushuaia. We had left that morning at sunrise from Rio Gallegos and had made it all the way down to Rio Grande by four in the afternoon. A fair effort, considering it included two border crossings (to make your way to Ushuaia one must travel via Chile) and a ferry. Only 3 more hours to get to Ushuaia, we decided to give it another go with hitch hiking. We agreed that if no ride had been found within an hour or so, we would go and look for a bus. Filled with determination to catch a ride, we wave our carbon sign with `Ushuaia` on it, up and down. Gracefully move our thumbs in the right direction and present our piece of carbon like it`s the biggest price someone would have ever won with the lottery. Despite the high level of entertainment and empathy we created, we didn`t achieve anything better than a couple of windows lowered down with a shout out “Sorry!” coming from it. “Ok Sanne, it`s 6:30, let`s go to the bus terminal now it`s still light.” Grant says, while throwing the sign in the bin.
We cross the highway and take a left. A friendly man crosses our way and we greet each other with a quick “Good afternoon, how are you?” as you greet everybody like this over here. We pass each other and I quicken up my pace to catch up with Grant. “Hey wait! Where are you going?!” somebody shouts from behind me. A bit frightened and astonished at the same time, I turn myself in the direction of the shouter. It appears to be the man I just passed. He quickly walks back to me and repeats his question. This time with a calm and friendly tone. Completely under the spell of his relaxing energy, I tell him about our unsuccessful attempt to hitch hike and sorry that we are now on our way to the bus terminal. “I`m sorry.” the man says. “I can`t bring you to Ushuaia, but I can drop you off at the bus station.”
We follow him to the car (which appeared to be a close look alike of a hummer) and get in. “Wow this is definitely the most impressive car we ever had a hitch hike in!” I say staring at the overload of buttons at the dashboard. Our friendly man is laughing. He introduced himself as Pablo and appeared to be well-traveled man with a big passion for mountaineering, a successful business in Rio Grande and his family living 2800 kilometers further north in Buenos Aires. We got so lost in conversation that the already short ride seemed even shorter. Pablo accompanies us to the ticket counter and before we were even able to say anything, he puts his credit card on the counter saying: “Two tickets to Ushuaia please.” “No, no, no, please no!” Grant and me say while trying to pull his arm back. “No, please sir. This is too much.” Pablo calmly turns around, puts his hands on mine and looks deep into my eyes with a calming look you`ll very rarely find in a person. “Please Sanne, let me do this favor to you. My daughter had such an amazing time in the Netherlands and Australia. The people over there have been so good to her. This is the least I can do in return.” Filled with emotion, I`m completely stuck in the words that just don`t want to roll over my tongue. “But… we don`t know your daughter…” I mumble softly. Pablo softly squeezes my hand. “Doesn’t matter my child. I know you two now.” “It`s a great, great pleasure to me, meeting people like you two.”
Now, a week later, we are at his office drinking mate. “I hope you guys didn`t book a hostel, because I would love to invite you to stay at my place tonight. We buy some wine, eat together. In that way we can catch up and you guys can tell me everything about your adventures in Ushuaia.” Grant and I briefly look at each other. We had agreed on not accepting anything more from Pablo, but sitting at his office now, we both realized there was no way he would accept a decline of his offer. Apart from that, we couldn`t wish for anything more tonight than enjoying the company of this special guy.
With a mild hangover I wake up the next day. Images of last night dance through my mind. Pablo had invited a friend and we sat around the table enjoying good food, wine and company until it was far past midnight.
Grant was already in the kitchen preparing breakfast. Softly he opens the bedroom door. “Psst… Sanne…. Are you awake? Look what Pablo left us on the kitchen table.” Handing me over a piece of paper. It`s a letter from Pablo. `Dear Sanne and Grant. I`m at the office. Write me a message as soon as you`re ready. I`ll bring you guys to the border. From there you can find yourself a truck to bring you further up north.` Again I`m out of words. The amount of kind and helpful people I`ve met during this journey that go above and beyond, just to help us out, is simply astonishing.
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