Pablo drops us of at the border. To get back north, we have to travel via Chile. As always, he greets everybody on his way with a warm embrace and a short chat. For a short moment I think he must know almost everybody in Argentina. We get our passports stamped, while Pablo catches up with all his friends at the border crossing. Now the time truly comes to say goodbye to our special and endearing friend. “Saturday I`ll fly to my house in Buenos Aires. I`ll wait for you there with my wife, children and grandchildren.” We promise him to make it to Buenos Aires and say our farewells with a tear and a smile.
A couple of truck drivers enter the immigration office. With a little joke I start a conversation with them. They offer me a ride, but unfortunately appear to go south. Grant points to 3 big trucks coming from the south and therefor, most definitely go up north. The trucks pull over and the chauffeurs get out with a pile of papers. Once they`re waiting in line I slowly approach them. “Sorry to disturb, but is anyone of you able to take us further north?” I ask them. The short, stocky driver in the middle turns around and briefly observes me with his eyes. Then he takes a quick look at Grant, who is waiting in the corner with the bags. His eyes turn back at me. “Alright then honey.” He mumbles with a brief sigh. He points out a massive parking spot on the other side of the border. “Wait for me there.”
Our new friend, Sergio, appeared to be on his way to Trelew (a place 50 kilometers south of our end destination, Puerto Madryn, which is a full 2 day travel away). After some cookies and good jokes he was willing to take us all the way up there. Sergio was everything you would expect from a stereotype truck driver. A bit rough around the edges. He could tell us everything about those fu&!ing politicians and even more about his di%/ed of a boss. He appeared to be the best teacher when it comes to swear words in Spanish and a knowledgeable man when it comes to tapping of electricity and avoiding taxes. After two hours of driving and cigarette number 20 we pass another couple hitch hiking on the side of the road. “Look more of those crazy folks like you guys.” Sergio points at them and burst out laughing. “I don`t understand you guys call this holiday. Waiting outside in the cold, just to save a couple of pesos. Just travel a month less, but enjoy your time. When I got my money together, I`m going to buy a ticket for me and my sinora to the beach. I`ll park my butt in the sand, with in my left hand a beer and in my right hand a cigarette and I`m not going to move for my whole holiday. You backpackers are all crazy as f*ck.” He takes a last inhale of his cigarette, lowers the window and then throws it outside. He grabs some paperwork from his dashboard and starts scanning through it while he steers the truck with his knees. Filled with amazement I gaze at him. Sergio noticed and start laughing his typical trucker laugh. “Don`t worry missy, I`m driving this thing since I`m 16 years old. I roll a cigarette, make a Mate (traditional drink in Latino America), I do everything while I`m on the road. We`re not in Europe where we need our beauty sleep every two hours. Everybody over here wants their food fresh and therefor as quickly as possible. For us that means we often need to drop off a load 2,000 kilometer further in 2 days’ time. Then you`ll get very creative behind the steering wheel to keep on driving.” and again he bursts out laughing while lighting up cigarette number 21.
After a long drive of 9 hours we finally arrive in Rio Gallegos. It`s almost 10pm. Sergio parks the truck besides a gas station. “I`m going to sleep here tonight. If you guys are here when I wake up tomorrow, you got yourself a ride to Trelew. If not, you need to find yourself some other crazy fool like me to take you up there.” We thank Sergio for taking us up here and go on the hunt for a place to sleep. After roaming around the dark streets of Rio Gallegos for a bit less than an hour, we finally find a spot. The door is open. A long dark set of stairs lead us up to the second floor. All the doors are closed and there is no reception to be found. “Hello, is anybody there?” Grant shouts around the silent hallways. The door at the end of the hallway slowly opens and a young lad of around 20 years old, sticks his head through. He can barely open his eyes. “What do you want?” he mumbles without any appearance of sympathy. “We`re looking for a bed to sleep for the night. Do you work here?” Grant asks. With a deep sigh the boy walks out of the room, quickly closing the door behind him. “Si, I do. Follow me..” he says. We follow him down the stairs, back on the street where I hand him the money. “Just wait here for a second. I`ll deal with the administration first and prepare the room.” The boy walks around the corner to the backyard of the hostel. We hear him losing his belt and then the zipper of his pants. A big sigh indicates that the `water` we start to here running, is definitely not coming from a tap. “Is he just taking a piss?” Grant asks, and we both cannot help ourselves laughing about this bizarre situation.
We wait and wait, but the boy is not coming back. A lady staying in the room on the side of the street opens our window. “Is he still not coming back?” she asks. “No, he went to the back, but I don`t see him anywhere now.” I shout back to her. “Just walk to the back sweetheart. There is the house of the owner. He`ll help you out.” As a sign of gratitude I lift up my hand.
A little bit insecure I walk up to Grant, who already rang at the door of the owner. We tell him the story and the more we explain, the angrier the look on his face. His wife appears from the kitchen, dressed in a flower patterned skirt. `Jorge, what`s going on honey?’ she asks while drying her hands with a cloak. “Ow always the same shit with that kid!” the boss shouts angry. “Please put down your bags. You can leave them here in the living room. Let`s go and look for that son of a b*tch!” Still in the twilight zone of not having a clue about what is going on, we follow him like two obeying puppy’s.
“This is the door isn`t it?” the boss asks and points at the door where just 15 minutes before the head of our mysterious receptionist had appeared. Before we could even nod our heads, the boss already knocks on the door with such a force that it surprised me his fist didn`t went straight through it. A girl of about 20 years old opens the door and behind her appear the curious faces of another girl and boy of about the same age. “Where is that so-called-friend of yours?!” the boss shouts at the girl. The girl immediately turns red, knowing she is in big trouble, but quickly corrects her facial expression and calmly asks: “What friend?” “That asshole who rents this room from me you fool!” the boss shouts, raising his voice even more than the last time. “Haven`t seen him for days.” The girl says with an admiring confidence for somebody who is clearly lying. “Well missy, if that friend of yours hasn`t been here for days, there is nothing for you here either.” The boss raises his finger and points it to the three teenagers. “I`m gonna close the door now. You guys have 5 minutes to bring that piece of shit over to my place. If not, I`ll invite the police for a movie night on my couch!” pointing at all the security camera`s that are all over the hallway. The girl loses grip on her straight face. The boss smashes the door. “5 minutes, you hear me?! You guys got 5 minutes, not a second more!!” We turn around and before we could even take one step, the door of the tiny little room opens again. As a rabbit out of a musicians head our mysterious friend appears out of the room. “Boss, what`s going on? Why all the fuss?” the boy asks with a false tone of inosines in his voice. Filled with frustration the boss grabs the boy his shoulder. “You know very well what is going on here you little smartass! Give me the money those poor people paid to you!” The boy tries to mumble some excuses, so very quickly realizes there is no way out. With his hand he reaches into his pocket and grabs out the pesos Grant had given to him 15 minutes before. “I warn you, you little piece of shit! This is the last time you hear me? If you don`t pay me that rent before the end of this week I`ll kick you and those useless friends of yours out!” With a calm and friendly wave the boss tells us to come with him, leaving the boy behind with the drops of sweat dripping down his forehead.
It`s still dark when the alarm goes off. We barely had 5 hours of sleep after all the commotion of last night. Luckily the boss had upgraded us to a private room to make up with all that had happened.
We quickly grab our bags and start making our way back to the gas station we had left Sergio the night before. Sergio`s curtains are still closed. Grant goes out to buy us some breakfast and the moment he comes back, Sergio opens his curtains, waving at us to come in the truck. While we make ourselves comfortable for the big trip, Sergio puts a massive gas stove between my legs with a kettle on it to boil up some water for mate and coffee. `You guy’s slept well last night?’ he asks. Grant and I start giggling and tell Sergio the story of what happened last night. “Ow when it comes to money we are all crows over here.” Sergio says shaking his head. Grant and I look at each other in the eye. Luckily we know better, but with this king of the road, there will be no room for discussion.
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