Wednesday, May 15, 2013
It was still dark out when Miguel came knocking on the truck. Time to head out. We drowsily rearrange the contents of the carriage, pull out the makeshift stove from the day before, boil some water, pour the mate herb into the gourd with a little sugar, pour the water, sip, pour, pass, and we were off.
Miguel was obviously hung over so we rode in silence. We pass two tiny towns before Miguel informs us, rather somberly, that Puerto Madryn is a ways off of the highway. His proper Spanish was back so my ears didn't have to bend over backwards, getting lost in translations, stitching meanings to sounds. He said he would drop us of at the junction, and from there we could hike about five kilometers to town center or we could try hitch a ride. When we reached the junction, we hopped off the truck. A little over 12 hours from when we left the Estanga home, we had made it about 700 kilometers. Not bad.
"Mucha suerte y buen viaje! Cuídense, locos!" Miguel yelled as he waved, honking his horn as he drove off, continuing down Ruta Nacional 3.
We crossed the junction from the national highway into a feeder road and began walking. Thumbs coming up as vehicles passed. No one stopped. The road went downhill from the highway, causing cars and trucks to coaster at a speed inconvenient to stopping for hitch-hikers. We didn't mind too much. It was kind of nice to stretch out our legs after being cooped up in a truck for so long. We breathed in the cold air and passed the guitar back and forth, strumming chords into combinations to fit the landscape.
As we round off the main highway, the cliff gave way to the sea. I looked, blankly at first before it registered. This was the first sight of sea my eyes had taken in since leaving the Philippines almost a year ago. Before Buenos Aires, I had always lived by the ocean. Buenos Aires was a port city, but its waters formed a river, with Uruguay looming in the distance. Here, there was only open ocean. It was still early morning and Puerto Madryn was still clinging to a thin, misty fog. I thought of San Francisco, California. It was beautiful.
At the border of the town, there was a check point. There are check points all over Argentina, where officials check to make sure you aren't bringing in anything non-native and highly invasive. Some check points spray vehicles with some sort of pesticide for extra measure. I looked at this check point from a distance, wondering if it was being manned at the moment. Didn't look like it. Vehicles passed without stopping. Good. No problems.
As we got closer, I noticed a uniformed man stepping out onto the sidewalk, taking his post. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest. He looked ready for battle. Fuck, what do I do? My mind started to run, will he shoot me for not having documentation? We got closer. I got more nervous. I take note of my pace. Too fast and he might ask, "What's the rush? Are you a terrorist? Show me your papers!" And I'm fucked. Too slow and he might ask, "Why are you walking so slowly? Bag too heavy? What are you hiding in there, bombs? Show me your papers!" And I'm fucked.
We got close enough for eye-contact but I coolly avoided it by casually looking over the guitar as I non-chalantly slung it over one shoulder.
Fuck, did this look too movie-like? Was this attracting more attention?
We arrived at a distance that required eye-contact so I look in the guard's direction.
My heart stopped.
He was looking away.
Was this a good sign or a bad sign?
He turned his head and made eye contact.
I smiled and gave him a slight nod. He did the same. And I continued to walk past him, trying to keep from running as far away as possible before he realized he could stop me and ask for documents I didn't have. But after a few deep yoga breaths, I found my center and I was able to continue in the same non-chalant pace.
We'd passed a few of these control check-points with Miguel on his truck, but they never seemed to notice us stowed away in the carriage. This was in the broad light of morning and we were clearly foreigners. We were bound to have something not suitable for passage. But nothing. Just a smile and a nod. Maybe it wasn't such an impossible feat after all to try to hitch-hike into Antarctica without a passport.
Then I realized, that was just a city border. The guard was probably still half-asleep. Antarctica might be a bit more complicated.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Let´s take a mini break from the hitch-hiking entries. This is muy importante.
Exactly one year ago, I stepped off a plane and inhaled the good air of Buenos Aires for the very first time. I think I will celebrate by eating an entire tub of dulce de leche with nothing but my hands. Meanwhile, here are some photos of random things I´ve been up to this past year.
Oh, when you´re done, can you Skype me or something and make sure I didn´t slip into a diabetic coma? Muchas gracias!
|Ate choripan for the first time with these lovely folk.|
|Video chats with loved ones from all around the globe.|
|Especially with my silly best pal, Dr. Ireezie. Yes, she is a real doctor. Yes, doctor of medicine.|
|Drank A LOT of mate. Sometimes by a fireplace.|
|Lots of rock climbing.|
|Met these lovely people.|
|Featured on a Buenos Aires street fashion blog, Clereche-Yeca.|
|ASADO!!! A lot of asados.|
|Surprise birthday celebration from some hippie yogis. :D|
|Survived a zombie apocalypse with an Australian, a Swede, and a Colombian.|
|Made imaginary friends.|
|Lived on this floor with my Brazilian <3s|
|Fell in love with these cool cats, Carlos, Hallum, and Chanta.|
|Shared some yoga on a beach.|
|Shared some yoga on some floors.|
|Met an Australian DRAGON.|
|Got a tattoo.|
|Modeled. Photo by Fede Ataide|
|Broke my arm and tried to put it back together with chopsticks and a bandana.|
|Got another tattoo.|
|Did a yoga photo series and video with Celu PH|
|Read poetry under trees.|
|Played with bubbles.|
|Cooked the shit out of shit.|
|Had my Andalucian soul sister pierce my ear. In a bar.|
|Lived and worked in this organic vegan Bhakti Yoga farm.|
|Aforementioned Bhakti Yoga community uses this photo as their default.|
|Met people from all over the world and ate (and drank) with them.|
|A lot of meeting people and a lot of eating (and drinking).|
|Lied down on busy streets because fuck the police.|
|I think this is self-explanatory.|
|Climbed onto Volkswagon vans because sometimes you just want to sit on a van.|
|Went to vegetarian hippie dinners in hidden restaurants.|
|Made a lot of Filipino food. Like this. This is biko. I love biko.|
|Went into CURRY COMAS.|
|Videochats with my dog overseas because I miss his face. :(|
Thursday, May 9, 2013
|View from inside the carriage, Miguel as el Capitan|
"So, what's your name?" The question felt oddly out of place. We had been sitting in his truck, sharing mate, and making small talk for some time already.
He quickly took his eyes off the road to look at me, slightly confused, "What?" He asked.
"What's your name?" I said almost sheepishly, having been forced to repeat the awkward question.
"Miguel," he simply replied.
I sat askew for a moment, waiting for the usual follow-up question, "And you, your name?" Nothing. He said nothing. He just kept on trucking.
"I'm Erick," I finally offered after a sufficiently long awkward moment had passed. Miguel just nodded.
"Lyndon," Lyndon offered from the back seat.
"What did he say?" Miguel asked me.
"That his name is Lyndon."
"Lyndon," Miguel sounded out the syllables as if his mouth had never had to produce such strange sounds.
"Are we still in Buenos Aires Provincia?" I ask. After arriving almost a year ago, I have never left the Province of Buenos Aires. Granted, it's hard to leave, not at all in the poetic sense of not being able to resist the pull of the magical city that is Buenos Aires, or whatever. Rather, it's physically and geographically difficult. It's a huge province, it takes hours of travel in any direction to reach its borders.
"No, this is the province of Entre Rios," Miguel said and I looked out the window with more amazement than the moment before. Nothing changed in terms of landscape, everything still looked the same. It was just the sudden knowledge that I had crossed some invisible border only outlined on maps. Finally, I was outside of Buenos Aires. Suddenly, the trip began to sink in.
After such an awkward start, we quickly learned that Miguel was quite the character. He was born and raised in a villa, a slum on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. He has since moved to another slum outside of Quilmes, a city a few kilometers outside the capital. He's been working as a truck driver for over 20 years, has seven children, and really loves beer.
Once he opened up, Miguel did not stop. He is a man with stories, many of which should not be shared. But, share he did. It also probably didn't help that he would stop every dozen kilometers or so to piss and buy more beer. At one point, Lyndon and I started skulling the beers in an attempt to syphon beer away from Miguel. He was driving a fairly large truck, and we really weren't in the mood to die.
"I wish I didn't leave my parrilla at home," Miguel looked genuinely disappointed. "You see, I normally bring a parrilla so I can grill my own meat. And in case I pick up hitch-hikers, we can have a roadside asado, drink beer and shoot the shit." At the beginning, Miguel's Spanish was proper and very easy to understand. After a few beers, he began to loosen up and the slum Spanish started to creep out and it became increasingly difficult to decipher what he said.
You travel with a full on grill? Where the hell would you even put that? I wanted to ask Miguel, but at this point, nothing he said would have surprised me. He went on to talk about a hitch-hiker he'd picked up recently who was an escaped convict. He outlined, gesture by gesture, in excruciating detail, his reaction to this hitch-hiker's sudden revelation. I had a mini-heart attack everytime his more than slighly enebriated hands left the steering wheel to make a gesture that was apparently crucial to the telling of this tale. The story ended with Miguel dropping off the hitch-hiker less than two kilometers from where he picked us up. Hence the tension when we first hopped on. He was wondering if we were also escaped convicts.
There was also a story involving the sale of cocaine and marijuana. I won't go into further detail. Just know that illegal substances were discussed.
At nightfall, Miguel pulled up into a petrol station in some rickety town that looked like some strange hybrid of an old Western and an old Mexican movie. I kept looking out the window, expecting to see tumbleweed role by, or at least a man named Juan Ramirez in a poncho, leading a donkey. Nada.
We didn't have a tent so Miguel let us sleep in his truck. He had a friend in town who runs a resaurant/bar/inn so he spent the night there. The night was cold. The wind blew hard against the truck, turning every crevice and lip on its steely surface into whistles.