Hitch hiking, bus marathons, red wine and sunshine

10 Mar

Hey folks,

Apologises, hapworkingtheworld seems to have been on holiday the past couple of weeks and will probably be on holiday for the following couple as well. I’ll fill you in on what I have been up to since pooing and spewing in Torres Del Paine, and what I’m going to be doing in the coming weeks.

Well, after Torres Del Paine I chilled out in Puerto Natales, Chile nursing my stomach back to semi regularity with pumpkin and ginger soup. After 3 days of this and weaning myself off the Imodium I finally had the confidence to fart again!

With my new found confidence I wanted to get the hell out of cold and windy Patagonia (the southern region of Argentina and Chile), as beautiful as it was I wanted warmer weather, where? I didn’t care, just as long as I didn’t have to wear a thermal and a woollen hat.

I headed to the round-a-bout just out of town where the traffic is just starting to apply to the accelerator for the open road to the Argentine border an hour away. I couldn’t have asked for a better hitch-hiking spot. Within 10 minutes I was picked up by a local lady. All was going well for my hitch-hiking mission to my sunny oasis………..that was until………………….

10km out of town my ride pulls over to the side of the open road and tells me that her house is down the side road and wishes me luck for my journey north. You can imagine my joy, 10km before I was in the perfect hitchhiking position, the start of the open road and close enough to town that I could still walk back if the weather packed in or if I had no luck. NOW, I was on the side of the road with cars and trucks passing at 100km/hr with no real space to pull over. Oh yeah, did I mention that there were menacing dark Patagonian storm clouds in the not too far off distance. Using all my breathing exercises and positive thinking I was trying to be thankful for the lady picking me up, but I just couldn’t help but thinking she had been hit with the dumb stick a few too many times. Seriously, why the heck would a guy hitch hiking with his big pack want a ride only 10km down the road to the middle of nowhere! God bless her for picking me up.

As mothers do, I was reprimanded for my bad thoughts and within 10 minutes Mother Nature had talked with her contact in the Patagonian wind department and got him to fast forward those storm clouds right to where I was!

I tell you what, there’s nothing like standing on the side of the road in Chile in a downpour with your thumb out and trucks passing you at 100km/hr with no real hope of catching a ride to make you realise what you really want to do. All of a sudden that bare bones, dim hostel that I had wanted to get out of seemed rather appealing and not to mention dry. At that point the red wine and sunshine of Mendoza, a place I had always wanted to visit seemed a lot more appealing than hitchhiking in the rain.

I crossed the road, and hitched a ride with a car pulling out of the dirt side road that my lady had taken an hour or two before. I have never been happier to hop into a car that has pieces of rope hanging out of the doors where door handles are usually located.

Once back in Puerto Natales, I went and booked the first bus out of town to Argentina’s famed wine region, Mendoza. For those of you that are not familiar with the South American geography, Mendoza is about 10 cm away from Puerto Natales on my guidebook map. In reality that 10cm translates into an 8 hour bus ride over the border to Rio Gallegos, Argentina (via Punto Arenas), a 6 hour stopover in the bus station and then a 52 hour direct bus ride to Mendoza!

After my 66 hour bus marathon I arrived in sunny Mendoza! I spent one day just relaxing wandering around the city that felt to me a little bit like Buenos Aires younger sister, smaller but still with the same flashy European first world appearance.

The next day I met a random mix or Americans and English who were up for renting bikes and touring the regions wineries. As can be expected from mixing red wine and bikes the day consisted of one member having his bike hit by a truck and having to be picked up by the bike shop owner and me leading the group 7km in the wrong direction and having to retrace our steps. The red wine consumption carried on into the night as we then sampled the Mendoza night life.

The next day with my Mendoza souvenir, a headache that pounded to the beat of UB40’s famous lyrics “red red wine” I hopped on a 28 hour bus to the Argentinian/Paraguayan border. I arrived at midnight and stayed in a bus station hotel that had all the flare and comforts of what you would expect from a South American border town bus station hotel, complimentary cockroaches thrown in for guests’ enjoyment.

In the morning with relative ease (3 hours wait and US$45 later) I gained my Paraguayan tourist visa from the Paraguayan consulate. I then jumped into a rickety bus and headed to the Paraguayan border with the other Paraguayans that had various sized cartons of cheap Argentinean goods that they were taking back over the border, most notably cheap boxed red wine that litters the gutters of the urban slums.

As I struggled to fit through the beaten up bus door with my oversized pack laden with my tent and sleeping mat I was warmed, not only by the humid Paraguayan air but by the relaxed chaos that is Paraguay. The rubbish littered dirt road, the old men sitting on stools in the shade drinking tereré selling everything that you don’t want from local football team banners to tacky cell phone holders, to the truck driver resting in his hammock slung from the side of his truck. It was a world away from the tourist packed shiny streets of Mendoza, it felt good to be back in Paraguay.

The next evening I was waiting at Asuncion airport for Mandy who had spent the last 6 weeks back in Colorado where she had chaperoned a group of Paraguayan exchange students. It felt good to be back at the airport where nearly 4 months ago I had said good bye to Mandy 3 weeks before her 30th birthday as I chased a small hope of finding work on an Antarctic cruise ship leaving from the port of Ushuaia at the end of the world.

As hard as it is saying good bye to a loved one and not knowing if you’re going to be seeing each other in 1 month or 5 months, or which country you’re going to be seeing each other, or knowing if my crazy obsession with working in Antarctic is going to end in tears, frustration and a deflated dream. It is golden to be reunited and the flame burning brighter better than before as you have both achieved and done the things that have been eating away at your minds for awhile, i.e. me working in Antarctica and Mandy getting to Brazil, studying Portuguese and going back and seeing her family and friends in the US.

In short our 10 days in Paraguay was spent chilling out at a friend’s country house by the pool, cat sitting for another friend at her downtown apartment and spending time with the friends that had made us feel so at home for the Paraguayan chapter.

As I write this I’m sitting at a smoky street side café in Buenos Aires watching the hustle and bustle of this great city pass by. At 2am tomorrow morning we are catching a flight back to Auckland where we will be for nearly a month. Really looking forward to it, a little family reunion, a little roadie down the South Island and a few talks at schools. Then from NZ it’s off to Melbourne, Australia to start a new chapter. I could tell you my plans for the Australian chapter and the following Africa chapter, but that’s going to require a whole new post. Let me just say that my year in Melbourne is going to be spent raising funds for my African chapter, a chapter that is going to finish my goal with a bang! Expect something totally different from my previous chapters, think in terms of EXPEDITION.

4 Responses to “Hitch hiking, bus marathons, red wine and sunshine”

  1. Jo at 6:08 pm #

    Safe travels to the home land Hap. I hope you and Mandy have a brilliant time and I look forward to the next chapter….mostly cos the idea of Africa in a year appeals and may well require a long overdue rendevouz. Enjoy x

    • Hap at 9:32 am #

      Cheers Jo,

      Arrived yesterday in Aucks, blue skies and sunshine and an awesome lunch with family outside in a pub close to Eden park where all the cricket fans were making there way to the cricket.

      Africa rendenvous sounds gold, maybe even a little bit of working the world in Africa together, who knows, Africa’s our oyster.

      Hope all is good with you.

      NBL Hap

  2. Jo at 3:49 pm #

    Perhaps Africa could be the Pearl in the crown.

    So pleased your enjoying the good times with the good family – if you see Jarnia again give her a squeeze for me!

    Dusting off the cobwebs is what spring is about and it seems I want to dust more than usual – watch this space…


    • Hap at 1:38 pm #

      will do, My god we have a beautiful country, just finished a roadie down to wanaka – GOLD

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