Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hitchiking Journeyman

I stayed at Feli's amazing stately home for two nights, recovering.  His parents spoke no english, but prepared three delicious meat-filled meals a day for me, and I had a wash.  As I was ill but still had to get my bike, Feli and I weighed the options.  1.  Hire a car, drive to Puyuhuapi, get bike, drive back.  Not too expensive, but unadventurous.  2.  Hitch all the way.  Maybe too much for a man with what I suspected was Guardia.  3.  Get bus company to pick up bike and deliver it to closer village.  Deal.  We boneheadedly arranged for that same bus company that had so scarred my previous week to drop the bike off in Villa Santa Lucia, about 100km closer.  12000 Chilean peso via Western Union.  Ouch.  Feli took me to the border where I managed to rope three lifts to Santa Lucia.  Made good time.  Bus with my bike on it due at 4:00pm.  I waited, anxious.  The bus arrived late, and to my incredible, really terrifying fury, the bike was not on it.  It was still in Puyuhuapi, and to top it all off,  it was the same bus driver, that wretch from earlier, and he told me he knew nothing of the deal, and even if he did, he wouldn't have taken the bike on his bus anyway.

I tried to control my fury, and I showed him the Western Union reciept and recieved a shrug in return.  I had to accept the fact that I was hitching to Puyuhuapi and had lost another $30.  Converse to my seeming current luck run, I found my ancient old favourite black Quantas diary was back to black.  I camped near the town in a beautiful campsite with some yanks in it.  Nice place but no tent, so I was a little cold.  Americans offered to take me to Puyuhuapi in the morning.  I would have kept hitching that day, as it was still early, if I'd have known they would reneg.

The Americans and I, in the morning, drove to La Junta, a small town halfway there.  For some reason the Americans decided not to keep going to Puyuhuapi.  I was stuck there.  Wished they had told me this yesterday.  On the plus side, I met up with Belarus and Dan cycling north, I had no idea they were so far behind me.  In La Junta, I tried hitching for three hours.  Nothing, no-one.  Finally a bus stops for me.  No way.  Its him.  Are there no other bus drivers in Chile?

He somehow find a little compassion and takes me on the bus to Puyuhuapi.  Anyway now I was finally in Puyuhuapi.  It took another three hours for me to be reunited with my bike as it was in the post office which was unreasonably shut, perhaps for siesta.  Getting dark, nowhere to stay.  Must get out of here.  I got to the outskirts of town and put out my thumb.  Minutes later two other hitchhikers appeared and stood in front of me!  Now thats just rude.  I walked over to berate them.  Didn't have to, as they turned out to be pleasant company.  Israeli guy, can't remember name and a german girl, Liza.  Had a good laugh con the Israeli, concerning the fact he was traveling alone rather than in a group of seven.  We were picked up by a truck hours later and were able to ride in the back of it, bike and all.  It was a great ride, talking world issues with the Israeli while the sun set over the mountains.

In La Junta (again) we were dropped off in the dark.  We found a hostel type of place to stay for the night.  I had some carne empanadas for dinner while poor Liza had nothing as she was vego and couldn't find anything without meat in it.  Thats too bad.  Next morning we snagged a cheap bus before sunrise.  Israeli stayed to sleep in and take a later bus.  Liza and myself had to swap buses in a village called Santa Lucia.  Apparently the b us would be in one hour, but six later we were still waiting.  Boredom.  Finished my only book.  No mp3 player batteries.  Population 96.  Damn Chile and its unholy unreliable everything.  It is reliable at being unreliable.  Had a few instant-coffees, four helados and much pan.  We cried with joy when we spotted the approaching dust cloud of a bus.  Still hadn't made it the whole way back, they bus left us at the border town of Futaleufu.

Waiting in Futa, I met a group of English lads cruising around South America in an old Landcruiser.  It never fails to make me happy chatting with the Brits.  They have something and their sense of humour that I really connect with.  The final ride of my crude, unwanted bicycle recovery mission left us at Esquel after many misunderstandings, mishaps, miscommunications, mistakes and factors building up to the possibility of misanthropy.  But I was 'home'!  I was in Argentina!  Liza seemed to have had a singular consciousness shift as we passed the border and was becoming quite a negative force in my new happy-Technicolor-Argentine world, so I left her for dust in an Esquel internet cafe.  Rather than grind my way down the road seven k's I decided to stay for one night in a 'hostel' of sorts in town.  It was a great time, really good vibe there and cheap. at only 23 pesos a night.  I stocked up on food, ready to pick up my velocipede at Feli's and hit the road straight away, as I expected him to be away traveling, meaning I couldn't stay there.  When I rocked up to collect my stuff, however, there he was.  Looked flustered.  Anxious, nervous.  Reason being, there was a serious bushfire nearby that was threatening his family home.  We fixed his motorcycle and he went off to check on the fire.  By nightfall it was under control, Feli relaxed, and I sorted out my kit for the rest of the day.  Everything was back on track in sorts, I felt a huge weight lifted from my aching shoulders.  However this mishap had made a sizeable dent in my budget and taken two weeks more out of my coffers.  I still had not fully recovered from my sickness also, which meant generally lower levels of energy.  Of course, in hindsight, looking back on this whole loathsome episode, I have strangely good memories.