The Last Stretch To Paradise
After an enlightening night in the gas station in a town we didn’t know the name of and a breakfast of half a chocolate bar and grapefruit flavored gaseosa, Maxi and I gathered all of our fully charged electronics and trudged to the entrance waving chau to the night shift gas station attendant. Even though we didn’t speak I feel like we bonded.
I felt like a total vagrant slugging out from the gas station still wearing my pajama pants, my greasy hair jammed haphazardly into a sloppy bun behind me. I dragged my feet after Max. We crossed the street, walked a block to the turn pike and let our backpacks crash to the ground underneath a tree on the side of the road–ready to start the next leg of the journey! I made a sign from the only weathered looking piece of cardboard I could find. Trying to make it pretty and friendly, I drew a peace sign…but kind of mixed it up in my fatigue with a Mercedez-Benz logo. Hmmm capitalism vs. peace and love.
I didn’t know which was which and Maxi wasn’t sure either. If I accidentally put a Mercedes-Benz sign on my hitchhiking sign would that seem presumptuous? Like we were looking for a super sly ride or something? While my exhausted brain was pondering this, a man passed and told me that I had left my extra set of shoes at the gas station. Yep. I was officially beat. I ran to get my shoes; the employees had switched shifts but the night lady was still there and she wished us luck as she handed them to me with a smile. Everyone was so nice.
When I got back to Maxi I had hardly torn off the peace sign/Mercedes-Benz cardboard creation and taken out the guitar to practice my new skills when a car pulled up offering us a ride. The man was wearing a blue uniform that looked like it would be miserable when the midday heat inevitably arrived. He told us his name was Adrian and that he worked in factory in a suburb close to Carlos Paz. He had to be to work at 8 AM so he didn’t have time to bring us all the way but he’d take us as far as another turn pike where everyone would be destined for Carlos Paz. We talked about his job, his family (three daughters and a wife), his dog (a big fluffy Golden Retriever named Guver), and the co-op residencias that lined the highway. They looked surreal—so many of these plain-colored cement walls with tiny windows strategically placed to fit the most possible into the space they occupied. It reminded me of a game of Rush Hour but with houses instead of cars. To be honest, I wasn’t even quite sure what a co-op was until I asked Adrian. He explained to us that it was very hard to make a living working in the many factories that surrounded Cordoba, so families built their houses attached to each other and shared utility bills.
^^This is not my picture, it’s a google image search result for co-op housing but is really similar to the type of buildings we saw outside Cordoba Capital. The ones I saw were the colors from an Easter palette and looked like a giant cement labyrinth they were so tightly arranged.
Adrian had luckily been able to move his family outside Cordoba capital to a much nicer suburb with their own house and even a yard for Guver. The family would pass their vacation times in Cuesta Blanca (Maxi and I’s destination) in a couple of weeks and he assured us that it was hermoso (beautiful.)
As we got caught up talking I realized twenty minutes had passed and it was ten till eight! I told him this and offered to have him drop us off on the side of the road so he could get to work on time. He politely declined and said he had decided to take us all the way to Carlos Paz, a total of 30 more km out of his way!!! Maxi and I were incredibly grateful and it only doubled my consternation as to how much luck with hitchhiking we were having. Although Max had told me time and time again that hitchhiking was always this way because the people who pick you up have either done the same thing at some point in their lives or were genuinely interested to talk to and help you, I still struggled to believe it. I had the hardest time seeing why people would do something so…nice without anything in return (or at least that was how my Statian brain analyzed it.)
The factory Adrian worked in transformed raw materials into parts for cement and metal bridges and I’m sure he wasn’t too eager to arrive to work on time, but it still boggled my mind that he would arrive nearly 30 minutes late to work to bring two dirty, stinky, foreigners with tacky accents that far out of his way. As we said goodbye, Adrian gave us his phone number and email address in case we ever needed anything or just wanted to keep him posted as to our whereabouts.
My first priority when we got out of the car on the outskirts of Carlos Paz was a bathroom; second was food. Both were urgent matters and we set off. It felt like we had walked 30 blocks before I finally found a place to go, and Maxi was more preoccupied with food so by the time we found a supermarket we were both exhausted and cranky. That’s putting it lightly. We asked around for which bus would take us to Cuesta Blanca and we never got a clear answer. There were fifteen different kinds of “white ones” so how were we supposed to know which ones to flag down??? The only fail-safe solution was all of them. Luckily the drivers who had to pull over didn’t mind too much, but between their Cordobes accent and the street noise we didn’t get much more of a detailed description of the right bus out of them. After three or four busses passed I was officially in a grumpy mood and the closest available scapegoat was Maxi. I slumped onto the bus bench with my scowl for company. Commence making sure Max knew how unhappy I was. Looking back, he was really surprisingly tolerant of my random tantrums throughout our time traveling together.
Sometimes hitchhiking is not the most comfortable method of traveling. It is rewarding in that you get an inside look into the culture, have interesting conversations with even more interesting people, and it’s generally much more comfortable (and warmer!) than the big double decker busses. Long, hot hours waiting in the sun, lack of sleep, and being on someone else’s time clock can often abrade nerves and fuel conflicts though. Maxi and I did a pretty excellent job considering he was used to traveling alone and I’m a bit of a diva sometimes (cough cough.) But all jest aside, thanks for putting up with me Max, and sorry I was a drag to travel with on occasion…
When the right bus finally passed and we managed to cram all of our things into one seat (an admirable feat) we settled in for the hour bus ride to Cuesta Blanca. The paved roads turned to dirt, the houses to trees, and my state of consciousness to OFF. When Maxi woke me up I dizzily stumbled off the bus with all my things–disoriented and craving sleep but in a much better mood. Ah, I remembered this place. I took a deep breath of clean, crisp, sierra air. The landscape and the climate reminded me so much of my Colorado home ❤
We walked up a hill and crossed a bridge to “town.” A boy who looked about eight years old passed us on an ATV with three other kids on the back in a tangle of limbs kicking up a cloud of dust in his wake.
^^This is not a picture of the 8-year-old boy but one I took my first time around in Cuesta Blanca in August last semester. It is not an uncommon scene.
We looked around at where we were. It really was beautiful. It was really quiet (once the underage driver was gone.) It was really rural. It was perfect. 🙂
There were two one-aisle grocery stores on opposite sides of the only street. We conquered this tough decision in a matter of hunger-fueled seconds and bought bread, tomato, mayonnaise and palta (avocado.) Little did we know that this (sans the luxury of the mayo) would become a staple diet for us throughout Cordoba, Tucuman, Salta, and Jujuy. We enjoyed every bite though. It was picture perfect as the sun caressed our toes lounging on the beach listening to the calm river water wandering away from us.
This is making me hungry…I’m going to go eat something. Thanks for reading!
Posted on March 12, 2013, in Argentina Part I, Summer Hitchhiking Adventure!, Travel and Study and tagged adventure, Argentina, Carlos Paz, Cordoba, Cuesta Blanca, Hitchhiking, Study Abroad, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.