I can't believe I've hitchhiked. Two friends and I took a 12-hour bus ride to the south of Chile. Hitchhiking was not part of the plan but one of my friends was an expert at it. Her parents have picked up hitchhikers since she was a little girl. She even hitchhiked to work on a regular basis.
Coming from NYC, I've learned to avoid eye contacts and go the other way when a stranger starts to ask questions. Putting myself in a complete stranger's car and relying on them to take me to my destination was out of my comfort zone.
Day 1: Ancud and Castro, Chiloé
Our first stop: Curanto in Ancud, Chiloé. I finally tried one of the traditional dishes in Chile since some of my students thought I was being a hater (Read: 4 Low-key Restaurants in Santiago, Chile that Don't Suck).
The verdict: I like the idea of curanto. All the seafood, potatoes, and meat placed inside a hole in the ground with heated stones. I give a ten for the fresh ingredients but a five for taste. It lacked flavor (again, not being a hater).
Ok! With food in our bellies, we were ready. My friends were but I felt so nervous because people stared at us already. We were two tall Europeans and an Asian (me). I didn't like to stick out even more.
To put my thumb up and make eye contact with the drivers, hoping they would stop for us, was mortifying. But with a little nudge, I raised my thumb and ignored the rejections and the stares. A few minutes later, a nice grandpa stopped and took us half way.
Then, we jumped into another pickup truck to reach to our final destination. Phew! It wasn't that bad. Actually, it was fun. I got a thrill from the car slowing down and running to the car with our bags to ask where the driver was headed.
Castro, Chiloé. The Churches of Chiloé are designated UNESCO sites. This one church seemed like it got a new paint job. The yellow was a lot but the wood inside was beautiful.
From Castro, we were on the side of the road to hitch a ride back to our hostel in Ancud. We were a little nervous because the sun was starting to set. I definitely didn't want to hitchhike in the dark. It took us two rides.
In the second one, a dad with his five years old son dropped us off. We were lucky because we were in a clean and warm car instead of being in the back of an open truck at night. Plus, the kid was cool.
Day 2: Puerto Varas
We had no luck that morning. We waited at a bus stop and there were too many people. It didn't help that it was 10AM on a Sunday. Some drivers waved and there were jerks who catcalled. It wasn't a pretty sight. After a while, we got tired and caught the bus instead.
My favorite part of the trip! We stumbled upon a Fiesta Costumbrista. It couldn't get more Chilean than this. They were selling the usual - meat on sticks, terremoto, empanadas, and lots of cakes. We went straight to the dance floor and shook to cumbia.
The sun was setting, the people were smiling, and dirt was everywhere. It was perfect!
Day 3: Puyehue
We took a break from hitchhiking and got on a bus to Puyehue. I didn't like that our trip was mostly spent on a bus. So, it felt refreshing to be near water.
Our view for hours. Took a break and enjoyed the greens and blues.
Almost there. Our trip won't be complete without a final hitchhike. We were exhausted and just sat on the ground with our thumbs up. Surprisingly, we got a ride quickly.
They were a couple meeting for the first time in ten years. He is Mexican working in Paris. She lives in Puerto Varas. They met over Napster. Remember Napster? I'm not sure how people could meet each other on a music site. But, they did! Ten years later, they were on their first date. It felt nice to be randomly part of it.
They dropped us at a bus station, just in case we couldn't get a ride fast enough. A pick-up truck stopped and we sat in the back. Seeing the view as we were driving away felt like I was watching a movie on rewind.
Then, our truck got stopped by the cops. We were nervous because one of my friends didn't have any ID on her (long story). The cop's expression, to see three girls in the back of a dirty truck, was priceless! He was so confused. We couldn't help it and started cracking up. And, he couldn't help it and started laughing too. We had to explain that we were just hitchhiking. #hacerdedo
It was these small moments that reminded me why I love traveling so much.
- I was so inspired to see a new form of traveling. Now, I want to hitchhike around Eastern Europe with a friend. Any takers?
- Not one woman picked us up.
- I have a new respect for hitchhikers and will consider picking one up (maybe) in the future.
- There were fewer creeps than I've thought. Some might be even too trusting. One driver left his keys in while he ran into the store. Another driver also left his keys while he took his son to pee. We aren't crazy but we could have been. We could have driven away with their car. But then again, they could have been crazy too. We were simply banking on the goodness of humanity.
- Be flexible. Chill out. Sometimes, it will take a long time to get a ride or not at all. Be willing to change plans and enjoy the ride.
- Be safe. I was with two other friends. I won't attempt this on my own and don't recommend it.
- Use common sense and have fun!