Hitch-hikers guide to Patagonia
Hitch-hiking sounds good; adventurous, free, with locals or other travellers, but popping the cherry is almost as nerve wracking as your first time you know what,… My boyfriend and I decided to spend 2 months doing Patagonia and after speaking to our Chilean friends they convinced us to go down the Chilean side rather than the much quicker but flat, dry, desolate side of their rivals Argentina.
Looking at it on a map didn’t totally make sense seeing that Chile pretty much looked like a bunch of breadcrumbs down the bottom. How does one cross that you may ask as I did… This plan of theirs involved horses, boats, 4wd’s, hiking and hitch-hiking. Well we did come here for an adventure…
Busting down the Carraterra highway
Santiago- Pucon 12 hours $28 (amazing volcano climb here)
Pucon- Bariloche 10 hours $30 (chocolate shops everywhere)
Bariloche- El Bolson 1.5 hours $6 (hippy town with own El Bolson beer range)
El Bolson- Futaleufu via Esquel 5 hours $12 (some of the best white water rafting)
Futaleufu- Coyhaique 9 hours (hitchiked this leg)
Coyhaique- Cochrane 4 hours $30 (nothing)
Cochrane- Villa O’higgins 4 hours $30 (tiny tiny quaint town)
See map on the right for how we did it for $25 by government boat, 22km of walking in the mud and rain, sleeping in a barn, another boat followed by a 2 hour drive to El Chalten. It was totally worth it.
So our friends who had just come back from doing the same trip loaded us up with a map, packs, a tent, cooking stove, wet weather gear, and a list of Spanish sentences to help us hitch a ride, and pushed us out the door.
We got all the way down to Futaleufu via Pucon before we had to brave the side of the road with our thumbs out. We walked out to the highway, looked left, looked right and looked at each other as the words ‘low season’ slowly started to sink in. Buses only go once a week and are pretty expensive so with nothing else to do, we starting walking south. Eventually we hit a petrol station which was as good as a bus station in our eyes at that point… only thing was that there was a huge group of Israeli travellers there as well who had the same idea as us and were pouncing on every car that drove in.
So what to do in yet another long awkward travel moment…eat. We got out the cooking stove and made some delicious cheese sandwiches. We probably had to wait 2 hours all up before our prince charming finally arrived on his horse, only it was two Chilean guys in a lorry truck. It was actually one of the Israeli girls that suggested it to us; “They’re going south.” Confused, I motion to her that there are two of us and that we won’t fit in the cabin with them… that’s when I realized she meant in the back. For no better option and the excitement the offer held it only took one look at each other before we were up in the back of a dark, huge container, covered in a green tarp and surrounded by planks of wood.
9 hours later we pulled in at our destination Coiaque, a couple of days ahead of schedule and very much on the edge of sanity. You wouldn’t believe the places in your mind you go when you’re staring at a green roof, listening to music and inhaling dust. Towards the end we were getting so desperate for something to do we even thought about having sex in the back there, that was when the truck pulled over and the back door swung open. That would have been awkward.
We said our goodbyes and managed to thank these strangers who probably had no idea what that lift meant to us… and did to us. I’ve never been so happy to be outside in the fresh air. We ditched our tent, found a local guesthouse and checked into the nicest room they had… which was pretty much their spare room with a shoebox tv in the corner but to us it was luxury. BBC has never been so good.