Two days in the life of a hitchhiker.
03 April 2012 | Colombia, Santa Marta
I´m standing next to the road just outside an Andean village in Venezuela, at roughly 2000 meters altitude. A car passes and I stick out my thumb. I think to myself: "should I be doing this?". After all, this is Venezuela, infamous among travelers for its insecurity. This village breathes tranquility though. Blue skies, a comfortable temperature and friendly people. The car passes without stopping. This is the first hitchhiking I'm trying in this country. Will hitchhiking even work here? "Of course it will, stupid. If it works everywhere you've been so far it will certainly work here", is what I think to myself in response of my momentary doubts.
About five minutes later a pick up truck pulls over, and the driver prepares a place for me to sit in the open area in the back. I'm on my way again, and it feels wonderful! The next two hours or so the wind is blowing in my face as the fields of the high Paramo pass by me. Walking through the village where the man let me out I drink some water. It's Sunday, and an old man stops to shake my hand and wish me well on my journey.
With different cars the road winds up, all the way to the 4000 meter pass over the mountain ridge before it descends down to the plains around Lake Maracaibo. I enjoy the dry but very cheap and surprisingly tasty bread I found in a local shop in the village that morning. I eat little, but don't feel the hunger on moments like these when the rush of hitchhiking through a strange country has taken me over.
Up on the pass it is cold and windy. Nothing that a good local brew doesn't fix though. Small as the cup is, standing in my t-shirt I don't feel even the slightest bit cold as the couple who have just given me this taste of local culture hold their own cups up for a toast. I thank them multiple times, say goodbye, and take my preferred position next to the road. I'm not doubting anymore now. I'm just looking to the next car, wondering if it is driven by the next person daring enough to set aside their fear of strangers and have a little adventure.
This day of travel ends early, as the couple in the car that brought me to the city of Valera insists on paying a hotel room for me. I try to object, but to no avail, as I see them get back into the car smiling. These sneaky Venezuelans, they help you more than you ever expected before you have the time to realize it!
I sit, grinning to myself, next to the Colombian truck driver that has just agreed to take me two hours down the road. Amazed and surprized I ask myself: "how do these things just keep happening?". That morning I woke up in the modest house of Lorena and her family, who were very happy to host a foreigner, picked up from the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. Bringing me to the edge of the city on the back of two motorcycle taxis, drawing looks from everyone both because foreigners are a rare sight here and because me and my backpack must be at least three times the size of my driver, Lorena proves to be a very skilled talker. The first trucker standing on the side of the road there to take a short break agrees to take me along upon her request. I thank her profusely, embrace, and get in the truck. On the way again.
Through the mountains I end up on the scorching hot plains when the truck driver announces this is as far as he is going in my direction. It's mid-day, and shadow is hard to get by. My backpack, heavy from all the stuff I still have with me from the boat trip across the Atlantic Ocean, cuts into my slowly burning shoulders. The place is definitely not optimal, as taxis constantly stop for me thinking I want to go to the bus station. I ask a trucker at the huge gas station, but he is on the phone and irritatedly shakes his head at me. "Could've seen that coming," I tell myself, "should have waited until he was done". Everyone here seems either local or going the other way.
Considering the heat, the taxis, and the direction of most traffic, I decide to start walking on the side of the road with some trees and shadow in the direction where the locals seem to not be headed in an attempt to lose the taxis. I've been told the buses stop further down that road as well. My plan is to just to check it out and decide there whether today is not my lucky day or if I still want to try. "In the end," I think to cheer myself up a bit, "something unexpected will always come up". I've made it a staggering 50 meters down the road walking before the trucker that was on the phone before drives past and motions for me to hop on. I run after the truck, and as it comes to a stop I climb up into the cabin. He's not going all the way to Santa Marta, but he is getting pretty close and agrees to drop me where he will spend the night.
It's almost dark when we get to that point though, and I decide to try putting out my thumb for about half an hour before night falls. I'm trying to calculate how much a bus will cost, and a room in a hostel in Santa Marta while trying to catch the attention of oncoming traffic. I'm surprised he can still see me with the amount of daylight remaining when a huge truck pulls over. We drive to Santa Marta as night falls, stopping for food and drinks at times and I feel almost local, getting out of the truck and sitting at the road side plastic chairs under the "restaurant" sign, seeing normal local life pass by.
Now, still in Santa Marta, I'm about to take a plane to the USA in two days. I will fly into Las Vegas, a fact that makes me laugh everytime I think of it. Las Vegas, which does not specifically appeal to me in itself, is very close to the national parks of Utah and Colorado, and I will try to hitchhike my way around there before heading for the Californian coast and up to Vancouver. I hope I manage to squeeze in an update between the adventures! I imagine that internet will be fast enough there to upload some photos too. Ciao!
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Je kunt nu ook Smileys gebruiken. Via de toolbar, toetsenbord of door eerst : te typen en dan een woord bijvoorbeeld :smiley