Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hitch-hiking from Puerto Madryn to Rio Gallegos

Leaving our lovely couch host, Dr Yamila in Puerto Madryn, we headed off south of Argentina.

Our target is a town named Rio Gallegos. It's a small town of 90,000 population (as told by LP) with some of the continent’s best fly-fishing nearby and 'where most travelers stop here just long enough to catch the next bus to El Calafate, Puerto Natales or Ushuaia.'

By bus from Puerto Madryn to Rio Gallegos is around 16 hours ride of over 1000km and about Ar$480-528 (around HKD1000 each).

We heard a lot about how easy it is to hitchhike in Patagonia, so we decided to try our luck.

We met a guy in a hostel of Puerto Madryn that hitchhiked his way from Ushuaia in 3 days; while another greengo discussed loudly about his plan of hitchhiking from Ushuaia to Chile on the bus from La Plata to Patagonia.

Yamila drove us to a roundabout on the edge of town on Route 3 and bid us farewell. In merely thirty minutes, a kind truck driver stopped and picked us up for 54km to Trelew and stopped us at a gas station.

From there we waited almost 2 hours before we got another kind truck driver, Carlos, taking us almost 300km to Comodoro Rivadavia. It was a 4 hours ride and he asked me to sleep in the bunk rather than dosing off in the centre without seatbelt.

The patagonia highway was flat, long and rather boring. The road was nicely paved in the middle of some neverending plateau, with small dry bushes, no trees and occasionally some running ostrid, rabbit, sheep and qwanako. Everything was flat, even the mountains.

As there was no light, and the land is so flat, the starry night is amazing. Carlos stopped the car and let us enjoy the sky filled with stars, while he took a leak. The galaxy is just above us and we don't need to look up to see stars! They are all in front of you. In Hong Kong, this is impossible.

The wind was getting stronger at this point, when the sun was gone and we started to get the feel of the coldness of Patagonia.

We arrived a gas station at around 9:30pm. The kind-hearted driver was concerned where we stay for the night, as he said most truck drivers would rest at night and head off around 7am again.

We hold the whiteboard 'Ruta 3 o Rio Gallegos' for another 1-2 hours and thought we don't have much luck for the night. Hence, we found some deserted location at the back of the gas station, behind 2 trees and set up our tent for the night. It was so windy all night but we managed to get some rest.

The next day, waking at 6am, we packed and parked ourselves at the gas station cafe. With toilet to refresh, heater for warmth, microwave for making rice as breakfast and buying a relatively expensive cafe con leche (Ar$12), we stayed until the sky lightened up.

Comodoro Rivadavia and its proximity has numerous patrol plant and early morning at the gas station are vans after vans of workers heading to work in the oil fields stopping to get some breakfast or lunch.

We stood outside the gas station with our thumbs up. It was until almost 9:30am that a van which had finished sending workers to Oil field picked us up for 100km to a town named, Caleta Olivia, where the driver, Daniel George, would rest at home and drive for another 3 rides again later in the day.

Daniel stopped us on Route 3, outside town. Apart from oil fields, road under construction, strong wind, blowing sand and birds, there were only cars that went back to town through the roundabout or trash trucks picking carton boxes to the recycle garage nearby.

We had some left over empanadas that I made in Yamila's lovely home to change our luck. Right after our short lunch, we got picked up by a 4x4 driver, who took us to a gas station in Tres Corros.

Apart from the flat plain, straight paces road, the only stopovers are the gas stations, with small shop, cafe and hotels. Otherwise, there is almost nothing between towns.

We met another 4x4 with two tourist, who looked like Germans, with a driver. We tried asking for a lift and found that they are hitchhikers too and also heading Rio Gallegos. They said their car is full and no more room.

Well, so far we have reached half of our way, although we need to wait some 2 hours at every point on the second day. We have confidence that if we are lucky, only another one or two more cars, we could reach Rio Gallegos on the same night.

We found some disposed box and write bigger letters of our destination and hold with our thumbs up for another 2 hours.

Another petrol plant staff van got us and took us almost 140km to Caleta Olivia.

We waited there and met those German hitchhikers again at the gas station. They waved again and we bid farewell with jealousy in our eyes.

We managed to meet 2 other trucks at the gas station heading for Rio Gallegos, however, both are full, with companion next to the drivers.

We waited for another hour and to our amazement, a 4x4 stopped some distance ahead. We were not sure if it meant to take us or it only stopped for checking out the map. Adley ran to the car and we are really lucky to found that Luis, the driver do welcome some companion, speak some English and was heading to the same town!

It was a long 4-5 hours drive and it's the first time for Luis in Rio Gallegos. But he got GPS and was greeted by some people from work when he reached town.

Luis owned an engineering consultancy and was working with oil company on pipes. The company had arranged him a room and he brought us there as well. But Ar$250 for a double room was way out of our budget, compared to the camp site of Ar$10 each mentioned by LP. He wished to take us there but his car with pipe and machines forbid him to drive too far around town, so we thanked him and went to the camp site by walking. His local contacts was astonished by our idea of camping in such cold weather and also suggested us to take a taxi, while there is no bus available.

We walked to the campsite as told by Lonely Planet and found that they only offer football field but not hospitality at this season.

We went to a small restaurant for dinner and they only offer chicken with vegetables of Ar$50 per person. We shared one and the owners seeing how cost saving we were, offered us an extra warm vegetable soup, bread and a free 500ml Sprite.

"greeted" by dog while finding the hostel
With our belly filled and after some more turns in the quite, windy town, we arrived another cheap hostel suggested by Lonely Planet, named as Hospedaje Casa de Familia Elcira Contreras, it was near the bus terminal, with bread shop, supermarket and carnicería nearby and costing Ar$70 per person for dorm, with a room of 4. And it was low season, where we got the whole room.

my first time in youth hostel
It's a nice hostel, with heater, wifi, warm water, fully equipped kitchen and free coffee and tea in the morning. We had a good rest in the cozy room.

1 comment:

  1. Here u have the facebook form us hostel. https://www.facebook.com/Hostel-Elcira-Backpackers-438233753040263/


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