Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Long distance hitchhiking in Uruguay

At first we did not succeed in hitch-hiking to Rocha, where the highway number 9 passed and went south to Punte del Este and Montevideo. Many drivers expected us taking bus, which we finally did by hopping to the bus going to Montevideo. We could have taken that bus and went all the way to Montevideo by just paying the full fare, however, an aim of this trip was to practice our hitch-hiking skill. It would be a pity if we did not practicing it before going to the latter part of our South America trip which hitchhiking should be more frequent. Therefore we changed our mind and took off at Rocha. There was supposed to be a couchsurfing host working in a farm there, but he turned out to be an inconsiderate one who left no contact after agreeing to host and actually was in Montevideo, and wasted our time waiting and making false expectation. However, at least we had a chance to join a local Catholic mass. I thought we just let God lead our way and He really did.

After the mass we had some dinner and washed up in the central plaza (taking water from the toilet of the nearby bus company). There were children playing and curious of us being the rare Chinese (expecting us knowing kung-fu). They kept asking us questions and we could only answer some such as where we were from. It was dark and we had to go. After walking for ten blocks back to the highway 9,we passed the gas station where there were several heavy trucks with lights off. I thought even they were on the right direction, the drivers could be sleeping and we may wake them up. The better time may be in the morning when they started off. However, we did not have plan to sleep next to the gas station though it was safer than next to the highway at dark. So we walked away, passed the bus station (there was still bus to Montevideo at 10pm, it was an easy way out but we did not want to take that), and kept thumbs up. We also made a signboard saying “en cualquier lugar hacia la Montevideo” (anywhere towards Montevideo, we were not sure if the Spanish was correct). Vehicles kept passing us.
The planned one came. There was a heavy truck stopping in front of us to buy stuff from the canteen nearby. We were so excited and must "thicken our face-skin". Practising what we should say in spanish “a donde va ?” (where are you going ?), “puedomos ir con usted ?” (can we go with you ?). The driver laughed at us following the words in iphone to ask these questions. He finally brought us, even though we did not know exactly where he was going. He said something like not going to Montevideo but “San Teresa” (we did not know, as long as it was south along highway 9 then it should be fine).

The kitchen at the side of the truck
Our first truck hitch-hiking in South America !!! The driving cart was so high up that we had to climb up the ladder into that. We thought that we could not do that if we were taking very heavy backpacks. The trip of the driver was from Sao Paulo of Brazil. It was a really long way to come here. Due to the high cost of living in Brazil, he cooked his meal on the truck, not in the truck. How ? There were two metal boxes at the side of the truck for storing food and a gas stove respectively. I wondered if the gas stove was actually burning the diesel from the tank ?! The driver wanted some hot water for his mate, so he stopped the truck aside of the highway, went out, got his kitchen ready, got water from the water tank and boiled it. He made us coffee. It was necessary that we stayed awake in the drive, because it didn’t look good to sleep on the way when the driver was giving a free ride. Better if we could speak spanish, we could chat with him. However he seemed to have fun talking to us even though we did not understand most of what he said.

We did not know where he was taking us, so I kept reading the map and got prepared to know where we would be dropped. Finally we were in San Teresa which was only 20km from Montevideo. Then we just paid 43 peso for two city buses getting to home, just about one-tenth of the long distance bus tickets. Hurray !!! Thanks to the driver of whom the name we did ask but still did not know.

We learnt a good lesson in hitch-hiking: the face should be thick (a chinese saying that we should dare to ask)

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