Wo-lo-lo good fellas! How are you? Coming up with another story about people!
Since the last travel story posted on the blog, the words have vanished. The desire to write has dried out while I try to internalize what's happening around the world. The crazyness makes me anxious, to say the least.
As a wanderer, I’ve had the chance to explore different places and, purposedly, endure the various challenges pertained to such lifestyle. The experiment has taught me the cliché: rational interaction is crucial, as, more often than ever, humans depend on each other. Through genuine dialogues, people have always extended a hand in support on my trips ― regardless of race, principles, religion and socioeconomic position. It's the most virtuous cooperation based on trust and empathy.
When writing adventure stories, the focus is on showcasing human interactions ― without missing the hilarious mishaps ― in hopes of convincing people that the world is de facto good.
By any means I want to deny the horrendous displays of racism, homophobia and other acts of violence in our society. However, despite the efforts to provide live examples of constructive human interactions, it seems I'm no match against the machine of disgrace perpetuation ― a.k.a. mainstream media.
With that said, today's post insists on the idea of positivism. It's one of those stories where humans are the center point, proving we are careful and reinforcing that the bombardment of negative news do us no good. Enjoy!
To locate the reader on the whole story, I'll start with a briefing of the parts I had to cut to make the post shorter ― full story is on the upcoming book. In summary, I was Hitchhiking Patagonia, from Brazil down to Ushuaia and backwards along the Andes. At this point I was traveling with a couple who shared the same route between Villa Cerro Castillo and Coyaique, in Chile.
The Journey and The People
February 5th, 2017. Villa Cerro Castillo entered the list of memorable places I’ve had the pleasure to explore, so as a reminder of how powerful and inspiring nature is. We left the humble village behind together with a unique friend ― Isi bugged our mind, but still… ― admirable her strength and courage to conquer the world as a solo female.
Once on the Chilean side of the Andes, the landscape indicated a new beginning. The monotonous plains of the arid Argentinian pampa shifted into a world of productive pastures, filled with cattle and round hay bales packaged for the upcoming winter; I joked that they looked like marshmallows.
The sun hid behind thick gray clouds ― as characteristic in Patagonia ― when Juliet, Louis and I stood by the road outside of the villa. For some reason we got along well enough and decided to continue as a group. After all, how can a journey be without the people?
From Cerro Castillo, we aimed further north, to a village south of Coyhaique called El Blanco, where Melanie ― a friend we met on the streets of Chile Chico ― lived and where Tania ― her friend ― was spending the rest of her vacations before departing to Santiago. The invite was clear and we couldn’t let slip a chance for a warm shower.
― Chicos… if you go by Coyhaique, visit me! ― She said while marking the village on the paper map.
Soon, a dusty pick-up truck stopped and the backpacks flew into the rear box. Cesar was the driver, a middle aged man of easy smile and soft tone. Hitchhiking is like that, you trust and hope for the best.
― It’s hard to drive home after working all day… you get sleepy. ― He said.
― But at least you have this view, right? ― I scoffed.
The road ahead surfed like waves on a quiet ocean, brown hay fields grew tall and ready for cut, quite a contrast to the green pasture fields where the cattle ate. On the horizon, the unmistakable harsh lines of the Andes snowy peaks. Despite sparse droplets on the windshield the weather was dry; that ever changing Patagonian weather…
― That’s right.. I go by these views every day.. all the way up to small villages on top… ― He said. ― We are installing internet antennas on the mountains… ― He continued.
― Internet, han? I’ve seen that there’s free internet on lots of places ― I said.
― National law...… if there’s a village with a school.. we go there and install internet. ― He explained. ― You see the lines? All the way up there, everywhere.. ― He pointed.
― Well, we don’t have that in Brazil. ― I said.
― It’s a lot of structure and hard work, that is... ― He seemed a little annoyed. ― Then the schools aren’t free in Chile, did you know? ― he asked.
― Aren’t they? ― I widened my eyes.
― No, it’s all paid, unless you prove you can’t pay. ― He explained. ― But at least they have the internet.. ― He joked.
We chattered about the differences between our countries, even though I avoid getting into politics. Although, when you experience other countries for real and hear from locals, that's when you get to formulate well-constructed logics to how society should work… otherwise… it’s guessing. But anyway...
On a hilltop he slowed down and crossed the road at once to park on a grass area after the shoulder. From there, it was possible to see the valley far into the distance with the sun slightly illuminating the peaks.
― I like this spot here, you can see the valley... ― Cesar said while contouring the hills with his hand over the wheel. After a second of contemplation he looked over to Louis and Juliet on the back seat. ― Are you hungry? Hand me the bag on your side, let’s eat something. ― He said.
We sat on the pickup’s rear box overlooking that astonishing landscape. Cesar handled the pocket knife after cutting some salami and cheese.
― Eat, por favor.. there’s enough for us all.. and in there there’s cerveza. ― He pointed to the cooler. ― I’m not having dinner today after going to a hotel. ― He said.
The poor man seemed beaten by the time, but insisted to help us find Melanie’s place, who awaited in her grandparents farm near El Blanco. Our arrangements were settled as if prior to the technology days and modern cell phones; the references were El Blanco and a farm just past the intersection, where a white sign hanged about the gate said: Vende-se Queso (Cheese For sale). Or we could search for Sra. Mia, the dressmaker. Or was it Mia? Maria? ― I couldn’t remember.
A few kilometers passed and Cesar pulled over near Coyhaique.
― What’s the name you said? ― He asked.
― El Blanco? ― I questioned.
― Oh yes, yes. Let me see on the map.. because… I think ― He put his glasses and zoomed in on his cellphone. ― Ah, I see! We have to go back… ― He turned the pick-up around.
― You don’t have to… we can find another ride… ― Louis objected.
― No, no, no. 15 kilometers only… ― He was determined. What is 15 km for a person who drives thousands in one day installing antennas on isolated places?
His determination to leave us on the right place was astonishing, so he rushed back and we found the small village, but not the farm. On the corner he pulled over at a mini market.
― What’s the lady’s name? ― He asked.
― Hmmm, I think it’s… Mia?! ― I was unsure. ― Maybe ask for the dressmaker that sells cheese.
El Blanco seemed like one of those places where everyone knows each other; funny enough some of the wooden houses had signs with a name written. Felipe, I noted, remembering my brother. Quickly Cesar came back from the mini market laughing and waving his hands.
― Senhora Mia, right? ― He smiled.
― I suppose… or Maria? ― I asked.
― It’s EMA! E-M-A ― He laughed.
― Oops! ― I said.
Eyes widened when the traditional family saw three dirty backpackers leaving a pick-up and asking for Melanie. Who the heck are these people? ― I could feel their internal thought.
― Melanie is in Coyhaique, but should be here soon… ― Said the mom, Sra. Ema.
She looked slightly in shock, or perhaps timid at first. Tania rushed to explain who we were, the circumstances of how we met in the first place, still back in Chile Chico. That seemed to ease her worries.
― Bueno.. let’s get inside then.. and wait for Melania. ― She invited.
The family gathered around the big saloon where the kitchen joined the living room in one big warm space. The whistle of a kettle on the wood burner stove indicated it was time for Mate. Nicolas ― the grandfather ― stared at us with a particular curiosity, but left the speaking for the aunt; the strong old man seemed cautious and I wanted to know more about him and the mores of a Chilean farmer life. Marcela ― the aunt ― on the other hand, laughed enthusiastically at our stories. How come a brazilian and a two french end up in her living room after all?
― I can’t believe! ― She laughed and handled the Mate around. ― So you are all traveling a dedo since Ushuaia? ― She asked.
― That’s right! Many days without a shower… believe it or not. ― I joked.
She pinched her nose and looked over Melanie’s young brother who sported a yeew face.
― And what do you eat? ― She asked.
― A lot of tuna and pasta! ― I said. ― But one day I’ll find a Salmon somewhere, I hope. I heard they are amazing in Chile. ― I rubbed my belly.
― Ahhh, so you like Salmon? ― Interjected Nicolas.
― I’ve never tried actually… in Brazil we don’t have them. ― I turned over to him. ― Though on our ranch we have some other fish… ― I added, just to open a connection between my ranch experience and the old farmer.
― I’ll show you then... ― He said and waved his hand as a gesture to follow him. I immediately did.
We entered a twisted wooden shed, where smoke partially filled the air. Nicolas proceeded to move some boards from the top of a metal foil placing them carefully against the wall. When he lifted the cover it revealed a hole from where wood slightly burned laid on the bottom; it was a Salmon smoker and three long and wide pink Salmon fillets laid on a grill.
― Wow! ― I exhaled.
― We fish them here, at the farm.. ― He said. ― Then pull them out of the water with the horses. ― He explained.
The later statement seemed absurd, but there it was… the proof, right in front of my eyes.
― They stay here for a few days. But you are invited for fried Salmon tomorrow. ― He said.
I couldn’t believe and I might have acted like a little kid after receiving a gift or an invitation to the park.
By the time Melanie arrived, her family felt more familiar and comfortable. The kids brough stuff for us to see and asked questions about our backpacks while trying to lift them on full strength. We felt welcomed and agreed to stay for one or two days after Melanie invited us. But, at the same time, we didn't want to be a burden for such a humble family. Thus, we insisted that we would sleep on the backyard on Ema’s house in El Blanco.
― You can sleep on the backyard. But first you all take a shower and wash the clothes. ― She insisted. Sounded like a fair deal.
That day I wrote on my diary.
I knew that people in Patagonia are fantastic. Now I’m sure. We are eating Albaricoques, some small fruits, sweet and delicious. I’ll write more later.
To be continued...
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~Love ya all
Disclaimer: The author of this post is a convict broke backpacker, who has travelled more than 10.000 km hitchhiking and more than 3.000 km cycling. Following him may cause severe problems of wanderlust and inquietud. You've been warned.**