Day 96-97: Hitchhiking the back road to Cafayate

Truckload of builders heading back to work

It’s hard to rub this smile off my face. I’m 30, but for once since 21 I feel invincible again. Here we are on the back of a pickup truck we just hitched, mountains in our faces, wind in our hair, bouncing along a lonely dirt road in northern Argentina.
The unserviced back road to Cafayate

We wanted to do a circular route around the wine region of Salta, looping around Cachi and Cafayate without having to go back the same way. However, buses are infrequent (one daily) and only run to Molinos, starting again in Angastaco, leaving a 42 km stretch in between unserviced. Hitchhiking would be the only way to go (unless you want to do it the boring way and hire a taxi).

This was the adventure I was looking for to celebrate my coming of age, to usher in the golden decade of manhood with a grand statement: never grow old.

Day 96 – Plans don’t go as planned

Turning 30 however didn’t quite start out as I imagined. It was raining in Salta when we left. The 4 hour bus to Cachi was cold to the bone. And when we got there, nobody seemed to be heading to Cafayate.

“bastante complicado…” the tourist office lady said, it was Sunday afterall.

Visiting from China…

I picked up a piece of cardboard that smelt like a dog had left its mark and made the sign above. Several cars passed but none stopped. We were out of luck for the next hour or so.

I felt like giving up. Maybe we should just head back to Salta in the evening and catch a bus to Chile’s Atacama desert instead. At least we’d know for sure where we were going. The uncertainty of making it to Cafayate was disturbing. I was tired and cold, and the weather was having the best of me.

We asked around once more and a good man showed us to a group of lunching middle aged men – they just finished playing Sunday football and were headed back to Molinos – we could ride with them.

My hopes were up again. Perhaps our luck would be better in Molinos.

Tired backpacks on Route 40 outside Molinos

Upon arrival, we hiked a kilometre out of town to the main road where we waited. Every car that came was hope and yearning that got crushed as they passed, kicking up dust in our faces as if to add insult to injury. The sun was setting and our backs were strained from carrying our packs all day. It became apparent – it just wasn’t gonna be my day.

Stuck in the middle of nowhere

Molinos, a dusty town with… nothing

We were stranded in Molinos, a small dusty village with absolutely nothing but surrounding mountains. Finding a place to stay wasn’t a problem but somewhere to eat proved challenging.

“Domingo…” the store lady replied when we asked for nearby comedors -Sunday…

We were starving, hadn’t had a proper meal all day, and I was disillusioned. The desperation of an empty stomach reminded me of our days in Bolivia.

Like a godsend, we stumbled upon a decent hotel tucked away in a quiet corner. Perfect setting for a splurge, it was my big three-oh afterall!

Dinner was a reward for a long day of mal suerte (bad luck): quality Argentine bife de chorizo (sirloin) and cerdo ahumado (roast pork, in beer and honey sauce) accompanied with a delicious regional tinto (red wine). Wasn’t a bad way to end at all.

Enjoying dinner with a bottle of Malbec

Day 97: A new day, a new beginning

We were so close to folding our cards last night and just heading back to Salta. After a good night’s rest (on one of the firmest beds!), a renewed energy and determination pushed us on. Even the sun was shining for us.

I asked our hospedaje owner if there’d be anyone heading to Angastaco.

“si… chicos vienen… una camioneta.. Lunes y Viernes… construccion… Hay una panaderia.. Pregunta alla…”

Something about guys coming from Angastaco and returning later.. Mondays and Fridays.. construction site.. a bakery, ask there.. I heard something about students but didn’t understand. She spoke as if Spanish were my mother tongue… We got directions and were off.

I asked a police officer on the way just to be sure. He repeated more or less the same info. A block down to the right, we were close.

The truck pulled over beside the construction site

A pickup truck packed with young adolescents in the back pulled around the corner and stopped in front of a house in construction. I chased after it – must be the construction guys coming for work!

Several boys got off with their luggage and blankets and headed into what appeared to be dorms by the construction site.

“Are you coming from Angastaco? Heading back that way?”

No, not this one but it’ll come. Around 11am.

The bakery in front of the dorms and construction site

We waited at the bakery and asked several others, piecing the puzzle together as we sought more info. It turned out that chicos and chicas came to Molinos for boarding school, not building work. They arrive Mondays and head home Fridays. We could hitch a ride with the truck coming from Angastaco!

Several more trucks pulled by dropping off students.

“Van a Angastaco?” I asked each one, but the answer was always no, no, “ya vieni”, it’s coming.

Finally, 11 on the spot, a brown pickup pulled over, marked “municipalidad de Angastaco”.

Yes!!!!

Truck from Angastaco finally here!

“Can we ride with you? We’ve been waiting since yesterday!”

The driver nodded and reciprocated my thumbs up. Awesome!! KF and I were exhilarated, we were over the moon! One step closer to Cafayate!

Bumping along the dusty road to Angastaco

As we cruised in open air to Angastaco, it felt like a dream come true. The joy was overwhelming and I was on top of the world. The hours of waiting, wondering, not knowing, paid off like hitting jackpot. Sun in our faces, hair dancing in the wind, and beautiful landscapes tantalizing the senses… I’m fucking 30 and this is my world, fuck yeah!

I stuck my tongue out like Gene Simmons at a passing fishbowl-on-wheels (ie. tourist van) and belched out like a rockstar. “Sucks to be you!!” I thought. They had no idea how much more fun we were having. This was travel, raw and real.

Arriving in Angastaco!

We lunched in Angastaco and hitched a truck (picture at top with truckload of workers) out to the main road where we waited 2 hours until lucking out on another that was headed our way.

“WE GOTTA RIDE!!! C’MON!!” I yelled like a child to KF who was waiting behind a shelter.

Climbing into a proper truck! 69.. must be my lucky number.

This time it was a proper truck, a real industrial sized one. Fuck yeah!! Cafayate, we’re coming in style!

Life is a celebration of emotions. Giving up control and letting fate take the helm can be frightening. But if you set your heart on a destination, somehow… you’ll get there.

“I had to get off the boat so I could walk on water” – Jay Z

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8 Comments

  1. Ray says:

    That's awesome!
    Happy birthday Glenn!

  2. ace says:

    that is an awesome way to celebrate! i am so happy for you and kf and to be on this adventure with your soul mate! u know, a yr ago u were in cuba?

    viva la vie rockstars!

  3. Charlie says:

    Happy Birthday Glenn! Enjoy the heaven of bife de chorizo y tinto. And best of all, son muy baratos!!

  4. Leslie says:

    Awesome way to celebrate! Probably the best 30th birthday i've ever heard! Keep on rockin!

  5. Mary says:

    many friends are turning 30 this year, your 30th birthday is for sure the most amazing one. (and interesting in its own way, altho i don't think u actually think it's interesting while you are waiting for a whole day in the rain. kaka)

    happy belated birthday Glenn!

  6. Ceci says:

    wow happy bday man! i shoulda started reading ur blogs earlier! what an awesome trip u and KF r hving! bringing me hopes tat some days i can go on a trip like urs too!! i'll keep on following ur blog. wish that this trip will bring u even more rewarding experience! =)

  7. Denise says:

    Aww… Happy birthday Glenn! =)
    I love reading both your stories!

  8. anne says:

    That sounds unreal!
    my friend and i are going to argentina in a few months!
    how do you think we would go hitch hiking as we are both 21 year old females and only know the basics of spanish!
    would we be ok, not too dangerous for us?
    thanks

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