The six days I had spent walking and waiting for the boat were enough of a premise for me to stay at a hostel again. It was 31st of December and that confirmed my decision. This time I was jammed into a room that was even cheaper because it represented an extremely miniature bungalow with four beds. I ran into an English woman and an Argentinian man in there. Since I didn’t have enough space I moved directly at the big common room of the hostel and started cooking. This time my cooking consisted in boiling eggs and roasting a steak. I did the latter with considerably less smoke than this time when I baked the sausages on Christmas. I had also taken wine – it turned out that the previous wine has not been the cheapest but this one truly was.

At one time after they found out that I have gone to Lago O’Higgins a boy and a girl came to me. They were from Israel but they didn’t look like Israeli at all which was because of their Russian blood. They had the intention of going to the lake in order to start Carretera Austral from the very beginning but my tale absolutely made them give up on that idea.

The other thing that happened was that I met a French guy who explained me exactly how to make pancakes. All the time I was thinking over the idea to go at the back part of Fitz Roy. However, I knew that would not happen. The trek is way too long, there is an area about 35 kilometers when you have to walk on a glacier and the requirements for the equipment are very high considering the bad weather, low clouds and hurricane wind. And it would be almost a suicide without GPS.

In general, the New Year’s Eve passed comparatively not interesting. The most significant about it was that it lacked the rattle that is typical for Bulgaria. Obviously people in there lacked war supplies. ;) When I went to bed I saw a big group of people from the hostel celebrating outside on several big tables.

In the morning I got up about 9 o’clock and prepared myself for the road. The girl at the reception declared me to be a nutcase because I wanted to hitch-hike on 1st of January in the morning. That didn’t matter to me because it was high time to make my way out of this little town. I went to the exit and begun to wait. There were certainly cars passing but most of them circled around the surrounding areas and the rest of them didn’t stop. 45 minutes later two more hitch-hikers appeared – two boys from Belgium and Australia who also thought of going on Ruta 40.

Later one more guy who looked like a hitch-hiker passed but I didn’t speak to him. At one point a girl stopped next to me and began talking with me. Her name was Ana – a Romanian who worked something at the European Comission at Brussels. We spoke for a very long time – she also liked hitch-hiking but mainly at France. Then she went to the other boys and stayed there even longer.

The waiting was long, actually the longest one until that moment. A very unpleasant and cold wind was blowing. A few times rain attempted to fall. About 5 in the evening the Belgian and the Australian decided to go back to town, drink coffee and check the prices of the buss tickets.

Half an hour later a car stopped and picked me up. Actually it stopped for the second time because an hour earlier its owners had stopped to inform me that they were going ten kilometers further. However, now they were going to Calafate – they were a man and a woman from Argentina who were on a holiday in the area. Two hundred meters ahead we stopped and took another hitch-hiker who was also an Australian.

When we approached the crossing where Ruta 40 get detached and the guy decided to branch off from his route for about 30 kilometers so that he would take me to the nearest village and gas station – the last one in the further few kilometers.

It was cloudy, the wind was blowing and exactly at that point the asphalt ended. The gas station was about a kilometer aside as well as the village. Therefore the crossing evoked a sensation that I was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by endless steppes.

After a short examination I spotted a place with a few trees that provided shelter. There was even a river flowing by them so I could spend days waiting in there. However, a few minutes later I saw in the distance a concrete channel under the road that deviated to the gas station. I immediately decided it would be a good place to spend the night.

When I woke up in the morning the sun was shining and there under the trees by the river the tent was gleaming yellow. It became interesting to me if these were Danny and Rony, the Israeli who gave up on going to Lago O’Higgins and then decided to hitch-hike on my route, or the Belgian and the Australian.

It turned out that they were the latter ones. There had been no free seats at the buss so about 7 and something they managed to get a ride at Chalten.

We settled down by the dusty road, as sheltered from the brutal wind as it was possible. The passing cars were very few – on the average of two-three per hour and most of them were overloaded with people and luggage. At least the sun was shining and it wasn’t cold which allowed me to read my book.

After about 5 hours of waiting the boys decided to go to the gas station because they were running out of water and they wanted to try to catch a ride there. I remained at the same spot and kept on reading and waiting.

An hour and a half later to my surprise one car stopped and both of them showed up from it. We stuffed my rucksack at the overloaded boot almost by kicking it and we set off.

The car driver was a Spanish about 35 years old and his companion was a German woman. The two of them did some scientific research for their doctor’s degrees. They collected lichenoids at Patagonia with the purpose to understand why some species are widely distributed from the Arctic to the Antarctic and how it had happened. They used to be on some island at the Antarctic and the food there was from a few years ago.

The Spanish was very funny and he constantly cracked jokes while he was burning up the road at a speed of about 100 kilometers on a gravel road. He was trying to move on the most beaten track on the road in spite of the forceful sidewise gusts of wind.

The steppes around stretched out until your eyes could see. The only populated place for all the 550 kilometers was a little village with about fifteen houses.

At one point the gravel road was sharply replaced by an asphalt one which was an event worthy of a photograph, especially with consideration of the sign saying “Attention, beginning of a paved road”. It caused laughter among us all. However, the Spanish was disappointed because he thought driving on gravel was a lot of fun. He wasn’t disappointed for too long, though, because 60 kilometers later the asphalt was over.

Somewhere on the road we met the first three jeeps we have tried to stop in the morning. Obviously one of them had rolled over outside the road. Luckily noone got hurt and now they were waiting for help.

Somewhere not far away from the final goal – the little town Perito Moreno – beautiful rock formation in orange and pink colours began to line up by the road. When we passed by some lonely estancia the driver confided wisely “At such places the fathers rape their daughters.”

At about 8 o’clock we arrived at Perito Moreno – a little town surrounded by poplars. The weather was tangibly warmer than at the place we were coming from and the sun was shining. We found a sheltered spot by the road, a little bit after the exit of the town, just some 200 meters away from the gas station. The night was pleasant no matter that a large quantity of mosquitos were maundering along.

In the morning both of them went to check if there were any busses going to Bariloche since the Belgian didn’t have a lot of time to lose and I kept on laying and writing my stories. A little bit after two o’clock I decided it was high time for me to pack my things and go hitch-hiking until Los Antiguos – a little town on 60 kilometers away from here located at the Chilean frontier. I had decided that I would enter Chile at that point and go on Carretera Austral into the north.

When I went out on the asphalt road I found a man about 60 years old who was standing by the sign and waiting for a ride. We talked a little – he was going to the north and that was his second day of waiting in here. I went one hundred meters further on the other side of the crossing. Before that I passed by the bus station to see the Belgian and the Australian – they were waiting for it to open so that they could get themselves tickets.

The waiting dragged on for unexpectedly long time. Plenty of the cars were overloaded and nobody would stop. I was killing time by experimenting with the thread Stacy has given me. In the distance I could see that the elder hitch-hiker kept on waiting.

At 8 o’clock I saw him walking to the bushes where I had spent the previous night and a little bit after that I gave up too. It would be interesting to talk to him. His name was Mike – a Dutch who was living in Canada. Once he has been a chef at a restaurant and now his main occupation was travelling around South America. He liked walking great distances. Years ago he has walked for 2500 kilometers on Capaq Nan, the Incas road at Peru. He was funny and full of interesting stories.

When I woke up in the morning he was already waiting by the road. While going to my spot I stopped in order to talk to him. We stood by the road and I was with my back to the asphalt road. At one point a tractor passed by us and I felt a sharp tug from the rucksack on my back. I turned around and the first thing I saw was the departure of the metal bars of the machinery that the tractor trailed behind it. The next thing I saw was how the case of my stand flew after the tractor, fell on the asphalt road and the above-mentioned machinery passed over it.

What a horror!!! My tripod has turned into bipod but in any case it was much better than the grim alternative of me continuing my journey without a head. Besides, it was possible to fix its leg somehow so that the stand would be still useable.

I stayed and waited. Hour and a half later someone finally picked Mike up and an hour later a full pick-up took me as well.

Los Antiguos was a lot more green town located by the shore of the enormous lake „Buenos Aires” – the second one by size at South America. I could see the white peaks of the Andes on its other side. The town’s location creates mircoclimat that is suitable for growing fruit trees, especially cherry trees. I have arrived a few days before „The Feast of the Cherry”.

My stay in there lasted a few hours – as much as to eat and check my e-mails. After that I set off for the town’s exit. I found Danny and Rony in there – the Israeli who were almost convinced they would meet me again. I myself had the same feeling.

Just fifteen minutes later the three of us found ourselves at a car on its way for the border and Chile Chico. The Argentinian frontier post was quick, there was an enormous queue at the Chilean post so we had to wait at least for 40 minutes.

Just a few kilometers later we already were at Chile Chico and went shopping at the supermarket after I was forced to separate with my sausages at the frontier. We also had to get ourselves a place to spend the night at. The latter appeared to be quite a difficult task because of the lack of trees and the strong wind.

As I was walking at the town I spotted a good yard but when I asked if we could pitch our tents in there the woman refused. We asked at one more house but the lady in there asked for 2000 pesos per person, which was unacceptable. The girl and I went to ask even at the police station where there was a sheltered yard but the policeman snapped „No!”. Finally, already by dusk, we found a place on the shore of the lake that was sheltered by the trees. From the Chilean part that place is called General Carrera and we settled down there. The only thing that was left for me to do was withdraw Chilean money but it turned out that the cash machine didn’t work with Visa.

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