This story is a chapter of Kinga Freespirit's book "Led by Destiny - Hitchhiking around the World": LedByDestiny.com
It's the beginning of Kinga and Chopin's third year on the road, hitchhiking
around the world. After North, Central and most of South America, they make it
as far as you can go...
The end of the world
by Kinga Freespirit, 13 Feb 2005
21 Nov 2000
From Puerto Montt, you can take a ship that maneuvering among cliffs and glaciers,
will bring you to the very south of the continent. But we learn that it costs
a few hundred dollars, so we opt to take the ferry to the nearby island of Chiloe.
We arrive at a little town at its southern end where, once a week, there's
a ferry to the mainland. We're lucky that tomorrow is the ferry day. We walk around
the town with its traditional wooden houses and fishing boats along the shore.
To get some shelter from the blowing wind, we enter a little church along the
way. There is a service just starting, and we sit down and listen to the small
group of people sing enthusiastically. One of the most devoted singers is an elderly
lady. It is this old woman, with her husband, who comes up to us after the service,
and simply tells us to follow her back to her home.
In the evening we sit by a hot stove and listen to the story of her life. She
was born on another island and had seventeen brothers and sisters. She was only
lucky enough to go to school for one year, during which she learned how to read
and count. When she was ten, her mother fell ill, so she had to stop school to
look after her mother and the rest of her brothers and sisters. Married at twenty,
she had fourteen children herself. She and her carpenter husband built this little
church and tell us they are content with their lives. We are happy to be here,
sharing the evening with these simple, sincere people, as we listen to the old
woman recite a poem she learned by heart at school, over sixty-five years ago.
23 Nov 2000
A Japanese couple we met yesterday on the ferry picked us up, and it's now the
second day now that we're traveling with them along the Carretera Austral - the
Southern Highway. It isn't much of a highway, really, more of an unpaved narrow
path. But it's a path with great views, winding through unspoiled landscapes of
snow-covered mountains, glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls and lakes. Susumu and
Masako, our Japanese drivers, are a retired couple who have been driving around
the world for about five years now. They say it's cheaper for them to travel the
world than to live in Japan. They only know a few words in English and even fewer
in Spanish so we communicate with a strange mixture of languages and gestures.
"Tea?" asks Susumu.
"Yes, please," Chopin answers.
"Cup," she says, handing him a cup of green tea, and then:
"Spoon," while handing him... a chopstick.
They have followed a route similar to ours, from Alaska all the way down here,
so we have plenty to talk about, and we compare our experiences. They show us
a book about a guy who traveled around the world by motorcycle, and another written
by a Japanese guy who walked from Alaska to Cape Horn. So there are people even
crazier than we are.
25 Nov 2000
The road leads us around a great lake, surrounded by snow-covered mountain ranges
"This road was only built ten years ago," our truck driver says. "It
was built by Pinochet. If it wasn't for him, we would be walking through here
with animal caravans." He is an ardent fan of Pinochet.
Further south, on the Chilean side, there is only unspoiled nature with more glaciers,
islands and volcanoes, the kind of nature that man hasn't managed to conquer and
destroy yet, or build a road through. Here in the town of Chile Chico, we have
to cross over to Argentina in order to continue down south. Changing countries
means changing roads - from the narrow dirt path to a smooth, wide, paved highway;
we also change landscapes - from the picturesque mountains and waterfalls, to
the flat, immense spaces of desolate steppes.
26 Nov 2000
In Argentina, big trucks take us further and further south, through the never-ending,
windswept spaces of Patagonia. The road is so wide and straight that when one
of our truck drivers wants to take a rest and have Chopin take over the wheel,
he doesn't even stop the truck - they swap places while the truck keeps moving.
It's interesting that quite a few of our drivers have mentioned seeing strange
lights and unidentified objects in this part of the world. Maybe even more people
than we realize witness these strange things, but the subject never comes up in
a conversation... So we start asking our drivers, and it turns out almost everybody
has a story to tell. Some take UFOs for a fact, even though they claim not to
have believed in them previously. Others take what they saw for hallucinating.
Here is what our last driver, Felix, experienced: Once, driving at night across
the Patagonian steppes, he saw a blinding light behind him. He thought that it
was another truck with powerful lights, so he slowed down, to let it overtake
him. The truck didn't pass, but instead the light grew stronger. He pulled over
at the side of the road and then the light overtook him - sweeping swiftly over
him, then disappearing into the night sky.
Another time, during the day, in a pouring rain in the middle of nowhere, Felix
stopped to pick up a hitchhiking man. The guy was all wet, and he dripped water
all over the seat. The man mentioned that he was a truck driver himself. After
driving a while Felix stopped for a minute to check the tires, and when he climbed
back into the cabin the hitchhiker was nowhere to be seen. Not in the cabin, not
anywhere around, and the area was flat and deserted all the way to the horizon.
The seat that the hitchhiker had occupied was suddenly clean and dry. Later, Felix
found out that there had been an accident on this road in which a truck driver
28 Nov 2000
The end of the world in the port of Ushuaia.
We take the ferry across the Magellan Straight, and enter the Great Island of
Tierra del Fuego. In the evening, when we reach Ushuaia, our driver smiles, and
"Here you are; the end of the world."
The world's southernmost town welcomes us with a spectacular sunset that paints
the snowy peaks bright pink, and reflects charmingly on the surface of the bay.
Only thirty years ago, Ushuaia was a tiny port village, and now it's a fast growing
town. The saddest thing is that with the arrival of the white man, all the native
tribes who lived here for centuries have disappeared forever.
It's a great feeling to know we have arrived as far south as you can go on the
continent. We've heard there are ships leaving from here to Antarctica, so the
first place we visit is the port. We find out the ships are luxurious cruisers
for rich tourists. It might not be easy to hitch a ride with one of these, but
we won't know for sure if we don't try. We talk to a man from a large fishing
boat, and he tells us the next cruiser will be here in three days. He invites
us to spend the night on his boat, where late into the night he tells us about
the sea, the whales, the penguins, and his out of body experiences.
2 Dec 2000
Unfortunately, we won't visit Antarctica during this journey. As we expected,
hitching a ride on a cruise ship, where the cheapest ticket costs about seven
thousand dollars, isn't easy. To get on board as a crew member is even more difficult,
because the crew are all professionals employed by the company, not the captain.
Well, we tried.
Here, at the southern tip of the continent, the road crosses many times between
Argentina and Chile. Luckily, the border crossings here are trouble-free, only
our passports fill with more and more stamps. We cross the Magellan Straight again
with a young Israeli couple traveling in a rented car all the way to Punta Arenas.
This is Patagonia's largest town, with Magellan's monument standing proudly in
the main square.
4 Dec 2000
A trip to the glacier.
Through the windows of the cars that pick us up, we watch the wild ostriches grazing
by the side of the road, as well as guanaco, an undomesticated animal related
to the llama. What impresses me most are the pink flamingos that wade in the waters
of a turquoise lagoon. Today we reach the national park of Torres del Paine, with
its spectacular mountain spires, giant glaciers, mighty waterfalls, and lagoons
of unbelievable colors hidden in the valleys. Some lagoons are simply little azure
ponds, while others are so big that you can't even see their distant shore as
it disappears between the mountains.
6 Dec 2000
With the penguins.
We were lucky to see the Chilean park of Torres del Paine, but we're not lucky
enough to get a chance to see the Argentinean park of Los Glaciares. The only
traffic on the deserted road leading to the park is an occasional tourist minibus.
Maybe if we waited for two or three days we could catch one... but we aren't
patient enough this time.
Getting out of here isn't easy, either. We wait for the whole day outside the
town before someone picks us up. I know it's not without reason though, we've
just been waiting for the right ride. This time it's a family going back home
to their town of San Julian, on the Atlantic coast. We arrive late at night, they
invite us for a meal, and give us a place to stay. It's a very open, outgoing
family, with six giant dogs, a few cats and two teenage daughters. Gordo (that's
how the father of the family is introduced to us - which means 'fat') prepares
pasta with mushroom sauce, while Gala (their fourteen year old daughter with blue
hair) sets the table.
9 Dec 2000
Nothing but an empty road and the wind.
Gordo wakes us up in the morning to let us know that at ten o'clock there's a
boat leaving for the nearby Penguin Island. It's his friend's boat, and he'll
give us a ride. First, he takes us to an island full of cormorants, which we can
only see from the boat. On Penguin Island, however, we are allowed to go ashore.
It's the first time I have seen penguins in the wild and so close up. They observe
us cautiously, but are not afraid. Delighted, I watch them wobble towards the
water and sit on their nests looking after their grey chicks.
In the afternoon, we say goodbye to our family, and Gordo takes us to a gas station.
The lovely weather we had this morning has been blown away by a wild wind so strong
that I can hardly stand. The best thing we can do is wait at the gas station building
and talk to the drivers. When we ask one of the men if he could give us a ride,
he answers back with a question: "Do you like speed? O.K., let's go."
It is over two thousand kilometers from here to Buenos Aires. Too bad he's not
going all the way there.
To see how it all ended (and how it began): LedByDestiny.com
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