The little hitchhiking adventure to Villa la Angostura, San Martin de los Andes and back

We extended our thumbs towards the bus coming our way, almost jokingly. Of course the bus wouldn’t stop for us – even though we were two young girls all alone in the middle of nowhere. Buses don’t pick up hitchhikers.

“It’s stopping, it’s stopping” Antonella said ecstatically as the bus slowed down while passing us. It couldn’t be, could it? We had managed to catch a ride for free with a minibus with paying passengers earlier in the day, but twice in a day, could we really be that lucky? The bus came to a halt some ten meters in front of us and the question was answered. We looked at the bus, then at each other – both our faces split into big grins – before we picked up our small backpacks and ran laughingly towards it.

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A change of plans
Originally, I had had no plans of heading to neither Villa la Angostura nor San Martin de los Andes. I’d never heard of the seven lakes and my hitchhiking carreer consisted of an unsuccessful attempt to get to Wai-O-Tapu in New Zealand, and a short ride on the back of a truck in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. As far as I knew I was just going to do some hiking in Bariloche, eat delicious ice cream ( I know Bariloche is famous for its’ chocolate, but I’m more of an ice cream person) and then head off to El Bolsón.

That was, until I met Antonella.

One of the great and interesting things about travel is how much they are shaped by the people you meet. Often how much you like a place is more dependent on the people that cross your way – other travelers, the local girl that sits next to you on the bus, the hostel owner, the family that invites you to join them touring for a day – and how you spend your time with them, than what is actually there to see. You might end up completely changing the course of your route because of some praising words about an unknown place spoken by some random person, or because you want to flee an annoying travel companion.

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Our plan was simple. We’d go from Bariloche to Villa la Angostura one day, sleep there and then head to San Martin de los Andes the next. We’d chill there with an ice cream (always ice cream), and then head back to Bariloche, hitchhiking all the way. I had been thinking about hitchhiking plenty of times in Argentina – it seems to be almost as common there as in New Zealand, maybe even more – but it’s one of those things I definitely don’t do alone. Now with a partner in crime, why not?

“I really want to ride with a camión”
Antonella said as a big truck passed by. “I have never been in a camión before”. We had already gotten two short rides, the first getting us properly out of Bariloche, the second leaving us at the road heading towards Villa la Angostura. Every single car passing us now would be going in our direction, not that it seemed to be that many of them though. Never the less Antonella very soon got her wish granted as a big truck stopped in front of us, we climbed in and it took us all the way to Villa la Angostura. But it wouldn’t be our last ride with a camión during our two day hitchhiking trip.

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One little camión two little camións
The first camión that picked us up carried peanuts. But it wasn’t normal peanuts. It was some kind of peanut residue or something of the sort, for the farmed salmons of Chile, not for humans – we learned that when Antonella asked if we could have some, obviously I wasn’t the only peanut lover in the truck.

The second camión carried sand for the road construction between Villa la Angostura and San Martin de los Andes. He had to do the bumpy ride, back and forth, four times a day. At least his seats had good shock absorbers.

The third camión carried water. It watered the road and drove slowly. Really, really, really slowly. So it was maybe just as well that he couldn’t take us very far.

When we weren’t even trying we got a ride with the minibus.

The fourth camión carried gas and we found it on a gas station. He had just dropped us off when the bus in the beginning of the story stopped and picked us up and carried us all the way back to Bariloche.

Sometimes it’s definitely all about the journey.

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