At a petrol station just out of Auckland, we asked a truck driver if we could hitch a ride with him. His response, “Just take a bus, it’s quicker, it’s safer and it’s not going to cost you much.”
Three months and a few thousand miles later, we've learnt a new language, made friends we'll remember when our hair has turned grey, and been reminded of the generosity that exists in the world if only you’re open to it. I can't remember a ride without being offered food, drink or a place to stay. We rode in the back of open trucks and in a race car. With people young and old. Where we shared a language and where gestures were our only form of communication. But all good things must come to an end. And so, for now, we are leaving hitch-hiking behind and continuing on bikes.
However, before jumping on the bikes we had to say a proper goodbye to hitch-hiking. While Lachie fanged it over the border, Scott and I stuck our thumbs out for the last time. After a few hours, and the seven stages of hitch-hiking (positivity, hope, frustration, anger, begging, defeat, bliss), we got our final ride – in the back of a shipping container. We didn't quite know where our new truckie friend was going but he seemed eager to take us and nodded vigorously when we tried to ask if he was going to Chile.
Miraculously, we did actually end up in Chile and made it to Osorno by nightfall to meet Lachie and cook up a birthday dinner for Scott. Within two days the money had been transferred and the paperwork done. We were now the proud owners of two new bikes. Now, when I say the paperwork was done, I say that loosely. All we had was a bill of sales document. When we had tried to get the temporary import visa transferred into our names at the customs office, the lady told us the sale of bikes between foreigners was illegal in Chile. We promptly left there to find someplace more positive and left that problem for another day. The real test would come when we try to get the bikes across their first border.
With our flotilla of bikes finally totalling three, we blasted out of Osorno and continued our journey north. However, our ‘blasting north' came to an abrupt stop when after only a few hundred kilometres we got our first flat tire. This coincided with a large weather front of 100-200mm of rain a day for three days. Fortunately, after spending numerous Sundays in the Church of the Open Sky, the Gods must have been looking out for us. Moments after the heavens opened and it started raining cats and dogs, we discovered that we got our flat right outside an old showground.
A quick skirt around some gates and we were inside and under shelter. Over the next three days, we competed for the worlds slowest tire change, dried out and relaxed. It was another forced downtime, and who were we to say no to that?
After our pitstop at the showgrounds, we had our sights firmly set on Santiago. Wanting to show the city what we got sooner rather than later, we stuck to the main highway for most of the way up. This meant some mundane driving but didn't lower the standard of campsites one bit. We were treated to spectacular sunsets and sunrises by rivers and lakes just off the highway almost every night.
Hitch-hiking has been one of the best experiences of my life. There is no better way to meet people of all backgrounds and cultures in a new country. It's a public transport system that rivals Melbourne's Metro for reliability and beats it hands down on customer experience.
Despite having nothing but praise to lay upon hitch-hiking, or more importantly, the people who allowed us to do it, I'd be lying if I didn't say I was excited to be on motorbikes. For the last two months, a spontaneous decision to visit a new place was followed by hours sitting beside the road. With our new toys, there was no more waiting involved. Minutes after picking a spot on the map we would be on the road and flying towards our next adventure.
And the next adventure for us now? Santiago.
Since leaving Australia, we'd managed to stay rural almost all of the time, choosing mountains and deserts over cities. There is possibly good reason for that. We're not the sharpest tools in the shed at the best of times, it seems that cities bring out the worst (or best?) in us. Santiago was no exception. More updates coming soon.