Hitchhiking from Ecuador to Peru

Hitchhiking from Guayaquil to Piura,

An Irish, Indian, Viking Lost in South America,
September 2015hitchhiking peru to ecuador

I had taken a nice wee rest for two nights in Guayaquil with my couchsurfing host. My host was a local photographer who was happy to show me around the busy city (which has a higher population than the Ecuador’s capital of Quito). Guayaquil might be bustling and noisy but it also had some lovely architecture, a huge dark rain-forest coloured river, its own Barcelona football team and a cool, free zoo. Though it does not really offer as much to do as a tourist as its fancy brother Quito.

In order to hitchike towards Peru I took a local bus from my host’s house to the main bus terminal without any plan. I resolved to just walk East, crossing the bridge which links both sides of the river and the peninsula which divides the two tributaries which feed the river Guayas before its brief journey to the Pacific

A view from Guayaquil’s main bridge.

It was a long walk in the searing heat so I resolved to try hitchhiking at a set of traffic lights. After a minute or two a bus driver waved me onto his bus, it was empty and returning to his station. He told me I was crazy to try walking out of Guayaquil in the heat, but instead from where he stopped on the east side of the city that I could catch a cheap bus to the town of La Troncal for a dollar. Uninterested in tackling the dense Guayaquil City I opted to pay the bus fare to La Troncal. This plan at least guaranteed I would be hitchhiking the open roads towards Peru before lunch time

After the quick bus ride to La Troncal I jumped out in the towns center which comprised of a roundabout and began walking South West towards the next town on the way to Peru called Naranjal. Hopefully named after the town’s abundance of free oranges growing from every tree. I noticed the stares of people in La Troncal, curious stares, it felt good to be the only blonde in town as I trotted along the footpath with my life on my back.

After twenty minutes or so of walking I started to thumb as I walked, there was a dirt track for cars to pull over and I was near enough to the outskirts of La Troncal to catch the attention of  mainly traffic which was leaving town.

After ten minutes a pick-up pulled over, two brothers who were returning to their home in Naranjal with construction stuff. Friendly guys who asked plenty of questions about Europe. They showed me their home, it was a small brick bungalow with a flat roof on the South-side of Naranjal, their pride and joy and they seemed happy at the prospect of a getting some work done. Luckily for my drying lips they threw me an orange as I jumped out and continued walking South for Peru, good old Naranjal.

I really enjoyed the way my desert camo boots camouflaged my feet in the sandy dirt of Ecuador. Maybe they worked too good though as I continued walking on past a traffic jam which was built up behind a broken down car without getting waved onto the back of anyones pick-up. Then after about thirty minutes I meet Angel, I will never forget Angel, his wife (I think) and his Mother. To do so would mean forgetting probably the best conversation I ever had in Spanish or with strangers who have picked me up.

I first tried to jump on the back of his pick-up but was waved into the back seat. Angel drove (man in his late forties), his mother sat up front too and beside me in the back was Angel’s wife (I guess).

“Gringo, where do you go?”

“Towards Peru”

“Have you any Cocaine”

“Nope”

“Why not, good price in Peru”

He started to laugh and his 70 year old mother punched him, I knew I was going to be interviewed for the length of this drive, as always I didn’t mind. He explained to me how in Ecuador there are three types of people and I will summarise. The Indigenous who live in the Sierra and Jungle (his mother piped in to say they like eating Iguanas). He called them Indios. The black people who live in Esmeraldas (his mother piped in to say they like eating coconuts), he called them Negros. Finally the Europeans or people of European descent that he called Espanoles. Now he wanted to know what I was, so I said

“I’m just Irish no foreign blood that I know of”

“A, you are an Indio of Ireland. What kind are you Indios?”

“Well no, we don’t have indigenous tribes people” (I tried to explain in Spanish)

“There is no such thing as just Irish. Who was in Ireland before the Europeans came to colonise”

“Ireland is in Europe, we are European”

“O so you are not native Irish, you are European, but the people who were there before you what is their name?”

“No I am the Indio of Ireland and I am European at the same time”

“You have mixed blood”

“No, shit, em Celts do you know the Celts” (I tried celtico and celto attempting to find the Spanish word for Celts)

“No I never hear of these people”

“Hmmm eh Vikings too”

“A you are a Vikingo!” he exclaimed with sheer delight.

“Eh sure yes” I didn’t want to disappoint now and be a mud-blood European.

“How amazing”

He proceeded to ring some friend and starts bragging on the phone about how he found a genuine, tall as a tree, blue eyed Viking wondering around Ecuador. When all was said and done I had my own question.

“So what are you Angel? Indio, Negro or Espanol?”

“None I am Ecuadorian”

“But you said… Fuck it, never mind”

We pulled over for dinner and had deer (I think), Angel insisted on paying even after I offered my share. Back on the road I decided to ask where he was going since we had been on the road for hours.

“The border with Peru tomorrow, tonight I need to stop at my brothers and work, you can help”

“Sounds good”

We eventually got to some town in the dark and then I helped Angel and his brother load boxes of tiles into a pick-up which we drove out to the desert in. We unloaded the boxes into an empty house under construction with a trailer of fresh melons outside and moved some stuff around, I became aware of how the lifestyle of sleeping outside and never knowing the time of my next meal was withering away my limited muscle mass. No wonder all these South Americans keep wanting to feed me, being so skinny and tall on a continent of short, heavy men. I also had one of those moments too, the one where your sitting in a desert in the dark eating fresh melon after hauling boxes of tiles up a stairs in a house with no roof in exchange for bed and a lift out of town and you wonder how the fuck did I get here.

Angel’s brothers house had a pet deer which I think belonged to Angel. If I understood his story correctly he found it sick one day and nursed it to health. It then ate a 20 dollar bill which belonged to him. He then decided he would kill and eat the deer because he believed the meat would be “rich” with flavour (he laughed as he told this part so I’m guessing rich was a pun because the deer ate his money). He had a change of heart though and decided to keep and name the deer. So I’m in this house having a beer with Angel and his brother while Angel’s wife (I think) makes supper. Everyone is cool and chatting and seemingly not noticing the wild deer falling around the kitchen as it struggles to grip its feet on the tiles.

The next morning we drove onwards to Peru and I answered more of Angels queries, he seemed shocked that Ireland couldn’t grow coffee, mangoes, rice, bananas etc. What a poor country he kept saying, he nearly cried laughing when I told him that in Ireland both Guinea Pigs and Iguanas are considered pets. By the time he reached Peru he was convinced that Ireland was a barren wasteland where people keep stupid animals as pets (the man who owns a “house” deer that eats money).

The border crossing was quick once all the border police returned from their lunch, which they all take at the same time, I got a three month visa without any questions. Angels wife however never showed her passport to the police I noticed, she instead snuck across the border by walking past the police (the police stay in a little shed rather than outside on the border bridge where there is no shade). She probably just couldn’t be bothered actually getting a passport I guessed. Angel then drove me onwards to Sullana in Peru and left me on the edge of town before going wherever he was going in Peru.

Missing my new friend but excited to be in a new country yet again I starting walking, the hitchhiking was slow and Peru wasn’t impressing me. I got a lift after about 30 minutes though straight to Piura with an elderly man in a pick-up as is the usual in South America, he was less of a character in comparison to Angel but still a good guy. Peru just seemed like a whole load of desert so far and definitely poorer than Ecuador. I jumped out in the center or Piura and decided to chill for a while, maybe sit on a bench have a smoke and eat one of the three melons angel had left me. The Vikingo was in his third South American country!

Angels pet deer
Angel and his Mother
Random house I saw on the outskirts of an Ecuadorian town.

 

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Hitchhiking from Montanita to Guayaquil

 

Hitchhiking from Montanita to Guayaquil

Burnt Intestines, September 2015

 

Montanita’s a cool little party town, the aroma of weed fills the air and every corner features dreadlocked hippys from Argentina selling bracelets and pipes. One such hippy invited me to visit him someday in Buenos Aires. I gladly accepted the invite, jotting his Facebook details down and continued building my network of friends on the Latino Continent.

I only stayed one night however (in a 5 dollar hostel), the drive to keep moving having consumed me and my next to empty pockets. Completely unsure of my final destination or goal I resolved to keep moving and practicing my Spanish each day with the kind commuters of South America.

The Beach in Montanita backpacker
The Beach in Montanita

South it would be to Peru, but first I planned to stop over a night in Guayaquil. A local had offered to host me on Couchsurfing but not for another two days. As always, I kind of had a poorly planned plan.

hitchhiking montanita guayaquil

While digging through Google Maps, a daily activity these days, I noticed a town (being generous with the term town) called Banos de San Vicente. “Banos” being the Spanish word for “baths” I deemed this place my next humble aboad for a night in my hammock but first I needed to rest my aching backpacker shoulders in the thermal “Banos” I expected to find there.

Walking from my hostel to the only main road (a five minute walk as Montanita is tiny, perfectly tiny, no drunk could get lost here unless they were really intoxicated to a substantial level). I encountered two hippies also hitchhiking, a dread-locked couple from yes you guessed it? Argentina. We exchanged pleasantries as hitchhikers do in South America, I offered some water they took some, they offered a drag on a joint…. Best friends now, but not forever, the couple departed for the bus station complaining that there wasn’t enough traffic, and that the locals are too uninterested in tourists here. All true but, yes no one said it’s easy… Amateurs I guess, or maybe it was the girl, she appeared impatient once the stray cat got bored of her attention and wandered off to resume its torture of the local lizard wildlife.

I strolled down the main road since an hour of thumbing in Montanita had achieved the grand total of fuck-all, except slightly more sun-burnt shoulders. However I have faith in Ecuador at all times, and with good reason too. A relatively small by South American standards sized country with not only an abundance of homegrown delicious food but friendly people too. I strolled down the road with faith that by giving up the comfort of a cheap bus to Guayaquil I would be rewarded with a lift directly to some hot muddy bath in San Vicente.

I could be the 40th person to dump my body into that unhygienic bath of dirty mud later that day. In a country where 4 dollar hotels don’t provide warm showers (does any country?) I couldn’t care less about the hygiene.

Eventually I encountered a petrol station after walking for about half an hour away from Montanita, I came to the conclusion that joyfully pestering locals as they refuel would be my noble task for the day. Hoping to encounter people like the young couple from Guayaquil who brought me to Montanita.

These small coastal towns see very little traffic, often just locals in their pickup trucks who might expect payment after you ride on the back. Your best bet for a free long distance ride are the cars of holiday makers from the cities of Quito or Guayaquil.

“Good Morning”, I positively exclaimed to a middle aged man and his teenage son in a jeep (in Spanish of course).

“Hello, what are you doing?”

“Hitchhiking, I’m going towards Guayaquil”

“Where are you from?”

“Ireland”

“Ireland?, how far away.”

“Yes very, where do you go?”

“Guayaquil”

“Could I go with you”

“Yes, of course”

“Much thanks”

And that’s all it took, some quick chats and a smile, in I jumped on the back seat and we chatted. About an hour into the drive the father (roughly 50 year old chubby Ecuadorian) told me his son studies English. I spoke to his son in English for a while too (nice chap, around 18, seemed the studious type).

I asked about the town Banos de San Vicente and they confirmed that there were indeed baths there and that they could leave me there if I want. Happy days. It was maybe 2 miles from the main road to Guayaquil but they didn’t mind doing me the favor.

The baths were well, run-down looking, but if you go to a lake hungry to catch some fish do you care if the lake is dirty?

Maybe but that’s not the point, I enjoyed chilling in the thermal baths anyway. For so long in fact I got a case of the runs but then when I sat on the toilet all I could release was pure steam. My insides felt like a pressure cooker. I bid San Vicente fairwell and politely turned down the old lady standing outside her restaurant trying to usher me in.

How do I explain that I cooked my intestines today and don’t fancy supper in Spanish politely?

Walking along the 2 miles or so back to the main road to Guayaquil I signaled a pick-up down and asked for a lift. No problem but they were bound for Salinas not Guayaquil. No bother I jumped out at the main road. Decided to wait it out for dark (only about an hour at this stage) and camp out here in the desert by the main road to Guayaquil so I could arrive early and safe in the morning.

Around 8 the next morning I began walking alongside the road, thumb out and got collected by the first truck to pass. A friendly, chain smoking, curly haired and heavy Ecuadorian of around 30 years of age. The truck struggled the whole way to Guayaquil and I was nearly flung into the windscreen every time he changed gear. I’m still always grateful for any lift though.

I jumped out on the outskirts of Guayaquil and caught a local bus for a couple cents to the main bus station where I could get some wifi to contact my CS host. Now for a days rest and then onwards to Peru.

The Banos de San Vicente Entrance
The Banos de San Vicente Entrance, to be honest I would recommend a stopover. The bath was like 3 euro for the day and massages could be got for like 10, I just hung out in the bath though.
Where I splet for night near Banos de San Vicente. Notice how I used a random anmal bone I found to help secure my hammock strings from cutting through the cactus.
Where I slept for the night near Banos de San Vicente. Notice how I used a random animal bone to help secure my hammock strings from cutting through the cactus.
Guayaqil backpacker
A picture taken after I arrived in Guayaquil, way cooler animals hanging about the greens than Squirrels it has to be said.

 

 

Hitchhiking from Quito to Montanita

Hitchhiking from Quito to Montanita

A New Ocean – September 2015

 

Three days kicking about Quito, a cool city with drinkable tap water. Lots of gringos and modern stuff, like fast-food and skate-parks for example. A strange accent here too, the people like throwing a sort of f/v sound into every word.

“De donde eres?”

“Quitof”

Real friendly people too who enjoy talking to tourists, in fact Ecuador is a very nice place where every second street seems to be called Eloy Alfaro Street.

hitchhiking quito montanita

Anyway to the hitchhiking, I took a bus from the terminal in Quito to Tambillo on the outskirts of the city for a dollar if I remember rightly. I was still in Quito but at least on the outskirts, I could see a petrol station up ahead and began walking for it.

“Hello Gringo, of what part?” Some man shouted from a parked car.

“Ireland”

“What are you doing”

“I’m making finger to Santo Domingo” (Hacer Dedo, to make finger means hitchhiking in South America)

“I can bring you a little further to the turn for Santo Domingo”

Too fucking easy I hadn`t even started hitchhiking yet.

From the turn I began walking and turning as cars passed, making the crucial eye contact with my thumb out. Fifteen minutes later I was in a car to Santo Domingo. I jumped out in the center for a look around as my driver had told me the center was very beautiful.

It wasn’t, South Americans think wherever they come from is beautiful, has the best food and the best ladies, agree if you want a peaceful car ride.

I walked out of Santo Domingo, using my compass to find the road towards the coast, Canoa was my aim because an Ecuadorian girl in Quito said it was the nicest beach of them all and I believed her. I didn’t care too much anyway I just wanted to take a dip in the Pacific for the first time, maybe see a whale. Not asking much.

I began hitchhiking once I felt I was outside of Santo Domingo far enough for the traffic to not be all local. Ten minutes passed before a pick-up pulled in.

An old guy with what I presumed was his daughter but turned out to be his wife (common theme in South America).

“You can’t be out travelling solo here, you will be killed, people are more dangerous at the coast, many rats, they will shoot you for a dollar”

Christ I hated listening to this bullshit, he had worked for many years in Germany before returning to Ecuador, because the life is more relaxed here. Not the first person I have heard tell a similar story in South America. Whether it be Germany or the US they always say they came home for more freedom and the food (they never say to use their superior foreign currency to buy property and find a young wife).

Anyway he offered to take me to Pedernales a different beach-town, north of Canoa and I could hang up my hammock for the night in his back-yard. Alright then, what a sweet deal.

The road was nice on the way there, at least for me I enjoyed seeing the banana farms. Ecuador has different climates allowing it to cultivate so much different food yet its not a huge country. Still dosen’t quite have Irish potatoes though.

I went for a quick swim in the sea as soon as we arrived, I don’t know what I expected to be honest. That the pacific would have different water? The waves were certainly good, unfortunately the only thing not coming out to stare at the hitchhiking Gringo today were the whales, lazy cunts.

In the morning I left early, around 6am and walked across Pedernales to start thumbing my way to Canoa. I got collected first by a Peruvian after about a half hour. Friendly guy, we had to stop on the road for 30 minutes to allow his car to cool down.

In Canoa I went for a swim leaving my backpack with an American guy I meet on the beach. He had a place here, he informed me in a way only an American can say “I have a place here”. Instead of saying he moved here. Reminds me of how some Brits refer to themselves in a superior tone often as Ex-Pats rather than Emigrants.

I thought about staying in Canoa but decided fuck it, I’ll keep moving. I walked and walked from Canoa without any luck until a pick-up truck stopped and I hopped on the back, I love riding on the back of pick-ups. The best way to enjoy the equators weather.

He dropped me in San Vicente and asked for money, I said I was hitchhiking and he should of said he wanted money before-hand, he seemed surprised that I didn’t give a fuck and I walked off. I wasn`t going to start paying for rides now. To be a successful hitchhiker you have to really not give a fuck a lot of the time.

I ate an almuerzo (lunch) in Vicente then hitchhiked across the bridge to Bahia de Caraquez in another pick-up and began walking again. I wasn’t getting picked up this time and darkness came with me still walking and hitchhiking. I was thinking about rewarding myself with a nice ditch to sleep in or somewhere to hang my hammock up when a car pulled over.

A young couple and their five year old son, dam I didnt catch half the words they said. Really very ghetto Ecuadorians, the guy had a gypsy look about him. I didn’t think they would rob me with their son in the car though so I jumped in. Of course I would of anyway to be honest, I’m sure a bag full of dirty clothes and a tarp aren’t worth so much. They were heading to Porto Viejo, ok I’ll come too.

When I reached Porto Viejo I realised my mistake, the place was big, and shitty looking. They left me at the bus terminal but I kept asking to be left outside the city so I could hitchhike to Manta, a city which I hoped would be less rough. He wouldn’t let me though and shoved 2 dollars into my hand telling me I better get the bus then drove off or I would be mugged. He wouldn’t let me refuse the bus money which made me feel like a piece of shit for thinking that he might have robbed me.

I walked back out of the city, most people just looked confused to see a tall Gringo tipping along with his life on his back. Took about two hours before I got to somewhere I could sleep without being noticed in my hammock.

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Next morning I began hitchhiking again around 7am and got a lift with a young guy to the nearest turn-off for JipiJapa. I wanted to go to Jipijapa because of the ridiculous name. Apologies to any Jipijapians out there.

At the turn-off was a small village  with probably no name. I love when I end up in odd places like this. Its usually only possible through hitchhiking or if you cycle around the world, but I’m too lazy for that.

I used the two dollars the guy gave me for the bus to buy a breakfast which consisted of soup, a plate of rice, vegetables and chicken plus juice. Then the change also to buy three oranges. I love eating in the middle of nowhere, its always cheaper and the ladies are so confused to see a foreigner that they never try to up the price.

A nice old fellow brought me to JipiJapa. He insisted I take a photo of everything I see and show my family when I go home. I took a photo of him.

hitchhiking ecuador
There he is there now. Nice Guy.

I walked to the outskirts of JipiJapa following my compass and got interrupted by a group of drunks along the way. They were sitting under a tree drinking vodka.

“Gringo, Gringo come here”

“Hello”

“Where are you from”

“Ireland”

“Take some wine” one insisted, grinning, the drink was concealed inside a plastic bottle but I knew from the smell it was vodka. He was trying to get me to take a drink thinking it was wine. Then he would laugh when I coughed or spat it back because it was vodka.

His plan back fired however, I took the bottle then took a huge gulp and swallowed it in one like a mad bastard. Concentrating my face so that I didn’t convey any sort of discomfort.

“Weak, we drink much stronger in Europe, have any of you a cigarette”

I will never forget their faces of shock and disgust as I walked off trying to wave down cars.

Aren’t Gringos afraid of us drunks? Why didn’t he think our drink was strong? Why is he hitchhiking, are Gringos not all rich? Did he just finish our vodka? How dare he ask for a cigarette?

Times like this when your tipping along kicking rocks and whistling, that’s when I love hitchhiking, cars stop, girls rarely but occasionally blush and kids wave.

I soon bumped into three Ecuadorian students hitchhiking and we caught a pickup together to Puerto Lopez. Friendly kids.

hitchhiking ecuador

Puerto Lopez looked stunning, there are so many empty beautiful beaches on Ecuadors coast it’s crazy. Forget Canoa or Montanita, just drive around until you find an empty beach with no name.

Next we caught a pick-up to Salango, then another to Puerto Rico where they left me and I was back to hitchhiking solo on my loansome.

I jumped on the back of another pick-up truck and got to Ayampe. It was getting dark soon and the amount of traffic had suddenly decreased rapidly. I tried hitchhiking on the far side of Ayampe then walked back across the town because I was bored and tried again.

This time just before dark I got picked up by a young couple from Guayaquil returning home after a weekend on the beach. They were so cool, and asked lots of questions about Europe before leaving me at Montanita.

hitchhiking ecuador
The Nice Couple from Guayaquil

I began to search for a place to sleep in Montanita, I had heard lots about this town being full of stoners and hippies. After five minutes of walking towards a beach a black fella approached me.

“Hey, man where from?” (In English)

“Ireland, you”

“Cuba”

“Cool never meet a Cuban before”

He introduced me to some Chilean hippies who were getting high in the middle of the street. Apparently the police just turn a blind eye to this town populated by hippies making bracelets.

I’m going to stay here anyway for a night I decided after sharing the joint. I found a hostel, the sign said 7 dollars but I knew that was bullshit. The guy working there charged me five dollars, somewhere behind the dreadlocks was a brain which recognised 5 dollar tourists and 7 dollar tourists.

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hitchhiking ecuador
Hitchhiking the coast of Ecuador

Next stop Guayaquil.

In April 2016 the town of Pedernales was hit by a horrific earthquake as were many of the neighboring towns in Ecuador.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the many people who helped me along my travels but especially the couple who allowed me to sleep in their back-yard and provided me with a lift from Santo Domingo to Pedernables. I hope to Christ the Earthquake hasn’t left your lives scarred.

 

Hitchhiking from Colombia to Ecuador

Hitchhiking from Colombia to Ecuador

 Hitchhiking Buses in Ecuador – September 2015

The time had come to leave Colombia, I was bored of pretending to be an English teacher, plus trying to learn English from an Irish man is like trying to learn to ride a bicycle using a unicycle.

Even though the locals were friendly (I got the nickname “El Gigante Amarillo (The Yellow Giant))” I meet a lovely chica (shout-out to Gabby). I wasn’t staying as long as I had intended but I still had made a little cash and had learnt a lot more Spanish to help me along the road.

Leaving Ipiales I was technically an illegal immigrant since my Colombian visa had expired three weeks earlier. I had simply went across to Ecuador on the day of expiry, got their stamp and came back into Colombia living on an Ecuador stamp. The border between Ecuador and Colombia is extremely relaxed, you can walk across without stopping to talk to anyone.

hitchhiking ecuador colombia

So I got up early and walked to the border from Ipiales (took me about an hour). Then I skipped across the border and began hitchhiking on the Ecuador side.

No luck. Borders are always shit for hitchhiking and especially here with the way people fear drugs, the news in South America has people convinced their goldfish are dangerous.

I walked a couple kkilometers until I reached the turn-off for Tulcan and stood around hitchhiking on the main road for Ibarra.

A Colombian had told me that Ecuadorians eat dogs. Colombians from Ipiales didn’t seem to like Ecuadorians though since they cross the border with their superior Dollars and buy stuff in Ipiales causing inflation of the Colombian Peso. I disregarded the rumour as nonsense and passed the time trying hard to spot a stray dog walking around Ecuador.

After 45 minutes I was giving up hope and decided to pick up my backpack and try walking. While hitchhiking its always good to carry your backpack and walk where possible. People feel more sympathy when they see the rucksack on your back and are more likely to pull-over especially in Ecuador.

Two argentinian hitchhikers had by this time joined me too. Guy and girl, Franco and Jaqueline, two hippies playing music and selling bracelets to gringos on the road. We set out together in high spirits sharing stories and fags and soon got collected by a minivan.

The old lady and fella were happy to take us a few miles away from the border where we easily caught a ride with the first pick-up truck that passed, Ecuador’s Sierra is beautiful from the back of a pick-up. We sat in the back all the way to Ibarra. A beautiful ride only stopping once at a police checkpoint where one officer quickly asked about our passports.

In Ibarra Franco showed off his impressive road tripping skills. He got us free bread and sugar canes by telling jokes and complaining of hunger. Then he convinced a public bus driver to take us for free across the city so we could hitchhike on the northern side.

“No puedo pagar, pero puedo bailar” (I can’t pay, but I can dance)

And we danced our way onto that bus, at the exit of Ibarra we stood at a traffic light asking the stopped vehicles to let us ride. Quickly we got told to jump on the back of one of the pick-up trucks. The driver sped along at a fierce speed too, so we got to wave at all the cars that refused us (only like 5) as we over-took them.

After that Franco stopped another public bus and got us a free ride all the way to Quito.

Hitchhiking in Excuador was proving incredibly simple in comparison to Colombia.

In Quito we ate a 2 dollar almuerzo and I hit up an internet cafe to locate some couchsurfing, later we hung around the street and got offered free weed. Other Argentinian hippies started to materialise from the walls and drop from the sky as soon as the smell of weed got in the wind. Things were looking good in Ecuador, very good. I bid the now growing army of high Argentinians adios.

In the end I stayed three nights in Quito and then headed for the coast solo again for my first swim the Pacific.

Quito`s a cool city, many gringos and other foreigners, the people are friendly and the water is OK to drink from taps. On the other hand Ecuador is more expensive than Colombia since they use the dollar. Still I love Ecuador though, getting a bus here is completely illogical with all the pick-up trucks you can jump on the back of.

Special thanks to my Couchsurfing host in Quito David.

hitchhiking quito
My Argentinian Friends on the Road

hitchhiking quito

Eight Great Travel Books Based on True Stories

Eight Great Travel Books Based on True Stories

Evasion – Don’t Know

A collection of zines published by CrimethInc in 2003. The author travels the US by hitchhiking and train-hopping. He sleeps on the roofs of donut shops, dumpster dives, shoplifts and generally tries just about everything except working to survive as a strict Vegan on the streets. I don’t reccomend you start returning reciepts you found in bins to scam shops into giving you money to buy bagels but it’s definetly a must read soley for the writing. No book I have ever read has portrayed such a desire for adventure, with a vegan anarchist twist. The authors story is interesting too and often funny. Not many regulars of punk concerts living on the streets refuse to eat meat, drink alcohol, smoke weed, shoplift Madonna CDs and hope to find a girlfreind while dumpster diving. Free PDF copies are available around the internet.

 

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s masterpiece which has immortalised the “Beat Generation”. Apparently written in only three weeks the fast paced book races over and back across the US and down to Mexico. Sex, drugs, shoplifting and Kerouac’s struggles on the road as he more or less followed Cassidy, a rogue car-jacker around the US. A must read even if you don’t plan on living it rough. The Dharma Bums is worth a mention too, if you like this book.

Kerouac and Cassidy

American Shaolin – Matthew Polly

I was left with a burning desire to visit China and learn martial arts after this book. The author comes from the US and is not only practised in martial arts but fluent in Chinese and an entertaining writer. The book is often very funny but provides a very real insight into life within China and the Shaolin Temple itself. A must read if you desire a journey to China.

 

Marco Polo

Again set in Asia, not as relevant to today but still a garanteed page turner for the adventurer. The slow paced travel of the days before the engine will leave you grateful yet somewhat dissapointed. The strange customs and places Marco meet will never be meet again. The way he described strange animals such as a Giraffe filled me with jealousy, he really explored the unkown. An unknown we can never find in the age of the internet.

Marco’s Travels

Hitchhiking Round Ireland with a Fridge – Tony Hawks

He did exactly that after losing a bet to a friend. Tony details the more fun side of hitchhiking just for the hell of it. A great example in how hitchhiking is so easily doable in almost any circumstance with a positive attitude. He stayed in B&Bs and was helped by a radio station so don’t expect anything “backpacker” about the book. Still very funny and definetly worth a read.

 

Travels with Charley – John Steinbeck

Steinback takes to travelling around the US in a camper with his poodle. A very well written and light read, Steinback of course writes in only the way a member of the lost generation writes, just beautifully. He set out to discover more about his fellow country men and along the way he ponders many great questions such as the politics and racism whitin the US and even picks up two hitchhikers.

Steinback and his Poodle Charlie

 Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

A must read for any backpacker. Wheter or not you believe Christopher Mccandless was wreckless in his adventure into Alaska or a hero that todays materialistic world needs to learn lessons from is up to you.

The book is very well written and goes into far more detail then the movie of the same title bases on Christopher’s adventure on the road. Probably the books that’s most relevant to todays backpackers and hitchhikers on the list.

Chris in Alaska

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was another writer to spring from the “lost generation”. WW1 soldiers left in Europe with little desire to work and plenty of motive to drink.

The book is based on Hemingways life in Paris and travel to Spain to witness some bullfights and to party. Possibly his best book it will leave you craving a walk around Paris to “utilise” bars and speak French.

 

Hitchhiking from Cali to Ipiales

Hitchhiking from Cali to Ipiales

 Llama Land – July 2015

The Colombian adventure continues, an unforgiving country with dangerous roads and torturing sun, Vamos!

By the way my Walmart camera seems to have commited suicide, frustrated with it´s vagabond lifestyle. Hopefully I will revive her soon and get the photos from my latest trip up here (just the photos from my phone for now).

hitchhiking-colombia
The map does not show of course how windy, dangerous and long the road gets as you climb into the mountains before Ipiales.

So I left Cali around lunch time on a Friday not sure how much work was involved in getting to Ipiales. Taking the local bus South to the University area and following the main road south after a kilometer or two I found a bridge to stand under and made a sign for Popayan.

After about 45 minutes a local guy pulled over in an Astra. In his thirties, he was glad to bring me to Popayan and we had the chats in broken Spanish.

I jumped out on the northern edge of Popayan opting not to enter the city but instead to try hitchhiking the ring road that encircles Popayan. A big mistake.

There was next to no traffic, every Colombian was somewhere for the international football game against Argentina. So I walked…. and walked…. and walked some more.

After about 7 km of walking forwards and then backwards with my thumb out when a car happened to pass me I gave up and hopped off the road. Then I jumped off the road, found some trees and flung my hammock up, hungry, thirsty and considerably pissed off.

I started again early the next morning, after another 4 or 5 km (with help from an old local guy who took me about 2km on his moped). I had finally walked to the other side of Papayan, and stood facing the traffic heading south of Popayan.

I gladly let my bag down and began petting some stray horse to get more attention, I had the blues to say the least after all the fecking walking.

“Hey look at the white guy petting a horse!, lets pick him up”

Is what I imagined the local Colombians saying.

It didn´t work surprisingly, I walked on and finally got collected just before lunch time by two nurses.

A man and woman, both very friendly and chatty with lovely slow and clear Spanish for me to comprehend. They left me by a Viaje (toll stops here in Colombia).

I stood around chatting with a local guy selling water, he presented me with some bible magazine but praying was getting me no-where and I would of preferred one of his oranges. After an hour one of the nearby soldiers ordered a truck driver to take me somewhere else, guess he didn’t like having me around.

The toll stop
Be nice to the Colombian military at the checkpoints and they will be nice back. Often helpful too.

The truck driver left me at the entrance to El Bordo not wanting to take me further I guess, not much going on here. I stood around hitchhiking for about a half hour talking to a little street kid and got offered a ride to Medellin by one truck driver. Wrong way fella but thanks.

Then along came Carlos, he pulled in his truck and waved at me. Then went for a cup of coffee. When he returned I jumped in and we took off.

My truck to Ipiales
My truck to Ipiales

I couldn’t understand a thing he said, and he was convinced I’m dutch.

“Irlanda”

“Olanda ?”

“No Irlanda”

He just gave me a confused look and then started asking questions about the Netherlands. The road to Ipiales especially after Pasto was awful. All curves, dangerous but very beautiful.

We broke down on a bridge and some soldiers came by to direct traffic around the truck. While Carlos tinkered with his truck and waited for her to cool down. I sat around feeding my remaining oatmeal to some famished looking chickens from the local farm that came around to see all the big truck commotion.

The soldiers were friendly too, we smoked and I spoke in my broken Spanish. Everyday the five men stood on this bridge with their machine guns which I weren’t allowed to hold for a photo.

Endles wilderness surrounded the road
Endles wilderness surrounded the road

Two hours later and she was back to life and Carlos tipped the soldiers, it was dark now though so Carlos soon pulled in and I jumped out of the truck. There was no bed so I assumed he would sleep across the seats. He wanted to start again at 4 so that left me almost 6 hours to sleep. I strolled around the petrol station and laid under a statue of the Virgin Mary. Wrapped up in my tarp inside my sleeping bag to keep warm at the ridiculously high altitude.

At 4 a local man woke me up and then the truck driver. They don’t have alarms in Colombia but rather locals guys you give a few cents to and they will lightly kick you at the desired hour. I had slept reasonably well on the concrete under the Virgins statue.

By 6.30 I was in Ipiales (the outskirts) on a Sunday, Carlos would go no further today. I walked into town, wearing a jacket for the first time in months. Ipiales is as cold as Ireland, it’s very high in the mountains. I started to see llamas too and Alpacas for the first time in Colombia. The people too in the Sierra are noticeably more indigenous looking then the rest of Colombia. I stood at least a foot taller than everyone also.

Stopping for breakfast I bought 2 coussants and a big cookie, a grand total of 600 pesos (€0.20). I could hardly believe the cheapness. With the remaining 2000 pesos (€0.66) I bought 40 mins of internet in a cafe, a cup of coffee and a smoke.

Ipiales is nice and cool I thought, a lad won’t get burnt here and it’s crazy cheap. Also there were potatoes for sale everywhere and pretty girls! I have a soft spot for potatoes and pretty girls.

“It’s a shame I have to leave so fast” I said as I walked towards the Ecuador border.

A car pulled over.

“Hello, I speak English, where are you going?”

“Ecuador”

“Come to my house for lunch, I can get you a job here”

Annnd I’m still here, in Ipiales. Taking a break from the road for a month or two to improve my Spanish and earn a little cash teaching English, I got 12 students as I write this to teach later today.

I’ll be most definitely back on the road soon because there’s no pub here, decent wifi or a decent book store either.

Expect some posts about teaching.

Ipiales has a nice Church where the Virgin appeared
Ipiales has a nice Church where the Virgin appeared when she wasn’t busy being my nightwatch.

By the way I completely bluffed everything. I literally put on a shirt and said yes I’m an English teacher (don’t even have a working visa). I would love to work at this Institute. How hard can it be?

Sup Bro
Sup Bro

 

Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali

Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali

On the Road in South America July 2015

Hitchhiking in Colombia is quite the thrill as you would imagine. But by God the place is really huge and waiting times can be long. Hitchhiking from Medellin to Cali took me two days for example.

hitchhiking colombia

I was in Medellin at around 7am by the bus terminal with the plan of getting south as soon as possible towards Cali.

I approached a young Colombian guy and asked for directions to the nearest metro and he blabbers some incoherent stuff. Then he took a long puff from the huge joint I hadn´t noticed he was carrying.

“You want some my friend?”

“OK”

I offered him what was left of the weed I had, it had been a gift from a guy from Cork (thanks Eamon) I meet in Minca. He rolled a massive joint, fat as a ducks arse with no tobacco at all. Great I thought sarcastically. I´m going to be baked in time for the sun to rise up.

We smoked the weed then he gave me some deodrant, all the time complaining about the many police in El Centro. He took off again after saying something about needing to get to work. I hope he wasn’t like a bus driver or anything like that, the guy was heavy stoned.

In the center I had completely forgotten about my plans to hitchhike South and instead sat on a bench staring at the sky. It was probably around half 8 in the morning. Next thing a police officer approached me with a big cunt of a sniffer dog. He had a good smell of my backpack. Thank god I had just smoked off the last of my weed, and that I was wearing sun-glasses too.

I proceeded to sit at a cafe, read my book (For Whom the Bell Tolls), charge my phone and admire Medellin. Its obvious why Pablo Escobar based his empire here. The place is beautiful, nestled in between the mountains just grand and cosy.

Around 12 I was back with reality again and caught the metro to the furthest station south (Medellin is well organised and the only city in Colombia with a metro).

Hitchwiki says to jump out at Itagui, but I say don’t. There has been two additional stations built south of Itagui since that article was last updated I think.

I got out at the last stop La Estrella. I followed my compass south, crossed the canal (which flows to the north) and got directions to the Autopista (10 mins walking). The road forks here and if you go straight you will take the autobus route to Caldas, veer to the left and back over the canal towards Cali and Caldas directo. Climb the hill about 2km and you will meet three petrol stations in a row. Heres your best chance of gettting the fuck out of Medellin.

I tried some truckers but none were speaking Spanish I could understand or heading towards Cali. I guess most of the lond distance drivers would of already left by 8am. It was now nearly 2pm. I didn’t see many Cali registration plates, just Bogota, Medellin and some where called Cota I never heard of.

Some of the petrol stations in Colombia have free wifi by the way. I emphasis the some.

A four letter word like Cali is ideal for signage I supposed and grabbed some cardboard then stood by the Autopista. Some locals stopped for the chats, and blessed themselves when I said I was using Autostop, great I`m very optimistic now.

Getting out of big cities is always a pain, maybe after an hour and a half Alexandria pulled over. I didn’t believe my luck, a single lady wants to pick me up? That never happens. I didn’t believe it until she waved at me to come over. Perfecto.

We flew down the Autopista to somewhere near Jardin. She owns a hostel in Jardin teaches yoga and like so many girls in Colombia, is really pretty. She left me off by the river Cauca, I chatted with the locals a little then continued towards Cali. I had to get east to La Pintada and on towards the Pan American Highway for Cali.

An older guy in a security uniform on a motorbike stopped to collect me. If hitchhiking Colombia it is important to pack light with one bag so you can hitchhike motorbikes. After about 30km he pulled in to start working for the night but insisted I eat with him. He pulled a big plate of rice, chicken and cheese from his office and a glass of milk. Brilliant! I had planned on setting up camp by the river and cooking some rice I had, but this was much better. Dining like a king.

I bid my friend farewell, he definitely seemed overly concerned about me, insisting I take water and more food for the road, Gracias, Gracias.

I began walking again and didn’t catch another ride before dark so I picked up a nice dry stick and hopped over a fence, beating the long grass away to warn snakes of the Gringos arrival. I could see their holes in the ground as I carefully stepped down to the river and flung my hammock up.

I woke at sun-rise, gathered some water from the river to filter for the day and took off. I was back on the road before 7am and promptly got collected by another motorbike and by fuck did he drive like she were stolen.

He left me off at Pintada and I began walking south again, after about 3km I came across some speed bumps and decided to hitch there. The mountains climbed up to my right so there was absolutely nowhere for miles that a car could pull in. Speed bumps were my best bet of catching a ride.

Some local kid came to chat with me, people always stare at the blonde haired guy, its usually kids who will come and ask question though. I noticed people say Donde Vivenes here (where the v sounds like a b) rather than donder eres as in the North when asking where I’m from. Spanish is confusing enough, I don’t need Colombians going and changing words around from town to town too.

A trucker soon stopped for me, he used to live in the US 15 years ago driving trucks but had 20150624_100925forgotten English and had six kids. Muy Catholica I told him (very Catholic) and he seemed pleased with my input. He was bound for Manizales so I jumped out somewhere before there at a Peaje, these are pay tolls on the roads. Excellent for hitchhiking just after the cars are forced to slow down.

I stood for a half hour with my Cali sign, more cars for Cota passed. I can’t understand how I’ve never heard of a place with so many cars driving to it.

One truck came past with two guy riding on the back of it in between the cab and the cargo. They shouted incoherent stuff at me and had haircuts like gypsies curled up at the back. They must of literally jumped that truck while it was moving, absolute lunatics.

An old couple who had been eating in a nearby resteraunt called me over in Spanish.

“Where from?”

“Ireland?”

“Ireland?”

“Yes Ireland”

They looked absolutely shocked, probably wouldn’t of been that surprised if I told them I was from Mars.

They took me to near Santa Rosa, driving through beautiful countryside on the way. Coffee, tomato and bananna farms rose up the steep hills which dropped again as suddenly as they rose. I definetly felt some positive feeling emotions as I gazed out the window of the old Renault Clio. Colombia sure is beautiful.

“There is coffee in Ireland?”

“No, just potatoes.”

The lady gave me some lovely baked bread too. While driving through one small village she whistled at a store and the guy brought her a 2 liter bottle of Coke for free which she passed to me.

I was back hitchhiking again under the midday sun with 2 litres of coke I really didnt need. Colombia’s an odd place really.

  • They drink Coke and beer in the midday sun when I’m throwing back litres of water to avoid dehydration.
  • The rivers flow the wrong way all the time.
  • When you take a shit you are supposed to put your dirty bog-roll in the rubbish bin and not flush it.
  • If you can’t salsa then your weird.

I stood there hitchhiking and some kids approached, you can always tell when kids are little shit-heads with high opinions of themselves. Its made a lot easier when they all have Cristiano Ronaldo haircuts.

“Gringo, where from?”

“Colombia”

“No, your foriegn”

“Im from Cartagena, Colombia” (I tried to speak super fast and put on an accent)

Haha they were getting pissed off, now.

“Argentinian, Italian, French, American?”

“Irish”

“You smoke weed?”

“No”

Going behind a shed to smoke weed with a bunch of 14 year olds was not on my to-do list for the day. I did give them my 2 litres of coke though for their party and walked on.

Next I caught a van to Periera, a huge place altogether but luckily I was dropped on the south side near the Autopista and I began hitching again.

Next came my only drunk driver of the day.

“Hello I speak English because I worked in Chicago many years before. Can you hold my beer if I see police, also I have very much Marajuana.”

I turned down the free beer and weed though, I didn`t need to get high or dehydrated on the road now when I was finally making great progress for the first time in South America. He dropped me off by some guys selling pineapples and drove off.

In twenty minutes I was back on the road with Santiago a young fellow who had studied English in the US. Santiago is a cool name I think, sounds like a guy who paints naked women for a living or something like that. He drove me another hour or so and we had the chats about the Cocaine business in Colombia.

My next lift came promptly too, a super cute girl with lovely spanish. I agreed with everything she said wheter I understood or not, she was so dam pretty.

IMG_20150624_164900
See What I Mean

She left me at a Peaje, lots of cars for Cota. Seriously Where the Fuck is Cota?

I caught a trucker fairly quickly. He honked his horn at all other trucks and prostitutes and then at vehicles that weren’t trucks and women who clearly weren’t prostitutes too. I really think the guy had actually no honking standards at all to be honest.

He didn’t go to Cali but instead stopped just outside it in a town called Palmira. It was dark now so hitchhiking had become next to impossible and the area was too sketchy for me to camp.

I was approached by a local kid, around 15 years old. He spoke some English.

“Why are you here?”

“An adventure and to learn Spanish”

“Why, you are from Europe?”

“Yes”

“Then why come here. you have the opportunities in Europe”

Then he just kind of walked on looking upset. I know this isn’t a very long or meaningful conversation but it has stuck with me.

I later wondered why he spoke that much English, even a basic conversation is far more than most people can speak in Colombia. I wondered too about the long term affects of Colonialism on countries in South America? If it had different affects to the countries colonized in other parts of the world (like Ireland)? Is it easier for me to hitchhike and cross army checkpoints because I’m a white European than for a local? Do some people despise Europe a bit? I concluded these questions would be answered with further travel.

A bus worker said I could go to the Cali bus terminal for 6 Mil Pesos, I offered him 2 Mil Pesos ($0.90) and took the lift because the bus had wifi. I googled myself a hostel and walked from the bus terminal in about an hour.

I’m now writing this at the hostel, which has a swimming pool, breakfast, snooker table and computers all for 12 Mil Pesos ($5.00) and I can put my hammock up outside. Sleeping inside here is too warm I think. I`ll get cleaned up and head for Ecuador tomorrow.

Feels good to write again for this blog, I know its been a while but I promise to keep you updated more.

hitchhiking-medellin hitchhiking-colombia

Boating the Mississippi in an Inflatable Boat

Boating the Mississippi in an Inflatable Boat

 Huckleberry Finning It – March 2015

Looking back at the title of the page I realize how daft it sounds. Of course my mission was doomed for failure right from the beginning, it was a lot of good fun though along the way.

So the back story was that it was the morning after my 23rd birthday and I was in Cape Girardeau on my way hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans. I was somewhat tired of the road and a bit more intrigued by the romantic notion of boating the Mississippi Huckleberry Finn style. I had no boat nor raft material, Walmart does however have inflatable rubber boats for about $30, why not? After-all it was just my Birthday.

So I grabbed a boat, pump plus two plastic oars, a loaf of bread, peanut butter, tins of tuna and a couple liters of water.

Boating Mississippi
The beginning

Day 1

I set forth in the afternoon with high hopes for a new adventure, no longer on the road but on the water. I instantly came under scrutiny from a helicopter and fellow Mississippi sailors on barges. Some looked annoyed and some laughed, few seemed to respect their fellow sailor in his little inflatable boat. Like I cared! I was taking the Mississippi one meter at a time and hugging the Missouri coast line.

The water was reasonably calm, I dodged a few swirl pools here and there but never was too close to flipping over even when them barges passed creating big waves. A flip would of wet everything, including my rugsack containing my passport and other less important stuff.

I must of gone about 15 miles (felt like 100) before I decided to camp for the night on a sandy beach area before dark. Beer cans loitered my new paradise however and I could hear rednecks firing their guns in the surrounding woods. I slept soundly though with my boat inside my tent now doubling up as a mattress.

Boating Mississippi

Day 2

I awoke around 8am took a piss and went back to sleep because it was windy outside. A half hour later I was awoken by the sound of two men talking. I had neighbors now so I peaked out and spotted two fishermen, one white and one black trying to catch catfish. We had some chats about the US and fish, then they headed off and I sat around waiting for the wind to die down, it was far too much for my boat.

One of my fishermen buddies
One of my fishermen buddies

A couple hours later as I sat there reading my book a small fishing boat pulled up with three rednecks in it. There outboard engine had failed and they were pulling her in. I sat with one of them fishing while the other two went for their truck. He started a campfire by just throwing gas everywhere and setting fire to half my beach in through redneck fashion. I didn’t care though because he gave me a fish. A sturgeon which I cooked up in the fire real nice.

They talked about hating everyone and guns and pickups and the usual stuff. Asked me how I put up with my life in the socialist and nudist eutopia called Europe. They asked about the strange item wrapped around my neck too (a scarf because I was cold). The rednecks had enough tattoos to keep their arms warm underneath their wife beater vests however.

Finally around 6pm the wind had died down and I packed up my shit and got back to floating. Maybe I got about 10 miles before it was getting dark and I pulled in again, on another sandy bit behind someones house. They never spotted me though, must of been watching telly.

Day 3

So I floated on the next morning and decided to reach a town since my water had run out. I could see a bunch of houses across the Mississippi on the Illinois side. I had always been hugging the Missouri coast until now and hadn’t ventured into the middle of the river at all in case of a barge running me down in its hastiness. I was driven to cross however in this instance and get some supplies.

I began paddling across and initially began grand until I was nearly halfway, then the boat just stopped moving towards the Illinois coast and began pushing me straight down-stream. I paddled and paddled every which way but was going nowhere except where the river wanted me to go. Some people in the small town I was aiming for must of spotted me and started gearing up a fishing boat to come get me.

Miracle of all miracles though at the expense of my arms I managed to diagonally move with the river and also slowly towards Illinois. Eventually I got to the opposite side about a half a mile downstream from where I started. I climbed up on the muddy bank and left the boat tied up as I walked into the town.

All he houses were the very same, small bungalows and everyone had a square lawn. Then there was some RVs too parked by the water. These communities creep me out in the US. No charm or history. All the houses are the same and there is no like statue, pub or old church to just kind of look at.

I approached the first person I saw, an old lady doing some gardening. I asked her where the nearest store was and the old banshee just turned away from me and walked back into her house. Bitch!

I found a friendly guy a couple of square houses away fixing his pick-up and he refilled my water bottle. The nearest store though was 7 miles away, a gas station by the interstate. The little town didn’t even have a shop. On the other side of the river where I just came from there’s a small town behind the hills about a 1 mile walk. For Fucks Sake!

I didn’t want my boat anymore. My seafaring days were done before they started. After that horrific ordeal crossing the Mississippi I really didn’t fancy boating back across. There was a bridge nearby for freight trains and there actually was a train sitting there right now stationary. I resolved to hop on the back of one of the grainers and try hop off again on the other side. Needless to say about 5 minutes before I climbed the steep hill up to the tracks the train suddenly started moving again. I waited two hours by the bridge but no train slowed down again and I didn’t want to catch one on the fly (i’m not experienced with trains) or walk across the bridge. There was cameras everywhere and it was a long bridge I could just imagine me walking across and two trains coming in opposite directions at once to flatten me. So I returned to my boat.

Boating Mississippi

My boat now felt a bit deflated, I gave it another pump and I couldn’t hear any air exiting, then I took off again. About halfway across the boat became harder to paddle once again but not as bad as the first time. Maybe 3/4s of the way though I noticed water splashing on the boat each time I paddled, I was slowly going down.

I fell off the boat as gracefully as I could and began swimming. I near froze my balls off and pulled my boat along behind me so as to keep my stuff dry. I made it though narrowly I would imagine and cursed my boat. I stripped off my wet clothes (now too heavy to carry) and left them on the bank with the deflated boat and paddles. Back to the road.

Boating Mississippi
The end result

I walked back to civilization by someones mansion and hopped over there electric fence (I was breaking out I guess). I wasn’t pissed off anymore. It was a failure in the sense I never got far but I still had an exciting time and got some good memories from those three days.

I would recommend it but just be able to swim, always hug the coast, don’t expect to get far on an inflatable boat and have some sort of waterproof bag too.

A friend of mine called Marc that I meet later in NOLA canoed the Mississippi, Pittsburgh to NOLA, check out his blog here.

Boating Mississippi(1)

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Is Craigslist Rideshare Safe?

Is Craigslist Rideshare Safe?

In the 21st century there is pretty much an app for everything for everything social. If you want new friends, partners or advice you can get it without the trouble of having to meet a “stranger”.

The same applies to hitchhiking, there is hitchhiking groups on Facebook where you can find a hitchhiking partner. Websites exist to finding rides, the most prominent (at least in the US where regular hitchhiking is illegal in some states) is Craigslist’s Rideshare. On the website anyone can post either a rideshare offered from A to B or a rideshare wanted from A to B and a little about themselves.

I have used the service three times, Boston to New York, New York to Boston and Chicago to St.Louis. Three males, one White, one Filipiono and one Black of varying ages. In cities that are difficult to hitchhike out of. Has it been safe each time?

Yes without a doubt, I have ended up grabbing a beer with two of the guys actually because they were just great people who had a long drive and were looking for company, also maybe trying to build up some good karma. Would it be safe for a girl though?

Probably safer than regular hitchhiking because you could in theory request the persons Facebook first through the Craigslist emails and their car’s registration plate so at least you know who’s car your getting in to. I know girls who have used rideshare to get places but never hitchhiked normally.

With Craigslist’s Rideshare are you expected to pay though? is another thing I wondered. I personally have not paid for gas on any of the three rides. Usually if its a Ride Offered gig you are responding to where the persons asks for money towards gas you can negotiate a deal whereby its still much cheaper than getting a bus or just say straight out, hey I’ve got no money and explain why. Say your a broke student or a tourist without many bags and you will still probably get offered a seat.

The important thing here is to demonstrate what a regular human you are. In your rideshare wanted add or in the response to an offered rideshare put in the extra effort to make this person want to sit with you for hours in a confined space. Post a nice photo (very important), your age, name, story (why you are going from A to B) and some stuff you like (music etc.), volunteer work you have done. A link to something else like Facebook, your Couchsurfing a/c or Youtube channel etc. will boost your chances too. I usually offered to send a scan of my ID too if they wanted (one guy requested it).

Then you exchange numbers and organize a place to meet in town at a certain time.

Simple as that and probably more safe than regular hitchhiking or in some cases I bet even riding the bus.

 

Hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans

Hitchhiking from Chicago to New Orleans

The snow in Chicago helped me decide that I needed more sun and for that I was always going to head south. hitchhiking chicago new orleans

Getting out of Chicago was going to be tricky, hitchhiking is illegal in the state of Illinois (yes I know, how fucking ridiculous is that?). I used Craigslists Rideshare section to find a ride. A young Filipino guy by the name of Mark took me to St. Louis for free and I hopped out in the downtown area.

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St. Louis arch thing
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An RV Camp Party!

Nothing much was happening in St. Louis so I decided to head for the outskirts of the city and start hitchhiking towards Memphis or Nashville the next morning. I was standing outside a Walmart in East St. Louis because of the
rain, when an elderly guy approached. He warned me about standing around in East St. Louis “Your going get trouble” he worryingly claimed and told me to head a mile up the road and camp at the local RV Camp. I didn’t really fancy walking in the rain but after a minute or so a young lady pulled over and offered me a ride, she never picked up a hitchhiker before (I wasn’t even trying) but didn’t want me out in the rain she claimed and I got dropped off at the RV camp.

I tried to then sleep at the RV Camp but the locals were too kind, I was going to be allowed stay for free and be bought a pint too. Next came a belter of a session with a bunch of rednecks in some dive bar where every guy wore a bandanna with a cowboy hat over the bandanna.

When I did finally get to the road again I started at an on-ramp to the interstate in the Memphis direction (on the Missouri side of town). After an hour of thumbing the only people to stop were two police officers wondering what I was up to. I kind of thought the whole raised thumb was a dead give-away but then I had to explain to them I was merely hitching a ride as they plugged my name into some computer then pissed off.

Just as I was contemplating jumping in front of a car, one pulls over, at last. A young, friendly guy, and he drove me a few miles to a better spot and got me some dinner at the catering place he worked. He picked me up because “I was clearly a European because I was wearing a scarf”. I generally wear scarfs because I’m cold not because I was born in Europe. I think he was gay but yea who cares, maybe wear a scarf if your hitchhiking in St. Louis and you will get picked up by him.

The next spot was an on-ramp again but further out of the city where people might trust. Still all the black folks passed by looking at me like I got two heads and an axe, one group of white frat kids blew there horn and shouted cock or something…. hilarious. Then an old banger pulls over with two women in the front and a guy in the back, very rough looking but genuine I thought. She rolled down the window “You aint got a weapon?”, nope I replied a bit surprised by the question and hopped in the back seat.

Chain smoking and complaining about the government, my kind of people! The woman in the passenger seat had a scar on her face where she had gotten shot before in a failed car-jacking, that memory will remain with me I think for years to come.

They left me off on the interstate and I began hitchhiking again, right on the interstate this time instead of an on-ramp since the shoulder was definitely wide enough for a car to pull in. An animal vet picked me up, real quiet fella who wouldn’t normally pick up hitchhikers but did today, “paying it forward brother”, a very christian guy from my impression. He left me at a truck stop and I decided to find a place to camp since it was getting dark, I strolled up some country road and went into the trees behind a house, I figured the community watch was probably watching telly or something.

I woke up the next morning (on my 23rd birthday by the way) to an angry barking dog and scrambled away quickly and back to the road. I began asking people at the truck stop for rides. The truckers are useless in the US, they always just claim insurance won’t allow them to pick you up. A guy in a pick-up though agreed to take me no questions asked. A veteran, I have found these guys to be very useful for hitchhiking in the South. He brought me further down the interstae and then my next ride took me to Cape Girardeau and I got out there to go sit at the Mississippi River and grab a coffee since it was my birthday after-all.

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Michael brought me to the Cape town.

I got talking to some locals around the coffee shop including some eegit frat types, a cute student girl and a wealthy lady who owned shares in the towns hotel. In the end I set up a date with the student girl for later and got offered a room in the hotel for free with a buffet breakfast (which I really abused, leaving the hotel with heavy pockets). Turned out to be a great birthday really, anythings possible in these smaller towns that tourists don’t frequent with an accent.

The next morning I didn’t feel like hitchhiking though and walked to the nearest Walmart instead and bought a rubber dingy boat. Inspired by the Mark Twain tales of Huckleberry Finn I was bound for Memphis on a $30 Walmart inflatable boat.

I spent three wild days floating on the river passing barges, meeting rednecks and camping until my boat sank (in the middle of the river) and I was back to the road. I’ll write up a full report of the river happenings soon.

Floating the Mississippi
Floating the Mississippi

I meet a guy trash picking on the road outside his house, after some chatting (I complimented the hand gun he carried on his waist) he brought me into his home. I meet his wife and he recalled the childhood sweatheart story and then dropped me back over to the interstate. Memphis here I come!

My lift back to the interstate
My lift back to the interstate

After maybe a half hour standing on the interstate thumbing a grown-up family pulled over to let me squeeze in the back. They were all crazy rednecks, but again friendly enough to leave me at a good truck stop. Again I tried the useless truckers who just wanted prostitutes it seems, hanging around after dark I made some friends including two Hobos also travelling the interstate. They were pretty negative about shit though and smelled bad, I reckoned they were never gonna get a ride or weren’t even trying so I left them to drink beer under their tarp and hung about the petrol station. A worker began chatting with me, I pretended to agree with his narrow minded opinions to gain trust and my cunning plan paid off when he said I could use the truckers showers. Great! But then I spotted an old Mexican pulling in with a cowboy hat and pick-up.

Mexicans are very useful on the road especially the ones who look like they used to hitchhike to work back in their Mexico days. He didn’t speak any English, like literally none, not even hello but had been living in the US 30 years, mostly in Texas. My broken Spanish managed to get me a ride the whole way to Memphis that night. I arrived on the outskirts of the city real late and slept beside an RV Camp. When I say slept beside I mean outside the perimeter of the property under a tree in my sleeping bag so as not to pay the $25 camping fee (ridiculous price!) then sneaked in at 7am for a quick shower and over to the nearest petrol station.

The very first guy I asked for a lift into the city center was a Korea Veteran on his way to the veteran’s hospital. He had a veteran’s license plate on his pick up so I asked him straight away and no questions no problems he dropped me by the downtown. Gave me a bible too. Why do Americans think hitchhikers are automatically sinners?

I kicked it in Memphis for just one night then I was bound for New Orleans. Mark the guy I originally got a rideshare from Chicago to St. Louis with was in town after being in Nashville for a couple days (I knew because we exchanged facebooks). He was driving to New Orleans the next day. I shot down to New Orleans so on the next morning and slept out by the train yard in the 9th ward where I knew there would be other travelers. I got a great sleep on some wooden crates under the stars in the heat not even caring about the mosquitoes the slightest bit. The snow of Chicago was a long ways away.

Waking up in New Orleans
Waking up in New Orleans