Thursday, July 30, 2009

Concordia, Argentina

The bus pulls over on the side of the highway. I scramble down to the driver's booth to ask him where we are, and he responds, Concordia. Oh yes, this is where I need to be. But where is the bus terminal, I ask? Oh, it's right down the road, just walk that way a little. He gets out of the bus, takes my suitcase out of the cargo-hold, climbs back on the bus, and drives away. I look around me. Nothing. 6:30 AM. Thick fog obscuring the view any more than 5 meters away. So I start walking; he said the bus station was nearby.

40 minutes later. Still foggy. Still cold. Still walking along highway with my heavy backpack and pink suitcase with wheels, only the wheels don't work because the ground beside the highway is sand. Hence I am dragging my suitcase and small mountain of sand behind me. I haven't showered in over 24 hours. Trucks honk their horns as they speed by. A lone girl in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing in sight but an industrial park. I have no idea where I am. There is no bus terminal nearby. What was that driver talking about? There are no taxis to hail. My cellphone is not functional, my minutes expired almost a week ago and I didn't plan on getting a new card until returning to Uruguay.

I feel rather exasperated, so I flag down a motorcyclist on the highway. When he stops I asked him how to get to the bus station and he said, oh yes, just walk along this road and turn at the white cross...yaddah, yaddah. Then he gives me the kicker, the bus station is only 10K away. 10K? That's 6.2 miles! There is no way on earth I can walk that far with my all my luggage at 7 something in the morning in the fog along a busy highway. I break down. I start crying hysterically. I just want to be back in Salto, somewhere familiar.

Despite the frantic tears streaming down my face, I continue to walk forward. Standing alongside the road is not going to get me any closer to the bus station. Eventually I come to a guard station for the industrial park and I ask at the security desk how to get to the bus station again. He basically tells me the same thing as the motorcyclist. I continue onward.

Soon a white truck stops. The man inside pops open the door and motions for me to get in. I look at him. I look at his truck. I look at the tan carpet seats. He doesn't look creepy. He looks like he works in the industrial park--wearing a blue flannel shirt, jeans with dirt stains on them. I don't know what else to do. I throw my suitcase in and I climb in afterward. I hope I don't regret this later.

The man tells me that he saw me when he made a delivery and and then when he was on his way back he saw me again. He has three daughters and he felt bad for me, because I had been walking for a long time and then I stopped at the security gate, so he knew something was wrong. He asks where I am headed, and drives me to the bus station. I learn about his entire family and about a boy who drowned in a lake nearby in the past week. How sad.

This man is a good man. I am so thankful. My first hitch-hiking experience (if you can call it that) turned out well in the end, and once again I am reassured that there are more good people in the world than bad.

I am just happy I am still alive. Traveling success. On a more positive note...the first time I went to Concordia with a professor from the CERP I enjoyed the town much more than the second time when I was all alone and lost. People say things are cheaper in Argentina and cross the boarder to buy stuff.

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