Friday, November 30, 2012


                                   Ya'an, China, 2006. The joy of being far away from everything.

This text was first written back in 2002 in order to provide Autostop Argentina (our nationwide hitch-hiker's network) with an identity and conceptual basis. Now, ten years later, we share it in English, wishing you blissful roads and blitz of inspiration for your own journey.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


TRANSLATED from Spanish BY ERIC BLAIR - Volunteers welcome!

A bicycle could be a modest vehicle, but these scrawny metallic structures, given the right amount of force, can vindicate itself as a mighty teletransporting Pegasus. What I lived recently can attest to it. It was a hot and sunny morning in a residential suburb just outside Georgetown, Guyana. We had arrived by land. I was abandoning myself in a bit of zen meditation which implies pedaling and mastering the most accessible version of man's equilibrium. I was looking for a place to buy breakfast. Lau, stretching beneath the mosquito nets, was waiting for me in a house that had been lended to us. It was, like love and magic, instantaneous and never gradual. A breeze blew, filtered out through every kitchen in the neighborhood, and brought to me a curry aroma so heavy it was as if I had been taken by an invisible bridge to India. 

In the moment I didn't want to check the mirror and instead preferred to let the thread of the scent, now transformed into a Herculean arm, lift me and the bike from the ground as if in E.T. After one year of cultural homogeneity in Latin America (Spanish colonial arquitecture, churches always dedicated to Saint Francis or La Merced, the same language with a different accent, etc.) I confess I was happy and I connected with the unfathomable plurality of the planet. In the blink of an eye I sensed India, Laos, and so many other sites where I felt blessed by an untellable sentiment of foreignness. 

Therefore, the high tone of the Hindu singers was added to the smell of the curry. Eventually, in a way that knocked out any pretense of mentally putting myself back in South America and straying from the path of my fantasy, a group of sacred cows, slow like a caravan of dromedary camels from Arabia, came up the end of the street, marching chiefly and chewing the water hyacinths that float in the canals lined by the two-story wooden houses. Maybe I was in India? Each stroke of the pedal brought me closer, in my mind, to the gardens of Taj Mahal. Then, upon turning the corner, a black family greeted me in that Caribbean English where every word seems the spark of a rebellion. I had to get off my horse. I wasn't in India, I remembered, but in the Republic of Guyana, border country of Venezuela and of other worlds all at once.

Now I was able to remember everything more clearly. We had entered the country via Boa Vista, Brazil and traveled through the Rupununi Savannah with Colombian gold prospectors who had no passports but, instead, a washbowl in order to have their adventure in the malaria-infested rivers. Next, we crossed the Amazon jungle in a Bedford truck from the seventies that the branches of the jungle played like a rusty xylophone. There were 560 kilometers of land and swamps in which we counted twenty abodes. The country seemed wrought with nature. In a fluvial customs on the Essequibo River we slept and observed the Amerindian natives drinking Guinness beer, a strange side-by-side brought on by the Anglo-Saxon influence. And, above all, we accepted Danielle's invitation, the owner of the truck, to stay in his second house just outside of Georgetown.

He was the first to explain to me the harmony that the blacks and the Indians (from India) live in, whether they be Christian, Hindu, or Muslim. It was British colonial heritage that threw the stone and left the experiment going, both races introduced to the region and replacing the Amerindians and they constituted themselves into the founding ingredients of the Republic of Guyana. The blacks were --as always-- brought as slaves by the English to work on the sugar cane plantations. When slavery was abolished in 1838 the English --who needed to keep churning out raw materials for their industrial revolution-- looked towards cheap labor from India, another one of its colonies, to hire workers willing to make the trip. The first group of Indians came on two boats, the Hesperus and the Witby. Now they make up 43 percent of the population. While observing Danielle talk about interracial respect and feed his tua-tua birds, I could identify the very same Indian accent that having survived a transatlantic migration, blessed Guyana with a twist of millenary wisdom. This contrasted greatly with the objective fact that we are talking about the second youngest country in South America


It wasn't difficult to discern that Danielle wasn't lying:  the next morning, an Easter Monday according to their own calendar, we went to the Sea Wall, or the coast line, to watch a massive group of people flying kites. No, it doesn't mean the Guyanese suffer a reversion back to their childhood. Rather, it means that the Christians here fly kites as a symbol of Christ ascending to the heavens.

Black, Indian, and mestizo families all crowded each other with no distinction to drink sodas to help fight off the heat while their children, armed with balls of twine, shared the sky which is wide enough to be the home place of Allah, Shiva, and Jehova. Each one pulling on his cord invited a colored ethereal mark, and the sky turned into an infinite plaza where people could play and not into a theological battlefield. In one instant, the Afro-descended minority tried to impose its own laws. They would not give you a job unless you had a Christian name.


In order to stop spying through the key hole of the lock and take on the heart of Guyana we decided to visit a Mandir, a Hindu temple. En Guyana there is normally a mosque, a church, and a mandir in each neighborhood, and they never encounter incidents. Before entering, a woman wrapped in a saffron-colored sari invited us to leave our shoes on the rug as Asian etiquette dictates which happens to govern homes and temples here. In that moment I realized that, in a similar way, I also had taken off my mental shoes before stepping foot into Guyana. 

Why? Essentially, because all the roads traveled before become obsolete baggage--useless. You have to turn the page in order to harden yourself with new winds and understand that America is something more than just Latin America. It seems simple but it is necessary to leave by the wayside the cultural alpha male that we carry inside, perhaps an aftertaste of resentment for the English influence on the continent. Guyana is, in fact, the only country of the Commonwealth on mainland South America and the only where English is the official language. Here no one has heard of San Martin or Bolivar. Bob Marley -a neighbor- is also unknown. In these times where travels from point to point on the American continent are en vogue it seems to me opportune to point out that there is something more beyond Venezuela. We have a Hindu country in South America to which one can reach by land and without a visa. Exploring spirits are wanted...


Returning to the temple, we entered a wide and quilted room where a compact and relaxed group recited Sanskrit songs in front of an altar exquisitely decorated. The Hindu deities, with their marble faces, faced the faithful. There was Shiva --god of creation and destruction--and his consort Parvati, Krishna with his flute, Vishnu, the preserver of the universe. For those unfamiliar with this religion, the figures can seem somewhere between enigmatic and ridiculous. A man with an elephant's head (our beloved Ganesh), another with blue skin, or one with a monkey's face, gods with faces on either side of their head. 

The first thing we did was leave floral offerings at the feet of Ganesh--caretaker of travelers. We wanted to make it clear that we were more than two simple gringos with a camera. We cut the flowers from the neighborhood gardens because, according to what they had told us, the neighbors were aware of the sacred fate of the flowers, and we knew beforehand which ones were the Hindu houses because flags of Shiva can be found at them. Out of the corner of our eyes we saw the smiles of acceptance and we returned to hear the songs. Those in attendance, just like us, understood nothing of what was sung because Caribbean Hindustani, actually Bhojpuri, is different from Sanskrit -the sacred language- many western Indians lost the language of their ancestors generations ago. 

We were left in awe. We could only fancy our imagination with the phonetic enchantment of the hymns. Something that must be said about the Hindu temples is that they are much happier places than churches. There were no dead or crucified people on the walls. Instead, the images reflect human aspects and less heroic ones. In one painting, Shiva watched his woman, Parvati, as a young man might desire a woman while both balanced upon swings of ivy. And she, painted as a sensual geisha with arched brows, gave him the eyes. Anyway, Hinduism helped me quite a bit when I was fighting my inner rebellions.  The Mayan idea of the universe as a creation of thought was good medicine for putting in perspective social expectations. The anchor of sin and its associated blame, are in comparison a matrix dangerously transferable to other dimensions of freedom. This is why so many people feel guilt at the time of carrying out their plans to travel. Despite having the time and the money, something intangible seems to stop them. 

After the songs, the Hindus shared with us some vegetarian snacks and a woman invited us to eat at her house. It was a humble home. Her nephew supported her from Canada. On a kerosene stove she made chicken and curry. And for dessert she gave Laura some clothes that they had sent her from North America. Laura couldn't avoid thinking about that afternoon in Udaipur, India when a woman stopped her on the street to give her bracelets so as to insure that she would have a good image of her city. That kindness was also found in Guyana. Our hostess expressed it in her words. For her, Krishna, Allah, or Jesus Christ are the same thing. The important thing is how we behave with the gods that live inside of us. Hospitality as a bridge between gods: welcome to Georgetown.


Remember, you can order my e-book “Vagabonding in the Axis of Evil – By thumb in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan” with just one clic. Learn more here.

I solemnly promise the book will envelope you as a magic carpet bound for remote lands. Thanks for sharing the message of a more hospitable world!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Written by Laura Lazzarino
To follow Laura's blog in Spanish check
Translated by Eric Blair
Despite the fact that hitchhiking was popularized in the sixties, the stigma of moving around the world in this fashion still hasn't been overcome. It doesn't matter how many countries you've traveled by thumb, the cars you've gotten in, or the books you've published on the matter, people are always going to assure you that hitchhiking is the most dangerous thing in the world, that no one is going to pick you up, and that the best way to get out of the city is to take a bus. And let's not talk about the prejudices that fall upon a person when they hitchhike.

Still, we, already convinced, carry on with our South American enterprise, and after almost ten months of traveling everything has gone better than we could have imagined. We didn't expect Colombia to be the exception. In the international imaginarium Colombia is synonimous with everything BUT good, unless you are talking about drugs or coffee. What reaction could a person expect when we said we were about to abandon the safe arms of Ecuador to cross FARC country with no more or no less than our thumbs in the air? Catastrophic. That was the forecast.  But we have already been here more than a month and the gravest thing that happened to us was having to drink four cups of coffee in one morning. 

As much as this article is about debunking the erroneous suspitions of traveling in Colombia, it is also intended to share with the readers the amazing doings that have accompanied each outing to the road in Colombia. This is my experience of an afternoon just like any other when we were going from Cali to the Coffee Axis region. 

After two weeks of comfortable urban residency in Esmeralda's house we said goodbye to our friends with the intention of leaving the city behind. With one bag full of cheese sticks and arequipe sweets as a gift for the road, we walked two blocks to the MIO, a public transportation system in Cali. We approached the window and aksed the employee to put two trips on our card. She looked at us. First at us then at the backpacks.

"Chileans?" She asked with enthusiasm. I know that she yelled it, but the thickness of the glass barely let me hear what she just said.

 "Argentines," I replied with a smile.

"And why are you leaving? Don't wanna stay and visit around Cali?" With her index finger she drew a circle, reenforcing her idea about visiting "around" Cali.

"We've been here for two weeks. We already saw everything," I exaggerate.

She put her fingers together in a rose bud shape, a very Italian-esque symbol for a question. Next, she drew a circle in front of her. She wanted to know where we were going.

"Manizales. Armenia," I yell.

"The best. Have a good trip," she yells to me from her glass cell, and she gives me the thumbs up.

We enter the MIO and I feel content. The people in Colombia do not lack in friendliness. While the bus moves I try to move the same scenario to any given subway station in Buenos Aires. To imagine a Metrovias employee insisting that I stay in Buenos Aires is so impossible that it makes me laugh. No, no. Those people don't even bother to smile.  A window worker concerned about your trip and inviting you to stay in her city is what can happen to you if you hitchhike in Colombia.

We continued the trip. The MIO left us at the end of its route and we walked to the service station right where the route that we wanted to take begins. A security guard came near us with an ugly face, and while I distanced myself from him by going to the bathroom I imagined the possible dialogue between Juan and the guard. I am sure that he'd come to kick us out, but no. I came back from the bathroom and I found Juan so self-satisfied, serving himself cold juice inside the office. The guard was standing next to our backpacks and watching over them. "He's going to help us get to the exit, and he even gave me juice. Want some?" Indeed. As soon as we got out the man made a gesture to a bus and he asked him to help us to the last station. The ticket taker accepted without any protest, helped us with the backpacks, and from one moment to the other we were in our seats waving goodbye to the security guard who was waving goodbye so enthusiastically. Out of the two possibilities of this encounter with the guard this one was the least expected.  A guard at a service station offering you fresh juice, watching over your backpacks, and getting you a free ride on a commercial bus is something that can happen to you if you hitchhike in Colombia.

The ticket taker passed by charging the people for their seats, but he skipped us. The people next to us didn't seem to mind. On the contrary, they wanted to know where we were from, where we were going. We traveled just a bti and soon it was time to get off. The place we got off at was not remotely convenient. We approached the driver with a map and he gave us an uncomfortable piece of news:  in his rush to help us, the guard put us on the wrong bus. The highway ahead of us was the Panamerican, which goes all the way to Armenia, but it is not the scenic route we had hoped to take. But we were already there. We thanked the driver and began walking and looking for the exit. A few minutes later someone blew their horn insistingly. It was the same bus that stopped next to us. "I'm not going to Armenia, but to El Cerrito I can take you all." The ticket taker said to us as he took our backpacks off our backs and put them in the luggage area. The people that just saw us get off saw us get on again and they smiled. Behind us a street vendor got on and offered bombones. I sank down in my headphones when all of a sudden I saw a packet of three chocolates balancing in front of my nose. The hand dangling them was from the passenger traveling next to us on the opposite side of the aisle. "For you to have on your trip."...he smiled and told me.  As if it weren't enough for the driver to decide to take us for free out of his own will, now the neighbors were giving us sweets for the trip. Really, this can only happen to you if you hitchhike in Colombia.

We arrived to the exit in El Cerrito. The driver blew his horn twice and got lost in a cloud of dust. We look for the shoulder of the highway and began to hitchhike. A lady approached us and told us that the next day there was a truckers strike, that it'd be better if we got a ride quickly. "I hope we don't have to stay here until tomorrow," I thought. Twenty minutes later a soda delivery truck went by slowlly in front of us. It was one of those that doesn't have walls, and carries everything in plain sight of everyone. I had always wanted to get on one of those trucks. And wish granted. They took us to the next town. Wind in the face, green fields and mountains of coffee, all together in front of us. "This is happiness," I told myself. Judging by the smile on Juan's face, he must've been thinking the same thing. A half an hour later the truck stopped and the workers said goodbye. But not before asking us "How it's going, Maradona..." We cross the street now emboldened. It didn't seem like it would be so difficult to get to Armenia. Forty-five minutes later we weren't so sure. Many vehicles passed by and no one even looked our way. At moments it seemed like Argentina to me. And at times it seemed worse. I know they were scared, and there's a story to back it up, but couldn't they notice we weren't part of the guerrilla? Let's see, when did you ever see a guerrilla fighter hitchhiking? We decided to start walking, frustrated. From what they have told us, in this country, this is quite common. Being stranded for hours and hours on the road, very exhausted and with no one wanting to pick you up can also happen if you hitchhike in Colombia.

We walked less than half a block and a car stopped. A wild pack of shoes seemed to bark from the rear window. There were many of all colors. "This is a purse mobile," joked the husband of the driver while he tried to make us space between the closet on wheels. They were going straight to Armenia and that fit us like a ring on the finger. They were a couple young, the same age as Juan and I. In the driver's seat was the girl driving cautiously. Every time they came next to a truck he insisted: "Blow it, mami," and stuck his arm out the window, hoping the trucker would blow the horn. After the silence, she consoled him: "These truckers just aren't like they were in the old days, papi. We have to look for an older man to respond." And together they laughed upon realizing the childishness of the situation. They got along very well and it was a pleasure to travel with them. They wanted to go live in Chile to work and afterwards go back to Colombia because their business wasn't going so well. In this manner we spent time talking the whole two hours it took to get to Armenia. On the way there we called our contact. First she told us yes and for us to call in a half an hour. Later they didn't respond and said she was in the bathroom and finally that she is not our contact. It was a total mess that concluded with us in the center of Armenia looking for somewhere to go. We didn't get scared. Something was going to happen. When we got out of the car and said goodbye the man put twenty-thousand pesos in Juan's hand. We didn't want to accept it but they insisted. "At least you will be able to pay the hotel. It doesn't make any sense for you all to keep looking for that woman." We gave them a book to make the exchange a bit fairer and we set out looking for our solution. It wasn't the first time someone gave us money, but neither was it something that happens so frequently, even less from people our own age. Therefore it qualifies for the list: in addition to picking you up people give you money when saying goodbye can happen to you if you hitchhike in Colombia. 

What happened next borders upon tragicomedy. We decided to go to a cyber cafe to look for a hand of salvation that would get us out of the situation. Yes, we had money to pay for a hotel, but that would be our last resort. We got on a computer and copied some phone numbers from the Hospitality Club website. For those who haven't heard about this system it is a site created in 2001 to help unite travelers with local people. The idea is to promote cultural exchange through an exchange of free lodging, thus the "hospitality" part. It works by sending an email a couple of weeks ahead of time to the people living in your destination and you arrange a meeting. But there's also an emergency outlet for situations like ours:  to call directly by telephone. So while I was checking my email, Juan took care of calling the recent contacts and explaining our situation to them. The cyber cafe was empty and Juan was speaking so loud. The owner of the place began to ask us about our situation. Finally, a contact named Juan appeared and indicated to us how to get to his house, telling us to "ask for Juancho, the computer guy, at the door." Done. Matter resolved--save for one little detail:  the curiosity of the owner of the cyber cafe. We explained to him everything very slowly and omitted some points to keep him from worrying too much. In the middle of the explanation another man entered with a suit and tie and joined the audience. And he didn't miss the opportunity to get on his compatriot's nerves. 

"Don't let these kids leave just like that! No, no! You should know where they are going!"

Each and every attempt we took to keep him from worrying was totally in vain. He had gotten himself so worked up that he picked up the phone and called Juancho to ask him exactly where it was that he lived and to tell him that he knew we were headed that way. When our next host explained to him again where he lived, the man came back more calm yet more nervous at the same time. (Yeah, don't ask how, but this man showed that it was possible.) He told us that the neighborhood was calm and that it was best for us to take a taxi. The man in the suit took it upon himself to call a cab driver friend of his and I took the opportunity to go to the bathroom. Upon returning I noticed the man in the suit wasn't there anymore and that the other man was talking to the police on the phone. This was the dialogue:

"Hello, sir. I have here two young ones, two Argentines that have arrived with no place to go. They tell me there's a Traveler's Hospital Club (I lost it!! God give me the power not to burst out in laughter!) Yes, sir. It's a hospital that takes in travelers, and they have to meet up with Juancho who's from there. He must work in that hospital. But I don't know one Juancho from Armenia (Armenia has 250,000 inhabitants). What happens if they get robbed? That's why I'm telling you it's better to report it, for someone to know where they're going, so come please to take their testimonies because Juancho sounds a little suspicious to me." (Based on what?) 

The thing is that with the police on their way we couldn't leave, and while we waited the man told us: "I already cancelled the taxi. Let's see if the police will take you. That way you save on the trip," and he finished the phrase with a wink. The truth is that if they took us we were going to save about two dollars, but what was our contact going to think? What if they wanted to search him or something? He was trying to help us!  How embarrassing! When the police finally got there and saw our faces they understood that the man was overly worried, and as they put us in the taxi they explained to the man that "not everyone is so untrusting with the internet. Nowadays, it's common." And he replied: "But how can it be common for these kids to sleep in a hospital?" I laughed a lot on the way and tried to recreate the mental image that this good man had created, of the Traverler's Hospital Club that takes in travelers!   People worrying on a personal level about your safety can happen if you hitchhike in Colombia.

 In the end, Juancho was no sort of drug trafficker, and he put us up in his house for a night. We left the next day with the goal of arriving to Salento, happy about the previous day but a bit tired still from all the work in Cali. We headed towards the exit and got as far as we could go. No one stopped and my patience was getting low. At the traffic light, a boy of 17 years was working as a live statue and collected coins from the drivers. We got away from him so as not to bother him, but after waiting half an hour we saw that he was coming towards us. He shook our hand and asked us where we were from and if we had eaten . We told him yes, that we were okay, and he said goodbye. After ten minutes we saw him coming towards us again. He was bringing two cups of coffee and five empanadas. He sat for a moment with us, but he didn't want to have breakfast, and he hurried off to his post. That simple gesture moved me so much I cried. I thought about it a lot, and I felt so thankful. When we finished eating breakfast we continued on with our task without much result. We saw the boy coming back again. This time he gave us his hand full of coins. We didn't want to take it, and we were arguing for a good while. Yes, no. Yes, no. His last sentence was emphatic: "I feel better if you all have them. I do well for myself. Don't turn them down just because you see me working in the streets." There was no other way out but to accept the coins and to hug him so thankfully. There were 6000 Colombian pesos ($3.00 USD). When I told my mother that same night what had happened, she again told me something that since the beginning of my trip she has told me many times: "They are angeles that God sends for the road." I don't like to contradict her about matters of faith, but the truth is that in this case I must make an exception. To think that they are angels gives them a divine and heavenly aura and it takes away the merit of their acts; it's like saying that they behave that way because they are instruments of God. And I saw them: they are people of flesh and bone, of sorrows and smiles just like any other human being. And they are good because that is the essence of man, although they don't want us to believe otherwise. When someone tells me that what we're doing is dangerous I always respond: "I am convinced that in this world there are more good people than bad. It's just that the bad ones get along better with the press." Beacuse of that, meeting marvelous people, with open hearts and overwhelming kindness can happen if you hitchhike in Colombia.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


We stayed several days in Falco's place in downtown Quito. Falco is the director of Fine Arts College at Quito University. He has some obsession for Mexican wrestling and a fridge covered with all sort of stickers ranging from Jesus Christ to the Transformers. If he feels alone he sits a Mazinger Z replica  to diinner. Now he adds extra plates for these hitch-hikers. Falco is one of those who believe that Art ought to wander out of the walls of Academy. Working together with an organization of sexual workers he designed an image of Virgin Mary that would cater for them. And so was born "Nuestra Señora de la Cantera".

We were not impressed at all by Quito's churches. Latin America is becoming a bit monotonous in that way. Guidebooks describe churches with such detail that one would imagine backpackers are ecclesiastical researchers. The colonial era common to all the countries in the region causes that there is always a La Merced or San Francisco church waiting for us at any city. Moreover, But if you want us to talk about them, let us point that San Francisco church incarnates a fashion that would have repelled that wondeful ascetic monk Francisco de Assis was. He would have found God among "three little birds right on my doorstep singing a song..." and definitely not in gold layered altars. In any case, those stone cathedrals erected by indigenous craftmen call a dramatic lich treat under Quito's stormy skyline.

And we eventually got to "Mitad del Mundo", literally "Half of the World", where one is to find the symbollic line dividing our globe in two halfs. While GPS has come to say  that the 30 meter tall stone landmark is displaced 240 m from the actual spot, it is not any less magical for us. As to hitch-hikers who have made it here from the frozen edges of the Antarctic continent, we are delighted with the event. We suddenly realized that it's been a year and a half since we became "Acrobats of the Road" in plural, which include 9 months of ongoing exploration of South America. Stepping over the Equator's line, in the land of bananas and butterflies, the memory of icebergs seems unreal. But the esence here is celebrating celebrate the mistery of the other half we haven't yet explored.

History relates that a French mission conducted by Charles Marie de la Condamine realized in 1736 the measurements that conclusively proved that latitude 0 wrapped the planet at this spot. A lesser known bit of data is that the same research lead to the outline of the Metrical System, which came to dethrone yards, feet and inches much for the sorrow of British and knackers. The comitive actually walked overland from Cuenca in several stages in their attempt to find the elusive line. The poor Frenchmen couldn't possibly have known that Andean people would ignore their meticulous task just to keep saying their beloved "ahicito no más" when referring either to ten meters or a kilometer. The "metrical expedition" seems to have found a healty balance between work and play, judging by the odd proportion of blue eyed "cholos" in tiny communities like Victoria del Portete and Tarqui, as I personally observed in 2008 while surveying a mining conflict. The French were not dumb, they could have followed their invisible line acros Africa, but I guess lions were less of a tempting option. Way or another, their epic, metric tour gave name to the nation of Ecuador.

Laura and I are enthusiastic to camp in the Equator's line, but we soon learn it's forbidden. That same night finds us in Calacalí, a neighbouring town, equally crossed by the line. It's really easy to make friends in Equador. We first called it dinner time at a corner comedor where we ordered achiras de cerdo and potatoes. We then asked the lady in charge where could we set up our tent. Along with her daughter, they inmediatly suggested their garden. They forecasted the main plaza was not a good  option with wandering drunkmen and reggetòn crasy youngsters with loud speakers. For us, it's more than solving the housing situation. It's a chance to sample how's life in the line of the Equator for an average family. I am glad at the mere contemplation of how they filter grains to prepare morocho. Rosario complains her husband is in a bad mood after she banned him from going out to bet in cock fights. Her mother sustains a similar drama. At a moment we can see how two neighbours drag her drunk husband in, his tongue literally out and his legs as dead hanging elements. In top of that, Rosario and his mother have risen their nephews together. The children were abandoned by their mother crawling. Father works in Quito as security guard and visits them once a month. It's a pitiful Latin frame: two women surviving in spite of their slothful husbands.

When I started travelling, my central motivation was to flag the message that it was possible to go around the world finding good intentioned people. I assume the continuity of this round the world hitch-hiking trip is still a proof of that. However, my pen is increasingly inclined to feature this every day battles od ordinary people. While some trips are challenge centered (reaching Alaska, etc)  and I can still remember myself akin with such lines, I can't now imagine a journey deprived of ideology. America is sorrounding us, not its monuments. I refer to the magnific, odd America, a locus terribilis capable of -even- surviving itself, where dreams ambush behind the dark glimpses of its inhabitants.

Rosario's aunt arrives, greets us and rises a bag of chicken bones that will be her dog's treat. Keeping them lifted enacts a severe speech about 2012. She assures that draughts and famine will come, and that our politicians should prepare us by teaching the population how to grow tomatoes in a bath tube. While she ushes, her 5 years old son presses over her leg an electric massage appliance someone ordered from a TV sales show. That -too- is America.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Our stay in Macas worked as a homey-refill station before hitting the road again towards the Quilotoa region, in the high and cold Equadorian Andes. Just after getting off a 1967 Nissan Patrol I found a playing card on the road, s six od iamonds. Since I began travelling in 2005 I have came across many abbandoned playing cards. I very often felt tempted to collect the, but never did until now, driven buy the quest to collect the whole set randomly as the road decides to deliver them in front of my eyes.

Sonw-capped Cotopaxi reflected upon the indigenous women'e eyes as we all shared a pick up truck. We were bound for no specific destination. SO we welcomed a farmer's suggestion to visit his community, called Guayama, and stay at his families' place.

Inside Cesar's house, women peal potatoes and prepare mid-day meal. Out of the sudden, they say they want to make a special request. Surprised, they ask if we know any agronomic engineer who may want to help their community ti improve the arid land's productivity...

Cesar and his poncho whirling on the wind.... Next morning, we are invited to join the family to the market taking place in a nearby vilage called Guangaje.

As the community meets in front of the church to trade vegetables and llamas, dedicated artists perform a typical dance....

and they effectively gather an elegantly clad audience.

Three women, three llamas. The one unbelievable thing we experiences in Guangaje was mass. Not that we suddenly became believers, but the priest had a Toyota pick up and was driving us to Quilotoa after mass, so we showed some interest. Italian born, the priest openly told the indigenous faithful ones that people in Europe could no longer have babies as a consequence of condoms. Apparently, he was just happy watching at locals having 8 or 10 kids per family when they clearly can't afford to raise them, forcing them to emigrate to big cities like Quito were they loose their identity. There has to be a relationship between poverty and demographic, not as one causing the other, but as the second stressing the first one...