Fast forward two weeks and here I am in Argentina. Returning to this country was not on my list for this journey, but neither was Chile and I was there until early morning hours yesterday.
Let me preface this with a fact - hitch hiking is not so uncommon in Chile and Argentina....
Two days ago a Couchsurfing friend from Ecuador and I commenced our attempt to "ir a dedo" or hitchhike from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile to Jujuy, Argentina. The trip of about 500 km involved the crossing of country borders which is not necessarily an easy feat. On Thursday Daniel and I tore down our tent and packed up our backpacks and departed from our hostel. Chilean money was exchanged to USD since the bank exchange rate and the black market exchange rate of USD to argentine pesos vastly differs ($5 to 1 rather than $8 to 1), a hefty meal of pork, salad and French fries was eaten, fruit and bread purchased for the journey and by 2 pm we found ourselves outside of the Aduana (customs building). Over the course of several hours, or rather 5 hours, we asked all the the few drivers if they were headed to Argentina and if they had room. There was little activity at that hour and although there were a few cars headed to Argentina, by 7 pm we knew we had to return the next morning and try again. Enough of the truck drivers claimed 4 am was when the trucks to Argentina departed, that we left to procure a camping spot and consume a bit of beer to calm our spirits. At 4 am we were greeted with nothing but darkness and cold. A one driver could transport one of us, but in general the drivers refused. All we needed was one "yes" and we could go, and a bit before 9 am we were putting our backpacks in a car that was part of many cars being transported in a truck to Paraguay, and climbing into another car . We had procured a ride.
For a portion of the ride the two of us were in a car on the truck bed, and at other times we joined in the cabin where the two guys from Paraguay primarily talked to Daniel as they spoke in a mix of Spanish and Guaranie and had strong accents so my understanding was rather limited.
At the border of Argentina and Chile was a whole new set of issues. There is a reciprocity fee for US citizens entering Argentina at all borders now. When I last went to Argentina the fee was for flying only and valid for ten years. I had already paid this fee upon entering and theoretically this should remain valid, but as the law change and my old passport expired, I had no proof. And the argentine authorities apparently have no reason to be organized enough to allow people like me to submit old passport information or flight information in order to find proof of payment. So I had to pay again, but had to pay again prior to entry and on a computer, and when I went to do so the Internet almost did not work. After a lengthy period of trials I was able to pay and knew I had no need to cry - I had already shed another $160, I could keep my tears.
At the border we were asked our mode of transportation and had to check in with the Paraguayan truck drivers since they had brought us. Watching the way the authorities acted was abhorrent - with a long line of people to check in, the authorities were siting around watching tv and taking pauses to watch even while checking in people. None of the drivers could go until the entire paperwork and truck check was complete for the entire group, so basically they had to wait around for 4 to 5 hours for a process that should have taken only an hour or so maximum.
After this ordeal was complete, we were on our way again, this time riding in the cabin. For a portion we returned to a car so we could nap, but near the end we returned to the cabin because authorities frown on people riding in cars being transported. At one point the guys purchased food for dinner and we shared bread, tomatoes and delicious pork sandwiches. The generosity of these people and their willingness to help us was absolutely amazing. There was talk of wine and hot cooked food, but when we were dropped off in Jujuy at the side of the road around 11 pm, the drivers planned on driving on many more hours.
In Argentine time, 11 pm on a Friday is absolutely not late, so we were able to find a payphone and later borrow a phone to call some local couch surfers. With luck, we had a room for the night and are still here and about to share some beers and cook dinner together after a relaxed day of exploring the city.