Hitchhiking

The launch

Some photos from the launch, courtesy of Zakir Rasheed and Will Jackson, whose names you may remember from the first book…

bookstrots

 

what a cake the cutting  stand signingreading2crowdinside coversigningold book

 

You can pick up a copy of both books via our Amazon page here.

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Powering through Central America

Brazil, the fifth largest country in the world, could fit all of non-Russian Europe into its land mass. Chile extends so far from north to south that it encompasses three different climatic areas. Argentina is a similar size to India. Of the South American countries we have travelled through, only Ecuador came close to being classified as a ‘small’ country, measuring less than Great Britain in length.

The countries in Central America are tiny by comparison. The entire driving distance from Panama to Mexico is less than Brazil’s north to south; only Guatemala has a population larger than London. Lorries regularly transport cargo through the whole strip, passing through two countries a day. That might go some way to explaining the events of this week.

On Monday morning, full of enthusiasm for getting to know Costa Rica better, we set out for what turned into a sluggish morning. True to our recent observation, drivers didn’t seem very interested in our plight, and positive thoughts were hard to generate.

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If I concentrate really hard, will Alaska appear on the horizon?

This was before lunchtime. After several short rides and a bit of walking had landed us back on the Panamerican Highway, we came into contact with a trucker by the name of Lester.
“Where are you going?” we asked.
“Nicaragua,” he replied.

So that’s where we went too. We hadn’t even had a chance to sample any Costa Rican food yet! We’ll have to return. Costa Rica: tick.

Our first day in Nicaragua was a roaring success. Taking Lester’s advice, whom we’d travelled with for 10 hours, including a four-hour trucker-admin wait at the border, we visited a local mirador (viewpoint) and a cool, crumbling colonial city called Granada next to the largest lake in Central America. We were big fans of both.

Laguna and lake in one.

Laguna in front, lake in the background.

Just in case history repeated itself, we opted for a meal of ALL the local dishes.

Just in case history repeated itself, we opted for a meal of ALL the local dishes.

We thought we’d give Nicaragua’s capital, Managua, a look-in, but when we arrived the next day, everyone looked so confused when we asked where was interesting to visit that we promptly left again. (Managua lies on a so-called “ring of fire” of volcanoes and seismic fault lines, so anything “interesting” is periodically destroyed.) Instead we went to a pretty little city called Leon, and chanced upon a local festival.

Marching bands in the plaza.

Marching bands in the plaza.

Well, that was quite enough time in Nicaragua, as you’ll agree.

… Perhaps not, but we were so close to the border that it was inevitable we would get there on Thursday. Elias the trucker was making for Guatemala, two countries away, and would have been quite happy to take us, had we not somehow lost him at the Nicaraguan/Honduran border. We suspect he might still be there, floating in the bureaucratic vacuum truckers seem to get sucked into. Nicaragua: tick.

If the reputation of Honduras was a colour, it would be of a mouldy brownish hue. “Pass through there quickly,” people told us, usually with an accompanying gun-toting gesture to suggest why. We suspect that, as with many of the ill-reputed places we’ve passed through, the kind of danger people are referring to would be unlikely to reach us, but it happens that the road route between Nicaragua and El Salvador passes through the narrowest part of Honduras anyway. Most of this we covered that night, ahead our second incidence of kipping at a police station. The next morning we were through the border by 7am. Honduras: tick.

Another 'cosy' stay with the local coppers.

Another ‘cosy’ stay with the local coppers.

So, five-countries-in-seven-days later, we have made it to El Salvador, with a lift straight to the capital, San Salvador. It’s been quick, but we’re making the most of conversations with our drivers to learn as much as we can as we go, and we feel we’ve had at least a taster of each. Here in the city, we’re staying in a part of town affectionately referred to as el basurero (the “rubbish bin”) and made a little trip out yesterday to a highly recommended mirador.

You'll agree that the two impressive vertical rocks really set off the view of the volcano in the distance... ... we really need to stop bothering.

You’ll agree that the two impressive vertical rocks really set off the view of the volcano in the distance…

P.S. Hitching is easy peasy here. Smiles all round.

Total number of lifts: 261
Week Twenty-Seven distance travelled: 1036 km
Total distance travelled:  29,005 km

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Coast to coast

One hundred and sixty-five days since leaving Ushuaia, we arrived yesterday at the Caribbean coast. It felt good, particularly after a long week on the road.

Hitchhiking can be a lot of fun, but it can also be exhausting. This week featured more of the latter. Here are a few of the lowlights:

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Entering a new vehicle, the last thing you want to see is a large kitchen knife. (At least it was on our side of the truck.)

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Capital cities are interesting, but they are also very large. Thank you Bogota for testing our resolve with a cool 20km-hike.

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We’re all smiles here, but this was before our driver ditched us, as darkness fell, an agonising 50km short of Santa Marta. The next few hours were not fun. Cheers, Raul.

But enough of all that, for the week also featured some spectacular highlights and special moments of kindness from complete strangers. We often rave about the kindness of our drivers, but it isn’t only them to whom we are indebted…

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Henry, a university friend, hosted us for two nights in Bogota.

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This family brought us tuna sandwiches and a bottle of fizzy drink as we waited for a ride near Bucaramanga.

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Juan and Justin (both 19) helped us hitch a ride on a truck.

Now we have to turn our attention to the small matter of attempting to hitch a ride across the ocean, to Panama. If only the Darien Gap (the jungle seperating Colombia and Panama) wasn’t 160km long and infamous for drug cartels, we might consider walking it. As it is, our eyes turn to the ocean.

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Maybe we could just nick one of these…

Total number of lifts: 229
Week Twenty-Four distance travelled: 1236 km
Total distance travelled:  27,004 km

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