Posted by: adventuressetravels | January 27, 2012

A Salty Tale

Hitchhiking is one of the most interesting ways to travel.  You meet some incredible people you would never otherwise meet and you have fabulous adventures.   The best part is that everyone who gives you a ride is eager to share their story with you.  Hitchhikers are like roadside therapists.  One of my most interesting hitchhiking experiences was when Daniel, my ex, and I decided to hitchhike from Rosario, in Eastern Argentina to Chile.

Oh we had some fabulous rides on that trip.  Christian, a truck driver so ebullient he almost glowed with positivity, bought us dinner and invited us sailing with him in Rosario.  Another was with a taxi driver in training who gave us a ride from one town to the next.  And then there was the Punk Rocker and former junkie who gave me a CD of Los Vilodores, which is one of Argentina’s most famous punk rock bands.  These rides would have made an interesting trip, but by my favorite hitch happened in a little town in Northwest Argentina called Purmamarca.

A lovely Italian couple who were staying there for the night had dropped us off close to dusk.  We ate our dinner sandwiches on the sparsely-trafficked road sticking our thumbs out every time a car passed.

Cerro de Siete Colores - Purmamarca

We had all but resigned ourselves to looking for matches to build a fire and finding somewhere to camp for the night, which, without a tent and in the cold desert night did not sound fun in any way shape or form, when a large semi truck pulled over.

Now I would never hitchhike at night if I was alone, but with a partner, I felt comfortable taking the ride.  And I am happy that I did.  I am also overjoyed that Daniel was Argentine and spoke Spanish as a first language.  The problem with hitching with truck drivers is that often they are from lower economic classes and have extremely thick accents.  Though they may have fascinating stories, language can get in the way of being a good roadside therapist.

Thankfully Daniel was a good listener and relayed the better portion of the conversation that my intermediate Spanish didn’t pick up.

Pablo, the truck driver, was fascinating… he was a miner and had grown up in a huge Catholic family, with 12 brothers.  His family had been so poor they didn’t have enough money for every boy to have his own pair of shoes.  One brother would wear shoes half a day, come back and give another brother shoes for the second half of school.

The truck rolled down the dark mountain road and then pulled over by buildings, an expansive pit, and white mounds.  I wasn’t sure what was going on until Daniel told me.  He had taken us to the salt mine where he worked.  He had to go to work but he would tell the other miners and we could certainly stay in one of the buildings for the night.

We played on the bright white salt rock hills, sliding down them in the bright-as-day full-moon reflected off of the salt and laughing until our stomachs hurt.  A salt banquet table and chairs, salt statues, and all sorts of salt-fashioned oddities festooned the yard looking like ancient ruins in the silvery moonlight.  But the chairs and tables were nothing compared to the salt house.

From floor to ceiling the entire building was constructed with huge bricks of salt.  Inside stood a large table, with salt benches, and even the floor was made of soft salt pebble sand.   This is where the miners told us we could sleep.



Now sleeping in a salt house, on a bed of little salt pebbles may sound cool, fun, and exciting and it really is.  Unfortunately, it is not quite as comfortable as it might sound, and the frigid mountain air made my  sleeping bag feel as if it were made of mesh, but these are the things one has to go through on adventures.  The experience was well worth it, and the chill air helped me wake up early to see the glorious sunrise over the great salt flats.

Sipping our morning maté at one of the salt benches, we soaked up the salt air and the morning’s beauty.

If the camp had been magical at night, by day it was resplendent.  Golden light spilled over the great plains beneath us and reflected off the standing water.   The white crystal mounds we had slid down the night before sparkled in the sun.  Only then did we see the sign warning against climbing or playing on the mounds.  We looked guiltily at one another and dissolved into laughter.

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