After one night sleeping in the freezing wilderness of Patagonia, I realized this region required more planning than I was able to muster, so it was time to fly back north to a warmer place.
I found a cheap flight leaving in 12 hours, but the airport was in Chile and 700km away. With all buses and rental cars sold out, the only remaining option was hitchhiking, something I’d never tried and, strangely, always felt uncomfortable with.
I dragged my bags to the nearest junction and stood there as one car after another turned me down. After about an hour, I thought maybe I need to be more entertaining with my plea for a ride. So I began dancing on the street, which seemed to quickly land me a lift covering the first 200km.
I expected to have to do this dance a few more times since it’d be unlikely to do the entire 9-hour journey with one driver. However, I was still unsure about crossing the border from Argentina to Chile.
The driver who picked me up explained he‘d have to drop me off a few kilometers outside the immigration checkpoint because it’s illegal to transport hitchhikers across international borders.
With the summer Patagonian winds going faster than 100 km/h, the walk to the border felt like an eternity. Once I arrived and presented my passport, the officer at the window exclaimed with passion: “Irak!”
Officer: “You’re the first Iraqi I meet”
Me: “You’re the first officer I meet who’s this excited to meet an Iraqi”
Officer: “Welcome! How did you get here?”
Me: “I walked”
Officer: “You walked to Argentina from Iraq! Do you have any Iraqi money? I like collecting different currencies”
I initially assumed this was yet another border officer indirectly asking for a bribe, but quickly realized he was actually sincere as he reached into his wallet preparing some cash to exchange.
He then stamped my passport, and I eventually made it to the Chilean airport with few more hops.
Hitchhiking turned out to be more reliable than I expected; I actually arrived faster than the bus. Besides, waiting on the road surrounded by these beautiful Patagonian mountains wasn’t too bad after all.