This change of direction lead to a chain of unexpected events. Carolina, a teacher in rural areas around Salta region of Argentina, brought us straight back to Salta. She invited us for lunch, and showed us her favorite book "Spark your Dream", written by Herman and Candelaria Zapp, who are on the road with their 3 children in an oldtimer built in 1928.
Satisfied in stomach and mind we walked towards a gas station, where within a second we got a ride. Driving in the latest version of a fancy 4x4 our driver complained about the agricultural tax increase which the Argentinian government imposed in March 2008. His mourning about the situation was difficult to understand looking at his seemingly wealthy lifestyle. Instead, it was probably wiser to listen to little farmers depending on him who in general suffer a life on or below the poverty line...
Left in a dirty, unpleasant drive-through town, we had a hard time to continue. We were saved by Faustino who responded immediately to my sign presented to each driver waiting at the traffic lights. Faustino was amazing. He is father of six grown-up, nearly independent kids, who always dreamed of conquering the world. He would not ignore a hitchhiker, and occassionally invite those picked-up strangers to his house, knowing that his wife was all but happy about vagabonds at her home. In exchange he could live for moments the life he was dreaming about through a strangers, and continue to shape his idea of leaving home again in the future, hitting the road which way ever. Since strikes of agriculturists caused a huge lack of petrol in Argentina, Faustino invited us to spend the night at his house. Though the initial meeting with his wife was seemingly unpleasant for her, we experienced a complete behavioural change within the next two hours. In the morning we left each other, hardly being able to stop hugging each other.
Truck drivers at the gas station were not welcoming nor helpful to us. But somehow we won the jackpot with a ride in a brand-new bus produced in Brazil on his way to Arica, Chile. Our driver Pedro was incredible hospitable, making us feel comfortable in this - for us - luxurious mean of transport. We had great conversations, passed fascinating landscapes on the road towards Paso Jama, and were in a truly festive mood.
We were supposed to arrive in the afternoon on the Panamerican highway in Chile, but in Susques everything collapsed. The border on the Chilean side was closed due to heavy snow falls and iced streets. Susques lays at 3,700m above sea level, an altitude, which made me dependent on coca leaves. Initially, the border was supposed to open a couple of hours later. Finally, we had to stay two entire days in Susques, which made it unlikely to reach Correo Chile post office on time.
We spent two days with waiting, walking around windy Susques, observing indigeneous children with running noses, enjoying a hot shower enabled by a women heating an ancient huge water tank above open fire, visiting the local cemetery, eating too many bread buns and peanuts, cooked terribly slow due to the altitude, and froze at least half of the day because of temperatures reaching until minus 59 degrees Fahrenheit (-15 Celsius) at night. The first night, though spent inside the bus, we nearly froze, and could hardly sleep on the narrow cold ground the bus offered us. Waking in the morning with numb noses, we could not quench our thirst due to crystal frozen water in the bottles. Pedro with his big heart offered for the second night his sleeping cabin in the bus. He himself shared a truck with another driver. The cabin was a paradise in this harsh nights up in Susques.
Since we let the light iluminate the whole bus for at least four hours the previous evening, the battery was out of power in the morning, and the motor did not start in the freezing temperatures. Watching Pedro and his Brazilian trucker friend, who had frozen throughout the night terribly, shivering in their summer pants while searching for a solution, made us feel terribly guilty. One hour lasted the experiments both undertook to make the bus wake up.
Around 11am we slowly hit the road driving towards Chile. The border crossing went perfect, the surroundings were marvellous, and the road nearly uninhabited. Early afternoon we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama catching a ride with a couple, which had broken their word to take us from Susques to Calama, Chile, as agreed upon the previous day. Actually, even as we caught up with them on the Aduana in San Pedro de Atacama they were not much willing to take us. But well, they did not say 'no', and thus we sat in and enjoyed the fact that justice was now done in this case. Needless to say, 'better don't escape'...
From Calama we made it the same day until near Taltal, and the next night until a gas station about 45 miles before Santiago de Chile. On July 2nd, as agreed with Correo Chile, we picked up our package. Watching Augustas happiness of holding the necessary mini-laptop ASUS EeePC finally in his hands, gave this 1200 miles (2000km) "hitch"-hike from Salta (Argentina) to Santiago de Chile a sparkling atmosphere.