Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Hitch The World - Patrick Falterman
I just wanted to start posting stories from my friend Patrick Falterman about his Hitch hiking trip from the USA to Tierra Del Fuego in South America. I think you will enjoy his stories as much as I do.
Tomahawk - Scouts Out!
I randomly find myself in Mèxico
Posted on 06/12/2009
From La Paz, Bolivia
October 2, 2010, 1 Year Anniversary of Nomading
A simple note the author implores the reader to peruse before delving merrily into the posts:
The traveler is a constantly evolving creature who daily tweaks his techniques and processes in order to accomplish two things:
1. To survive
2. To achieve his objective as a traveler, whatever that may be.
When the author first officially started his journey by abandoning his apartment on October 2, 2009 and heading west to California with no plan to speak of, he knew nothing at all about how to live honorably with little to no money. Consequently, his first eight months of traveling (from October to roughly June) were spent learning, by trial and error, techniques of how to acquire the necessary means for survival, i.e., food, safe lodgings, and other convenient and necessary things. A number of the techniques used to secure these things mentioned in the first fifteen to twenty posts are decidedly sneaky, tricky, and underhanded.
However, the author does not wish to omit these shameful acts, primarily because he believes that to do so would be to cherry-pick the ‘good bits’ only to make himself look good. Additionally, he feels that the inclusion of these techniques helps show the reader how he has evolved from a sneaky little bastard who nonetheless had good intentions to the decidedly much more honorable and honest person he feels he has become today.
Of course, the author does not wish the reader to believe that he currently thinks himself a perfect saint; on the contrary, he recognizes his many faults (the most frequently surfacing being narcissism and rampant impulsiveness), and works hard to nonetheless remain a man with a few shreds honor and self-respect. Sometimes he finds himself, despite his efforts, slipping up in some small way; he is, after all, only human.
However, we note that his mentality has changed decidedly from ‘I’ll do whatever it takes to get what I need,’ to ‘I’ll do everything it takes to get what I need, as long as it doesn’t involve sneakiness, cheating, manipulating, or the general “using” of kind-hearted people.’
The author implores the reader not to judge the writer of the early posts too harshly; he can say with absolute certainty that his past self assuredly ment well, but sometimes perhaps got a bit caught up in the moment. The reader will notice how the writer, in his early posts, delights in his own cleverness as he traipses about mooching off the hospitality of locals. Please note the at the present time, the author is deeply ashamed of his actions, and works hard daily to rectify his errant misbehavior of the latter-day.
That being said, there are many interesting things written in the early posts that will no doubt amuse the reader, and the author wishes to state once again that while he was at times without honor, there were many occasions in which he believes he did the right thing. This preface is simply to prevent the reader from stumbling across something contemptible and forming rapid generalizations about the author’s present state of character.
The author states that, one year later, he harbors no regrets for starting his journey, and believes he has learned much about the beauty of other cultures and the kindness of humanity in general, as well as innumerable and invaluable lessons about life in general.
In addition to this, the author wishes the reader to excuse the hastily written extremely early posts of Mèxico, which lack proper descriptive passages and other literary elements that make a piece of writing enjoyable to read. The author did not begin to put a serious effort into his writings until he reached Guatemala, when he realized he may be doing this for a very long time.
The author now frees the reader from this boring disclaimer of a preface and releases him into the pages of his writings.
Hello all! After four and a half days of surprisingly pleasant hitch hiking, I have made it from the small beach town of Imperial Beach, California, all the way to the city of Zacatecas, Mexico! It has been a journey full of fun and surprises. I’ve gotten rides from so many different people, all of them very pleasant and eager to help me on my grand adventure.
The first day I made it from Imperial Beach CA to Tecate, Baja California. My first ride came not two minutes after I stepped off the sand and on to the road from three gentlemen in a van, all dressed in white. They drove me to the border and spent the entire time telling me of how the second coming of Jesus has arrived, and that they are some of the few that know about it. Their mission was to spread the word of God to the heathen populous, of course. Despite their radical ideas, they were very nice and they bought me a couple of dollar cheeseburgers at McDonalds.
Once I crossed the border into Tijuana, I spent about half an hour trying to locate a map of Baja California. I was finally pointed to a hotel, where I inquired to the clerk in what I’m sure was awful Spanish about a map. He gave me one, and I told him that I was headed to Guatalajara, and I needed to find the best route. He told me in broken English to take the bus. I told him, la autobus es no divertido! He laughed, and pointed to a road that paralleled the border, heading east. I thanked him, and went on my way.
I’m not gonna lie, I got LOST in Tijuana. Two hours after leaving the hotel, I found myself in what I was sure was the wrong neighborhood for a gringo with a giant backpack to be in. After inquiring to the location of the freeway to many people and receiving unintelligible replies, I finally found someone who spoke a little English. I followed him for about twenty minutes, and he took me to the airport, and, thankfully, the freeway. I thanked him, bummed a smoke off him, and was on my way.
Hitchin’ a ride in Mexico is REALLY easy. I was walking down the freeway and I passed some construction workers digging a hole. They noticed my pack and outstretched thumb, and offered me some water. I took it, and was just shooting the shit with them for about five minutes, telling them where I was going and stuff, and this random person pulls up and asks me where I’m headed. I tell him Tecate, and he motions for me to hop in. He is a nice fellow, and he drives me to the outer city limits of Tijuana. He gives me forty pesos (about four dollars) and a business card, telling me that if I ever get into trouble in Mexico, to give him a call and he will make it go away. Good guy, I figure he’s either a lawyer or a gangster.
I walk out of Tijuana. Soon, I pass a toll booth (I am soon to learn that every road in Mexico is a toll road) and the guy running it says I can stand past the booth and try to hitch a ride there. I take his advice, and after about forty minutes of standing on the side of the road with an outstretched thumb and an old cardboard beer box (Tecate…I was too lazy to make my own sign) a small beat up pickup pulls over, and the fellow driving tells me to hop in the back. I do so, and about forty minutes later, I am in Tecate! I thank the man for the ride, and, since it is getting a bit late, begin looking for a place to camp. As I am looking, another truck stops and again, asks me where I’m headed. I tell him the next town over. He tells me he can take me to the other side of town, but that is all. I tell him, esta bien, amigo, and hop right in. We arrive in about fifteen minutes (we had to stop so as he could siphon gas out of an old milk jug into his tank…apparently he no neccito gas stations) and I make camp under a tree. I have about five pesos, and I am hungry, so I walk back into town, go to a small small store on the outskirts. I show the lady my five pesos, tell her it is all my money, and that I need as much food as I can get with it. I leave the store with a pack of powdered donuts, some weird Mexican candy, a bunch of cookies, and some strange fruit drink. Then, I sleep…
The next day, I wake up with the sun as usual, pack up camp, and head to the road. As soon as I get there, I notice another small, beat up pickup on the shoulder idling, and I walk up to him and ask him if he can take me to Mexicali. He says he is not going that far, but he is going to La Rumorosa, which is a tiny tiny town in between Tecate and Mexicali. We arrive there in about an hour, (I get to ride in the cab this time, which is good, because it’s damn freezing out in northern Mexico this time of year) and he stops at a small roadside cafe. He tells me that his mother owns it, and would I like some breakfast (I can’t make a right side up question mark on this strange Mexican keyboard) I tell him of course I would, and I am fed a rich, delicious Mexican breakfast, free of charge. His mother even gave me a bunch of burritos, por otra dias, of course :)
After breakfast, I head back to the freeway. I walk a few miles down it, trying all the time to hitch another ride, and soon come to a roadside burrito stand. I talk with the vendor for awhile (my Spanish having markedly improved to casual conversation mode) and after hearing my story, the vendor practically insists that I have a burrito or three. I oblige, of course. After my burritos, I stand about a hundred meters in front of the stand and try for about an hour and a half to hitch a ride. Finally, a man in a small red car pulls over, and takes me to Mexicali. His name is Fransisco, he is from Gualatajara, and he is going to Mexicali to pick up his amigo who is getting out of prison after eleven years, having attempted to smuggle a few kilos of blow across the border. He offers me a cerveza, and, figuring it to be impolite to refuse, I take it.
One cerveza later, we arrive in Mexicali. Fransisco offers to buy me some Mexican Burger King. Not one to turn down free food, I get me a whopper (thirty-five pesos) and some fries. Fransisco leaves to collect his friend, and wishes me buen viaje.
I spend pretty much all of my daylight trying to locate the freeway to the next town, San Luis Rio de Colorado. I finally am able to hitch a ride to the freeway from a nice couple with a staring little boy. They give me fifty pesos, which, since I am overloaded with burritos, I spend on a pack of cigarettes. Cigarettes are dirt cheap in Mexico, twenty five pesos for a pack, or about two fifty. Hell yeah.
Since I am still in the town of Mexicali and it is getting dark, I decide to walk along the freeway until I can find a suitable place to camp. As I am walking, yet another beat up pickup stops and asks where I am headed. I tell him San Luis, and he offers to take me as far as his house. I talk to him for awhile, tell him of my travels, and he becomes very excited and insists that I come to his house for tacos, followed by church. I said sure why not, and we head away from the freeway to his tiny house in a small farming town. I meet his hairdresser wife, his young daughter, and impossibly small chihuahua. We eat tacos, take showers, and then head to church.
I was totally expecting a Catholic church, but it was not. I can only describe it as “Mexican Baptist.” There was much singing and shouting, though no speaking in tongues (unless you count Spanish) and by the end of the service many people were crying. After it was over, my friend insisted on a blessing for my safe travels, which I graciously accepted. We returned to his house, and he then offered to take me to San Luis. Accompanied by his wife, we go.
On the way to San Luis, I see my first real dead guy. Up ahead on the freeway, we see lots of cops. As we slowly drive by, I notice the street is covered with blood and bits internal organs. Then, I see the corpse, or what was left of it. Apparently the poor fellow had been hit by a semi, and there was nothing left of the top half of him. His lower torso and legs lay on the road like, well, roadkill. Esta no bueno.
We arrive on the outskirts of San Luis, and the border of the Mexican state of Sonora. My friend drops me off there, and I make camp about two hundred meters from the freeway under a small tree. Then, I sleep…
The next day I walk into town and find a ride to the small desert town of Sonoria in about an hour and a half. Two men, (again, in a small beat-up pickup) take me across the desolate and barren Sonoran desert. We arrive in Sonoria in about two hours. Sonoria (population 2,342) is right on the Mexico side of the USA-Mexico border, next to the Joshua Tree Cactus National monument in central-south Arizona. It is the most remote town ever. I walk to the other side of town, about a half a mile, and begin trying to hitch another ride, either to Caborca, Altar, or Santa Ana. After trying for about an hour with no success, there being not too much traffic going out of Sonoria, A random guy walks up to me and I talk to him for a bit. After awhile, we head to his “house,” which is an old school bus on bricks, and drink a few beers. After that, he tells me that there is a truck stop about two kilometers down the road that is a good place to get a ride. I thank him for the beer, and head there.
After about ten minutes at the truck stop, I hitch my longest ride ever. A REALLY nice fellow named Homberto driving a yellow semi picks me up, and offers to take me all the way to the border of the Mexican state of Zacatecas. I tell him esta MUY bien, and we are off. I learn a lot of Spanish from Homberto, and he is anxious to learn English as well. He lives in Tijuana, has three children and a very pretty wife. He tells me that when he drives, he listens to learn-English CD’s. I tell him, fuck the CD’s, I’m the real thing! We drive for a loooong ways, through the freezing cold Mexican state of Chihuahua (there is snow there!) and Durango. He lets me sleep on one of the bunk beds in his truck, and buys me lots of food. I learn SO MUCH Spanish from Homberto, more then I ever learned in fat and smelly (gordo y oloroso) Chesson’s class.
Las estreyas il cielo son bonito is the stars in the sky are beautiful
Estoy buscando el camino para Gualatajara is I am looking for the way to Gualatajara
Me regales un cigaro por favor is can you give me a cigarette please
And much much more!
Last night, after about thirty or thirty five hours with Homberto, I am dropped off near the southern border of the state of Durango and the northern border of the state of Zacatecas at a truck stop. I trek through painful cactus’s in the dark to a small rock outcropping to find a place to sleep. I have a smoke, and pass out.
Today, I woke up to find myself nearly falling off the rock outcropping. It is good I didn’t fall, because it was about a fifteen foot drop to a big patch of cactus at the bottom. I pack up camp, walk back to the truck stop, and find a ride to the city of Zacatecas (in the state of Zacatecas) via yet ANOTHER small beat up pickup towing a small Plymouth car. I get to ride in the car, with a man named Cesar. He tells me all about how he used to “robo muchos bancos en Estatos Unidos y Mexico” but that he spent ten years in a Mexican prison for his troubles and he “no mas robos los bancos.” I figured that was a good thing.
So now I am in Zacatecas. It is raining, a bit chilly, I have no place to sleep, and am having the time of my life! So, until I can access the Internet again, adios, my friends and family! Tomorrow I head south, bound for Central America! Wish me luck!
Patrick, AKA The Modern Nomad