Shards of water streamed down on us far to excitedly, so cramping ourselves under a bus shelter with some locals, we watched two of them making their daily business, offering warm food to busses as they pass by or when they stop. This really amazed me on how people make business; solely relying on a cool-box filled with Huesillos hoping passing vehicles will stop to buy one. Huesillos are traditional fast-food meals, a hot mash of sweet-corn and cheese wrapped in the leaves from the corn and on a day like this, was a perfect time to try one.
Our ride then appears. Phillipe is a regional manager for Copec(the fuel company). Does Phillipe sound very Chilean, not to me and not to Carla. ”Is Phillipe a common name here?“ I ask, ”yes, actually it is, but only if you were born in 1981“. All I can find out on the name Phillipe is that it means a lover of horses and it originated in France and that really does not help explain why it was popular in 1981, even Google failed to provide an answer. Also its worth a mention. Gerrit had hitchhiked further down south after Pucon, where I then met Carla, a Swiss, Who since Pucon we are traveling together back north to Santiago.
It was nearing midday and we pull into another Copec. ”would you like something to eat“ Phillipe ask’s. A tough question when we have already received a free lift, ”it’s fine, I know what its like to be hitchhiking, I’ll get both of you a hot dog and a coke“ and with that he doesn’t wait for our ‘thanks but no thanks’ and when he comes out moments later we appreciate his offer very much as we were beginning to eat our own stomach juices. Thirty more minutes on Ruta 5, we take a right turn off the highway and drive into Los Angeles, nothing like the promised land for all aspiring filmmakers and actors in the U.S, but a small farming town with a small population, it is where Phillipe has to take some documents for his work at the local municipality (government). Stopping outside the government offices, we set ourselves to wait in the car,”no, no, come with me, come meet some colleagues“ so that was that, we walked with him, past security and into the offices where we were introduced to some government officials. I had no idea what he must have been saying to his colleagues when introducing us, as my Spanish was still utterly useless, maybe he said we were his kids, or relatives, I just think it would be weird to tell them, ‘oh yes, they are just some people I picked up on the side of the road, taken them with me into a government building, where security didn’t even check them’. Me and Carla could have been European spies working for BP in an undercover operation in stealing secrets from the biggest fuel vendor in Chile. Fortunately for Phillipe we are not spies and useless ones we would be, as we followed him around like lambs following their mother.
Back on Ruta 5 Phillipe drop’s us off at the next Copec as he is returning back to Temuco. He not only goes out of his way to drop us in a good place, but introduced us into his life and fed us our lunch, he really had been a kind of father to us for a couple of hours.
Being further north the rain dissipated but the clouds still loomed about, looking threatening. Another pickup takes us 10km further and drops us off at an intersection. This pickup ride was a slightly new experience, sitting on-top of a local farms produce of onions and corn, which some lucky buyers will have the essence of grubby tourist on their fresh vegetables.
Slip-roads are the next best pickup points from petrol stations, as it offers the opportunity of slower driving vehicles as the approach the Highway, but this slip road must have had a diversion sign on it as nothing was driving down it. However rather than stand with a frown we created a kind of game using creative ways of encouraging cars to stop.
Me and Carla thus went to work constructing theatrical performances to gain vehicle drivers attention. Praying, faking an injury, being statues, waving our hands in the direction of the roadside, like telling somebody where to park and standing on top of each others shoulders waving our arms about like we were guiding a plane in to land were our best creations, unfortunately none of them encouraged drivers to stop. They did smile, they did look like they were having a giggle, but what they didn’t realise was that we were still cursing them to a bad day with their unkindly support of our journey, so who’s laughing, well probably still them as they are actually getting somewhere.
So with child games over, a more mature idea develops, ten minutes each, to see if the female versus male encouragement will work and so we take it in turns to hold up our thumbs. Carla’s shift brings success. Maybe females do have the upper hand. The pickup stops (yes, everyone seems to drive one of these)”High I’m Phillipe“, how funny another Phillipe. Phillipe begins to tell us about his life and his successes and through our recently found knowledge of popular Chilean names, I challenge our new Phillipe with the topical question, and can you guess? To our surprise and a few laughs later, our new Phillipe was also born in 1981, what a coincident and also slightly weird. He was making his way out into the rural-side, so we hopped off and waited at another Copec and I couldn’t help but wonder if our next ride could be a third Phillipe.