Hitchiking a gas truck – Adventures across Argentina

by Dan Fey on April 27, 2012

After two weeks in Argentina, I’ve hiked nine hours from day to night in Patagonia, hitchhiked six hours with a gas truck driver who spoke only Spanish, and spent a day touring and tasting wines via bicycle. These adventures have allowed me to understand just a taste of Argentina’s beauty and amazing culture.

Hitchhiking from Bariloche

Carly sticking her thumb out to catch a ride 30 minutes outside of Bariloche

In this second of three posts about these adventures, take a ride with a local Argentinian gas truck driver, hitchhiking six hours from Bariloche to Neuquin.

At Penthouse 1004 hostel in Bariloche, Loric, a young Candian traveler was telling me how he had been hitchhiking across South America for two plus months. He said it was pretty easy, and a great way to practice Spanish, since you’re in the car for so long. My Spanish teacher in Bariloche also told me hitchhiking was quite common and safe in Argentina.

It sounded like quite an adventure to me! Catch a ride north in Argentina and practice my speaking and listening skills. Though I studied Spanish in high school, the focus was on reading and writing and my speaking and listening skills are not yet up to par. This was a perfect opportunity to practice.

I was speaking with another Candian traveler at the hostel, Carly who was planning to leave for Mendoza the same day as me. I proposed we hitchhike together. It would increase my chances of finding a ride and be safer for both of us. She was game.

We headed off Saturday (4/21) morning about 10:15am and took the local bus to the furthest point from town.  We started walking with our thumbs out. We walked a few kilometers to a traffic circle where the local road to Bariloche met the highway. We were headed for Neuquin, a larger city on the way to Mendoza.

We thought it was a great spot and couple cars did stop, but they were going different places. The drivers of cars kept pointing down the road, and one guy in a van told us to continue walking a couple more kilometers, so we did.

We stopped at a curve in the road where the cars had to slow down. At about 12:45, a car with a young girl and two women picked us up. They were only going 30 minutes down the road, but we figured we would have better luck out there.

YPF Truck

A YPF gas truck picked us up 30 minutes from town

Once they dropped us off, it only took about 20 minutes for a YPF Gas truck to come by and stop. Carly flagged him down as I was off investigating another truck that stopped.

I spoke a little Spanish with the driver, “vas a Neuquin?” (are you going to Neuquin?)

I heard back, not understanding all of it “Si, pero […a few words I didn’t understand…] solo una persona” (yes, but … only one person)

Looking a little puzzled, I asked “Podemos venir?” (can we come?)

“Si” (he hand gestured, waving us in)

So we hopped in. Carly took the seat, and I sat on the edge of the bed between them (plenty of room).

Asado Meats

Various asado meats

Over the next six hours, I acted as a translator between Carly and the truck driver. He was really nice, showing us pictures of his family and speaking to us about how Argentinian people eat all of the animals that roam around the land. They hold cultural, all day barbecues called Asados with lots of different meats grilled on wood burning grills.

Some concepts were difficult to convey on both ends. We spent about 30 minutes describing the relationship between Carly and me, that we had just met a few days before and were not boyfriend/girlfriend. We were just traveling together.

I was very pleased with myself that I described to the driver how Carly’s dad used to work on a disease from cows that may transfer to humans, but he now works as an agricultural scientist for Canada, teaching farmers how to take care of their cows for better milk yields.

After six hours through the dry Argentinian hills, we arrived in Neuquin, tired from talking the whole time. The driver dropped us off at the bus station at around 7:30pm. We could either find a hostel for the night and hitchhike in the morning or take a 14 hour overnight bus to Mendoza.

Arriving in Independence Square in Mendoza

I was happy to arrive in Independence Square in Mendoza

We chose to take the bus, which was about half the price from Bariloche. Amazingly, we saw a Swiss couple from our last hostel on the bus.

On the bus, Carly and I reflected on our adventure and how it was a great experience.

We arrived in Mendoza at 9:30am and walked around the city for 45 minutes until we found a recommended hostel. It was full! We took a short cab ride to a second hostel and booked some rooms. The hostel was beautiful and had a pool!

Damajuana Hostel Mendoza

Our hostel in Mendoza, Damajuana, was beautiful!

Carly and I rested for a bit before going for a jog through the beautiful park. Later, we cooked a delicious steak and vegetable dinner. We had an early night, as our next adventure was a bicycle winery tour the next day. Keep a lookout for the next post!

Have you ever been hitchhiking in the US or internationally? Have you ever picked up a hitchhiker? Leave a comment here with your thoughts or experience.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Caite May 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Great story Dan. Glad to hear everything is going well and that you’re making so many friends along the way. Stay safe and keep the stories coming!


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