After three days in Guadalajara, still tired and all, we though we’d move on to our next destination and avoid the risk of staying longer than needed for the sake of laziness. So far we had been (mostly) following our itinerary just the way we planned it back in January, so after much thought, we decided to improvise and go ahead and visit a city we were planning on seeing months later on the return trip: Zacatecas. We packed up, taking our usual two hours to get ready, took a bus to the edge of the city, then took another bus to a “pueblo” near our route, and stood with our thumbs out on the edge of the road. It took us a whopping five minutes to get a ride. Five minutes! Halleluya!
The distance from Guadalajara to Zacatecas is around 318km, and it takes four to five hours to get there. The guy that picked us up wasn’t going to Zacatecas, but to a pueblo nearby: Jerez, so on his way there he could leave us in Villanueva (a pueblo JUST before Zacatecas) and it would leave us with 60km to travel through.
At this point, I had lost my fear of hitchhiking, I was no longer worried of the dangers a person could be to us, as experience had taught me that the people that do pick us up are just as cautious of who they invite to ride with them. It depends on both of us, ride and hiker, being alert and wise of who we chose to share hours on the road with. This ride was no exception. Although he used to hitchhike when he went to school, he rarely gave rides to people, but for one reason or another he stopped for us.
As it always happens with rides, it starts out awkward. You rush to get your stuff in the car, decide who gets shotgun, put your seatbelt on, take in the first few minutes of air-conditioning (or the breeze rushing through the windows), relax, and enjoy the easy conversation that springs from getting to know eachother. Until we run out of basic questions and reach the longer silences in between:
“What’s your name?” / “And yours?”
“Where are you guys from?” / “And you?”
“How long have you been on the road?”
“What did your parents say? Didn’t they try to stop you?”
“How far are you headed?”
It was my turn to be shotgun and I had a great view of all we were traversing. The road was long, and it was somewhat curvy, but it was beautiful. Going through vegetation I’d only seen in pictures, I finally felt I was far away from home and traveling. Although to many it may seem as though we are on a prolonged vacation, the truth is that traveling is something completely different and it takes a lot more work and effort. It’s when realising your work is paying off (eg. When successfully hitching a ride), that I get time to let the idea of being far from home sink in.
Unlike other rides we had hitched, this one was going to last hours, rather than minutes. So through somewhat awkward, but eventually easy, efforts we kept conversation going, and going, until we eventually got hungry. We made a pit stop at a local burrito restaurant, and our ride was kind enough to buy each of us a burrito, by then the conversation was pouring out smoothly, and rather than surviving our company we were enjoying it.
Upon trying to leave the restaurant, the car wouldn’t turn on, what happened was our ride had left the lights on and the battery was exhausted. We tried asking people if they had jump-start cables, but we were unsuccessful, and after some minutes of panicking a truck driver approached us and suggested we push while someone keep the car in 2nd gear and start the engine by lifting the clutch. So our ride sat in the driver’s seat, and the truck-driver, my travel companion and I pushed for a couple of meters until it blasted back to life. It was all very Little Miss Sunshine, to be honest, we laughed throughout the whole attempt.
This time I got the backseat, and since it was getting dark I was able to unapologetically stare off into the distance and not say a word. At some point we even parked the car for a moment to look at the starts, still being away from any city or town, the stars shone on in millions and very brightly. Moments like these, you’re glad you’re not following a tour guide, itinerary, or travel bus. After about an hour more or driving we reached Villanueva and said our goodbyes, while promising to keep safe and reach our future destinations. So far this had been the best ride, as we had experienced kindness, generosity, clumsiness and stories.
We stayed in a small hotel/public-bathhouse, and next day we packed our bags again and headed out like zombies: tired and slow-paced. Before heading for the edge of town, we went to the local market in search for some cheap (but delicious) breakfast, and boy did we find it. My companion ate a plate of “birria”, which she had been dying to try, and it did proved to be delicious. In my avoidance of meat, I went looking for alternatives, and I found the best “gorditas” I have ever had the pleasure of devouring. They where honestly superb, never in the city had I ever tasted “gorditas” with such a chunky tortilla, delicious frijoles, fresher than fresh cheese, and all perfectly round. I will go back someday.
After a couple of “gorditas” I couldn’t eat more, although I wish I could, so we walked on to the edge of the city, and stood there with our thumbs out again. Not many people stopped, to be honest, and we were starting to have our doubts about reaching Zacatecas that day. One red car with two girls and a guy stopped and asked where we were headed, but unfortunately they were going elsewhere completely. They drove off, and we stayed there waiting for someone else. After a couple of minutes, though, they drove back to us in reverse.
“We have a gift for you! We’d hate to see you girls just standing here in the sun!”
“Here, we have $60 pesos you can use for the bus!”
“Also, can we take our picture with you?”
And so, thanks to the random generosity of three strangers we had enough to get to Zacatecas (by combi, not bus), avoid any sunburns, and have enough hours of daylight left to do something other than rushing.
I don’t think I will ever get used to how generous people can be, they always seem to find you when you least expect it and when you mostly need it. I hope that once I get settled I can be just as generous to travelers and explorers, to keep the good karma going and maybe give back to the same people who helped me. Some day.
P.S. You heard me! Get yourselves some Mexican pueblo gorditas! They are heaven on earth.