Hint: Use 'j' and 'k' keys
to move up and down

The Cupolog

In north america to promote my first book

Bosnia to Croatia in the morning / Croatia to Slovenia in the evening

On the road in the Balkans - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Welcome to Serbia
Serbia-Bulgaria border - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Welcome to Serbia

Serbia-Bulgaria border - © Diego Cupolo 2013

El Ángel de la Ruta 3
He picked me up when others wouldn’t. Truckers aren’t allowed to take hitchhikers in Argentina, but he said he’d drop me off in the next town. 
We’d go on to spend the next three days together en route to Buenos Aires, traveling over 2500 kilometers with some of the best company in the world.
On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2013
 

El Ángel de la Ruta 3

He picked me up when others wouldn’t. Truckers aren’t allowed to take hitchhikers in Argentina, but he said he’d drop me off in the next town.

We’d go on to spend the next three days together en route to Buenos Aires, traveling over 2500 kilometers with some of the best company in the world.

On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2013

 

Going North / Hacia el Norte
Tierra del Fuego, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Going North / Hacia el Norte

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Waiting for a ride in the desert / Esperando para un paseo en el desierto

On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2013

From the Notebook: Jan. 6, 2013“Two half-rotten apples make one good apple.” That’s the quote of the day.I found two rotten apples in a trash pile next to an empty grocery store and was just hungry enough to eat them. For 20 minutes, I had been knocking on the door and no one seemed to be in the place. Or anywhere else for the matter.It was foggy and drizzly in small town Puerto Guadal and I was standing there considering and re-considering the rotten apples when a middle-aged woman appeared on the street. She was round, disheveled and walked in zig-zags, but no one else was around so I approached her to ask about the store.“Disculpe, buenos días,” I said to be polite. “Do you know if the grocery store is open at this time?”She looked at me like snakes were coming out of my mouth. Her lips pressed shut and her eyes widened with confusion. She was both disturbed and hypnotized by my face and kept looking at me as she walked away without saying a word. As I write this, I still wonder what she saw during that long, strange moment. That kind of insanity is contagious. It must thrive in these small mountain towns.The woman disappeared around the corner and then I heard the sound of power tools coming from inside the grocery store. There IS someone in there! I ran to the door and knocked again, but no one came. Just the sound of a circular saw. Bbbbbeeeeooowww.I knocked again, and again, and again, until the saw stopped. There were footsteps and the door unlocked. A large man with mustache let me in. He also didn’t say anything, but I was relieved to be in the store, that is, until I saw the apples on the shelves were just as rotten as the apples in the trash outside. Round on one side, flat and brown on the other – all at a spectacular $8 US a kilo. I went for the carrots instead. They were somewhat fresh. Then I searched out my Patagonian staple food: tubed cream cheese. Always available. Always cheap (and not many food items hold either of these qualities in this region).The man with the mustache didn’t sell bread so he pointed me towards an old lady that did. She lived in a green house across the street. I went over and knocked. The lady moved slowly and breathed heavily. When I got inside I asked her how life was going.“Bad,” she said. “I’m sick all the time and it’s painful to do simple things.”I offered her some of the flax seed oil pills I had in my pack, but she didn’t understand what they were and refused. She seemed to want company so we talked for a while about the world outside her window, mostly the bad weather, and then I paid for the bread. She gave me two extra pieces since the bread was old. Lunch in hand, I walked out the door back towards the trash pile next to the grocery store and picked out the two rotten apples. If they were selling the same thing inside, how bad could they be?Not bad at all after chopping off the bad halves. “Two half-rotten apples make one good apple” I mumbled while chewing the first fresh fruit I had eaten in days. After that, I cut the hard bread in half and made cream cheese and carrot sandwiches. Under normal circumstances, I can’t imagine these tasting any good, but after walking all morning in the mountains they were absolutely delicious.As I swallowed my last bite a dark cloud covered the town and the rain started. It was heavy at first and then lightened up, but it never stopped completely and I went on my way down Route 265 towards Chile Chico in search of this micro-climate everyone talks about. A place where it doesn’t rain.I never made it. Traffic was extremely low and the people that did pass were usually driving large SUVs to their vacation homes with the sole intention of escaping the soggy outside world, not to give it a ride in the backseat. Regardless, I kept walking. Must reach the microclimate.A few hours passed and the only living creature I saw was a large hare that ran across the road. It started to rain hard again so I took shelter under a tree on the side of the road. I sat there on my bag and waited for the cars to pass. Sadly, I think three passed in about two hours. All of them refused.Just when I started getting fed up with waiting, I looked down and realized there was an animal leg sticking out of the dirt in the ditch below me. I looked closer and couldn’t tell what it was, but it had light brown fur and could have been attached to a dog or cat.I got up and started walking again. The rain never let up. I got to the point of being soaked and stayed that way. The road went up and down, and up and down, and it wasn’t easy, but there were waterfalls. Very nice waterfalls that kept me distracted and very nice vacation houses with lakefront views of the mountain ranges on the opposite shore.Then, around 7 pm, despite all my efforts to stop her, a woman with sunglasses drove by me in a Mercedes and I gave up. “Fucking rich people “ I said, realizing no one would pick me up in this area. I decided to turn around and walk back to a vacant home I spotted along the road that had a nice, dry garage with open doors where I could at least get out of the rain. I jumped the gate, checked the area around the home, made sure no one was around and was stunned by the luxury of the place. There were two houses, both beautifully decorated with woodwork, stone chimneys and large decks with porch swings. There was also a shack, the garage I saw from the road and another structure near the lake.They call it a “quincho,” a building made specifically to host big “asados” or barbeque events and parties. I tried the door and the quincho was unlocked so I went in. Instant Relief. Shelter. A dry place. An upscale dry place. There were windows with panoramic views of the turquoise Lago General Carrera. There was also a fire pit big enough to cook entire animals and, most importantly, a stack of dry firewood. I put down my bag and started a fire immediately to get warm and begin drying my wet clothes. When I had the fire burning well I got up and realized the rain had finally stopped and the clouds were clearing up, revealing snow-topped mountain peaks in every direction. I snapped many photos.I also took advantage of the break in the rain to collect driftwood and replace the firewood I was using. (I may be using your vacation home, but I’m not an asshole.) By nightfall I was back inside, comfortable next to the fire, boiling water for the morning and making oatmeal for the second time that day.Adventure means going outside your comfort zone and considering all the wet, miserable places I could’ve ended up, this quincho wasn’t bad at all. I’m now writing in front of the fire before going to sleep. The wind and the waves on the shore make sounds that can be similar to voices or the closing of car doors, but I think I’m just paranoid that the homeowners will show up in the night and find me here.It’s been a long day of mild hallucinations. This is what happens when you walk too much and eat too little. Wonder how army people do it. Do they even know what they’re shooting at in these conditions? Half-starved, fully-armed.Maybe it was that women by the grocery store. A contagious demon was in there. Maybe she wasn’t even real. Two half-rotten apples make one good apple. What the hell am I writing. Okay, time for bed. I’m tired of hearing voices now.
Puerto Guadal, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

From the Notebook: Jan. 6, 2013

“Two half-rotten apples make one good apple.” That’s the quote of the day.

I found two rotten apples in a trash pile next to an empty grocery store and was just hungry enough to eat them. For 20 minutes, I had been knocking on the door and no one seemed to be in the place. Or anywhere else for the matter.

It was foggy and drizzly in small town Puerto Guadal and I was standing there considering and re-considering the rotten apples when a middle-aged woman appeared on the street. She was round, disheveled and walked in zig-zags, but no one else was around so I approached her to ask about the store.

“Disculpe, buenos días,” I said to be polite. “Do you know if the grocery store is open at this time?”

She looked at me like snakes were coming out of my mouth. Her lips pressed shut and her eyes widened with confusion. She was both disturbed and hypnotized by my face and kept looking at me as she walked away without saying a word. As I write this, I still wonder what she saw during that long, strange moment. That kind of insanity is contagious. It must thrive in these small mountain towns.

The woman disappeared around the corner and then I heard the sound of power tools coming from inside the grocery store. There IS someone in there! I ran to the door and knocked again, but no one came. Just the sound of a circular saw. Bbbbbeeeeooowww.

I knocked again, and again, and again, until the saw stopped. There were footsteps and the door unlocked. A large man with mustache let me in. He also didn’t say anything, but I was relieved to be in the store, that is, until I saw the apples on the shelves were just as rotten as the apples in the trash outside. Round on one side, flat and brown on the other – all at a spectacular $8 US a kilo.

I went for the carrots instead. They were somewhat fresh. Then I searched out my Patagonian staple food: tubed cream cheese. Always available. Always cheap (and not many food items hold either of these qualities in this region).

The man with the mustache didn’t sell bread so he pointed me towards an old lady that did. She lived in a green house across the street. I went over and knocked. The lady moved slowly and breathed heavily. When I got inside I asked her how life was going.

“Bad,” she said. “I’m sick all the time and it’s painful to do simple things.”

I offered her some of the flax seed oil pills I had in my pack, but she didn’t understand what they were and refused. She seemed to want company so we talked for a while about the world outside her window, mostly the bad weather, and then I paid for the bread. She gave me two extra pieces since the bread was old.

Lunch in hand, I walked out the door back towards the trash pile next to the grocery store and picked out the two rotten apples. If they were selling the same thing inside, how bad could they be?

Not bad at all after chopping off the bad halves. “Two half-rotten apples make one good apple” I mumbled while chewing the first fresh fruit I had eaten in days. After that, I cut the hard bread in half and made cream cheese and carrot sandwiches. Under normal circumstances, I can’t imagine these tasting any good, but after walking all morning in the mountains they were absolutely delicious.

As I swallowed my last bite a dark cloud covered the town and the rain started. It was heavy at first and then lightened up, but it never stopped completely and I went on my way down Route 265 towards Chile Chico in search of this micro-climate everyone talks about. A place where it doesn’t rain.

I never made it. Traffic was extremely low and the people that did pass were usually driving large SUVs to their vacation homes with the sole intention of escaping the soggy outside world, not to give it a ride in the backseat. Regardless, I kept walking. Must reach the microclimate.

A few hours passed and the only living creature I saw was a large hare that ran across the road. It started to rain hard again so I took shelter under a tree on the side of the road. I sat there on my bag and waited for the cars to pass. Sadly, I think three passed in about two hours. All of them refused.

Just when I started getting fed up with waiting, I looked down and realized there was an animal leg sticking out of the dirt in the ditch below me. I looked closer and couldn’t tell what it was, but it had light brown fur and could have been attached to a dog or cat.

I got up and started walking again. The rain never let up. I got to the point of being soaked and stayed that way. The road went up and down, and up and down, and it wasn’t easy, but there were waterfalls. Very nice waterfalls that kept me distracted and very nice vacation houses with lakefront views of the mountain ranges on the opposite shore.

Then, around 7 pm, despite all my efforts to stop her, a woman with sunglasses drove by me in a Mercedes and I gave up. “Fucking rich people “ I said, realizing no one would pick me up in this area. I decided to turn around and walk back to a vacant home I spotted along the road that had a nice, dry garage with open doors where I could at least get out of the rain.

I jumped the gate, checked the area around the home, made sure no one was around and was stunned by the luxury of the place. There were two houses, both beautifully decorated with woodwork, stone chimneys and large decks with porch swings. There was also a shack, the garage I saw from the road and another structure near the lake.

They call it a “quincho,” a building made specifically to host big “asados” or barbeque events and parties. I tried the door and the quincho was unlocked so I went in. Instant Relief. Shelter. A dry place. An upscale dry place. There were windows with panoramic views of the turquoise Lago General Carrera. There was also a fire pit big enough to cook entire animals and, most importantly, a stack of dry firewood.

I put down my bag and started a fire immediately to get warm and begin drying my wet clothes. When I had the fire burning well I got up and realized the rain had finally stopped and the clouds were clearing up, revealing snow-topped mountain peaks in every direction. I snapped many photos.

I also took advantage of the break in the rain to collect driftwood and replace the firewood I was using. (I may be using your vacation home, but I’m not an asshole.) By nightfall I was back inside, comfortable next to the fire, boiling water for the morning and making oatmeal for the second time that day.

Adventure means going outside your comfort zone and considering all the wet, miserable places I could’ve ended up, this quincho wasn’t bad at all.

I’m now writing in front of the fire before going to sleep. The wind and the waves on the shore make sounds that can be similar to voices or the closing of car doors, but I think I’m just paranoid that the homeowners will show up in the night and find me here.

It’s been a long day of mild hallucinations. This is what happens when you walk too much and eat too little. Wonder how army people do it. Do they even know what they’re shooting at in these conditions? Half-starved, fully-armed.

Maybe it was that women by the grocery store. A contagious demon was in there. Maybe she wasn’t even real. Two half-rotten apples make one good apple. What the hell am I writing. Okay, time for bed. I’m tired of hearing voices now.

Puerto Guadal, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

The best seat in Patagonia / El mejor asiento en la Patagonia
Carretera Austral, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

The best seat in Patagonia / El mejor asiento en la Patagonia

Carretera Austral, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Riding with a bucket full of ambiguities / Viajando con un balde lleno de ambigüedades
Carretera Austral, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Riding with a bucket full of ambiguities / Viajando con un balde lleno de ambigüedades

Carretera Austral, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

New Year’s Eve
Carretera Austral, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

New Year’s Eve

Carretera Austral, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

A dedo por el río / Hitchhiking down the river
Made a wrong turn off the Carretera Austral and ended up near the Argentina border.
Started walking back.
Got picked up by a group of guys who were making a promotional video for a new tour agency.
They invite me to go whitewater rafting on Class 5 rapids in the Futaleufú river. 
Not so bad for making a wrong turn.
Rio Futaleufú, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

A dedo por el río / Hitchhiking down the river

Made a wrong turn off the Carretera Austral and ended up near the Argentina border.

Started walking back.

Got picked up by a group of guys who were making a promotional video for a new tour agency.

They invite me to go whitewater rafting on Class 5 rapids in the Futaleufú river.

Not so bad for making a wrong turn.

Rio Futaleufú, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

El camino de ripio / The gravel road
When I touched down on Chile’s mainland I decided to hitchhike or walk the rest of way south on the Carretera Austral.
I had a lot of time to think on the boat ride over and realized I had been spending a lot of money on buses and wasn’t really enjoying the journey. A change was needed. The new adventure began and I received confirmation when I got my second ride from a park ranger who took me into Pumalín Park free of charge.
Parque Pumalín, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

El camino de ripio / The gravel road

When I touched down on Chile’s mainland I decided to hitchhike or walk the rest of way south on the Carretera Austral.

I had a lot of time to think on the boat ride over and realized I had been spending a lot of money on buses and wasn’t really enjoying the journey. A change was needed. The new adventure began and I received confirmation when I got my second ride from a park ranger who took me into Pumalín Park free of charge.

Parque Pumalín, Chile - © Diego Cupolo 2013

Looking Back
I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion.
I couldn’t have found a better love.
You will be missed.

Looking Back

I couldn’t have asked for a better travel companion.

I couldn’t have found a better love.

You will be missed.

Hitchhiking to Buenos Aires
On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Hitchhiking to Buenos Aires

On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Remi the RacerHe drove 240 km (150 miles) per hour – minimum – and did so on the wrong side of the highway, driving into oncoming traffic while rolling a cigarette with one hand and holding a mate with the other. Hollering. Cackling. Coughing.Remi liked to drive on the left side of the road not because he was passing cars, but because he was a 32-year-old retired motocross racer and everything else was boring. He picked us up outside San Marcos. A skinny blonde woman with aviator sunglasses sat in the passenger seat and laughed constantly. She laughed even when no one talked. Everything was funny.From what I understood, the two met at a gas station at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning. They talked for a few minutes and then the woman, a dental assistant, jumped in Remi’s car with a bag of merca, and they drove off for a weekend in San Marcos.Now it was Monday. Remi had to get back to Cordoba.“I come up here every two weeks to see my son,” he said. “He’s the cutest little guy, I’m already teaching him to drive, but his mom’s muy mala onda, she’s an angry hippie that won’t let me near him very often.”At 240 km per hour we got to Cordoba in a few hours. Remi dropped off the dental assistant where she left her car, kissed her goodbye, and called her a “crazy bitch” as she drove off, laughing of course. After that, he brought us to his little sister’s apartment so he could take a shower and steal a bigger mate cup for the drive.We then ate a box of empanadas, drove around the city to buy, trade, and sell various car parts and picked up a Turkish guy before heading south towards Buenos Aires. Apparently, someone owed the Turk 5000 pesos in Remi’s hometown. For what, I didn’t ask.I made Ania sit in the front seat and I sat in the back with the Turk who fell asleep instantly, but woke up occasionally to tell Remi to slow down. To pass time, we sipped mate and Remi told a story about his friend that went to jail for dating a hooker. Something about a pimp getting mad about all the free sex he was having and paying off a judge.Sometime after midnight, we got to Remi’s hometown, Laboulaye. The Turk collected his money and immediately took a bus back to Cordoba and Remi took us the bar “he closed every night of the week.” We were welcomed with free food and drinks. Many whiskey shots and many cold cuts. At some point after that we were in a casino and a woman in a red dress was singing.The sun was coming up when Remi slapped the keys of his vacation home in my hands and sent us off to bed. Just like that, he went to sleep somewhere else and left us with a house to ourselves.This was day number one with the racer. Two more days would follow.
On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

Remi the Racer

He drove 240 km (150 miles) per hour – minimum – and did so on the wrong side of the highway, driving into oncoming traffic while rolling a cigarette with one hand and holding a mate with the other. Hollering. Cackling. Coughing.

Remi liked to drive on the left side of the road not because he was passing cars, but because he was a 32-year-old retired motocross racer and everything else was boring.

He picked us up outside San Marcos. A skinny blonde woman with aviator sunglasses sat in the passenger seat and laughed constantly. She laughed even when no one talked. Everything was funny.

From what I understood, the two met at a gas station at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning. They talked for a few minutes and then the woman, a dental assistant, jumped in Remi’s car with a bag of merca, and they drove off for a weekend in San Marcos.

Now it was Monday. Remi had to get back to Cordoba.

“I come up here every two weeks to see my son,” he said. “He’s the cutest little guy, I’m already teaching him to drive, but his mom’s muy mala onda, she’s an angry hippie that won’t let me near him very often.”

At 240 km per hour we got to Cordoba in a few hours. Remi dropped off the dental assistant where she left her car, kissed her goodbye, and called her a “crazy bitch” as she drove off, laughing of course. After that, he brought us to his little sister’s apartment so he could take a shower and steal a bigger mate cup for the drive.

We then ate a box of empanadas, drove around the city to buy, trade, and sell various car parts and picked up a Turkish guy before heading south towards Buenos Aires. Apparently, someone owed the Turk 5000 pesos in Remi’s hometown. For what, I didn’t ask.

I made Ania sit in the front seat and I sat in the back with the Turk who fell asleep instantly, but woke up occasionally to tell Remi to slow down. To pass time, we sipped mate and Remi told a story about his friend that went to jail for dating a hooker. Something about a pimp getting mad about all the free sex he was having and paying off a judge.

Sometime after midnight, we got to Remi’s hometown, Laboulaye. The Turk collected his money and immediately took a bus back to Cordoba and Remi took us the bar “he closed every night of the week.” We were welcomed with free food and drinks. Many whiskey shots and many cold cuts. At some point after that we were in a casino and a woman in a red dress was singing.

The sun was coming up when Remi slapped the keys of his vacation home in my hands and sent us off to bed. Just like that, he went to sleep somewhere else and left us with a house to ourselves.

This was day number one with the racer. Two more days would follow.

On the road, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

La Casa de Raul
He picked us up on the side of the road. We talked for a while, mostly about his job with Cargill Argentina, and then he invited us to stay at his house in Mercedes. Raul was a nice guy, so nice he gave his king size bed and slept in the guest room.
We talked with his son and daughter, both in their late teens, and showed them our voyage using a atlas that was on the kitchen table. After that, we all sat down to eat pasta bolognese. At some point, the conversation turned to “los chinos” and Raul expressed his grave concerns over the growing number of Chinese people in the world.
He rested his chin on his palm, with one arm crossed over his stomach and shook his head as he talked to the floor.
"You know what the Chinese tourists do when they come to Argentina?" he asked. "They go to Patagonia and take pictures of all the empty land we have. They’re amazed by how much space there is down there. And you know what? Some day they’re going to come and start living on that land. One by one they’ll come to Argentina, and before we know it we’ll have millions of Chinese taking over! What will we do? How can we stop them? There’s a billion of them! I don’t think we’ll be able to do anything once they take over."
He kept shaking his head in deep reflection. I didn’t know how to comfort him so I got up and cleaned the dishes.
The next day he bought us cold cuts, cheese, bread and chocolate cookies before dropping us off on the highway to Cordoba. “What a guy” I thought. We were fortunate to have met him. Raul gave us a warm hug goodbye and that was the end of our luck.
Ania and I waited there on the roadside for hours, standing in the cold rain before getting a short ride to Rio Cuarto. Once there we waited four more hours in the rain and no one helped us. The conditions were miserable so we went to a gas station cafe, reviewed our options, and decided we had no choice other than to take an overpriced bus to Cordoba.
Sometimes it works and it’s beautiful. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. That’s hitchhiking.
Mercedes, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012

La Casa de Raul

He picked us up on the side of the road. We talked for a while, mostly about his job with Cargill Argentina, and then he invited us to stay at his house in Mercedes. Raul was a nice guy, so nice he gave his king size bed and slept in the guest room.

We talked with his son and daughter, both in their late teens, and showed them our voyage using a atlas that was on the kitchen table. After that, we all sat down to eat pasta bolognese. At some point, the conversation turned to “los chinos” and Raul expressed his grave concerns over the growing number of Chinese people in the world.

He rested his chin on his palm, with one arm crossed over his stomach and shook his head as he talked to the floor.

"You know what the Chinese tourists do when they come to Argentina?" he asked. "They go to Patagonia and take pictures of all the empty land we have. They’re amazed by how much space there is down there. And you know what? Some day they’re going to come and start living on that land. One by one they’ll come to Argentina, and before we know it we’ll have millions of Chinese taking over! What will we do? How can we stop them? There’s a billion of them! I don’t think we’ll be able to do anything once they take over."

He kept shaking his head in deep reflection. I didn’t know how to comfort him so I got up and cleaned the dishes.

The next day he bought us cold cuts, cheese, bread and chocolate cookies before dropping us off on the highway to Cordoba. “What a guy” I thought. We were fortunate to have met him. Raul gave us a warm hug goodbye and that was the end of our luck.

Ania and I waited there on the roadside for hours, standing in the cold rain before getting a short ride to Rio Cuarto. Once there we waited four more hours in the rain and no one helped us. The conditions were miserable so we went to a gas station cafe, reviewed our options, and decided we had no choice other than to take an overpriced bus to Cordoba.

Sometimes it works and it’s beautiful. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. That’s hitchhiking.

Mercedes, Argentina - © Diego Cupolo 2012