The Difference Between Hitchhiking and Backpacking

Posted January 14, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth
194044703203_0_ALB.jpgBefore setting off on a 35 kilometer trek from Futaleufu, Chile to Trevelin in Argentina, I assumed a very big difference between hitchhiking and backpacking. I had imagined hitchhiking to be more or less a stagnant and easy activity in which the hitchhiker spends much time sitting and waiting with a thumb sticking out into the road.

Perhaps that is why, when on my second day of travel in South America Brad and Adam informed me that we were going to hitchhike to Argentina, I happily skipped my way out the hostel door with a fifty pound backpack on my back. Inside the backpack was all my river gear I would need for the Futaleufu the next week, which of course held no value for me in Argentina. But no big deal- no need to store anything somewhere in Futaleufu. After all, hitchhikers just sit on the side of the road waiting for rides, right?

Incredibly, painfully wrong. I think Adam, Brad and I must be some pretty unskilled hitchhikers because in my opinion we don’t look very scary and yet trucks with perfectly empty, usable beds flew right by. The problem was that we didn’t really have a plan B of somewhere to stop along the way should we not find a ride. It was try and sleep on someone’s private ranch with limited sleeping provisions and the possibility of rain, or get our asses to Trevelin. So walk we did. By mid-day my naive, bubbly excitement was wearing off and giving way to an aching knee and empty stomach.

By the time we finally picked up a ride about 10 kilometers from Trevelin we were a pretty pathetic bunch. OK so maybe Brad and Adam had held up just a bit better than I did, but none of us were in the mood for the big night on the town we had been imagining. But at least we made it, and Argentina proved to be a lot of fun in the days following. (Minus an embarrassing experience in a market in El Bolson).

330434703203_0_ALB.jpg Moral of the story: If you’re attempting to hitchhike somewhere, be prepared for hiking the same distance, or have a lay-over spot picked out along the way!

By the way, the hike was actually beautiful at times, and who can deny the fun of trying to hit fence posts with stones while resting weary muscles? I would definitely recommend to anyone planning a whitewater trip on the Futaleufu River to check out neighboring Argentina, but perhaps with a little more forsight than myself.


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