Arriving in Puerto Varas on Christmas Eve Eve, there was only rain. Dozens of groups of tourists rushed up the volcano to try and catch of glimpse of the sights before jumping back on the road. Rushed in their itineraries, they attempted to make South America into a rush-able Euro destination. The epic distances in this vast continent will crush the strongest resolve.
I sat inside and waited out the storm. It was time to spend one of my valuable extra days. The next day I met up with Morton, a 32 year old bridge engineer from Denmark. His first long trip was 2 years and he has been making 6 weeks a year to travel since. We both thought that visiting a volcano on Christmas eve was a good idea, so we agreed to go. We could only get a bus that dropped us off still 18 kilometres away, so we started walking. The sun was out in true Christmas Miracle fashion as we walked down a dirt road with our thumbs out.
We figured hitchhiking would be a fitting backpacker’s holiday activity. There was not even so much as a nibble until our luck changed even further. I tried to maintain a “I just want a ride, not to kill and eat you.” face as cars wizzed by. A car began to slow and I thought it was not a good idea to run up to it. Didn’t want to get scarred. The back door opened slowly, I still wasn’t clear about the offer. A young college looking kid got out and invited us in.
His Mom was the driver. You could tell that she used to hitch quite a bit in her day. Still very much fit, with deeply earned smile lines, she said “We’ve been looking for some hitches all day.” This was not to be mistaken as a “We are hunting for hitchers.” But more of a “We wanted to lend a hand.”
It turns out that they were going to the top of the volcano as well. We conversed and shared 2 hours of volcanic experience. They dropped us off at a beautiful waterfall, which was out of their way.
After we eventually got on the same bus back to town, we agreed to cook a huge Christmas diner (Yet another miracle). We shared conversation with new people. People who embraced strangers on the most sacred day of the year to not meet strangers. It was a backpackers Christmas. But the real miracle was not that we had perfect weather. It had nothing to do with getting to a place that public transport would not let us get to on this day. It had nothing to do with sharing a feast either. It was the floating feeling that I only get once a year, late at night, Christmas eve. It was the feeling of warmth and security in this universe. That warm silence. I had it, from my bed. Alert and unable to go to sleep, yet complete. I shared this feeling in a room full of 7 other sleeping travelers. Some things are hard wired after all. Thousands of miles away from those I love, I was not alone.