Cuenca – crossroad of famous hitch-hikers

August 27, 2007  
Topics: Ecuador

Agnese – a traveller from Latvia is a little bit known among community of hitch-hikers. She has just turned 27, was studying 2 subjects at university – music and economics, talented in managing different kinds of musical instruments, never worked in her live, and already travelled lots of countries, mostly by hitch-hiking.  She has even travelled alone in the countries of Middle East, Greece, and Latin America, where hitch-hiking for a single woman can be kind of hard …in some sense. Two years ago Agnese travelled through Central American countries, and last autumn she came back to Mexico. In February she was tired of this country and flew to Ecuador. Here she has already been for 6 month – maximum what is allowed for non-visa foreigners. In the last days she probably has already crossed border of Peru.

Before she left Ecuador, after one year of chasing, we finally got to meet her in Cuenca. At the time we were in Mexico last year, we knew that Agnese is somewhere in the area. We kind of missed each other in Mexico City. We were constantly in contact, but never managed to meet each other. Finally, Agnese visited us about a week ago. We got a chance to listen to her dramatic stories about men she met on the trip, how she sometimes sleeps on the benches in the parks, and so on…

About two months ago she experienced her biggest robbery during the journey. Once Agnese arrived to Ecuador, it looked very innocent, like a paradise of peace, until one day when she was waiting for a friend in the bus station of Quito (the capital).  She left her All Things near the bench she was sitting and went nearby to “Cabinas” (popular calling-shops) to make a call. Her conversation lasted exactly 40 seconds, but when she came back to her Things – 25 kg bag was missing! To tell the truth at the beginning we thought it was the only bag she had, but later we found out that her old backpack was untouched, only the huge red suitcase with wheels was missing. She couldn’t believe that somebody could steel such a heavy big luggage. Yes! Exactly! She was always hitch-hiking with her huge backpack and a red huge suitcase fool of different clothes, shoes and other things given to her as a present during the trip.  I named those Things with capital “T” on purpose, as there were too many things for hitch-hiker, I think.

It is style of Agnese – travelling with lots of stuff. Once she was hitch-hiking from Switzerland to Latvia with a huge heavy backpack, plus video surveillance equipment (camera and small TV – found a good deal in a shop, but who needs that in the family?!) and a guitar!

To Cuenca she came with her >20kg backpack (including a small pillow, blanket and other presents), small bag for daily use and A3 (“ledger” in North America) format cartoon with drawings given to her by an artist friend. Her trip continues…

Another unexpected meeting with famous hitch-hiker happened 3 weeks ago when we were searching for an apartment to rent. We contact member Ben, who lives in Checa and works as a Peace Corps volunteer (2 years program for US citizens). He lives in Checa – small village, about 15 km away from Cuenca. We thought apartments in the village might be cheaper.

Monday morning we arrived to Checa and in Ben’s house we found another 2 visitors from USA – a couple travelling in South America for 10 weeks.
– Hi, we are Katja and Augustas – said “hello” to the guy in the kitchen.
– Oh, hello, I am Ben.
– Wow, it is the house of Bens 🙂 – tried to joke…

We do not really have time to continue conversation, as we were about to go to talk with the president of Checa (president is simply a mayor of the village). Unfortunately, there were no offers, or to be more precise, seemed that people in the village are not very open to the strangers, or at least they are not willing to help. It was time for us to go back to Cuenca, our host Ben pointed where we can catch a bus, but at that moment I remembered that I wanted to borrow a CD with MS Office installation for our second-hand computers we bought. We came back to Ben’s house. While he was searching for a disk, we continued talking with US couple. Something like, how long are on the way, where have you been, what are your plans, when are you coming back… Usual stuff. Then we mentioned something about hitch-hiking. We traveled this way in Colombia, they did it in Peru. Then we found out that all of us are familiar about polish hitch-hikers Kinga & Chopin (they made 5-years world journey sometime ago). We gave this couple our “business” card which has our names, email and website addresses. The US guy looked at it, and said “Wait! … I know your website. I know you guys. I am American hitch-hiker with a nickname bassdrumben”. “Yes! We know you!” – what a surprise. We actually new that this Ben (bassdrumben) is travelling nearby, because Kinga’s artist friend Kat [ ] told us about Ben travelling in South America. We couldn’t believe. We could call it “what a nice coincidence”, but there are no coincidences in the life, everything happens for a reason.
[in the picture: bassdrumBen is near Katja, and host Ben has a cup]

Naoma, 2 x Ben, and us in Checa during an accidental history meeting of hitchhikers

For those who are interested to read travel stories by Ben (bassdrumben), you are welcome to visit his newsletter:

(he is a hitch-hiker who reached the Southern point on the Earth, more records here)

Few months ago he was working as an engineer in Antarctica in US base. “Antarctic Sun” magazine has publish an article about him:
[see the last page of this PDF]

By the way, sometime ago couple of video art students made a documentary “Wide Open” about Ben travelling through USA. More about this here:

To finish the story, let’s imagine that we are also on the list of great hitch-hikers. In the end of the day we can claim that Cuenca – is the crossroad of famous hitch-hikers, isn’t it? Who’s is next? 🙂