The kindness of strangers
As we pedal about South America we meet many friendly people. At times though, the kindness of strangers can go beyond the norm.
Last week was one such occasion. Cycling along Ruta 7 we stopped for the night in the small town of Fraga, which serves the busy traffic and the local agricultural industry. We didn’t expect to find a hotel, but hoped we could pitch our tent behind the petrol station. On viewing the busy, concrete yard though, it was obvious this wasn’t possible.
Stumped for other ideas, we decided to ask the local police if they could recommend somewhere to camp. Their response was beyond our wildest belief.
They ushered us into the station, sat us next to the fire and plied us with food and drink. In the meantime, the police chief, Sebastian, had arranged for us to sleep in the old house of the town’s mayor. The crew was incredibly friendly and we conversed in a mixture of English and Spanish, using Google Translate for tricky words.
Whilst waiting for keys to the house to arrive, we were shown around the car graveyard at the back of the station. We walked about with morbid fascination, looking at vehicles crushed beyond recognition and saddened by the stories of loss.
Sebastian told us how crime in the area was low, but that road traffic accidents were a major problem. The crew attends a number of crashes every week, many of which are fatal. The accidents happen mainly at night with people falling asleep at the wheel or driving drunk.
The police admitted they had become immune to the trauma after attending accidents so often. But to us it seemed like a hard job. They work a 24 hour shift, one day on, one day off. In the morning when we called in to have breakfast with them they were just finishing a sleepless-shift after a fatal accident at 3 o’clock that morning.
We found it hard to believe, that with all they had going on, they could spare the time to help us. Including, the night before, taking us to dinner where we were hosted by the local governor in his restaurant. On the drive back we were treated to a tour of the town in a police car with the blue lights flashing, which entertained our childish sides no end.
Having slept comfortably, we said goodbye to the crew, leaving them sorting through the possessions of the lorry that had crashed. Involved in their work we didn’t get the chance to thank them properly, but we hope they know how much we appreciated their kindness.
Back on the road we were much more aware of the road and other users. Fortunately the road was wide with a hard shoulder, and with a wind in our favour we flew along to our next stop point in San Luis and more adventures.