The Hitchhiker's Guide For Adventurous Women

It's an attitude, a way of life -- but have no doubts, these women riders are very much aware of the dangers.

"It isn’t just putting your thumb out and getting in a car, it’s living in the moment with intensity.”
"It isn’t just putting your thumb out and getting in a car, it’s living in the moment with intensity.”
Céline Mouzon

“There is no way my world will have limits just because I am a girl!”

Sarah, 31, is a school assistant with short hair, a frank demeanor and a self-professed anarchist punk DIY (do it yourself) attitude. She's also a proud and happy hitchhiker, catching rides between France, Spain and Switzerland, and writing about the subject of women hitching rides for The Choriza magazine.

Stephanie, 29, also regularly gets on the road with strangers. “Hitchhiking alone when you are a woman is going against the most common clichés,” says the 29-year-old who works in communications at an international NGO. Stephanie spends her weekends in Ultimate Frisbee meetings around France, which she arrives at thanks to the generosity (and wheels) of people she's never met before.

More than a means of transportation, Stephanie sees hitchhiking as a way of life: an outlet for free and open-ended travel, a desire to meet new people and take risks.

“In hitchhiking, everything is open," she explains. "You can never know what is going to happen in the next hours to come. The unexpected looms larger than in any other activity, where the decision is not yours to make. And when I say risk, it’s first of all the risk of whether I will meet a nice person. This is what I am here for!”

Stephanie talks with enthusiasm about two Serbian truck drivers who took her to Romania. “The glove box was full with condoms. I immediately laid things out straight, "I am not a prostitute, you know?",” she told them. She may have offended them! But after that, "I was very comfortable. They were relaxed, talking about their trip while looking at a map. Then, we started talking. They were going to the Netherlands. I discovered they worked seven days a week for 400 euros a month. One of them was married and had a child -- and never sees his family. It is a life I can never imagine for myself.”

It is the randomness that gives hitchhiking its allure. “It has a magical dimension, a parallel universe opens up. It is like arriving at the middle of a movie”, continues Sarah. “You talk for hours with a person in a closed space, with no witnesses. You can say anything, you never see that person again. It isn’t just putting your thumb out and getting in a car, it’s living in the moment with intensity.”

Security issues

This attention to the other person in the encounter is also a form of vigilance. Women must constantly be aware of the possibility of the threat of sexual aggression. “Of course!” the female hitchhikers all respond, when asked if they are aware of the question of security.

The tips for staying safe are many, though none are guarantees for total security: write down every license plate number, always have pepper spray in your bag, get out of the car along the route if you sense there is a problem.

“Yes, it can be dangerous. Female hitchhikers have died this way,” notes Anick-Marie, who writes about hitchiking on the Quebec blog Globestoppeuse. “What is important, is to find the style that fits you.”

Anick-Marie, co-author of “La Bible du Grand Voyageur” (The Bible of the Big Traveller) published last year, has more than 100,000 kilometers under her hitchhiker belt, and a kidnapping experience from which she managed to escape. “The basics: always get a good night of sleep, never be drunk or on drugs. For the rest, there is a learning process of how not to panic.”

She says she has pushed her limits bit by bit. “I am considered to be a hard-core hitchhiker. But I became that way with tranquility. For me, travelling to some place is being comfortable in that place. If it is not the case, I slow down the rhythm. In Turkey, it took me two weeks to get use to the place, contact the girls that have hitchhiked there and read the advice on Hitchwiki.”

The mental preparation has become a central element of hitchhiking for her. The preparation consists in thinking through all the worse things that could happen: “It’s exhausting, but I am very reactive when there is a problem," Anick-Marie says. “Once, I saw on the map the place where the driver was supposed to drop me off. He passed it. I have to react now, I told myself. He tried to change the subject of the conversation. "Stop now, immediately. It is an order. I do not say please”, she remembers.

She also has no patience for those who say women hitchhikers are ultimately to blame if bad things happen. “The phenomenon of victim blaming is very common, even from women,” explains Anick-Marie. “It is a way to protect yourself. We look for the differences between what somebody else does and what we do, in order to convince ourselves that it could not happen to us.”

From an Armenian car dealer to an ex-Yugoslavia war soldier, the 31-year-old has traveled through many different universes. “I do not hitchhike in order to meet people who I could sleep with, but just to meet people,” she explains. "Sometimes it’s me who tells my story to give a dreamy aspect to the encounter. Sometimes it’s the other."

When she was in the US, a man who'd served time picked up Anick-Marie. "He explained to me the differences between Canadian and American prisons,” He remained silent for a while and then added: “ You know, I might also have a story for you…”

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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