And you thought there wouldn’t be any seatbelts in South America.

Taking our second trip on the milk truck this morning I was relieved to find a bamboo pole overhead that at least provided something to hang on to as the U-Haul-sized truck bounced along the “main” road that leads to Cuellaje. The milk man transports Nestlé’s precious cargo to its factory every morning. The truck is equipped to carry 480 liters of milk, which leaves enough space for random passengers who want a 50-cent ride to… anywhere on his route.

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The system works like this: Every morning the milk man will drive along the main road stopping at pre-determined destinations (that are seldom obvious, more likely it’s just some vague stretch of dirt that locals seem to remember) to collect milk from various farmers who have hauled 40-liter containers – or rather their mules have hauled them – down from wherever they live, to this unmarked spot. He then hoists the full containers onto the truck, and pours them into his own aluminum jugs, then uses a dipstick of sorts to determine the amount of milk. Then he pays the farmers and continues on down the road to the Nestlé factory.

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If you’d like to hitch a ride, along with the milk, sacs of various vegetables and prohibited hens, all you have to do is figure out an approximate time when the driver will pass, flag him down, and hop on. The first milk truck we had wasn’t nearly as luxurious as the one that stopped today. The truck-bed in last week’s only had hip-high railings so you sort of had to sqat and hold at the same time. Today’s truck not only had the bamboo pole, it also had shoulder-high railings! Nice and sturdy. Not a bad way to travel for 50 cents.

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March 13, 2014