Ernesto and Alberto hike into the desert outside Chuquicamata without enough water or food. Quickly realizing that this is impractical and dangerous, they turn back and stay the night in the local police hut. The next day they hitchhike with striking (and drunk) mine workers.
Although the road trip took a serious turn at Chuquicamata, Ernesto and Alberto are still young men with the capacity to make obvious mistakes, like hiking into the desert, and be entertained by immature stunts like driving drunk.
While waiting to pick up another ride, the men fall in with a group of laborers who are part of an amateur soccer league. The team offers to feed them and drive them to the next town if they participate in a soccer match during the weekend, and Ernesto and Alberto agree.
Once again, Ernesto and Alberto quickly integrate themselves into a group of men of very different class backgrounds from their own. This shows their personal development as well as their growing political tendency towards egalitarianism.
In the interim, Ernesto and Alberto visit the area’s nitrate-purifying plants. Ernesto remarks how easy it is, without government regulation, for foreign corporations to set up shop in Chile and “extract the mineral wealth of this part of the world,” taking it away for consumption in other countries.
Ernesto reframes the economic system of capitalism as something almost criminal, akin to stealing. In turn, a government that doesn’t protect its people from this kind of theft isn’t an effective or just government.