She’s also pointing down the quaintly coloured and alluring suburban street we were headed towards.
He has a child with him so perhaps it can’t be that bad, but the woman overhead is insistent. It is path towards some unknown sort of crime.
After a few steps, a non-descript car with two men pulls up beside us. We are attracting a lot of male attention and I think these guys should be best ignored.
One flashes a bronze badge and ID card I am immediately suspicious of. The laughing man in the passenger seat does not add to my confidence in this scene.
One Valparaiso hill may be ok for non-locals wandering aimlessly eyeballing graffiti; the next rise is apparently where you can say goodbye to all your goods and chattels. They don’t put that in guidebooks.
Numerous requests for directions have been met with long distance escorts, even if our new acquaintances don’t really know the way.
Women have stood next to Sharon and I while we have used cheap petrol station coffee dispensers and given repeated, and excited, verbal encouragement.
.. and hiring a car for a long distance, one way car excursion may prove to be three of the most bizarre three hours spent on this trip.
We were not to know that and driving from Santiago to Puerto Montt more than a thousand kilometres away over four days had firmly become part of our ill-researched plans.
We got it in our heads that cabbing it to the airport where car hire companies are sequestered was the best thing to do. All the rental places would be in one spot to fight over us and driving south from the airport would allow us to avoid Santiago’s mad traffic.
However, hearing our plans unveiled the nurturing side of our cab driver.
Julio, as we came to know him, knew a better ways go, while we insisted on going through with our great idea.
Julio said “there was a place very close by” and quicker than you can say, “Are we getting taken for a ride? Where the hell are we?” we were back in Santiago about 100 metres from where we began the morning’s journey to the airport.
Various “looks” were being exchanged in the cabs backseat.
Sharon’s Spanish was being tested as Julio instructed her to chill out. The first place we were taken to explained how the rare request to drop off a hire car somewhere else would involved the paying for the car to be returned to the point of origin.
Our plans were sinking like the pisco sours and wine we drank the previous night. We only had a few days, a few off road locations to travel to and half a case of wine to carry.
We were driven to one of the biggest, most expensive car yards in the capital where he proudly introduced us to the English-speaking owner. Julio’s friend knew someone else who could help us and he was on his way. Meantime, Julio expressed his admiration for us, in particular me.
The car arrived with accompanying scratches and without its logo, but this red beast would do the trick. We had to leave a place of residence on the form and Julio said we could use his place. He joked he only had one spare room.
We did and we were soon on the great Panamerican Ruta 5 heading south.