This may have been how Alex, my boyfriend of just one year, finally sealed the deal on my heart. How did he know that’s been a dream of mine ever since I lived in Santiago? I must have been murmuring it in my sleep…
Of course buying a car in Chile and driving it to Patagonia is muuuuch easier said than done. But we were game for the challenge. Me being the broke aspiring travel writer that I was, he made me a deal: I figure out all of the nitty gritty details on how to buy the car, and he throws down the money for it. Deal. Countless hours of research and a few very short weeks later, I proclaimed I knew it all, and we were on a flight to Chile.
First thing first: We needed a Chilean tax ID number, or a RUT, in order to legally purchase a vehicle in the country. Why I didn’t get a RUT two years ago when I lived in Santiago is beyond me. It was easier back then. Now it required a native Chilean to “sponsor” you, and sign a form in front of a notary that in very vague legal jargon essentially states that if the foreigner defaults on their taxes, the Chilean is required to pay them. Yikes. I would have difficulty signing that dotted line myself. But as things tend to work out in his favor, Alex manifested the kindest, most helpful Airbnb host in existence. Fernanda was (and is) our savior in this matter. She waited hours in the notary with us (we would soon find out that everything in Chile requires hours of wait time), and she made sure we had all of the necessary documents to obtain our RUTs.
Over the weekend we had found the perfect vehicle. A 2003 Hyundai Galloper II, seven seats, or all of the luggage space, manual, diesel, 4×4, roof rack, and a history of awesome mountaineering adventures – everything we had been searching for. Gustavo, the lovely man selling it, was the absolute best person we could have hoped to have fall into our world. He was willing to work with a couple extranjeros, which can be rare in such a bureaucratic process. The next three days consisted of waiting, waiting in the wrong offices, getting turned away, waiting some more, and waiting some more. We could not have done it without Gustavo.
At last, we were off. We spent as little of time in the city as possible, neither of us being much for big cities, and we headed towards the fresh air of the coast. The goal was to make it to Puerto Montt in 5 days, where we would stock up on supplies, and head out to a property by the sea where some good ol’ Colorado boys were building a homestead.
Yet again, much easier said than done. On our second day of driving, the Galloper, whom we had lovingly named Camilla, began to overheat. Fuck. We were for all intents and purposes in the middle of nowhere. The closest town hardly had a gas station, let alone a mechanic, so we grabbed a few gallons of engine coolant and struggled our way to the next. Quirihue. A tiny town about 80 km north of Concepcion, and where we met our third savior of the week. Let me write you a picture:
Friday, around 5:30 pm. Two gringos roll in to a dusty, quite little town, in a beat up old Hyundai, spewing coolant. The gas station does not have a mechanic on duty, but they think the one down the street might be open. The gringos pull up to what appears to be a metal shanty leaning against a barn filled with hay, and no one around. With looks of despair, they head back to the car, just as two greased up, deeply tanned hombres walk across the street. The gringa desperately cries out in broken Spanish “Eres mechanico?!?” Silence and blank looks in return. But the two men point to the hood, motioning us to open it.
Following this strange interaction were two nerve-wracking hours of myself attempting to translate the mechanic’s prognosis to my non-spanish-speaking boyfriend (mind you, I do not know car vocabulary in English, let alone Spanish..) and the mechanic pulling parts out from under the hood, disappearing around the corner to solder random pieces, and finally, painstakingly putting everything back into place.
Somehow, throughout all of that, we never caught his name. He did, however, make sure to tell us we needed to get her to an actual mechanic and get that part replaced. Roger that, unnamed mechanic savior, over and out.
The next day we settled in for the long haul. What was supposed to be a relaxing five day jaunt along the coast turned into an 8 hour, blistering hot, high tension drive down the main highway to Puerto Montt. Que será, será, no? We finally made it, and cozied up in the fancy but still cheap Hotel Manquehue for the weekend.
While Alex may have been cursing the fact that no proper auto body shop would be open on the weekend, I was thankful to have two full days of no stress – we slept in, we ate well, we walked along the bay, with our worries tucked away in the back of our minds until Monday.
Monday morning came quickly. We found a Hyundai dealership with a decent looking mechanic shop, and left poor Camilla there in hopes to be doctored up by the end of the following week. Alex of course had an explosion of difficulties with his company back in Colorado, so the rest of the day was spent with him making plans to head back the following day to take care of business.
Tuesday found us parting ways for ten days. Alex headed home to a week of insanity – the poor guy just can’t catch a break-, and I went off to Puerto Varas to relax and refocus.