As I sit here at breakfast this morning and draw breath listening to a very soothing piano instrumental, I am gathering my thoughts and formulating a plan to tackle the day ahead.
Any who know me would agree that I am an adrenaline junkie – always at my best in a crisis and have a real ability to think on my feet. I expect 10 years operating a wedding venue and dealing with the odd bridezilla with a multitude of crises on her wedding day has only honed those skills over the years. The only downfall of thriving on adrenaline is that when you finally slow and adrenal fatigue catches up with you even briefly, you hit the wall and feel like crap.
Leaving my wallet at the ranch was annoying, but I was pretty relaxed about it. Despite the fact that it contains $750 USD, both my NZ Licence and International Licence, spare credit card, birth certificate, cash passport and a sum of Kiwi dollars I knew after receiving the “”Whatsup” message from Johanna the Gaucha we had made friends there, that it was as safe as it could be apart from being in my possession. Getting it back might be a logistical nightmare, but no body was ever going to lose an eye over it and it will happen sometime.
It dawned on me as we approached the airport that we were going to have difficulty renting a car without my documentation, despite the fact that I had prepaid both the hire fee and the insurance before leaving NZ. You see I have done this before once when I lost everything in Glastonbury, the hippie capital of England only hours before boarding a plane to Ireland where I had a car booked. They wouldn’t let me hire it then with out a licence and the rules hadn’t changed three years on!
I had asked Penny to get an international licence before she left and while she threw her arms in the air at the mere suggestion of it, she eventually did comply. Following my loss I thought I had plan B sorted.
How wrong was I? In the three minutes we were in the car taking the exit route from the airport we had three near misses. The hysteria was rising in her voice when I saw a layby and told her to pull over immediately. In the process she cut off a car, nearly sideswiped a bus that was behind us and was millimetres away from scuffing the tyres on the curb. I had remained calm throughout the whole hair raising experience but do value my life and in that moment made the decision to drive the car despite the fact I was illegally doing so. In that country I knew I would be driving as an uninsured , unliscenced driver and we were in the 5 pm traffic.
We had only been on the road ten minutes and were hailed down by a policeman. I nearly shit myself and when he asked me for my licence in thick Espanola (he, no talkee English at all), I handed over Penny’s and played dumb (me, no speak English). He looked through the liscence and glanced at the WOF on the car and waved me on. Po faced I said “muchas gracias” very respectfully and wished I had worn a diaper as I slowly slipped away in the small BMW exhaling loudly.
We had only driven another 30 minutes dodging potholes when the truck and trailer unit in front of me was flagged down by another lot of police . As the cop checked the load which took forever, we concocted a plan to change seats, so Penny was in the driver seat. There was a stray dog on the side of the road and the plan was to get out, pretend to stretch and make a fuss of the dog and exchange seats before handing over the documentation. I had one foot on the ground crouching out of the car when around the bloody corner he came! I slipped back in fighting heart palpitations and smiled sweetly. He smiled back as well and waved the senoritas on.
Whoever wrote the hit “the long and winding road” must surely have been on this bastard when they did it. 192 km took over 4 hours to drive in the tortured rockscape, and at times the speeds were reduced to 50 km an hour. Not to mention navigating potholes, a couple of river fords and other drivers that seem oblivious to the fact that in other parts of the world there are rules to follow.
As night fell mood in the car became slightly sombre as we were on high alert for wild animals who come down to the road at night seeking the warmth of the bitumen. I nearly hit a herd of donkeys on the side of the road that had blended into the brown landscape and then further up the road was surprised by a few roaming oxen. Closer to the town it was the idiot on a contraption the closely resembled a motorbike, driving in the dark on the side of the road that confirmed my earlier reasoning that we needed to be at our accommodation before dark. Finding the accommodation in a town with limited signage and limited English was always going to be a challenge.... To be continued