Things never look the same in the dark, and when you have no idea what you are meant to be looking for the nightfall can be a bit of a game changer. Couple that with piss poor WiFi, a GPS that you don’t trust and a couple of rattled kiwis in a car that is being illegally driven and the first thing you will think of is LOST.
On the side of the road as we approached Cafayate, we realised after a while that the numbers that were placed at regular intervals were actually distance markers indicating how many kms were left to reach the town. At 42 to go, it was as black as the inside of a dead dog and so as we crawled along at snails pace looking for wandering animals, we started the countdown. It seemed to go forever and it was only when we reached the 6 km mark could we see lights in the distance, which buoyed our dulling spirits somewhat.
As we got into the town with google maps going on my iPhone and a Navman showing the way , the information started to conflict slightly. I wanted to stop and ask for directions at a gas station the way to our booked accommodation. Madam in the seat next door insisted we keep going further into the town before we stopped. I obliged – for many reasons, I was too poked to argue and she gets this schoolteacher voice on that is scary. As the town got more built up vehicles started to follow me and there were people milling around on the streets. With the exception of real tourist hotspots in NZ you can generally creep into town at 9.50pm at night relatively unnoticed. Not here if you are a frazzled kiwi driver out of sorts, desperate for a feed and a sleep!
I shouldn’t have worried though because despite the language barrier, an irate poncho wearing Pablo came roaring out to the cobbled street and hurled abuse at me for turning into the one way street in the car managed to get his point across. Once I got into reverse with an already tight sphincter he backed off and went back to the waiting tables for the ‘al fresco’ dinners just metres from my steering wheel.
I was busting for the toilet – that happens when I get nervous and was frantically searching for a park as we crept around the brightly lit plaza so I could get some relief. We found one of the few parks left and Penny lept out to ask someone if we could park there? She came back and said we could but I don’t think she had even asked because when I asked her where it was, she pointed to the large building in front of the car. I ran up the steps clenching all my bits knowing that relief was in sight, only to find it was a bloody cathedral full of people yarning to the man upstairs.
We got back in the car in search of La Montana that I had booked to stay in. Directions on the booking slip indicated it was one block from the town centre so it was surprising to find ourselves in a ghetto part of town as we searched for it. Hysteria was again starting to rise from the passenger seat when I calmly said I will try and ring the hotel. WiFi and some form of communication is a must for loose cougars. I am a bit of an IT guru in my own right so have the Whatsup and Viber Apps loaded to my phone to be able to make contact with someone if I need to without running up huge phone bills for roaming. We pulled over and I rang the hotel when a male voice answered in Spanish. He couldn’t understand me at all and handed the phone over to his wife who spoke very broken English. She managed to ascertain we were on our way and lost. There hadn't been a street sign in sight (as there doesn’t seem to be) but as luck would have it there was one immediately in front of me reading “contramano”. I tried to say it in spanish to the host but resorted to spelling it out. She hesitated before laughing and I didn’t understand. In the daylight now I do – what I had in front of me was a Give Way sign and they are like arseholes around here. They are everywhere!
Our plan B at that point was to drive back to the centre of town from the broncs we had been sifting around in and walk on foot to find the place. That would have worked except we couldn’t get the car to lock and Penny refused to leave the car and her possessions. (all 8 kg of them) We both tried and were in and out of the car trying from the inside, then the outside and just when we had resigned ourselves to sleeping in the car ,she found out how to work the lock. We did manage to find the place, drove the car to it and parked it up where it has remained until today when I am about to brave the highway and drive back to Salta.
The irony of that night this morning dawned on me when I left our unit early to let her have some uninterrupted sleep . She seems to continue to prowl about until 5am and when I am getting up for the day she finally decides to start snoring her head off. We are in a strange country, she is so security conscious (unlike myself) and when I quietly closed to door to leave her to sleep I had to chuckle when I see she has left the keys in the door overnight for all in sundry to see. FFS, just when I think I am making progress.