I made a bit of a judgement call yesterday and decided that I was going to return the rental car a few days early despite knowing there would be no refund for doing so. The driving doesn’t really worry me, there are always going to be hair raising moments in another country for anyone, but they are usually backed by the security of having an insurance cover in place and knowing you are driving legally.
The fact that my licence is still in Buenos Aires somewhere has left me without the comfort of either and while Penny’s name is on the rental agreement, I will be the one that has to foot the bill should the little white BMW and I manage to get into a squirmish. I have places to go and people to meet and the last thing I want to be paying off is some mangled European piece of tin I cant even go outside and polish. My wine consumption has to be monitored more closely when driving than when using public transport and I have had a couple of days dry so it will be good to get back at it - especially when a good drop over here is much cheaper than at home.
I contacted Jaun from the rental agency this morning by phone and said we were returning the car as Penny was finding it very nervous to drive. They would have had a fit if they had known I had been the one driving as they were adamant when we picked the car up that mustn’t happen. Rightly so you might say, but then they didn’t witness the antics in the first three minutes with her behind the wheel initially. I would say I did an act of public service to the travelling public of the province of Salta by changing places with her to get going.
He spoke good English and I would have to say was the most helpful when I explained the situation and tried to establish a drop off point that wasn’t right in the city. He suggested that his office was out near the airport and that might be a good place. I asked him to drop a pin on google maps and text it to me so we would be heading for the correct location. He reminded me to arrive before 1.30pm as the office closed for a 2 hr siesta before re- opening again at 3.30pm.
The return trip in the daylight was always going to take less time than it had in the dark on the way down so we agreed we would try and visit a couple of little towns on the way so we could arrive when the office was open again in the afternoon. We left Cafayate and had only been driving for about 15 minutes when Penny let out a screech insisting I pull over. I knew what was coming and have to confess to hoping like hell she had forgotten about the crazy idea she had floated with me the day before. On our bus tour to the caverns she had come across this dog, a little ginger bitch that was underweight and obviously rearing puppies somewhere by her physical appearance. I expect she probably was hungry, but was no more wild than I am to have such a fondness for people as she hung around for pats and affection. Penny’s answer to this dogs plight was to purchase a bag of dog biscuits and drop them off on the way home. Now some of you may call me a heartless bitch but that was the most insane suggestion I have heard. (next to thinking that someone that drives by feel in her own country could actually keep a left hand drive car in one piece in a foreign country). This is a woman who started out our trip with 8kg of luggage. That has now increased to about 14kg one week into the journey. She has gathered 6 kg of crap along the way consisting of numerous trinkets and gifts for people at home who she loves and no doubt love her. The bag is bulging with whistles, musical instruments like the good old pain in the arse ockarina, peg dolls, fridge magnets, pens, brooches, - need I go on. The last thing she needs in that bag is 2 kg of dog biscuits. Yes, she might have initially dropped them off on the desert road we were travelling but it would have fueled an idea to feed the multitude of strays that roam this country.
I knew she was low on the local currency when we returned last night late and the bank was closed. I never offered to lend her some as I normally would, knowing where it would go. That she would be up all bloody night prowling the streets looking for a bag of Tux dog biscuits. What I underestimated was that she would smuggle food out from the breakfast table to complete her mission. The dog did bound out of the bushes and eat the food , and the pair of them were thrilled while I thought if there was ever a Mother Theresa for the canine population, she was here!
The drive back was relatively uneventful and we did make a few stops purchasing a couple of things off the locals . There were still police everywhere as there had been on the way down. I was followed by two on motorcycles for about 5 kms and was shitting myself , and I drove through a couple of check points just nodding and smiling . I did breath a huge sigh of relief when I found the drop off point easily and without event. Google location pins work well in most situations and they are a must for the traveler who has trouble with directions and reading maps.
We arrived outside about a half an hour early and proceeded to wait until the office opened. The car hadn’t been filled with gas as was required because to be truthful, it was just one more drama we wanted to avoid.
Jaun’s assistant wasn’t amused with this fact – he was highly pissed off and insisted that Penny take the car and fill it up. Remember now – he thought she had driven it there! She threw a wobbly, said she wasn’t getting in the car again as it was too scary and sat down on the pavement while I gracefully slipped into the car waving my visa card.
He drove like Stirling Moss through the streets to the gas station and the lazy prick never even got out to help fill the car. I completed the transaction and got back in fighting the notion that he would try and drive off somewhere with me in the car for the remaining three days of the hire, taking pleasure from me at his whim! Fortunately, he was about as fond of me as I was of him at this stage and so we found our way back. She was still on the pavement and he still wasn’t Mr Personality I can assure you. He did call us a cab, pleased to see the back of us I expect.
I am just counting my lucky stars that there were no dings or major accidents – I just may have to give my friend, Argentina’s answer to Mother Teresa for stray canines some money to get home because she has purchased a tonne of beef bones or dry food to be distributed like a red cross parcel as a parting gift to the place and has none left to get on the plane.