We spent all day weighing the pros and cons, researching and discussing our concerns. Obviously, having a car would drastically alter our trip. The freedom would enable us to move at our own pace and see less-touristic locations off the bus lined “gringo-trail”. We could easily camp or sleep in the car, therefore saving money on hostels (which are outrageously priced in Chile). We rationalized the cost of the car by assuming we’d sell it easily when we were finished cruising around Chile and Southern Peru. The biggest con then was the risk of running into problems and getting stuck with costly repairs. The car was older, a 1989 Mazda Station Wagon, but had a simple engine that should be easy to work on. We put our fate in the hands of returned bus tickets and dragon fly landings, and decided to go for it, knowing our craving for freedom and adventure was outweighing our logical sides.
In the morning we set out for Calama (where we needed to be to complete the paperwork) with our two new Canadian rock climbing friends who’d been driving the car around Chile for the last couple months. We knew they’d had their share of problems, but had fixed the major things and had a good report from their mechanic.
Once in Calama, we ran around completing paperwork and finished putting the car in Chris’ name. We were on our way to a gas station and bank to pay Eric when the car puttered and stopped- we assumed it had run out of gas. After sitting at the gas station for a couple hours waiting for Eric to return, we accepted the sinking realization that something bigger was wrong. Sure enough, we walked back and found Eric a couple blocks away with a mechanic working out of his garage.
Over the next 3 days we went through a series of emotional mood swings- we were told by our first mechanic we’d need a whole new carburetor, which would be nearly impossible to find for our old car. Later, after research of our own, we realized he knew little about anything and nothing about carburetors, and we found another mechanic who had the car running in 20 minutes. He worked for a few hours into the night, then invited us back to his family’s house to sleep. We’d slept in our car the night before, which was actually quite comfortable since the back seats fold completely flat, but he still took pity on us, given how homeless we must’ve looked with towels and sheets up in all the windows. So we drove the car for the very first time across town and slept very comfortably after his sweet wife fed us some late dinner. The next day, he completed the work (which turned out to be a bum distributed point- not the carburetor) and we finally hit the road- nervous but relieved, grateful and excited.
We’ve spent 4 nights in the car now, driving north, sleeping on empty beaches and cooking our meals out the back. We absolutely love it, she’s a great car that’s perfect for road tripping and camping, we’re sure our first few days of stress (and any problems that may arise) will be worth it. Three weeks ago we didn’t even think we’d be in Chile, now here we are cruising down the highway in our car, thinking about how easily plans can change and how essential flexibility is while traveling, some opportunities come quickly and require (thoughtful) spontaneity to be seized.