One more “almost” adventure…
We headed out of the big city last Monday to work on finding a new apartment to rent in the area we are hoping to live. It’s a 4 hour drive over the Cierre del Muerte (or “Mountain of Death” in English). As the name suggests, it’s a pretty grueling drive so, though it doesn’t take all day, it really does because you arrive completely wiped out from the harrowing journey.
The night we arrived, we celebrated Michelle’s birthday in a little rustic restaurant overlooking the ocean — not a bad way to recover. And in the morning, we began the quest for a new home. Of course, this is no easy task in Latin America and involves driving around in unknown areas, stopping to chat with locals about the weather and the news and then, while pushing around some dirt with your foot, looking down and casually asking, “You wouldn’t happen to know anyone who has a house to rent, would you?” and then warding off all the “vacation rentals” until you hear something reasonable. This can obviously take hours and hours and lots of dirt kicking until you come up with any options.
We were on our way down farther south to kick up some more dirt there when we were forced to make our obligatory stop at the mechanic’s shop. We had just made the turn off the highway to explore less-developed territories when we heard the all too familiar sputtering of a car about to die. (Now I say “all too familiar” but each time the sputtering is just a half pitch different from the last time so we are never repairing the same part. Our adventures include some new and previously unheard of repairs each time — very good for the Spanish!)
We are developing quite a list of friends who double as car mechanics all over the country. This time, we happened to be reading a book entitled Trusting God that reminded us that the sovereignty of God controls our everyday affairs, down to the incredible inconvenience to our “plan” that breaking down on the side of the road is! So, even though we were on a very tight schedule and had little time to see every listing, we knew that God’s plan for that day included 4 hot hours waiting for our new friends to get the “trash” out of our gas line.
A kind man stopped immediately to help us and towed us in his own badly in need of repair jalopy. His first choice of mechanics was decidedly quite drunk, he was not ashamed to admit. We’ve already had our share of inebriated mechanics before (drilling mishapen holes in our dashboard looking for blinker cables), but even given our willingness to let him experiment on our car, he most certainly would not work on our car until he had finished “lunch” (read: drinking). Since that appeared to be an indeterminate time in the future, we followed our friend to his second-choice mechanic.
As second-choice mechanics generally go, the guys at the next shop were not busy and seemed to struggle to muster some interest in helping us get back on the road (without relying on the use of a tow cable). To clean the gas tank, our friends decided the best way was to take the seats our of our little Russian car, take up the floorboard, get out the tank (spilling a sufficient amount to fragrance our drive home), drain the remaining gas, fill the tank full of dirt and rocks from the parking lot, swish it around, dump it out and repeat, fill it with water and then “drain” the water and refill with the gas. Thinking the gas might be bad, Joel asked them if they should maybe filter it before putting it back in the tank. They thought that was a good idea so they cut off the end of a 2 liter bottle, got an old T-shirt from the back of the shop, pulled it over the “funnel” and poured all of our gas back in. We didn’t want to sound like know-it-all North Americans so we kept our opinions (and camera) to ourselves….but I desperately wanted a photo for you!
In went the floorboard. In went the seats. In went all of our bags. And imagine our surprise when the car started up for the first time in almost 5 hours! We should have asked for a little of the magic parking lot gravel to take with us in case we got stuck again by the side of the road!
We crossed the ferry and made it without any other (unusual) sputtering to our destination just about 30 minutes before sunset. Since it was obvious we would not be accomplishing any of our planned business that day, Joel saw this as his window of opportunity to try surfing the world’s longest left — a dream he had since seeing it on surf documentaries many years ago!
The next day was a very long and hot day of dirt-kicking without a lot of success. We left pretty disappointed that we had not found what we were looking for, or any hope of something promising. But the ride home was fun as we dreamed about what the next step would be.
Fun, that is, until it was time to cross Death Mountain again.