Traveling isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to deal with transportation pains, booking issues or language barriers. Or like on my last trip, your rental car breaks down in a country you struggle to speak the language. Now, that’s a fun one.
We woke up way earlier than I care to. But the cheapest flights always seem to make you wake up at the crack of dawn, and we had 40 miles to drive to the nearest airport in Calama, Chile. We left our homey hotel room and walked the dirt road to the truck we had rented for our five days in San Pedro.
Quickly, we realized the truck wouldn’t start. The engine wouldn’t even crank. We searched for jumper cables and had no luck, so we began trying to push start the car. Naturally, we weren’t parked on a downward slope. Once the truck would start moving slowly, it’d screech to a stop. Without saying anything, people walking by stopped and helped us push, but the truck still wouldn’t start.
San Pedro is the kind of town that has one gas station, with the next closest being 40 miles away. Nothing was opened yet, and the streets seemed deserted. We camped out at the stop sign down the road in hopes to find someone with jumper cables willing to help us jump the truck. Before this trip, I never thought to figure out how to ask that in Spanish, which ended up being our downfall.
We went back to the hotel we had checked out of to see if the manager could help us. It turns out she spoke very little English, and we didn’t speak good enough Spanish to describe our situation. Luckily, a guest came by that spoke English and Spanish and translated for us. Turns out, the manager knew a mechanic that could come by but not until after 9 a.m.
Thankfully, the mechanic ended up arriving earlier than that, however, he brought no car to be able to jump ours with. But at least he had one of the missing puzzle pieces, jumper cables. We had to try stopping cars again to ask if they’d be willing to help. We didn’t have any luck until the mechanic did all the talking and an older man agreed to help. It took a couple tries but the roar of the truck’s engine was music to my ears. We repeated “muchos gracias” over and over and hurriedly took off to the airport, 40 miles away.
I began to lose confidence we would catch our flight, but it was worth a try. Once we whipped into the airport lot, we dropped the car keys off and ran to the check-in desk. As expected, they informed us we couldn’t make it on the plane but that we could fly stand-by for one of the later flights.
So we waited and kept checking back, but the next few flights ended up being packed full. After spending the day watching movies on the floor of the airport, we were beginning to think we’d have to spend the night in the airport. But then we were finally given tickets to one of the last flights out of Santiago, proof we could get on the plane.
Although it was not a typical day you plan for on vacation, it’s one I’ll remember for a long time. Don’t let the bumps you encounter on trips stress you out because sometimes there’s nothing you can do. Take a deep breath and relax, there’s way worse things than being stranded in a small Chilean town.