This picks up the story later that day. We had driven through the ‘smokey mountains’ south of Santiago. Not a clever name, the wild bush fires we had seen on the previous night’s news were in the next valley creating a dense blue pall obscuring the spectacular Andean peaks to the west.
We cut off Ruta 5, heading for wine country. High spirits, glad to finally be moving and underway. But night was coming in fast so we decided to sniff out a place to park-up over night. Obviously, chances are higher off the main routes so we roll through a small village, past the small square, the community building and out the other side. Spying a dirt track with an old building behind trees we bank it for later, U-turn and park up back by the square. Like some kind of organised bus tour, we happened to arrive minutes before the annual ‘village procession of the waring grapes’. Four floats, two red, two white, obviously, drove down the main street followed by kids with balloons, cars honking horns and various dignitaries. Stopping only to wave at old mamas, for a photo in front of the community building and when Rafael the float driver stopped to get another beer from his friends, the parade passed through the village and, as far as can tell may still be going.
After all the excitement, we tootled toward our patch of dirt, behind trees on the dirt track. Stepping out, we opened the tent, snapping the zip off the door and found the boot was jammed shut. Bollocks. As I started gathering a sheet, the gaffer tape and my wits to put in a temporary mosquito door the we return to ACT II
JUAN and ANNA MARIA sitting at home in their 19th century mud brick estancia. Night time. Their dogs begin barking.
ANNA MARIA: “Juan, there is someone outside”
JUAN: “No Anna Maria, it is only the dogs and the wind”
ANNA MARIA: “No Juan, listen, I hear voices”
Juan rises, leaves the side room and crosses the formal main room. The heavy boards creek as he passes. He pulls the string latch of the oak door and looks out to the perimeter fence. Sure enough he sees lights sweeping across his property, two, possibly three people are moving about in the darkness. He finds his glasses and fumbles for his phone to call his friend Don Pedro the Carabinieri. Five minutes later the lights from Don Pedro’s patrol wagon illuminate the scene in distinctive red and blue. Telling Anna Maria to stay inside he ventures out. As he approaches Don Pedro is saying…
DON PEDRO: “Where are you from, why are you here,” Juan does not understand the answers.
A tall man is talking calmly to Don Pedro and is offering him what look like almonds from a bag. A woman in a tent on top of a car is playing with her phone. Both are clearly foreigners, their Spanish is one word at a time.
ANDY: “London” says the man. “Because… silence…passport, yes, yes, dog, private”
DAPHNE “I am of Greek” says the women, “sorry, greatly, village.. war party..white and red”
Juan, confers with Don Pedro, he tells Juan they are two tourists, sleeping in a tent on their car, from Santiago, or Greece, or London, possibly all three. They might or may not have a dog with them, their tent is broken, they were robbed yesterday, and this is the third day in Chile.
The man is offering Juan an almond and smiling.
Juan asks if they need anything, hot food, bathroom, coffee. The two strangers both look at their phones and type quickly. Tentatively they agree a cup of tea would be much appreciated.
Two hours later in the side room of the estancia around a table of food and hot and cold drinks.
JUAN, ANNA MARIA, DAPHNE and ANDY have spent two hours basically describing where they are from, their family members, and holding surprisingly detailed discussion of tobacco farming, its seasons, water requirements and global market. This is Juan’s profession for the past 26 years. Since the house is a large one and now only Juan and Anna Marie remain they have a spare room, with a bed ready made up. (Quite for what purpose was not clear). Of course their guests appreciated the offer, of course they’d prefer a solid bed on oak floors than a flapping airy tent in mosquito world. And so they did.
A mechanics / breakers yard in nearby Santa Cruz town, surrounded by rusting trucks, dust and dogs. Early morning, the smell of grease, solvent, and dog shit. Three men in previously blue overalls stand pensively around Andy as he is unscrewing more parts of an aged 4×4 with a penknife, brushing sawn plastic from the fender and and pointing at the lock mechanise.
FIRST MECHANIC: I think the lock is stuck, he is saying there is something wedged in there”
SECOND MECHANIC: “It is the glass, from the break in”
THIRD MECHANIC: “Ernesto, fetch the light, some pliers and hm a 10mm wrench”
ANDY: “broke… fall…lift” (Continues to motion the smashed window, the falling glass and the wedged lock
THIRD MECHANIC: “Yes, wait two minutes”
ANDY “ welding… last time…”
Ernesto hands Alfonse the tools, he deftly finishes taking the lock from the boot, wanders over to the solvent bath, the high pressure air hose and the lubricant tub. After taking several 2-3mm piece of cubic glass shard from the device he returns, the group refit it and with a theatrical suspense Andy recluses the boot, waits a beat and then reopens.
Smiles and hand shakes all round.
Andy and Daphne exit stage (garage) right and return 10 minutes later with a case of cold ones, pick up flowers from a cemetery florist and deliver them to Juan and Anna Maria and make a break for the coast, striking out to find somewhere for the next few days…