Whenever I return to Chile, I spend several days in Santiago—a city that I enjoy—for partly procedural reasons. One of those is dealing with my car which, of necessity, is parked at a friend’s weekend house in the coastal range village of Caleu, about 70 km north of the Chilean capital. There’s only one bus per day to Caleu, so getting there involves taking a bus to the town of Til-til and then contacting my friend’s caretaker, who descends from the mountain with my car. I then drive him back to Caleu and return to Santiago.
That’s what happened last Sunday, and I planned to take the car to my mechanic on Monday for a quick checkup before heading south toward the Los Lagos region and Patagonia, with a stopover in the Colchagua wine country. I also planned to renew my permiso de circulación, the car’s annual license fee, in Santiago, and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the city I described in my recent National Geographic Traveler article.
There was a glitch, however. The drive down the mountain from Caleu and on Ruta 5, the freeway to Santiago, was uneventful. But when I turned off the highway into the denser downtown traffic, I erred by turning left onto a busy arterial and, suddenly, a small speeding car clipped my right front fender. Both of us spun around but, fortunately, no other vehicles became involved and nobody was hurt.
The damage to my own car was minimal, while the damage to the smaller car was greater, but both remained functional. There followed a civil exchange of identity documents and insurance, and cell phone snaps of the vehicle damage. We each went on our ways in short order, with the assurance that we would contact our insurance companies. I then proceeded to collect my luggage at the Hotel Magnolia, where I’d stayed the previous three nights, and moved to a friend’s house in the outer borough of Renca.
The following morning, I dropped my friend off at her job and then drove to my mechanic’s garage, where they were unsure whether they could repair the damaged plastic bumper or would have to replace it (I’m old enough to remember when automobile bumpers were sturdy steel). I left the car and then proceeded downtown, where I first renewed the permiso de circulación at one of the many sidewalk tents the city sets up at this time of the year, and then continued to my insurers’ offices.
Fortunately, the offices were not yet busy—Chileans tend to be late risers—but there were glitches. I preferred to make the accident report face-to-face, but the office agent referred me to one of their onsite computers. Their website, though, wouldn’t accept my RUT tax ID because it was “corporate” rather than personal (as a non-resident foreigner, this had been my only option for purchasing a vehicle). That meant I had to make the report by telephone, on a line with substantial interference and, although I’m fluent in Spanish, it was not easy to understand the well-meaning young man at the other end.
In the end, though, I succeeded and, after a quick lunch, I took a cab back to my friend’s house for a nap because I hadn’t slept much the previous night (though it wasn’t because of worry about the accident). The next morning, I was pleased to learn that my mechanic had managed a capable repair of the damaged bumper, thus avoiding a more expensive replacement.
That also meant I’d be able to continue my excursion to the Colchagua valley wine district—arguably, the Napa of South America—as I had originally planned. There’ll be more about that stay, which began Wednesday at Hotel TerraViña in Santa Cruz, in the near future.