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Monday, September 28, 2015

The Patagonian Car Rental



I wanted to write this post a couple of days ago, but we still had our rental car and I wasn't about to tempt fate by saying anything about it, and risk disaster striking. So I wimped out and waited until we handed the keys back this morning.

We decided to rent a car in Patagonia. It seemed easy enough. And we could rent from Hertz. Though we try to steer clear of multinational corporations when travelling, there exists a degree of comfort in renting from a well known American company.

Plus, cars we rent at home are always fairly new - at least compared to what we drove - and have an element of mystery and luxury. We were looking forward to zooming all around this little bit of Patagonia in our fabulous, and fairly new, car.

Well, this is Argentina and they have their own way of doing things. 

Kerry had to initial the amount to pay should the car be destroyed - or at least we think that's what he initialled. The entire contract is in Spanish so it was hard to know for certain. Then, and I dare say, rather unsettling, Kerry had to initial the amount we agreed to pay should the car be stolen. At least that amount was in pesos, or so we think. Hard to tell when they (as in Argentines everywhere) use a $ to mean pesos but they sometimes list prices in American dollars too.

Insurance of any type wasn't offered at all.

But, we wanted the car, so off we headed to the parking lot to pick it up.

The Hertz worker came with us and recorded all the marks on the car. Basically, she could have taken a grey pencil crayon and just coloured in the car. Wow. Dings and dents and scrapes everywhere.

Apparently, it's a 2013 model with only 40,000 km on it. I tend to think it was more a 1978 model with 1,040,000 km on it.

Nothing was automatic: not the transmission, not the locks, not the windows. The button for the switch about whether air comes into the car or circulates around in it was missing. The glove box didn't close quite right. The passenger rear door was tough to open, though by the end of the rental Eamon became quite adept at knowing exactly where to give the extra shove to spring open the door.

Kids wondered what this was for.

Most alarming of all was trying to put the car into first - it could easily slip into reverse. There was no safety or extra movement required to get it into reverse. Get first gear wrong, and you're roaring backwards into the car behind you. That only happened a couple of times. There may have been a loud swear, followed by oodles of giggling from the back seat. 

I should mention here, Kerry was our driver. I can drive a standard, but over the last number of years we've happily settled into our roles as driver (Kerry) and navigator (me), and we weren't going to use this trip to shake things up.

Before our first trip out and about, Kerry happened to read on some forum somewhere that some guy punctured his fuel line on a gravel road. Turns out, his Spanish only car rental agreement forbid him from travelling on a gravel road. Hilarious - or something like that as we looked out onto the street in front of our house that was all gravel. In fact, all but the main roads in town were gravel. And, both of our major excursions involved lots of driving on gravel roads. We decided just not to worry about that for the moment.

After our first road trip, the trunk stopped opening. We didn't want to break off the key in the lock, so we began accessing everything that we'd put into it from the back seats. Thankfully they folded down to open up into the very back. However, we didn't feel very thankful this morning at 5:15 trying to shove our four bags into the trunk from the backseat. At least we got three in. Good thing that fourth one could sit between the kids in the back seat.

The car had poor acceleration, couldn't pass very well, rattled a bit, and made some funny noises, but it got us where we wanted to go in one piece. Best of all though, the final price was less than we'd been quoted.

I guess renting a car here isn't that bad after all.





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