I have a confession to make... I'm not as a good a driver as I present myself to be. This hill in Valparaiso, Chile proved that.
The truth is, I stalled our rental car in one of the most embarrassing, hilarious situations I've ever experienced.
We left Santiago after two days there and drove westward to Valparaiso with a pit stop in the wine country of Casablanca Valley. Upon entering the city, I navigated some busy streets and followed the GPS instructions toward our hotel, the RC Art Deco. The hotel is located mid-way up the Cerro Bellavista hill. Valparaiso is a city of hundreds of steep hills, each constituting a unique neighborhood.
Once you get past the flat boulevards of the commercial district, all the hill roads become one lane, rumbling paths of intimidation. The locals have adapted to this by driving incomprehensibly fast. However, I happened to be behind the most cautious Chilean that day. As I turned up the hill, they gingerly edged up the incline. About 30 meters later, I felt a suspect strain from the engine. Imagine a toddler trying to compete in the "world's strongest man" contest where they pull a truck with their teeth. That was the equivalent of our pathetic rental Citroen trying to lug four adults and all their luggage up this hill. Suddenly, my fears culminated with a sad sputter and a stalled engine. I started her back up a few times and tried to get first gear to catch, but each time it ended with a failure that challenged my manhood. On top of this, I had a cabby stuck behind me angrily cursing my incompetence in Spanish and a well-intentioned woman on the sidewalk encouraging me to punch the gas harder. I asked everyone to get out of the car to reduce weight. My dad took this as a sign of surrender and commanded me out of the driver's seat. On the first try, he cranked it and zoomed the Citroen up the hill, leaving us behind with the kind bystander and cranky cabby. He didn't stop at the next cross street but took the car all the way up to the top of the neighborhood where the hotel was located. Lindsay, my mom, and I had to walk 10 minutes up there, myself with the humiliation of a man conquered by gravitational forces. The kicker was that my dad had the GPS and the three of us had no idea where the hotel was. We had to muddle our way through asking directions from an old woman sweeping the sidewalk.
A few minutes thereafter, we found the hotel just in time to help unload our luggage and out of the sight of the people who witnessed my vehicular shortcoming. Now I understand why the Chileans drive so stupidly fast up the hills. It's all about inertia.