With a wave of his hand a policeman in khakis at the side of the road indicates we should stop.
One minute we’re happily rolling along in our shiny Mitsubishi pick-up, relaxing into the pleasure of driving Chile’s Carretera Austral, which is beautiful, narrow and not always paved but at least it’s empty. With that wave of the hand our mood changes and we both nervously shift in our seats as though we’re guilty of transporting a huge stash of mari-ju-ana.
“Where have you come from?” The policeman asks in thick Chilean Spanish. We can just about manage to translate his words, but with a two second delay to unscramble them.
“Quelat,” we both answer sheepishly, wondering why we’ve been stopped.
“Where are you going?”
“Chile Chico.” Another duet of sheepishness.
“Hmm, on holiday?”
“Oh yes, we’re tourists.” None of that backpacking or savvy traveller nonsense. We want him to know we’re temporary guests just here to enjoy his lovely country.
He says something we can’t translate and points to a man standing to one side wearing mirror shades and a leather jacket.
“Lo siento, no entiendo… sorry, I don’t understand.” Maybe because of the nerves.
He repeats himself and the penny drops.
Mirror sunglasses man is an off duty policeman who needs a lift to the next town.
“Sure,” we’re not keen on the idea of sharing a car with a policeman on a road where we’ve not been sure whether we’ve been sticking to the speed limit or not. But it probably isn’t a good idea to refuse. We point to our luggage and supplies which fill the back seat of the pick-up. “But he’ll have to sit in the rear of the truck.”
The policeman shouts to his amigo who looks at the pick-up’s open-to-the-elements rear bed for a couple of seconds. He shakes his head. He fancies more comfortable transport.
We’ve dodged the bullet.
A lift-seeking policemen. That’s a first for us.