Oh, the joys of driving in another country. I try to avoid it.
I don’t even like driving in America, let alone a foreign country. I’ll just take the train, thank you very much.
But there I was in Santorini with a free car rental (it came with my hotel room) so, being the budget traveler I am, I decided it would be a waste not to use it. I ignored the thought nibbling at my brain that if I hit something, it would no longer be much of a bargain as the car rental guy so nicely explained there was a 500 euro deductible on the rental insurance.
Since my travel companion was not yet 21 (those darn younger sisters) I had to drive the entire time. Oh, and did I mention the car had a stick shift? It was fifty billion dollars or some extortionate amount to upgrade to an automatic, so manual it was.
Driving started out pleasant enough. Meaning I left the hotel’s little parking area without hitting anything.
We drove through the lively main town of Fira first. Scooters and cars were shooting around me from every angle. My sister Angela was studying the map we got from the hotel and trying to figure out which road to take to get to Perivolas Beach. I tried to avoid hitting pedestrians – look both ways before crossing the street people! – and tried not to have a heart attack.
We finally made it to the vicinity of Perivolas. Car still running. Check. Heart still beating. Check.
Wait. Spoke too soon.
“Go that way,” Angela instructed with a point of her finger to the left as we came to a stop sign. “The beach should be over that hill.”
I turned left and shifted into second gear as we started up the hill. When I shifted into third gear, something went wrong.
The car made a loud whirring noise as I tried to accelerate.
“What was that?” I asked, slightly panicked.
“Try shifting again,” Angela suggested.
I re-shifted back into third gear and the same whirring noise continued. This time it was accompanied by a burning smell.
“What do I do, what do I do?” I shrieked.
“What are you doing you idiot! It’s not in gear!” Angela yelled at me.
“Hey, don’t call me an idiot. You try driving this stupid car!” I hollered back as I frantically pumped the clutch and moved the stick between gears. I began slowing down as the burning smell got worse. A car behind us honked impatiently and then darted around us on the narrow road when there was no oncoming traffic.
“You need to stop!” Angela shouted.
“Yes, I am aware of that, but I can’t stop in the middle of the road and there’s no where to pull over.” Which was true. The road was tiny with no shoulder and I wasn’t about to pull off onto someone’s land. Who knew what the laws in Santorini were for ripping up one’s grass or crops? I wasn’t about to spend time in a Greek jail just because the car was overheating. 500 euros then flashed through my head and I pondered reconsidering my position on jail time.
Luckily I didn’t have to. We reached the top of the hill and sure enough there was a beach and a parking lot. Was it Perivolas Beach? I didn’t know and I didn’t care.
I pulled into the parking spot and shut off the car. Angela and I sat there in silence for a minute, engulfed in the smells of burning rubber.
“I can’t believe you broke the car,” Angela said.
“I didn’t break the car.” I bit my lip nervously. “Did I?”
“Well, I guess while we’re waiting for it to cool down we might as well go to the beach,” Angela suggested.
When we returned an hour later the car still faintly smelled. I turned the key and it chugged to life and seemed fine.
“Phew,” I said.
“Yeah,” Angela agreed. “Now are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
I glared at her. “Yes. I know how to drive a stick. This wasn’t my fault.”
She shrugged and looked back down at her map. “Alright, the red beach is that way.”
And we were off again. Having a car ended up being a great thing. We were able to see the entire island and we didn’t have another problem with the car overheating.
Though we did almost drive off a cliff on the way to Oia. More on that some other time.
Tags: Greece, Santorini, Transport