Friday, March 28, 2008

Mossy's Backpackers #22

Author's note: to those that don't know, every word of the story of Haap is true. Sadly.

“Have you guys picked one yet?”

Max looked up from the mess of rental car agency pamphlets strewn across the table just long enough to scowl at Greg before returning to his work.

“Ah, I think we’ve got it down to these two,” Cate replied, pointing at the two leaflets open in front of her. “If we can decode their insurance policies we might finally be able to make a decision.”

“I knew I should’ve gone to law school like mum and dad wanted,” Max muttered.

Be sure to mention that next time you call home.

“Maybe we should get to Kinghaven and just buy a cheap used car,” Cate suggested.

“No way, no how, no thank you,” Max said without looking up.

“Why not? It wouldn’t be that much more expensive than renting and we’d get most of the money back by selling it before we head home,” she said, looking to Greg for support. “I met this Italian guy who actually sold his car for almost twice the amount he paid for it!”

“Obviously,” Greg replied with a mischievous grin, “he has yet to tell you the tragic story of Haap.”

“Hap? Who is that?”

“Haap is short for Hope And A Prayer,” Max said with a pained expression. “It was the name I gave the car I bought the day I got here.”

“No way… the day your flight arrived from Vancouver?”

“Yup – jet lagged and sleep deprived I went used car shopping and found Haap.”

God was that ever a brilliant decision.

Rot in hell.

“I’m guessing getting around on a hope and a prayer didn’t work out so hot?”

“Oh not at all!” Greg laughed as he pulled up a seat, eager to hear the tale one more time. “It ended up being very hot indeed. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?”

“I’m going to need a…” Max began before he was cut off by Cindy placing an opened beer in front of him. “Yes, one of those.”

“I love this story,” Cindy told Cate. “Usually you hear stuff like this second, third or fourth hand, but we actually know the dumb git directly!”

“Thank you for the encouragement,” Max said dryly before taking a lengthy taste of his beer. “Everyone all settled in then?”

“Yup, I even just went to the loo so no bathroom break required over here!” Greg said happily.

“Alright. So. I bought Haap from this dodgy bloke at a backpacker’s car market. It was the cheapest small car there and it did okay on the test drive. Other than me almost hitting another car at an intersection.”

I will never get tired of this story.

“I don’t really know much about cars, all I was looking for was something cheap that would last for my trip here and maybe two days past that. So I pay up, decline the mechanic check-up because it was an extra hundred bucks I couldn’t afford…”

Brilliant move! Ha ha ha ha ha…

“… And get it back to the hostel. The next day I hit the road for a town about 100 miles away… it ended up taking me five hours to get there.”

“I’m guessing you didn’t get hopelessly lost?” Cate said with a wince.

“Nope, the engine overheated about 20 miles out of town, leaving me stranded on the side of the highway for two hours,” Max said as Greg began to whistle ‘Some like it hot.’ Ignoring this completely, he continued. “But I met some incredible people that day – this old English couple, who were going in the opposite direction, came back to see if I needed help and then went to get a mechanic to check the car out.”

“We English are a fine lot,” Greg said smugly.

“Not as fine as the mechanic though,” Max laughed. “He drove out to see me, towed me back to his garage, fixed things up and sent me on my way. Free of charge.”

“Oh that’s so sweet!” Cate said.

“He was probably half-English,” Greg grumbled.

“So. Not a very promising start to things,” Max continued.

Understatement of the year.

“In the coming weeks I discovered that Haap’s optimal highway speed was a rather modest 60 km/h. That led to me spending a whole lot of time driving on the shoulder to let other drivers pass. Then one day reverse stopped working…”

“No!” Cate cried out, her hand covering her mouth.

“Uh huh – from then on backing up required me tossing it in neutral and getting out to push. I also had to get five or six jump starts before I caved and bought a new battery. Most of those were at the side of the road after I pulled over to let the engine cool off.”

“I can’t believe you kept driving that junker,” Cindy said.

“I figured I’d drive it till it fell apart. Besides, driving that slowly gave me time to admire all the scenery a whole lot better than those poor sods going a hundred,” Max shrugged. “The beginning of the end came at the end of a long day when I stopped for gas. I started Haap up and smoke started billowing from under the hood. Turned out I had blown the head gasket…”

“Oh, that happened to my brother two years ago,” Cate said. “You didn’t keep going did you?”

“Lasted another two weeks,” Max said with a hint of pride in his voice. “Every road trip began with two huge jugs of water in the trunk. I had to pull over every fifteen minutes or so to cool off the engine and refill the radiator. Except on rainy days… Haap did much better then.”

“You’re insane,” Cate noted.

Bang on, girl. Bang on.

“Probably,” Max allowed with a smile. “I ended up abandoning it at a hostel after the local mechanic wouldn’t even take it for spare parts. Which was total crap, the seatbelts still worked perfectly!”

“Yeah and that was about it!” Greg said happily.

“I can see why renting appeals to you,” Cate told him as she rubbed his shoulders.

“Yeah, but I don’t regret it at all. I met so many friendly people, locals and tourists, that I never would have otherwise. It was a really good experience and I learned a lot from it.”

“And it gave you one ‘ell of a story mate,” Greg said as he raised his beer. “Here’s to Haap: may he find the joy in car heaven that he never found with Max behind his wheel.”

“To Haap,” Max said, clinking his bottle against Greg’s. “My first car… and probably my last!”

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