It only takes one…
Bad things happen to good people for no good reason! Alcohol fuelled violence, domestic violence, road rage – the list goes on. Why a group of rockers walking down a street would punch a 14 year old boy in the stomach for no other reason than that he happens to be on the same footpath is incomprehensible, but this happened to Juergen as a teenager. And why a man went crazy and attacked our vehicle in a small holiday town on Saturday is just as incomprehensible.
We had started out in a relaxed way, enjoying some beautiful scenery, and planning a short drive. Having had no success finding a suitable place to sleep, it turned into rather a long drive and we finally entered the small town of Dichato, about 40 km north of Concepcion, at around 6 in the evening. It was fairly full of visitors so we drove slowly down the main street behind a long line of cars and then across a bridge at the end. The road ahead appeared to be uninviting, as was the town in terms of a place to sleep, so we decided to turn around and go back the way we had come. We backed the truck into a narrow side road but had to pull forward to line it up better. There was a car coming down the road, faster than we had thought, and it had to slow down a little for us. As Juergen backed up again there were angry faces and gesticulations coming from the car. It stopped – even though the road was now free – and the passenger got out of the car. He came around the back of it towards us and hurled a rock directly at us, cracking the windscreen on the passenger side. He was also hurling abuse. We were totally shocked, and didn’t know what he might do next. Finally he got back into the car and it drove off.
We followed – it was the way we had to go, but we also thought we might get a photo of the car and report it to the police. The traffic was slow and we caught up with the car at an intersection where it had come to a stop. Once again the passenger got out of the car and this time picked up a huge piece of concrete to throw at us. Fortunately he lost his balance and fell over. At this point I was yelling for the police out the window but people were either too stunned, or just not wanting to get involved, to actually do anything. While I was doing this, the man went around to the driver’s side and climbed up. He put his hand through the window and knocked the camera out of Juergen’s hand, striking him in the process. When he was back in the car and it moved off around the corner, we continued down the main street and stopped at the police station.
The police were helpful and sympathetic, and seemed to be doing something. There was lots of radio and telephone contact, but we had no idea what was going on – nobody spoke English and we were too stunned to really focus our meagre Spanish skills. I was looking out the window and suddenly saw the guy just hanging around outside – he saw me and took off. One of the policemen – I suspect the boss because he came out of a private office – took me down the street looking for him. It wasn’t long before we spotted him. The policeman called him aside and he still made all sorts of threats to me over the policeman’s shoulder. When Juergen caught up with us, he tried to attack him. Other police turned up and took him away.
Meanwhile, a woman and her daughters came up to us and were comforting us and making suggestions. We didn’t understand what they were saying either, although there was a lot of ‘tranquilo’ included… Then a guy came up who spoke almost perfect English – it turned out that he was the fiancé of one of the woman’s daughters. He agreed to come back to the police station with us. By the time we got there the man who had attacked us was locked up in a cell. We were going to make a statement but then one of the police explained that it would require our return for court proceedings in a couple of months. We could foresee this being dragged out for even longer than that, with no guarantee of restitution at the end of it. So we made the decision to leave it. The man would be held until he sobered up and would be charged with something related to his behaviour, so he wouldn’t be getting off ‘scot-free’.
We asked about somewhere to sleep and one of the police directed us to a friend’s place. But before we could leave, the family of our interpreter’s fiancé warned us that friends or family of our attacker were still around in the town, and probably looking for us. They told the police and we were ushered back inside the station. The interpreter left with his companions at that point, so we had no real clue what the police were doing. We were told to stay inside, somebody started filling out a document, others went out and took down details of our truck, and others went out on the street. We decided the best thing to do was to put as much distance between us and the town as we could. Once the paperwork was done, a motorcycle policeman escorted us out of town and as far as Tome, about 10 km in the direction of Concepcion.
We still don’t understand what this guy’s problem was, but it was a violent outburst the like of which I have never personally experienced. I think it will take some getting over.
Have you ever experienced anything similar?
How did you deal with it? How did it leave you feeling afterwards?