Rental car complications…More Kruger National Park photos…

“This is a good place to rest my head.”

Some readers/friends have suggested we buy a car to keep in South Africa, rather than continue to rent. We appreciate the suggestion but, that just doesn’t work for us. We’d have to buy the car, putting out the cash, buy an insurance policy, and find a place to store it when we are away. This would cost considerably more than we’re paying for rentals now.

In reality, we don’t plan on living in South Africa long term. We will continue to visit every few years and stay as long as we can make the visa situation work. But, we still have lots of the world left to see. Once the pandemic settles down and/or we all settle into a “new normal” and when travel resumes more readily, we will be on our way.

Classic giraffe photo with blue sky in the background.

Where will we go? That remains to be seen based on the availability of travel throughout the world and of course, coupled with our ability to get the vaccine at some point. We’re especially looking forward to cruising again once we can get the vaccine hopefully within the next year. Everything is still up in the air.

As for rental cars, lately, we’ve noticed substantial price increases for cars from the Nelspruit/Mpumalanga/Kruger Airport, our closest and most convenient pickup and return location. Since the pandemic, all the rental car facilities in Nelspruit are closed on weekends which in itself is a challenge to ensure we pick up and return cars Monday through Friday. The contract for the car we have now will end on Sunday and yet they want to charge us for an extra day returning it on Monday. Go figure.

Giraffe munching on low-lying trees.

We’d arranged for another car from the site we often use, rentalcars.com, and received a confirmation after payment in full. Two days ago we received a notice from rentalcars.com that they are canceling our contract for the new rental period since they don’t have “that particular car” and offered us another car at a 30% increase in price. We refused that car.

Then we called Budget about our current contract to see if they could help us by extending our current until June 30th. It was literally impossible to speak to someone who knew what to do. We kept getting disconnected or someone would come on the line and direct us to another phone number. We’d call the other number and they’d direct us back to the original contact person.

Giraffe among dead trees in Kruger National Park.

Finally, we gave up and started all over again. After multiple tries, we finally located an affordable car at Thrifty at the Nelspruit Airport for pickup on Monday. Then we called Budget again last night to find out what they’d charge us for the extra day. No one knew. After multiple calls, we gave up.

We told them we’d be there by noon on Monday to drop off the car and find out at that time, the fee for the extra day. They could easily gouge us, but from past experience, extra days are usually prorated from the prior contract rate. If it’s more than that, you can be assured we’ll handle it. We’ve always found that kindness and patience work better than hostility. We will figure it out.

View from the bridge of the Verhami Dam.

So, at the moment, we have a car selected from Thrifty with full insurance for under US $1400 for the next 79 days, averaging at ZAR 248, US $17 a day, higher than we usually pay but still a good price. The fact the insurance is included prevents us from having to return the car every 30 days since our credit cards only cover the insurance for the first 30 days of any car rental contract.

Hippo up for some air. Hippopotamuses love water, which is why the Greeks named them the “river horse.” Hippos spend up to 16 hours a day submerged in rivers and lakes to keep their massive bodies cool under the hot African sun. Hippos are graceful in the water, good swimmers, and can hold their breath underwater for up to five minutes.

Thus, we’ll make the almost three-hour round trip drive to Nelspruit on Monday, returning with the new car from Thrifty. We’d intended to grocery shop on the return drive at the fabulous Spar Market in Malelane but when we ran out of food yesterday, we headed to Komatipoort and purchased enough groceries to last for at least the next 10 days.

Elephants on the move on a path in Kruger National Park.

Today is sunny and a little warm with a high expected of only 87F, 31C. As always, the humidity is high making it feel warmer. All is quite well here. We are content as we could be.

We hope you are also. Be well.

Photo from one year ago, April 9, 2020:

Year ago posts were all taken from older posts while in lockdown in Mumbai, India. Please excuse the repetition. Hanalei Bay on a sunny day, taken from our condo in Princeville in Kauai, Hawaii. For more photos, please click here.

An incident on the freeway…The active social life continues…

It was fun to sit by the firepit with Tom’s sisters, spouses, and other residents in the RV park.
We are so appreciative to be able to use Margie’s car while here. It’s an older Cadillac (2001) with over 128,000 miles, but it appears to be in excellent condition.

Yesterday, we had to return the rental car to the Phoenix Airport we’d rented in Las Vegas on November 28th. I drove the rental car while Tom drove Margie’s Cadillac. The drop-off went smoothly.

On our way back to Apache Junction, a 35-minute drive, the Cadillac suddenly started acting up, and then…it was dead. Tom managed to get the car to the shoulder while we sat there trying to figure out what was wrong. 

We don’t have AAA or another roadside service. Why would we when we’re always traveling outside the US? Plus, in the past seven years, we haven’t had a single rental car breakdown. (Thank goodness).

Tom tried a few times to restart it to no avail. Were we out-of-gas? How could that be? Margie had informed Tom that the gas gauge wasn’t working, but she had kept track of the mileage using the odometer to ensure she’d never run out of gas. She felt comfortable we had plenty of fuel until the re-set odometer read 300 miles.

We were pretty far from an exit ramp, making it too long a hike for Tom to take off on foot to buy fuel. Cars were zooming past us at a high rate of speed. Then, I remembered there was some roadside assistance through our Visa credit cards.

I called the number on the back of the card, was on hold for a considerable time, and finally was referred to another number. Over 40 minutes passed until I reached the correct department and was told we’d be hearing within minutes for a service vehicle to assist. 

The cost for the service would be $69 if we were out of fuel and another $69 if the car had to have the vehicle towed under five miles, more if over. We requested the service vehicle come prepared with fuel, and we’d see what transpired when they arrived.

In all, we’d been sitting there for an hour, waiting. Much to our surprise and delight, a car zoomed past us but stopped on the shoulder and backed up to reach us. 

A kindly man offered to take Tom to a fuel station, where he purchased a gas can and fuel for a total of $17. It took about 15 minutes for them to return while I waited in the car. The kindly man drove him back to the car. 

Once the fuel was loaded into the car, much to our relief, it started. At that point, we realized that perhaps the remaining fuel that Margie thought she had in her car had evaporated while she was away during the off-season. Tom gave the man who stopped a $20 bill and the gas can from keeping. He hesitated to accept, but Tom insisted, grateful for the assistance.

None of that mattered. I called and canceled the order for service, and we were on our way to a gas station and then to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant. From there, we shopped at Fry’s for items for a light meal to serve when the sisters and husbands visited last night after the gathering at the firepit.

Once again, we had an excellent evening as we continued to enjoy our time in Apache Junction.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow!

Have a fantastic day!

Photo from one year ago today, December 12, 2018:

Zebra on the veranda! We knew we had to be very cautious not only for our safety but for his as well. If we startled him or told him to get down, he could have broken a leg on the slippery tiles. Instead, we tossed pellets on the ground near the bottom of the steps. For more photos, please click here.