Baboons dodged by the little hire car

The Little Hire Car That Could

Travels in a bubble

Our little hire car gets us to amazing places in South Africa quickly and easily. It allows us to visit places that are well off the beaten path. It helps us pack in more sights within a shorter period of time. And it insulates us from the normal chaos that is a feature on the roads and pavements of many of South Africa’s regional towns.

Our little hire car is a Datsun Go. It is painted white, which is all the better to keep the sun out and show the bug splats better. It has a 1.2 litre engine, five gears, a clutch that complains loudly first thing in the morning and a single windscreen wiper. It can go quite fast given enough runway, a favourable headwind and preferably a slight downhill gradient.

In the last six weeks we’ve driven from Cape Town northeast around the picturesque and wild coasts of South Africa. The little hire car has transported us up highways, over mountain passes, and down to the most southern tip of Africa, Cape Agulhas. With the help of the little hire car (and Google Maps) we’ve seen beautiful beaches both touristy and remote, elephants and warthogs in national parks, and waterfalls in stunning canyons. And along the roads to these highlights we’ve dodged obstacles of every variety from trucks transporting coal at a snail’s pace to ‘combi’ vans moving people at the speed of sound; pedestrians on the road (we try to avoid driving through small towns when kids leave school or people leave work); cows, goats, monkeys, dogs and guinea-fowl. We’ve seen a lot of mobile things through the windows of the little hire car.

Despite the convenience of the car, I’m ready to hand over the keys to the rental company. The first little white car we had to say goodbye to in Durban after somebody broke the lock trying to steal who knows what (the blue dishcloth I use to clean the windscreen?). Assuming this second car makes it to Pretoria in one piece I’m ready to relinquish the responsibility for driving, navigating, parking and pothole dodging. There are plenty of long distance buses, taxis and guided tours willing to take up this challenge. In our new modes of transport more of the people we see along the way may be uncomfortably close and not safely on the other side of a window. But I’m hoping our experiences will be immediately richer and more memorable by adding some chaotic humanity and inconvenient timetables into our travels.

Ever had a rental car that took you places you never thought it would? Tell us about it in the comments section below.

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3 thoughts on “The Little Hire Car That Could”

  1. Amazing how what we think is convenient ends up being a major hindrance. Enjoy the freedom of letting go– from the steering wheel.

    Keep enjoying 🙂

  2. We went to Italy – a second honeymoon and a last-blas vacation for friends of ours who had never left the country – and we were gifted with a Ford Focus. It wasn’t the Alfa Romeo hatch I wanted, or the Fiat with a kick, but it got us out of some sticky situations. Driving down a steep, narrow village side street at midnight after dinner at the top of a Tuscan hill, we met a bus that pushed us to the limit of the road and over onto a dropped sidewalk. Ford Focii aren’t known for their offroad capability, but this one had it in spades. It also could seemingly (and miraculously) shrink it’s width to pass through tight archways. All this with a broken side mirror, and a reverse mechanism that we didn’t figure out until we actually needed to back up out of a parking space (cue panicking until a friend reminds you that in Europe, you pull up for reverse).
    And then there the time we did a 2.2 million point turn in a minivan on the edge of a cliff…

    1. Andy, sorry for the slow reply. You got caught in the spam filter…
      I think your Ford Focus was perfect for the job you describe. The broken wing mirror probably helped it get through some of those archways you mentioned. Sounds like fun! As for the minivan on the edge of a cliff, sounds like a whole scary story compressed into a minute of heart-in-the-mouth action. You survived to tell the tale!

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