Monday, October 04, 2010

What To Do If Your Car Gets Stuck In The Middle Of The Free State Farmland

The Plan: 
It was inspired by my last post and Po’s response to it. Why not travel, she asked, when I said that I didn’t seem to be tied to a location. My friend Christelle, who lives in Bloem and was visiting me for the weekend agreed with Po’s assessment. So we decided that I would go visit her for a week or so in Bloem.

The Trip
A 420km car ride from Johannesburg to Bloemfontein. In theory, it would take us a little over 4 hours.

The problem
Car stopped just over 20km outside Kroonstad. Other than the passing cars and trucks, the only thing was endless farmland with an occasional dot that looked like a house out far in the horizon.

Step 1: Call your insurance company

Christelle wanted to open the hood of the car to see what the problem was. I didn’t see how opening the hood would help, because neither one of us understand cars. Sure, we’d see SOMETHING! But it wouldn’t mean a thing to us. [We later found from our friendly tow-truck company that there was something wrong withe engine, and it was losing water too fast and overheating.
So we called the insurance company to report the incident. For the record, 1com, the insurance company, sucks. The consultant SMSed us the contact details for the nearest tow company and we had to contact Europcar directly to arrange a rental car (you qualify for it, if you’re more than 150km from home.)

Europcar only had an outlet in Welkom, and the representative was home enjoying a leisure Sunday afternoon, so he couldn’t help. We would only be able to get a car the following day, he said. Grrrrrrr!

Step 2: Find another way out of Dodge

The next available Greyhound bus from Kroonstad to Bloemfontein was at 19h45 on Monday night, I think the consultant said.

Step 3: Find a friendly farmer

Zoutspruit is a cattle farm
Thank God Christelle knew of Zoutspruit, a farm that had a bed and breakfast operation within a 2km radius of where were stuck. 

Many thanks to our hostess Inez, who already had the double room ready when we arrived. 

By the time we arrived, it was around 16h00, and after giving us enough liquids to start feeling human, she got dinner ready in an hour. It was delicious, filling, and quite a relief to have one less thing to worry about.

The cost for the bed and breadfast was R650 (R550 for 2 people in a twin room sharing  and their dinner plus breakfast for R55 each. )

Inez sat with us under the tree, while we called Europcar again to make sure the rental car was still coming, and Christelle called her boss to tell him she’d be late for work the following day.

I loved sitting under this tree. Sorta gave me the feeling that I was on a holiday, not stuck in the middle of nowhere.

After a nice shower, we went to bed early.

Step 5: A normal workday?

The breakfast menu was varied, including herbed egg dish, toast, butter, jam, boerewors, bacon, pap and the usual cereals, tea and coffee varieties.  Unfortunately I couldn’t eat most of the food because they either had wheat or dairy in them. I should have thought to warm Inez – she was so helpful I’m sure she would have made a plan.

As for work, I had my laptop and modem, but Internet in that area sucked big time. I use Vodacom Mobile when I’m travelling, and their networks are everywhere and I usually connect with no problem. Except on that particular spot, I could only get a dodgy EDGE connection. So, work was S-L-O-W.

But I did manage to update the sites, follow up on some interviews, look for some gigs and listen to a work-related audio tape I’m supposed to work on for a client.

Step 6: Lessons learnt

Rental car only arrived by mid-morning. Then we drove for two more hours through more farmland to Bloem.

Lesson 1:  When insurance people tell you terms and conditions apply to your supposedly “comprehensive “coverage, find out what it means. In the many discussions  we had with the insurance company, the issue of whether we did qualify for the rental car came up, and the consultant was arguing that we couldn’t possibly be over 150km away from Bloem.  Check the damn map, I wanted to say.
Lesson 2: Never to under-estimate the power of a friendly farmer. The world looked much better when we were sitting under the tree on the farm, drinking icy cold water, than it did when we were in the car, waiting to be towed.
Lesson 3: Ubiquitous Internet is in the eye of the beholder:-). 

My non-techie friend Vuyo made me laugh. I was moaning about having EDGE connection in Kroonstad, and her response was " EDGE? What's that?" As far as she knew, Internet acces = ADSL or 3G.


Laura said...

Oh gosh! It seems all insurance companies are the same! I had a blow up with Budget Rental Car today!!!!

This is the beauty of roadtrips I suppose :)

Glad you did finally arrive!

po said...

Oh my. This is probably not waht you had in mind when you thought you could go anywhere and work!

Hahaha I think I started something disastrous here? Lucky for that farmer. Do they have things like AA or RAC in South Africa, companies you pay who will come to you whenever something goes wrong with your car, either to fix it or tow it, or take you home/to the nearest transport? We have that in the UK, it sure gives peace of mind.

I hope you will get to take other trips in the future, and they will be less "adventurous@!

Greg said...

I remember 2 years ago back I got a rental car from Drive South Africa and 45 minutes into my trip the car failed! It was a disaster as I was already late for an important meeting and now had to worry about how fast I could get out of this mess. I called Drive South Africa, and they arranged everything for me and contacted me throughout the process of contacting the tow company just to keep me updated which was great. From contacting DSA and receiving my new car, it only took 2 hours! I guess I was just lucky.

Copyright Notice

With the exception of entries specifically credited to individual authors, the content on this blog is copyrighted by Damaria Senne and may not be reprinted without permission.