The South African driving dream

Posted: October 12, 2010 in Africa
Tags: , ,

We handed Mopfu over a few days ago in Pretoria at the end of a hugely enjoyable scenic route across SA. Hiring a car has proved to be the best decision we made in SA because it gave us the freedom to see remote places from the standard coach route and made us masters of our own destiny instead of held to ransom by tedious coach schedules. This blog is a few observations about the experience:

Essentials

Make sure you have both a valid driving license and credit card. Whoever is paying must have both then you can add an extra driver for free if they have a driving license. We failed – I had no credit card, Muneeza had no driving license. It took an incredibly helpful lady a long time to find the solution – a signed affidavit from the local police.

We would recommend Tempest as the budget car hire option – you can pick up and drop in different locations for a small additional fee of R400 which is much cheaper than other companies. And, surprisingly a 1.1l Kia Picanto copes really well on long distances and though it corners like an arthritic pensionner, it was good value.

Speed cameras

If you think the UK is like a Stasi state with a painful number of fixed and handheld speed cameras, then check out SA. Around every major town and city it’s camera o’clock. Speed limits change quickly and even on the motorways you get a 120km zone suddenly switch to 100km without any warning. I missed that and have been flashed by fixed cameras at least once and by mobile patrols once as well…and I was driving cautiously. At R500 a pop (about 46GPB) it’s not welcome. The car hire company hasn’t said anything so I am keeping fingers crossed.

Over-taking

I love the SA system. Every road, for the most part, has a wide hard shoulder, enough for at least half your car if not more. When a faster car approaches, the car in front simply moves over and lets them pass. Unless the driver is a fat white Afrikaner in a 4×4 in which case he simply sits there like an obstinate road hog.

Hitching

Africa loves to hitch. It’s part of the culture, mainly because so many can’t afford to drive. You’ll be driving through the middle of nowhere on some back road, no human habitation in sight, then round the next corner will be a few random peeps looking for a lift. We would have loved to pick up more people to get some interesting stories but we erred on the side of caution – the risk of getting robbed or worse was ever present. We met a friendly Danish dude who had been to SA 10years earlier and hitched his way across the country for 5 weeks and never paid for a lift. It sounded like a high risk/high reward approach.

Stunning views

 If you ever come to SA and spend more than a few days outside the cities, hire a car. For around R250 per day (about 22GBP) you can get a basic car and petrol is cheap (70p per litre). It gives you access to roads that are a pleasure to drive on – from sweeping coastal passes (bit like the PCH in Cali) to rolling mountains and steep curves, the scenery is beautiful. Taking the Garden Route from Cape Town into the Sunshine Coast and Transkei, then up to the never-ending mountains of the Drakensberg, the scenery changes daily and it is an invigorating experience.

So buckle up and sit down for a truly worthwhile experience.

Comments
  1. Gavin says:

    You didn’t pick up hitch hikers? What’s the worst that could’ve happened!!??

  2. Yasser says:

    James, lovin’ your writing very entertaining.
    Take Care. Miss You. Lotsa Love. Xy

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