Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Car Trouble

You may or may not know that as part of our internships, Heather and I were given a car. Owning a vehicle is the only way to get around here; hitchhiking isn't easy, nor is it exactly safe. I've only done it once and Heather refuses to, as she probably should. Lynn understood this, and she was kind enough to get us the sickest ride I've driven around here (or, probably, ever), pictured above. Normally I'm too eco-prejudiced to feel good with SUVs, but you can't do much better than a big, invincible truck out here.

For our car fans, that is a 2007 Toyota Hilux Raider. No four-wheel drive, but it does have diff lock, a sweet set of tires, room for six or seven passengers, and a stereo system that I ought to be engaged to. That's not us in there; weirdly we have no pictures of our car. I don't know why; it's been our best friend out here in the boonies.

And as of today, we've taken this car into a repairman twice in the last two weeks. We've gotten in no accidents, per se; Heather and I haven't gotten that Big Man rush and started crashing into holidaymakers. In fact, nothing that's happened has been our fault. But still we're shelling out cash to keep this beast alive.

What wild stories are we telling, you ask? Here's the point-by-point:

1. First crash: the beast rear-ends a smaller car at a busy intersection. It was being driven by a fellow employee, whom Heather was teaching to drive. Our right fender was dented, the headlight in pieces. Even though we're insured, we couldn't find the insurance papers and wound up signing an affidavit promising to shell out 1,000 rand for the other car. No one's fault, sure. These things happen.

2. Second crash: taking the car in to be serviced, I park in town to get directions. Backing out of a parking lot, I overlook the poles that, by law, have to flank driveways in this country. Possibly didn't see because they look exactly like flimsy road markers from the States. My damaged fender found out they're actually made of steel. No worries, no extra damage, and the building's owner was glad, because he'd always been afraid of hitting it himself.

3. Third stupid incident: A slow-moving car full of holidayers, weaving across the road as we try to pass, runs partially off the pavement and hits a stick. They're unharmed, but the stick flips up from their tire and spins, like a knife, up toward the windshield. For a split second I almost ducked, but the stick drops low and sticks into our grill, quivering. It stays in until we pull it out on the roadside. Thirty minutes later, Heather drives into the busiest intersection of the local township. She pulls up at the stopline and, under the hood, the radiator explodes, billowing smoke and splattering red coolant everywhere.

Now the car is in service again, and it looks even more expensive than last time -- at least R5,000. Who those drunk holidayers were, I don't know. It didn't seem serious at the time. It was actually pretty funny at the time, passing trucks and tractors with a stick hanging there in our grill. If I could find those partiers now, I would be playing a different effing tune.

More news to follow. As of yesterday, I've reached the halfway point in my trip. I have four weeks of internship and research. Following that, I'm travelling for two weeks around South Africa. My plan for now is to bike into Lesotho and maybe catch a ride to Botswana the first week, then spend my five days in Capetown. Keep checking back!

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