Transportation issues..Llttle pink car is no more...A driving video...Scroll down for the first posting of an elephant video we took in Kruer National Park...


A segment of our return drive from Blyde River Canyon on our way back to Marloth Park.
 
Renting a car for a one, two week or even a 30 day holiday is no big deal.  Trying to rent a car for over 30 days is difficult unless one is willing to pay considerably more disproportionately.  We're not.
Wildflowers growing at the overlook on the Crocodile River.
Using online booking sites, including the major rental car company's sites, while searching for the best rates we've found that any requested rental over 30 days, dramatically changes everything. 
Creek on the Panorama Route.
The rental car companies posted rates for under 30 days are fair.  However, they have no interest in renting cars for those same great rates for longer than 30 days which presents an issue for us.  The rate jumps exponentially once the 30 day period is over, often doubling.

We rented the little pink car for 30 days for US $519, ZAR $5526.  To extend that rate was unappealing.  Extending the rental period resulted in daily rates in excess of US $30, ZAR $319.  That didn't appeal to us.  Many days, we don't go out.

This Hyena peeked out of his den to check us out at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.  Hyenas chew on the bones of animals distributing small shreds to their offspring for the nutrients.  When he went back inside we could easily hear the unnerving sounds of bone crunching.
Our plan was to return the pink car last Saturday to Budget at the Mpumalanga/Nelspruit Airport on our return trip from Blyde River Canyon. We intended to pick up another car that we'd booked at another company also located at the airport, paying roughly US $1100, ZAR $11,713 for our remaining 41 days  (at that time) in Marloth Park. 
While heading out to dinner around 7:00 pm on Saturday after returning from Blyde River Canyon, Okee Dokee spotted this baby Giraffe and mother. Notice the size differential in the mom on the right and the baby. Photo was taken in the dark resulting in the lack of clarity.
The original daily rate for the pink car was US $17.50, ZAR $186.34.  The remaining 41 day contract for which we paid online was US $26.83, ZAR $285.68 per day.  By paying this 65% increase we could avoid having to make another long trip back and forth to the airport when 30 additional days had passed.  We'd decided to bite the bullet and pay it.

On Friday evening after dinner, our last night at the Blyde River Canyon Lodge, we received an email informing us that, although we'd already paid the entire balance in full, they were cancelling our contract and refunding our money.  They didn't want the car "out that long." Actually, they didn't want the car "out that long at that price." 
This close up is of a baby Warthog, less than two months old, illustrating how the warts have already grown on the face.  Males have four warts on the face, females have two.  Notice the extra set of warts near his eyes indicating that this is a male.
There we were leaving in the morning for the long drive to the airport returning the pink car and receiving a message that we had no car for the return trip to Marloth Park from the airport, an hour and a half drive.
This young male, less than two months old, has already grown his tucks.
With our intention to stay calm while figuring out solutions for any problems that arise, we tossed around a few options:

1. Re-rent the pink car at almost double the rate we'd originally paid keeping it until we returned to the airport to depart on February 28th.
2. Re-rent another car for another 30 days and pay the fees to extend it at the higher rates for the remaining 11 days.
3.  Re-rent another car for 30 days, returning it to the airport, get our past driver, Okee Dokee, to pick us up at the airport and drive us back to Marloth Park with no rental car for the remaining 11 days
4.  Don't re-rent any car and have Okee Dokee pick us up at the airport, driving us several times a week for all of our outings over our remaining time in this area.
This young female has grown these feelers bristles to aid in burrowing into holes that warthogs use for protection by stealing holes from other animals.  The baby warthogs enter the holes head first.  A mature warthog, including moms with babies, enter the hole butt first allowing them to be prepared to attack if any potential predators try to enter.
The answer was readily available in the "math."  We calculated the cost of the driver three to four times a week, based on mileage rates and it proved to be 50% of what we'd pay for the rental car.  For us, it was a no-brainer.

Do we feel trapped without a car?  Not at all.  We can go anywhere we'd like easily contacting Okee Dokee by text.  As a lifelong resident of this area, she too loves wildlife, readily stopping for photos. Plus, we thoroughly enjoy her companionship.

Tree frog hanging on the edge of the pool checking us out.  Look at those functional toes! Could this be a baby from the nests hanging over the pool?
She suggested we keep track of our outings and pay her in one fell swoop, at the end.  I created a nifty page in Excel with her rates, dates and locations that we choose to visit keeping track of the accumulating balance.  We'll generously tip her excellent service at the end.

This car rental challenge would not be an issue if the rental facilities were nearby.  We'd simply rent three cars for three 30 day periods at the best possible rates, dropping off the car and picking up another. That would have been easy.

The "Three Little Pigs" are getting big. Mom is standing off to the side while they all wait for us to throw out a few pellets.  Of course, we complied. 
There was no way that we were interested in going back and forth to the airport many times when its a three hour round trip, including the time it takes to process the rental.  That's three half days wasted.  With the pleasure we experience daily surrounded by wildlife while sitting on the veranda at our vacation home, every single day is precious.

With only 36 days remaining of our time in Marloth Park, we're content with our decision.  On February 28th, Okee Dokee will drive us to the Mpumalanga airport to begin the lengthy flight to Morocco.  Last night, she dropped us off for dinner at the Serene Oasis restaurant located on the Crocodile River, picking us up a few hours later. With her, there's no pressure to hurry and no sense of feeling rushed.
The "Three Little Pigs" chased off this shy male warthog.  He decided to hide by the pool until they left to see if there would be any pellets left for him. He looked very worried.  Yes, we tossed him a batch once the "family" had departed.
Shortly, she'll pick us up at noon to take us to Komatipoort for grocery shopping and Tom's 12:30 haircut appointment while she patiently waits for us. Tom hasn't had a haircut in three months which was halfway through our 89 day stay in Diani Beach, Kenya. 

This won't be the first time we've been without "wheels" and surely won't be the last.  With special arrangements we've made with excellent drivers in Belize, Dubai, Kenya, South Africa and more, we've managed to function well paying
reasonable rates.

With the money we'll have saved on car rentals in South Africa, factoring in our costs for a driver, it more than paid the entire cost of the three days we spent in Blyde River Canyon last week. 

  To see the detailed past story of this lone elephant that we encountered in Kruger Park last Wednesday, please click here.                                  

It's all in the planning, the adapting and the acceptance that our lives aren't always as convenient as in our old lives. But, the adventure, the joy and the fulfillment make it all worthwhile.

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