Posts Tagged ‘rentals’

“No Off-Road Means No Off-Road!


There’s no Auto Club to call out here, amigo! Oh…and you say your cell phone doesn’t get a signal either?


Originally published the Week of February 5, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

It was time to put these two guys outta their misery.  For about 30 minutes a group of my captains and I had watched two poor boobs trying to get their rental car out’ve the mud flats.

Standing on a little rise looking down about 100 yards to the flats,  it was hard to suppress the laughs and high entertainment at the expense of the clown show in the sludge.

Earlier in the day, we had seen the small sedan up to it’s axles in the goo.   Stuck.  There looked to be some foot tracks leading away, but no one was around.  We had pangas to put out and clients to attend to so we shrugged.  None of our business.

But this afternoon, now that the fishing was done, the car was still there.  And the occupants were back.   And  a group of  my captains watching the comedic scene. Cervezas in hand.  Arms crossed.  Leaning against their pickup trucks.  Grinning.

One guy was in the car revving for all it was worth.  Mud shot skyward.  The other guy was doing all he could to pry the car loose…from behind! It was like a blender exploding.   Covered head to toe in layers of sludge.

Little bits of white poked out around his lower torso indicating that he was out there in his tidy-whitey-underwear getting shot-gun blasted by gobs of mud looking like he got dipped in chocolate goo!  These guys had no clue.  And we had no idea why he had taken his clothes off!

But it was getting late. We had to get home. Wives and kids were waiting.   Good hearts prevailed and finally one of the captains said he couldn’t take it anymore.  He and several other guys got their trucks and some rope and pulled the grateful guys outta the muck.

It’s not the first time.  I’m sure it won’t be the last we give first aid to a rental car.

Car rentals in a foreign country can be quite an adventure.  Most of it is great!  Don’t get me wrong.  We do it all the time in our own travels.

But, Mexico has it’s own caveats it’s good to keep in mind.

For one, the fine print that says, “Don’t take the car off-road” means “Hey, idiot, keep the car on the pavement!”

Mexico isn’t exactly known for having great streets to start. Sometimes it’s just as treacherous navigating the potholes as the Baja 1000,   so don’t even think about trying to cross that patch of sand or salt marsh or stretch of solid-looking mud!

Especially in Baja, it doesn’t take much to suddenly find yourself in the middle of nowhere.  I mean, that’s part of the beauty of Baja.  Having broken down myself over the years, remember, there’s no Auto Club to call.  Heck, your cell phone might not even work ‘en la frontera’ (in the frontier)!

So, don’t get caught like these guys trying to dig your car out in your underwear.  Personally, in the days before cell phones, I once hiked over 30 miles to get help when my own car busted an axle.   I could swear the buzzards were just waiting for me to give it up as their next road kill.

Here’s some tips when renting a car.

For one, rent from someplace that has a recognizable name.  You get what you pay for.  “Jose’s Beach Tours and Car Rental” is probably not what you’re looking for.

Secondly, ask if they have another office in the places you’re going to visit.  For example, if you’re renting in Cabo San Lucas but you plan to drive to La Paz (100 miles away) or Loreto (another 5 hours) and you break down or lock your keys inside (you only get 1 key), there’s no one to help.  You’ll have to wait for someone to come with assistance and that can take hours…or days.  And you don’t get refunded for the days you can’t drive.

Very importantly, know what you’re getting charged for.  So often, I hear clients get “great rates” but then when they return the car, they get surcharged to death for several hundred dollars more.  Know how much the tax will be.  Know about the insurance rates.   Get it all in writing.  Nothing leaves a bad taste after a great vacation like getting stuck with a big bill.

On that subject, if you’re in doubt about insurance, get it.  Don’t drive without insurance!  It’s not that expensive and heaven forbid you’re the one in a zillion drivers who gets in an accident.

Keep in mind, in Mexico, you are guilty until you prove your innocence!  Repeat that 10 times! It’s not like the U.S. where your innocence is presumed.   In Mexico, you are presumed GUILTY!

If you’re in a bender, most times the other guy will have NO insurance.  Locals can’t afford it.   He will say it’s YOUR fault.   You will say it’s HIS fault.  Of course.

Police have little recourse but to sort it out since technically you’re both GUILTY and you can both be detained at the police station until it’s ironed out.  (See the part about making sure the rental agency has an office at the destination you’re visiting…you really don’t want to be waiting at the police station until someone shows up!).

The police aren’t bad guys.  They’re not out to stick it to the gringo.  They would do the same if it were two locals.  It’s just the way the law is written.  Deal with it or do your best to avoid it.

Finally, no matter what you think you may have rented, stay on the pavement!

Even if you rent a Jeep…believe me…it’s probably NOT 4-wheel-drive.  I’ve yet to actually see a 4-wheel drive rental Jeep, but I see yahoos off-roading through the sand dunes and rocks all the time.

If you do take it off-road, look for me and my boys.  We’ll be up on the hill laughing.  Wear good underwear.

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature


Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!


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