Posted by: Tommy | December 8, 2010

The Uninsured Motorist

In order to stay on budget for our trip, we are occasionally forced to make tough choices.  In every country we’ve been in, we’ve chosen couchsurfing or hostels over a fancy hotel.  At meals, we either make them at the hostel or eat street food (food sold in a cart on the side of the road- usually delicious, always cheap). In Egypt, it was taking the 20 hour bus instead of flying from Sharm El Sheikh to Luxor.  In Africa, it has been renting the “stick” instead of the automatic.

The public transportation in Johannesburg is widely regarded as the least-safe option in a city of terribly unsafe options for transport.  We were told, in no uncertain terms, that a rental car is a must.  So we got one.  We didn’t bow to the budget in an extreme way – we still got A/C, airbags and power steering.  But the automatic was an extra $40/day and Anna used to own a standard, so we opted for that.

Anyway, that was a lot of setup for what is almost certainly the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in a car.  Unlike Anna, I’ve never driven stick.  Ever.  But hey, a rental car is the perfect time to learn.  It’s not my clutch, right?  So Anna did all of the driving in Jo’burg, but we’ve headed out of the city to do some camping and hiking in Royal Natal national park in Southern South Africa.  It’s the perfect place for me to learn to drive, as the speed limits are low, the traffic is non-existent and there are not many people around to watch me fail.

So today, moments ago, actually, I’m driving us to the only restaurant within an hour’s drive of the park – a delicious Italian restaurant called Tower of Pizza.  We ate here last night and would certainly eat here again tomorrow if we weren’t leaving in the morning.

So anyway, I’m cruising along at about 60 km/hr when I see an uncommon sight – a herd of cattle rumbling down a hill and across the road ahead of me.  There are 2 cars on the other side of the road, slowly working their way through the cattle and out the other side.  That seems like the move and I plunge ahead – only to stall out amidst the herd.  That’s fine.  We are in no hurry to move and are kind of enjoying this seemingly African experience.  There were no grown ups governing the movements of this herd, only a couple of small boys who couldn’t have been a day over 8.

So we sat in the middle of about 70 cows, as they moved quickly across the road.  Until one didn’t.  One cow was coming straight for us and all we could do was watch it through the windshield.  It was like it was moving in slow motion….and then it was gone.  It’s path had been blocked by another cow, darting in front of it from the side of the road, heading straight past our tiny Nissan Micra.

And then, what will forever be known as “The Cowsitting” in our house, happened.

The first cow, the one seemingly determined to reach us, picked up the back end 0f the perpendicular cow with it’s neck and hoisted the other cow up in the air….

and onto the hood of our car.  Where it panicked.  The giant brown lump (which is all we could see, as the cow took up our entire windshield) thrashed and rolled about, scraping and denting the pristine hood of our rental car before he finally figured out how to roll off the hood and onto the ground.

We both just stared at the rest of the herd in shock.  The herd boys were laughing, not maliciously, but because it was truly funny.  As quickly as it had started, the herd had passed us and we were free to go.  I restarted the car and shifted into first, as Anna and I contemplated “the cowsitting”.

Would I have been able to shove my way through the herd undamaged in an automatic?  Should I have tried to back up, rather than go through the cows?  Should cows be required to carry insurance in the event they damage a passing tourist’s Nissan Micra?  I can’t answer any of these questions, but I can definitely say that Thrifty Rental Car is almost certainly going to charge me way too much for the large dent in the hood of that car.

Cow Damage



  1. Well, that’s definitely a first!! I’ve heard of people hitting deer and EVEN the deer hitting their car, BUT NEVER A COW stuck on the hood of a car!! LOL MOOOOOVE out the way next time!! Wish I had a video of that!! 🙂

  2. I’m getting worried for what might be next-you’ve only been gone 2 months!!

  3. Well, that wasn’t a cow from TEXAS or the dent would have been WAY bigger!!! Watch out for the lions,tigers,& bears on your camping trip. They don’t know you are tourist! XOXOX, kita

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