French Polynesia,  Oceania,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Papeete (French Polynesia): when the car doesn’t start anymore

I have not yet told you about our last day in Papeete.
After leaving Moorea by ferry, we are at the port with our suitcases, waiting like VIPs for our rental car to be delivered to us. For 45€/day, frankly, the service is royal.
Our plane is at 2:30 am the next day, so we have the car for us until 10 pm.
After lunch, a small passage at the Post Office and the visit of the 3 waterfalls (1 only because the access to the 2 others is closed since the flood), we stop on a semblance of parking on the side of the road to admire the surfers.

20 minutes later, the car doesn’t start anymore

It is 3 pm or something like that, we say to ourselves that we have largely time to be helped and not to miss our plane.
Luckily JB has credit on his Polynesian SIM card. We make sure that we always have phone credit, we welcome this good practice.
It is then that one begins to be put in touch with the rental agency, the tow truck, and the breakdown service.
The rental agency asks us to tell them where we are. We can only indicate the road and vaguely describe the beach near which we are …
The breakdown service locates us via GPS and has access to information sent in real time on its software. According to him, the battery has a problem but it isn’t completely empty.
The tow truck guy asks us where we are. And gives us the price of 250€ and asks us to accept to pay otherwise he does not come.
By juggling with these three interlocutors and after several discussions (fortunately they all call us because we have only 45 minutes of credit), we agree on 2 things (1) the tow truck will come to pick us up at the place indicated by the GPS of the car (2) the car will be checked afterwards, if it is really our fault we pay, if not, it is the insurance which will pay.
That’s when the tow truck guy tells us that he can’t come before 1h30.
What do we do? First of all, how can we pay? Apart from the tow truck, do we have to pay the repair costs as well? The contract stipulates a deductible of 35000CFP. At the distributor, the withdrawal is capped. Can we simply leave our card number at the rental agency?
We have a lot of questions on our minds. JB gets out of the car and tells our misfortunes to the Polynesians hanging around. He comes across a guy who seems to know a lot about it. He proposes us to push the car, with a friend of his, by putting it in second gear. The first attempt is a failure. JB gets out of the car and lets him drive. We push behind, he manages to start… and disappears with the car.
What’s worse? Paying for the tow truck or having the car stolen right from under our noses? During this long minute, JB is frankly very scared, but I have a good feeling so I just wait by the road.
And of course, he came back with the car 🙂 He drove a long time to charge the battery and told us to leave the car on like that. Reassured, delighted and grateful, we warmly thank our rescuers before returning the car right away.
Our day of visit is certainly spoiled, but it gave us a small glimpse of the Polynesian kindness.
Of course, we cancelled the tow truck move. The guy, very nice, was happy for us. And the car rental agency didn’t charge us a single penny for the repair/check of the car.
Apparently, the battery ran down because the radio was left on, along with the wipers and fan (without air conditioning) for 20 minutes. For forgetting to turn off the headlights for 2 hours in New Zealand without any worries, I still don’t understand how the battery can discharge so quickly.
Following this small incident and the incident of the door not opening anymore in New Zealand, we noticed :

  • never rent a car the day you have a plane to catch, fortunately we were very broad in terms of timing that day.
  • turn everything off when we stop on the road: lights, radio, wipers, fans etc. EVERYTHING!
  • always have a local SIM card – with credit – on you. That way, we can call and others can call us without having to pay monstrous sums of money
  • always have battery power on your phone
  • ensure that breakdown services speak English/French before renting a car
  • know how to change a tire
  • know how to start the car when the battery is empty
  • download offline maps on Google Maps to at least locate where you are
  • ask questions about insurance: and pay for additional insurance if the deductible is too high
  • make an inventory of fixtures with a lot of attention

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