Awoke to a spectacular sunrise; tried to catch it through the 39th floor hotel room window but haven’t had a chance to look at the very few shots in the camera from todays shooting.Sunrise over Sydney's highrises, Sydney, Australia, June 2011. Original size 5121x3744px. (Gerald FitzGerald) First driving day and, as usual, lots of lessons. Had checked with CIBC before I left to confirm that they covered the rental car collision waiver (CDW) in Australia. Was assured that they did, however when I was signing up for the car and told them that I was declining coverage, we had a bit of a flap. Seems that they don’t separate liability from collision as they do other places, they only provide an insurance bundle. I then spent about 25 maddening minutes talking to a variety of CIBC travel and insurance people in Toronto (thank heavens for the new Optus SIM!), none of whom seemed to have the slightest clue. The upshot was that I was told not to worry, just waive all insurance and CIBC’s insurance would pick it up, which I duly did. I arrived at Hertz at 9:30; between waiting in line, a protracted phone call to Toronto and negotiating with Hertz, it was now 11 and my hope of an early start was in scuppered.

The GPS and I, with major anxieties on both our parts finally managed to get us out of Sydney and on the right road heading south. Our initial anxieties were mutual; I was not as trusting in the GPS as I should have been, and since I kept going off the GPS’ route, it rapidly lost faith in me. However we managed to reach an accommodation; I would do everything it suggested and when I got tired of listening to its little drill-seargeant’s voice I’d turn it off and go my own way till I was hopelessly lost then turn it back on again for rescue. That way, we both felt as if we were in charge. The things you have to do to keep electronics happy. View from Stanwell Tops, south of Sydney looking down the coast toward Wollongong. Original size 5461x3532px. (Gerald FitzGerald) When I stopped for a bite I looked more carefully at the car rental agreement only to discover that I was not covered for liability or anything else and the deductibles are $3,300 if you have any kind of damage to the car and, get this, if the accident doesn’t involve anyone else, it’s an additional $2,200. So if you back into a lamp pole with no-one else being involved then they charge your card $5,500 immediately when the car is returned. It can then take 8 to 12 weeks for an assessor to look at it and if the cost of repair is less than $5,500 they return the difference (yeah, right). So back on the phone to Canada and this time I landed in the hands of a woman who had some credible answers. Seems that there are only three countries in the world, Australia, New Zealand and Italy, who manage their car hire insurance in their own shared and unique way. They provide a bundle on a take it or leave it basis. It’s either take their package or you have no coverage and the credit card insurance provider can’t help. Her advice, hold your nose and pay. At this point I panicked; I could see my retirement being spent working two shifts a day at Walmart trying cover the cost of the lawsuit. So, on the phone to Hertz to tell them of my change of heart. They then told me to go the nearest Hertz and have them make the change. To make an endless story end, the GPS couldn’t find the Hertz in Woolongong, the nearest Hertz location, and kept driving me in circles and up and down highways (seems this Hertz had moved to another part of town but the GPS hadn’t been updated) and when I finally did find them, they claimed that there was nothing that they could do since they were a franchisee and the place that I rented from was a corporate outlet. More phone calls to sort it (and we finally did) so that I’m now fully covered for, wait for it, $35 a day. No bad since the car rents for $40 a day! At this point it was 3:00 and I was only about 100k south of Sydney.

Did I take any pictures? No. Did I see any of the countryside? Yes, bits of highway and sections of industrial/commercial parts of various towns in search of a Hertz. Am I relaxed? What do you think?

Looking forward to tomorrow. Feel comfortable with the car and the roads (and my insurance coverage) and hopefully have cleared all the hurdles today. Sun sets very early, around 4:30’ish and I didn’t find a hotel until after 5 today with all the hassle so missed some great scenics shots in Kiama, the little town where I’m staying the night. It’s a very pretty little place, right on the water with a very interesting looking beach. Think I missed some good sunset shots today. Will have to make it up tomorrow.

Need a beer, so signing off for today.

Oz On the Road - Day Four

Sydney - Day Two