Honking horns, throbbing traffic and the crush of the streets. It’s a shock to the senses. The only word I can think to describe the traffic in India is pandemonium. The whole country should be an “Accident Zone Goslow" (not a typo...that's what the signs say). But somehow it all works!
It seems the biggest vehicle has the right of way, except for cows! Sacred cows are the exception! They always have the right of way! They wander the highways, roads and boulevards peacefully nibbling on grass and garbage, completely immune to the craziness surrounding them. Bikes rank somewhere well below ox-drawn carts.
Surprisingly, there is a chaotic order to the whole thing and I have yet to see an accident. It’s like a symphony, albeit without a conductor. Motorcycles, buses, trucks, cars, carts, tuk-tuks, pedestrians and bikes (...that would be us) are all darting and weaving around each other! Dave, our bike trip leader, said to me at the end of a long day in the saddle, "Isn't it great when everyone arrives at the hotel alive?"
Add to all that congested traffic...horns, OMG - the horns! Everyone is honking all of the time at everyone: to warn, to say hello and good bye, to pass or to say don't pass or I'm here or even move over. It’s both frazzling and exhilarating. What is incredible to me is the more you ride in the chaos, the more you get used to it. Either you become de-sensitized or you just start playing to the same symphonic tune as the locals. Who knows?
Worthy of mention is our near-death experience in traffic at the hands of a demented driver. My friends and I flagged down a tuk-tuk to return to our hotel after visiting a local temple. Done with temples for the day, my hubby, Don, refused to join us. I became a little apprehensive when the driver, heading down unfamiliar narrow, dark alleyways, finally stopped in front of a dead-end lane.
Pointing towards a building, he said, "Five seconds. My house. Charging phone."
As he jumped out and left, the tuk-tuk rolled down the road backwards towards a rock wall. When we yelled from the backseat, the driver came running to the rescue and physically stopped us by getting behind and pushing the little vehicle. Jumping back in, he re-parked across the mouth of the laneway and took off once again to charge his phone.
Within moments of his departure, a car in the lane wanted to leave, but we were blocking the only exit. A handful of locals suddenly appeared, the three of us piled out of the tuk-tuk and we all manhandled it out of the way so the the car could get by. Finally, our driver returned and we were off on a wild and terrifying ride.
Careening down streets, dodging buses, trucks, cars, other tuk-tuks and motorcycles, our driver zigged and zagged so frantically and erratically, I was certain one of us would roll out of the open-sided vehicle. At one point, there was no room to pass a bus, but that didn’t stop him. He cranked the wheel and we found ourselves hurtling down a one-way divided highway at top speed – traveling in the wrong direction. Trust me, there is nothing quite like seeing multiple sets of headlights ominously approaching in the darkness!
When the tuk-tuk started to beep, the driver swerved on two of the three wheels to the narrow shoulder. We had run out of gas! Pulling out a water bottle filled with a suspicious-looking, yellow liquid, he leaped out again and re-fuelled (...in record time, I'll give him that) - while traffic swooshed past rocking the tuk-tuk back and forth in the resulting wind.
At that point we should have escaped, but we had no idea where we were in relation to our hotel.The end of the story was happy, as we survived to tell it!
We're still very much alive, so stay tuned for more adventures of the India kind...