For the past 9 months I have been driving a scooter lent to me by work, and it has resulted in some of the most fun I have had here. There’s nothing quite like driving in India, whether it’s weaving in and out of traffic with inches to spare, driving down the wrong side of the road tooting your horn at anyone coming the other way, or dodging anything from cows and buffalo to massive potholes and almost invisible speed bumps.
Rules are interesting, in that they exist but only in a fairly abstract way. Generally might is right, and you should always look out for the person in front of you, but don’t need to worry about what’s going on behind you. At least half of all vehicles have lost one of their wing mirrors and a large number don’t have any at all. I still haven’t quite worked out roundabouts, which seem to sort of operate in the opposite way to Western ones in that those already on the roundabout tend to give way to those coming on. Whatever I’m doing seems to be working though, and when in doubt a quick toot of the horn is a great way of declaring your intentions.
Crashes are happening pretty often, mostly as a result of someone deciding to do a U-turn in the middle of the road without looking behind them, or overtaking while I’m turning right. However, as the speed of driving is so slow (usually no more than 30kmph) and as almost everyone is driving some kind of motorbike, it doesn’t really matter. The main problem that I’ve been having is punctures. Road conditions are terrible and new potholes are appearing all the time, especially during monsoon. This has given me an excellent mental map of all the puncture repair shops within pushing distance of many of the main areas of Bhavnagar. It has also made me realise that not all puncture repair shops in Bhavnagar are created equal. I’ve developed definite favourites in each area based on how much they charge and how well the fix is likely to hold.
I’ve had a few close calls, on one occasion a metal board flew off the back of an auto rickshaw I was driving behind and almost slammed into my face before landing about a metre away from me. On another occasion my brake snapped and I almost drove straight into the back of a bus. I’ve also had more than one near miss with charging buffalo, who seem to treat scooters as something that can be just swatted away. In the end though, these are all just part of the fun.
Unfortunately the punctures are likely to continue, but even so I have definitely decided that this is the way to travel. Cheap, congestion cutting and you get to be outdoors while doing it. If only the UK was a little bit hotter, I would never go back to a car!