Monday, July 28, 2008

A Horn and a Prayer

This city manages to work through a kind of organised chaos that, as far as I am aware, is probably limited to Asian countries. Having never been to South America, Africa or even a double numbered percentage of the countries I havent yet visited in Europe, this is probably a stupid thing to say.

But the reason is not strictly limited to traffic, although that is certainly the most obvious chaos going around. Let me tell you for a moment about the traffic. Lanes exist, on the large part simply so people can ignore them. Tell me, how can you have organised choas if everyone follows the rules? Technically, one drives on the left. I know this mut be true, because all the cars are right hand drive.

As far as the lanes go, i believe they must exist in order for there to be a rule, in order for there to be exceptions to the rule. For example, its ok for you to drive on the right, if your horn is louder than everyone else's, you are dodging somone, or you are dodging someone that is dodging someone.

In another example, it is ok for you to go around a roundabout anticlockwise if you go really relly slowly and can't see anything coming the other way. Once again, the concept of a one way street exists, but only so bicycles and motorbikes can go the wrong way.

Night-time is another amazement, where there are no street lights. Even if there are street lights they are not switched on, and even if they were switched on there would likely be no power on the grid to light them up. Street lights appear to be yet another wasteful western extravagance. As there are no street lights, walking down the street at night is a brand new experience. Outlines of people are as much as one can expect, and you can see only the smoggy haze dangling in the air, murkily lit by the passing motorbikes and occaisionaly the undersized taxi.

As you could expect, intersections have a whole new level of excitement allocated to them that you will not be able to experience in Australia. Due to the power being out, the decision not to switch them on or simply the exception to the rule being that they are at best ignored, means that any time after 7pm all you need is a horn and a prayer. Just gun your bike, blast the horn and shut your eyes. I'm sure there is a mathematical equation you can apply to let you know whether you will make it out the other side or not, but I think it's way complicate for my simple mind. There are definitely too many variables. Although an African swallow doesn't enter the equation, flying bird poo, wandering dogs (cucures), cattle and your ignorant tourists pose dangers to ongoing life. Like I said, what you really need is a horn and a prayer.

I have almost covered everything but the "buses". I shouldn't forget the buses because there was recently a strike declared [more on strikes later] by the students on public transport. Without going into too much detail, the students were unhappy because the buses are refusing to give them their 45% discount.

There are real buses, but these don't really operate inside the confines of the city. What I am referring to here are the minivans, designed to hold 10 people that don't really run if there aren't 20-30 in them. Mikey's volkswagon full of hockey players be damned, that has nothing on this. The door generally remains open, with a young man shouting out the route of the bus (which may change from day to day. He says them very fast, so you need to be switched on to know where you are going. I havent yet enjoyed the adventure, but I am sure it will happen sooner rather than later, and involve some man-to-man touching [once again, more on cultural experience later] and constant supervision of my wallet.

There was one armed police bus (you can tell them from their distinctive blue camo gear) that went screaming past with the sirens blaring. As the door was open, I was able to see inside to notice that they were lounged around on the inside as if sitting on the couch watching the telly. Very entertaining.

Stay tuned for details on the strikes and petrol crisis (you think you have it bad!).


  1. Love it! The traffic sounds exactly like Vietnam ( so you may be on to something with the Asian thing..... ) and the bus ? Please refer to my experience in Peru.

    Just climb aboard, take a seat next to a lady with chickens, try to have a conversation in really bad broken Spanish ( or Nepali )and then realise you have no idea where you're going.... excitement plus!!

  2. I can't edi my own posts, what is going on, can someone help me?

  3. I worked it out, so stop worrying...

  4. don't worry - worrying is long gone and won't surface again. Are you trying to say that motorbikes CAN'T go down a one way street backwards?......interesting....

  5. timmy, that doesn't make sense. they'd go down it sideway if that was possible