We have arrived in Nepal, the temperature has dropped. It was actually cold enough to sleep without a fan and with a sheet last night – pure bliss, and the landscape is green and luscious. I didn’t see anywhere in Indian where I would have described the landscape as beautiful – I am sure there are parts that are – but what I saw was, for the most part, brown, dusty and littered with plastic. Now we are in a different world. The roads are quieter, the people seem friendlier and the landscape is green and quite beautiful in places – it helps that we are in Chitwan National Park I’m sure.
So yesterday we left Varanasi in India at 4am for a coach journey that took until just after 7pm. Remarkably, despite the 15 hour journey, it passed quickly and painlessly. I slept for most of the Indian part of the trip, a necessity as our driver was so bad I decided that if I was asleep when we crashed at least I would be relaxed and more likely to survive. He had a terrible habit of accelerating as much as possible to overtake then slamming on the breaks at the last minute and cutting back in. On many occasions I looked out the window to see him playing chicken with an oncoming lorry!
So this seems like a good place for a few words on Indian driving (I have some videos that I will add later), it is crazy. The roads are congested with lorrrys, busses, cars, bikes, motorbikes, busses, auto-rickshaws, cycle-rickshaws, cows, dogs, people pushing food carts, pedestrians and in some places also pigs. There don’t appear to be any traffic rules apart from go and push your way through until you get where you are going. Vehicles drive up the wrong side of the road, they cut across in front of you, they squeeze though gaps that are not big enough for them to fit though, but all in a surprisingly ordered and controlled way.
The streets are awash with the constant honking of horns, which can sound like a plethora of angry people beeping at the person in front to hurry up and move out of their way – which in some cases it is. But the horns have meaning. One beep, be it long or short, as you overtake says I am beside you, another as you pull in thanks the vehicle in front for moving out the way, then the person who gave way can also respond with a polite toot. So actually what appears like noisy chaos has order, but an order that it would be difficult to appreciate unless you are sat amongst it.
Another thing that struck me about Indian driving was just how alert – mindful- you have to be to participate. You can’t drift off into another world or be mindlessly planning your day’s chores, because that would undoubtable leave your vehicle implanted in the vehicle / person / animal in front. The amount of traffic on the road and the sheer number of things going on that a driver has to concentrate on means they have to be wholly present at all times. So in a way driving in India is a bizarre kind of yoga – the practice of being completely present in whatever it is you are doing.