As they say in India....
Trip Start Oct 02, 2005
103Trip End Sep 28, 2006
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There are a billion people in India, and none of them can drive. I discovered this on my way from the airport to my hotel. Cars, lorries, trucks, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and vehicles that I've never seen before, all driving at speeds that shouldn't be possible in such worn out little machines. And this was at 4 o'clock in the morning. Wondering what it's going to be like at rush hour, I finally arrive safely at my hotel.
The next morning was a four hour drive from New Delhi to Agra. My tour guide cheerfully introduced himself as Kumar as he sped off straight out onto a main road and oncoming traffic. Casually swerving to avoid some school children, he kindly pointed out some of the main sights in Delhi. When he mentioned that we were passing the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Indian parliament, I asked if we could stop for a photo. "Sure!" he says with a big smile, and slams the brakes on in the middle of the street. The cars behind swerve to avoid crashing into us, their horns screeching as they pass, and we end up in the middle of a junction. Now we're an island in a sea of traffic, and my guide realises this might not be the best place to park for a photo.
The drive to Agra was incident free, although just as nerve wrecking. Every ten or fifteen miles we would come across a crash, with people standing around looking bored more than worried or upset. Every so often we would have to slow right down or stop to avoid the enormous cows and bulls that wander aimlessly around the city. I ask Kumar how long he's been driving, and I'm surprised to learn it's 15 years. What's surprising is he's only 29.
I found it strange that so many people in Delhi could afford cars. In other parts of Asia I'd been to, cars were a luxury only for the small minority. Tuk-tuks were the norm for everyday transport, being cheaper to buy, run and fix should anything go wrong. When I point this out to Kumar, he tells me it's because it's very easy here for people to get a loan to buy a car. "But that's stupid," he tells me.
"Because once they get a car, then they have to take up taxiing to pay the loan back!"