Saturday, 7 February 2015

Driving on Aussie Road

One mistake in turning and you are poured into, what Aussies call a freeway, where there are eight lanes, where eight cars move together in one go. The cars on the freeway move at a speed, not less than 80 km per hour. All seems to be in hurry and none of the cars honk. That makes one have an eerie feelings after coming from a place where there is deafening honking even when there is comparatively lesser numbers of cars on the road. The experience was terrifying, driving at the matching speed of the car in the front and avoiding being banged from the back, without our cars communicating with horn, it was difficult to know the mood of the drivers around me. Therefore, I always try to change the lane towards left to exit from the freeway and avoid it.

The GPS being very expensive, it was crucial for me to get myself a map booklet and learn how to read it. Going from one place to another leads to making a detailed sketch and marking all the roads that I would be following on a piece of paper requiring a co-pilot to read the sketch, as I would be busy with the steering wheel, brakes, accelerator and the clutch. It was a luxury to stop on the way and ask people unlike here in Bhutan. The signboard near the vicinity of schools would read, "SCHOOL AHEAD. SPEED 40Km/Hr" and out here the speed limit in so called express way is 50Km/Hr.

Two sketches with all the names of the roads, streets, avenues, terrace, drive, etc. for return journey would be made because almost all the roads in Australia are one way and you will not find any cars coming headlong, on a road without a concrete/hedge/solid white line divider in between.

Sitting on the driver’s sit of my old Mitsubishi wagon takes lots of preparation and planning; always trying to avoid the freeway. Once I was on freeway and following the slow lane on the left and got myself exit-ed from the freeway prematurely. I came to know later that if I do not want to exit, I have to merge right when I see a board displaying ‘exit in 300m’, ‘exit in 200m’ and so on after every 100 meters. Like here, driving with the lane divider lines between the wheels of our cars would be a suicide mission.

Once I was caught by the police and I was amazed when they addressed me by my name. The computer mounted on the dashboard of the police car could display all the information of the owner and renewal documents upon punching the number of the car. The change of owner ship of the car is automatic as well as the third party insurance when you buy the car, imposing affordable charges for change of ownership unlike here.

I did not have the Australian or international driving license but I was glad that driving license from Bhutan is valid in Australia for one year. May be because all the traffic rules are similar to ours except for the traffic lights, but very soon I learned the tricks of just zooming through, even when the lights had turned yellow or was about to turn yellow.

Sometimes you wish to stop on the way and have sightseeing or to mark the territory (like cats and dogs) like we do it here, stopping suddenly on the middle of the way and chat with the passerby whom we might know or ask directions from people nearby unmindful of the vehicle coming from back or from the front knowing well that other divers would not mind either.

After making double lane road throughout the country that some drivers may be terrified to get on the highway here too. As of now, I heard one of my friends from foreign country say that to drive in Bhutan we require a healthy heart because any time a huge bonnet of a truck can pop out any time from the innumerable U turns, headlong and giving side on a steep cliff does ask for a real healthy heart indeed.