Small doses of terror can be fun…

I’ve been on some scary rides in my time and impressed my boys by riding Space Mountain at Euro Disneyland in Paris. However nothing quite compares to an auto-rickshaw ride in India!

Let me set the scene for you. The whole family squashed onto a shiny, vinyl seat on a covered three wheeler motorbike. One son squeezed into the front with the driver. All number of Gods and Deities on the auto’s dashboard and om stickers all over the windscreen.The driver racing up tiny lanes at breakneck speed past cows munching on rubbish and us clinging on for dear life. I know it would sound like a nightmare to most and I can understand that you may feel that way. However our family love it!

The reason we love it is because of one word…SURRENDER. Instead of thinking of all the things that could possibly go wrong we think the opposite. We surrender to the sheer freedom and craziness of the moment. One night in Trichy we were heading straight for a packed bus when the driver veered off to the left at the very last moment. Our boys shouted out “That was mad Mum!” in sheer delight!

I’m not advocating taking reckless risks every day of the week. However part of being a genuine traveller is immersing yourself in the moment and doing some challenging things every now and then.

On our last trip my mother Padma and I discovered the auto-rickshaw bus. Now we can travel from the Sripuram Ashram all the way into Vellore (20 minute trip) for only 8 rupees!

The best things about the auto-rickshaw bus are:

  • Loud blaring Hindi music combined with fast speed ~ very exhilarating!
  • Great chats with local people.
  • A cheap fare.
  • Interesting views of everyday life.
  • Living in the moment.

Please excuse the slightly out-of-focus photos above…we were probably going through a pot-hole at the time!

Small doses of terror can be fun? Is she crazy? Yes…well maybe just a little…

Please sound horn…

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Today Padma and I had another day in the car travelling between Fort Cochin and Salem. For the uninitiated your first time travelling on Indian roads will be like something out of your worst nightmare! Buses and trucks careening towards you at breakneck speed. Auto-rickshaws doing a u-turn straight in front of an oncoming bus. Goats nibbling on the side of the road and then suddenly making a break for the other side of the road just as you are passing. All of these and more will you too experience when you travel the great Indian roads.

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The only way to survive the Indian roads is to learn who is boss. In my experience the order of importance is as follows:
1. Cows ~ they have full right of way and right of passage. They even have the right to sit wherever they like even if it is in the middle of a three lane highway.
2. Buses ~ if you don’t see them coming their elaborate horns will let you know quick smart. Never get in the way of a bus or you will surely end up just like a chapatti.
3. Trucks ~ most drivers are on a deadline and nothing will stop them getting to their destination as soon as they can.
4. Cars ~ if you see a truck and two buses all heading towards you don’t slow down, keep driving but just make sure you’re driving off on the side of the road!
5. Motorbikes ~ usually keep to the side of the road so as not to be squashed by a wayward bus.
6. Auto-rickshaws ~ much slower but still out in force on the major highways.
7. Push bikes ~ ride at your own peril!

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Something I love about Indian roads is the use of the horn. Most trucks have painted on the back a sign which says “USE HORN PLEASE”…In the west we can’t believe you would want anyone to honk you in the car as it is usually meant as a sign of aggression. However in India the liberal use of the car horn is generally used as a gentle reminder that “I am going to pass you now so please don’t change lanes!” I wish everyone listened to that message as way too often just as you want to pass a truck he wants to pass someone else and pulls out into your lane with no indication!

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Ah…the joys of Indian travel…I like to call it co-ordinated chaos…However a day trip in the car does have its rewards. There is a slice of Indian daily life at every turn, great coffee from the roadside cafes, smiles and waves from those you pass and a constant stream of colour, culture and life on the move.

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Magical Mysore memories…

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A roadside view on the way to Mysore…

Today Padma and I travelled with our wonderful driver and friend Rusi from Bangalore to Mysore. Something handy to remember when travelling in India is that although distances between towns may not seem far on the map it will take longer than you expect. This is due to the large mass of cars, buses, trucks, cows, goats etc…on the roads that slow you down. I never mind how long it takes as there are amazing sights whichever way you look out of the car and the time seems to fly.

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Wooden toys at a roadside stall…

We arrived in Mysore early in the afternoon at our gorgeous hotel ~ The Green Hotel. After a short rest we headed to the massive Mysore Palace. Being a Saturday it was very crowded with bus loads of Indians travelling to Mysore for the day to visit the famous palace.

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The Mysore Palace…

Padma and I love the crowds. It’s great people watching and actually despite the huge numbers moving through the palace everyone was very orderly and friendly. The palace houses a large collection of old antiques belonging to the Maharaja’s family. There are huge carved doors, ornate chandeliers and beautiful mosaic floors. The room containing the carved sandalwood boxes definitely captured the crowds attention.

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A camel ride for you Madam?

After walking through the vast palace you exit through the back onto a large courtyard. Here you can have an elephant ride or a brisk trot on a camel.

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The very popular elephant…

This my second trip to Mysore and it is a great place to visit. It has huge, old trees which shade the roadways. There is lots of original old architecture to marvel at and long, winding, narrow streets offer lots of interesting finds. More on Mysore tomorrow.

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A happy group outside the palace…

How many goats can you fit in one auto rickshaw?

Today I was looking for the phone number of my auto rickshaw driver in Vellore. I like to have all my numbers ready for when I arrive in India. In India it is very easy to buy an Indian phone sim-card. If … Continue reading