Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Highway Code?

We have power cuts 3 or 4 times a week, but at least not for long, and once a week we have no power from 9-6pm cos they are repairing the substation. They have been doing this one day a week, every week for 2 mths now......... it's beginning to wear a bit thin. At least we don't have air conditioning to 'miss' on these days.......... That would be truly awful...

On a more positive note, we have just come back from one of our short trips away. Another poya (full moon) day...
And coming after M had been travelling for 9 days, it came as a welcome
time together.

It's only ever on these trips that I think, well I quite like being here because you can
get to see some interesting places. However day to day life is somewhat different.......

One highlight was the elephant orphanage. 100+ elephants wander down to the river and bathe for 2 hrs, all sorts and sizes. One baby must have been a few days or wks old, very wobbly, stayed under its mother all the time, kept slipping over, and had such a tiny trunk it didn't even touch the ground.

On the walk back to their park, they walk past you up a road which has some rocky steps on it. This partic baby got grounded on the step by its tummy and its legs were too short to heave it up over the step. Surprisingly none of the other elephants helped it.

The driving on the way home was the worst I have ever encountered. M is more used to it from his travelling, but we both agreed, at times it was terrifying and utterly crazy. It is exhausting too because it takes so much concentration.

You come up behind a bus, which is stuck behind a lorry. Just when the road clears, you pull out only to discover the bus is pulling out too, and the guy behind you is trying to overtake you overtaking the bus, overtaking the lorry. I have to say I always lose at this variation of chicken, and pull meekly back in again! No one uses their mirrors to see what is happening behind, they just beep and go for it. The whole driving principle here seems to be, "I will do what I like, and you just get out of my way"

Seems Sri Lankans have a collective death wish when they get behind a wheel. People overtake you when you have had to stop because someone in front is doing something. Doesn't seem to occur to people this might be why you have stopped. Overtaking carries on wildly through towns and built up areas. People drive down the middle of the road, into oncoming traffic, overtake on blind bends, hills, with buses coming towards them etc. I have been over- and under-taken at the same time in a built up area, when I was doing 40 kph. Clearly I was in the 'granny crawler' category.

Pedestrians walk down the rd never into oncoming traffic, but there are no pavements so they just walk along the edge of the rd, in the dark, or on a bike with no lights. No pedestrians move over when you come up behind them. We came up behind a bus with no lights driving. We also got stuck at a rd block for an hr becasue the police were pulling all the buses over, but in a place where there WAS no where to pull over, so we just sat in a queue! And they were only pulling buses over, but it didn't occur to the police to wave on the car drivers....

The driving is so crazy it becomes an obsessive topic of conversation. Therapy almost. You simply can't believe the things people do. M asked the retired chief of police here once, what Highway code they use here, he said, the same as the one you use in the UK, of course. Don't know why we didn't recognise it as such.......

At traffic lights they even have signs saying "Obey the traffic lights" Perhaps for those who haven't read the Highway Code, or can't remember.

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