The freedom of having our own transport and not being reliant on tuktuks for getting around is such a pleasure. Having the opportunity to go where-ever the road takes us also means that we get to see things that are often unavailable to other tourists. Of course the fact that Dave rides motorbikes at home makes my confidence a lot higher when hopping on the back of a scooter and hitting the open road. That said, one of the first things we do is find out about the road rules from a local, in our case our hotel host.
So the road rules are fairly straight forward – keep left, do not over take on solid white lines or double lines, obey all the signs (which are easily understood). Sounds well and good. Except no one here actually does any of those things 😉
The first and most important road rule is, if there is a bus get the hell out of it’s way!! The buses work on a commission basis so the more passengers they can pick up on any given route the more money they will earn. This creates a cycle of buses overtaking each other at breakneck speed to get ahead of the other guy, stopping with a scream of brakes to let people on or off, then roaring off to try to over take the guy in front. The one big plus is that they are very fond of the horn so at least you know they are coming.
Then there are the tuktuks and motorscooter drivers. They seem to have a passion for speed and have no respect at all for the ideal of keep left, or do not overtake on solid lines. At one stage when we were up in the hills (the day we got lost) we had some young guy on a motorbike pull alongside us for a chat, while we were still riding. An unusual experience but just part of the fun I guess.
I think another highlight for us was somehow managing to get onto a highway that was not yet open to the public. We found a workers entrance and when the workmen stopped us and asked where we were going they seemed ok with us getting on their new road and waved us through. It was exhilarating and somewhat refreshing after the chaos of the tiny local roads to be on this fantastic new double lane highway when we where the only vehicle on it. Great fun!
So, how does Sri Lankan driving compare to the rest of Asia? It is ten times worse than anywhere we have ever ridden. In Thailand many tourists rent scooters to get about the town and generally most people manage ok. Here I would not even think about riding unless you are a very experienced rider at home. The decisions have to be made quickly and once committed there is no time to change your mind. As for me, I just sit on the back, hang on and when it gets really scary I just close my eyes and trust. Touch wood, it is all working out ok so far 😉
I must admit though that the most terrified I have been so far has been in a tuktuk with a driver who drove like a madman through wall to wall cars, trucks, buses, scooters, tuktuks etc. For that one I was hanging on for dear life and had my eyes firmly shut for half of the trip. Dave however assured me that the dude knew exactly what he was doing and was never even vaguely out of control. I have my doubts 😉 All just part of the travel experience I guess. I would much rather be on the back of a scooter with Dave driving thank you very much.