Every country that I have traveled in, I must admit, the taxis have always been an experience that one remembers. They are so different, and in a way all have their way of bringing that edge of disbelief, “No, this can’t be happening”, getting out you cant believe that you actually survived the trip.
Back home in SA there is the mini bus taxi, they are a law unto themselves, tending to have an inbuilt self destruct desire to drive themselves into extinction. Madagascar has the rural taxi brusse, These vans are rural roller coaster taking you into unchartered territory at speeds that are insane, going where even 4×4’s tend to avoid.
Then there are the Chinese cabs, they drive down the middle of the road straddled with a wheel on either side of the white line around blind corners and mountain passes, playing an eternal game of chicken. Recently I have had the pleasure of sharing a day in the eventful life of an indian cab driver, culminating a dash to the Mumbai airport.
The monsoon rain was pelting down as we headed into down town Mumbai and to the airport, it was 10:30 in the evening and 5 hours before my flight was due to depart.
Why so early I wondered?
Then the rain snarl up started, the 4 lane freeway turned into 7 lanes instantly as every one tried to squeeze on forward. On went the hooters and the weaving accelerating for a gap and breaking began. For an hour and a half we rocked jerked and lurched down the freeway meter by meter squeezing and scraping through the gaps as the rain pelted down, the fumes and rocking effect became quite nauseating.
It wasn’t long and I heard what sounded like tigers roaring, looking at the car next to us, there I saw a guy hanging out of the taxi, car sick, hurling his lungs out, moaning and growling as the car rocked down the freeway. Just further on to the right was a girl also getting in on the act, doing the “Mumbai Growl”.
Trucks were now starting to get quite aggressive as the road narrowed, but hooter blaring on we fought, I just covered my eyes in the end, as it was going to be a matter of time before we got swotted.
Then from out of nowhere it came. Our driver saw the gap, took it and a string of cabs followed this tiny crack that had opened in the 10 km traffic jam.(I thought to myself, this is going to end in tears). No sooner had it opened, it closed. We were up to quite a speed by now, on went the hooter followed by a manic braking attempts, just a split second too soon, the guys behind just didn’t react quick enough.
In they piled, it sounded as if the guy behind was trying to shove his hooter into my ear as he planted the nose of his car firmly in our boot, and so the rest of the crew followed suit as the metal groaned twisted and turned all around us. This did little to deter the intent of our man, he wriggled his car free, gave it a good shake and undeterred of the carnage that lay around, hand firmly planted on the hooter, he headed for the next gap.