Outshining the Prime Minister….

Posted by on 9, Feb 2024 in 2024 - An Indian Winter, Asia, India, Tilly the Tandem

Outshining the Prime Minister….

Leaving behind the oasis of our beach hotel we headed south on the main road. There’s no choice here unless you want to divert inland a considerable distance.

So we hogged the edge of the road and let the cars, trucks, busses and Tuk Tuks do their thing. We saw a mexican standoff, where a bus busily ignoring the oncoming traffic tried to overtake a truck and the car coming the other way had to stop in the road. They were both nose to nose and neither would move whilst the rest of the traffic squeezed past on the outside hooting even more than normal.

And then a bus that didn’t fancy slowing down for us as  we were about to pass the Police chicane checkpoint, swerved out past us, then swerved back through the chicane and then swerved again to straighten up. It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a vehicle come to toppling over, but hats off to the driver he managed to do it, stay upright and keep his hand on the horn the whole time.

We don’t really know what the hoots mean. We sometimes think they are just a heads up we’re coming past, but then again they could be a get out of the way. You tend to ignore them after a while and just watch the mirrors non stop to decide whether we should be getting off the road or not. Generally they give us just as much room as Brits and always far slower than Brits too because they are all so impatient that everything goes slower due to push and shove and swerve and dodge.

A common sight is the big 4×4  overtaking another car or bus and just holding the horn and ignoring anything coming the other way, which has to get off the road. We’ve not seen them hit yet, but judging by their road casualties they do and often.

Busses are often worse as they don’t have the acceleration so get themselves out of all kinds of trouble.

But oddly, despite all this, we don’t feel too threatened. We are right on the edge, with normally a verge, everything does seem to give us clearance (our flag is out as usual so that helps) and the potential for crashes all seem to happen around us… Long may that continue!

We arrived at our hotel for the night which was another resort – but a poor imitation of our last one, had an early dinner due to a communication problem and turned in early ready to be up before dawn and head down to Puducherry.

We’ve mainly followed the main coast road so far as it’s the only road, but as we got further from Chennai we had more opportunity to take parallel roads, or in some cases tracks.

These tracks take you through small villages where there are virtually no cars and people walk everywhere – we got non stop waves and “Hullo”‘s and the occasional dog going a bit beserk.

But this is the proper India, it’s quiet, remote and almost untouched by modernity. Animals grazed in thatched sheds and peoples homes were nestled amongst the palm trees, with the beaches lined with fishing boats.

We thoroughly enjoyed the cycle, eventually being dumped out onto the main race track into Pudicherry.. This was bedlam on a Chennai scale, but we’ve more experience now and just pootled along at the edge of the road ignoring the cacophony of hoots and engines.

We’ve chatted to many people and they’ve told us the Indians don’t take any notice of rules, which does make you worry about their new Nuclear power station that was being built along the way, but this isn’t strictly true.

One rule they do take notice of, is no cycling on the road along the promenade in Pudicherry which is now closed to vehicles. The signs clearly show no cars or motorbikes but don’t mention Bikes, so we hauled Tilly round the barriers and started to push Tilly to the sea front. Immediately a policeman ran over and told us we couldn’t do that. No walking your bike, apparently because of the accidents that have happened with them! 150,000 people die on the roads here a year, I’m going out on a limb here but I reckon almost none of those are caused by a bicycle. But heh, like the world over, stop cyclists – they’re the real danger to us all, not the cars, etc etc. oh well…We just carried on to the next road joining the sea front promenade and walked Tilly to the promenade and ask a different policeman if we could walk our lethal tandem along the sea front…. Yes.. but no cycling he said..Very dangerous.

We stopped at the Gandhi statue, killing at least half a dozen pedestrians with our reckless manoeuvres and stopped for a quick photo. Then as we walked on, (pedestrians fleeing for their lives from the very dangerous bicycle!! ) we found that the Prime Minister was opening an Expo on the sea front and the press were in attendance.

Who needs a PM, when you’ve got a Tilly!

All the press abandoned their posts and streamed over to us getting us to pose for various photos and answer questions before we were told to cycle off (it’s ok to do that apparently if the press tell you!) so they could get some action photos. There were at least 5 of the long lens paparazzi running along side us snapping photos, presumably with the PM looking mighty pissed off on his own at the expo. Should have brought a Tandem to the expo Mr PM.

Pondicherry was a french colony until 1954 and it’s a very popular tourist destination and as we set off at 6.30 we had arrived there by noon to escape the real heat of the day. Despite that my shirt and shorts were completely soaked through by 8am. It’s hot here.

Anyway, arriving early we stopped off for lunch at Uncle Pete’s Pancake house and had omelette and chips and a milkshake – a real treat before checking in to our french style hotel.

3 Comments

  1. We were told that the hoots are just to let you know they’re there and it’s “taught” to learner drivers but whether that’s true or not who knows. Anyway I really think you should stop with the reckless killing of pedestrians.

  2. Superb blog again guys… feel as if right on Tilly amongst the traffic chaos! Great story about getting papped instead of the PM! Love it.!

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