I can’t help but to share more stories about the roads here. Tales from our road trip up north deserve to be told. I only wish I had managed to think of taking a video clip of the harrowing journey – a short clip would tell it much better than I can!
First, the roads outside of Dhaka are actually much better than I would have ever expected. Some are very new and much nicer than even those in Australia – that’s not saying a great deal though. Some of the newer roads still left something to be desired though. With two levels of pavement it reminded me water skiing. It was like riding, and jumping, the wake to change lanes – which is done constantly in Bangladeshi driving!
Despite the relatively good quality of the roads – this only makes it easier for the drivers to show their skill at the game of chicken. James Dean and his gang of cigarette toting teens have nothing on the drivers here. They are experts at the game of chicken, often involving a multitude of moving targets – a full sized bus, van (that’s us), rickshaw, and a couple of pedestrians – all moving at the last minute before their impending demise.
As for pedestrians, I’m amazed that I avoided witnessing any deaths on our journey – only numerous near misses. While I experienced it often in Ghana, I’m still am left in awe when pedestrians can manage to saunter across the road, or stand idly in the middle of it, without a glance at the traffic barreling down on them. They always manage to scoot out of the way at the last minute.
I’m also impressed with the rickshaw drivers’ ability to hold their own on the open road. They don’t take anything from the motorized traffic that could squash them like a bug. It seems that the cars actually give more leeway – as in not driving them completely off the road – then I would ever expect. Since the rickshaws are slower than the rest of traffic this means that they do their own thing and expect that the rest of the traffic moves around them. This strategy seems to work quite well.
Now for the real tales! We were right on track for getting in on time to Dhaka when we hit a traffic jam that took two hours to get out of. Don’t worry though, it was anything but boring. In fact it was pretty darn exciting. At one point we had an ambulance coming in behind us. The traffic gave very little concern to it on the whole, but we managed to take advantage of it by letting it get in front of us and then barreling down the road with horns blaring to make some headway in the traffic.
Just after this the traffic came to another stop. One of the drivers from another in our caravan came up, conversed with our driver, and then a billy club was pulled out from near the driver’s seat. I was wondering just where things might be headed next, but luckily no use of it was made.
At one point it was so hectic that all of us just ended up bursting out laughing out loud – since this was our only common language in the car. The Afghans were speaking in Dari & Pashto, the driver normally speaks Bengali but both groups managed to communicate a bit in Urdu from their Pakistan links. None of them spoke more than a couple of words of English.
This morning over breakfast I heard the tale from one of the other cars. Despite the traffic police holding up a red flag, the driver plowed forward onto the railroad tracks. Of course the vehicles behind him did the same. This meant that in a matter of moments they realized that not only were they boxed in on the railroad with cars behind and in front of them, but they could also see the lights coming at them from the train headed their way. Luckily the train was moving slowly enough that they managed to push the car off the tracks just in time for the train to pass. While I’m all for interesting travel stories, and I can’t say that I’m sad not to have that one as mine!
Good news – we all managed to make it back safe and sound!