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3rd May 2005

Travels on an Indian Enfield in India II

It's become fashionable to take a holiday in India on an organised tour. Dan Barratt did it the hard way, bought a pair of Bullets and started to learn the rules of the road...

It didn't take long before we worked out the right of way laws:

A small crowd of customers patiently wait for the arrival of Rowena and Emm...

  • 1. Cows
  • 2. Buses and lorries
  • 3. Cars
  • 4. Big bikes (us)
  • 5. Scooters
  • 6. Bicycles
  • 7. People
  • 8. Dogs

    A few bikes had lorry horns fitted but we felt this was cheating. We saw a dead dog about every 50 miles, and a dead truck about every 100 miles. If you drive a lorry you can overtake, pull out or do a U-turn whenever you feel like it. Looking is optional, and if it's only a motorbike that's coming, then that's OK, you've got right of way. Unfortunately once every 100 miles another truck overtakes at the same time and they would crash.

    Cows have supreme right of way because they are big enough to cause grief if hit by a bus, and so stupid they won't get out of the way, even with twin 100 dB air horns six inches behind their rear. They also have the supreme advantage of being sacred.

    We never worked out why cows chose the middle of the road to sleep in.

    We got very good at reading the road ahead. If there were two trucks coming towards us we knew the second would pull out to overtake as we came along. Well, why not? They have got the right of way by default, big horns, and a 2mph faster lorry shouldn't hold up the rest of the traffic. Our trials-riding improved as we kept being forced off the road.

    Our horn technique changed subtly from the reserved English polite 'pip, I'm here, please don't get offended because I'm using my horn but can I have a bit of room please?' to 'BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BEEEEP, BIP, BIP, BIP, BEEEEE .... EEEP, OUT THE WAY, BEEP, BEEEP BEEEE .... EEP'. Two 12V horns used in unison did actually have some effect when pressed for about five minutes. This horn technique worked on scooters, bikes and people, had a limited effect on cars and lorries, and none whatsoever on the sacred cows.

    Sacred cow (right) ignoring repeated beeping.

    We also started off by waiting for trains at level crossings, it's in the highway code I'm sure - 'stop at a lowered barrier and wait for the train to pass' - or something to that effect. We hadn't got a copy of the Indian highway code, in fact I doubt there is such a thing, but it would read:-

    'Jump the queue, inside or outside the waiting traffic, it's not important. Use both sides of the road, nothing will be coming the other way because the barriers are down.

    'Go on, use the pavement as well, crowd as near to the barrier as you can, it will help every one get across quickly when the barrier comes up. Use your horn too, it may make the train come quicker.

    'If there's the slightest, most remote possibility that you may just be able to get your vehicle (or livestock) either under or round the barrier then have a go, everyone else will be and you don't want to be left behind.

    'If someone with a cap and uniform blows a whistle while you are crossing it means hurry up, the train is in sight, it does not mean stop and wait for the train to pass.

    'If your truck develops a flat tyre while crowding round the barrier stop, leave it there and jack it up on the smallest, oldest, weakest, rustiest jack you can find - the tarmac will be hot and it will sink in but that's OK.

    'Take the wheel off and leave the vehicle unattended to sink to a dangerous angle while you find a replacement. This will cause a long tailback but you will be at the front of the queue once you find a replacement in a few days time.'

    Enfield 350 Stuff on

    We joined in.

    380Ib of Bullet at 45 degrees, enough to get the wing mirrors under the barrier, is quite heavy actually, but we got fed-up of being told by locals to jump the barriers, so it soon became second nature. We could even pip the horn at the same time after a bit of practice.

    This is what we came to India for...

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