Tuk-tuk or Auto-rickshaw?

I thought that I would wait until I had experienced my time in India before I wrote about the Tuk-tuk experiences.  In Bangalore, these three-wheeled motor-bike come excitement machines, tend to be called Tuk-tuks while my colleague from Delhi calls them Auto-rickshaws.  No matter their name, the experience is certainly part of India.

Negotiation of a price can be a challenge, although the drivers are supposed to use a regulated meter, much like a taxi.  Having a local undertaking the bargaining certainly is an advantage.  These rides are not for the feint-hearted when negotiating the Bangalore traffic.  The first morning of the conference, Deborah Nixon (UTS Sydney) and I braved the peak morning traffic chaos and used a Tuk-tuk.  Three basic mistakes.  We didn’t negotiate a fixed price and the driver didn’t turn the meter on either.  We also learnt quickly that while the driver’s say they (I never saw a female Tuk-tuk driver) know where they are going, often they do not, certainly getting to the Srishti Institute, were most of the conference sessions were held, came to be a problem each morning.  This particular trip of what should have been eleven kilometres finished up taking about forty-five minutes and at least twenty-five kms.  Each time the driver stopped to ask directions he was given different information.  At one stage we went down a muddy, water filled, pot-holed jungle track that would have given most four-wheeled drives a challenge.  I expected to have to get out and push, but we got through.  We arrived, un-muddied and unscathed, with time to spare.  Then the negotiation on price happened.  Deborah and I got ripped-off by 450R – it sounds a lot, but it was $9.  The experience was worth the extra.  I made five trips from the hotel to the Institute and never took the same route twice.  I got to see a lot of Bangalore though.

The singularly exciting trip was on the Wednesday afternoon (June 29th).  Three of us escaped the afternoon sessions.  Sue Anderson (UniSA), Yuvika Sharma (my colleague and friend from Delhi) and myself had what could be called the most hair-raising ride in our lives.  From the time we started, there was only one speed – flat-out fast.  Weaving in and out of four-lane traffic, squeezing through gaps with less than the width of a hand to spare – all at speed.  I have been on roller-coaster rides less exhilarating.  I have to admire the driver’s skill though.  Also unlike many other Tuk-tuks, this one looked brand new, or at least undamaged, a clear indication of the driver’s ability to at least not hit anything.  The twenty plus km ride from the Institute to Commercial Road in the more central part of the city took about forty minutes.  A very good feat given Bangalore traffic.  More of the Commercial Road visit in a Blog to come.

The photos (top left and clockwise): The first morning’s ride, Sue, Yuvika and myself in the ride of a lifetime, Yuvika with the rather skill-full driver, the ride home with a slower driver and you get up-close and personal with other road-users.

Later in the afternoon, the ride back to the hotel was a little more sedate.  The driver did show his displeasure though, throughly constantly spitting on the road each time we stopped in traffic.  Our local hero, Yuvika, negotiated a good price, while the driver was expecting a bigger return.  Giving him a 100R tip at the end (a whole $2) made Yuvika think we were an easy touch.  Now I hope my travel insurer does not read this Blog other wise my premiums will go sky-high next time.