Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Learning to Drive (again)

BUEA Cameroon - The last time I drove was something like November 30, 2009. Granted it was just after driving our little Honda Civic across the country but still - its been over five months since getting behind the wheel of a car.

That is what makes my most recent Douala visit an adventure. I drove. I was there to check out a Nissan Torrano II (the details: 2004 w/70,000 kms, diesel, 2+3+2 seating, 4 doors, 4x4, white. looks like a mild fender bender up front, a pounded out drivers door. Overall for Cameroon in very good shape.)

I was handed the key and got in. I forgot it was a manual transmission and quietly wondered to myself why it wouldn't start, when I remembered the clutch (I like to think it was a quick brain fart). Shifting was smooth, the clutch felt right, the engine responsive. Nothing to worry about - right? Pulling out on to the street was easy as it was a quiet side street. Following the directions of the backseat driver, I turned left, right, and left again. It was the second left with a right following when it hit home that I was in Douala. A large Mercedes boldly pulled up on my left and cut me off to the right.

My Boston born and bred brain clicked on. I tromped on the accelerator and went into the flow of traffic cutting of the Mercedes. :-) I was now in the left lane and there was some discussion in the backseat about which way we were planning to turn at the next cross road. "Go right" and I bust into the right lane. "No, no we are going left". There were two painted lanes going our direction and four lanes of vehicles. And I pushed the car left and cut in as the backseat drivers said, "no, no, go further up and then cut in!" And, as the light turned red "Go, go, go - FASTER, this is Cameroon!" The opposing traffic didn't seem phased that I was the last of four or five cars that clearly ran the red.

Down past a place where there were more white people than I have seen in five months as well (apparently a quality international school), turned around when through the mass of white people again (with all newer larger cars by the way), to a nice quiet street where we could more closely examine the car. The mechanic who came with my friend and I took the car for a quick spin and it looked like the alignment was pretty good (at least not horrible).

Back in the drivers seat we eased right where the cars were coming quickly and the merge very short, complicated by some serious pot-holes. Back safely - nothing would be worse in my opinion than to take a car out for a test drive and get into an accident! Did I mention that the only license I have is from Indiana? Yes, and it was in Buea.

We are now working on a wire transfer. If the owners are patient we will be the new owners. If not, we'll keep looking.