Why a Life Behind the Wheel Holds a Certain Appeal for Me

And why I would love to go for a "little drive".

Please login to bookmark

In Churchill, Canada, they drive out in giant buses to go meet polar bears. Photo by McPHOTO/dinodia picture library.

When I grow up, I want to be a driver. No, not that kind. I don’t want to drive some shiny office-goer every day, forever looking for parking spaces and settling down to a good newspaper only to be hauled away to drive to some lunch appointment or other. (If the car is an S-Class or equivalent, though, with massaging seats, I do have a CV handy.)

What I’m talking about is those driver-guides who take people to the coolest places on Earth. In Tanzania, after a few life-changing days on safari, my guide, Hosea, at the wheel of his enormous Land Cruiser, said, “Yes, this was all right. A couple of times, I’ve had a cheetah come sit on top of the car. Its tail was waving around inside.” I couldn’t do much to him in retaliation, other than silently questioning his parentage, but damn I envied him. This guy, I thought, spends his days going to Ngorongoro and the Serengeti and Olduvai Gorge, on daily commutes that would be epic to anyone else, dodging elands and worrying less about unclean loo stops than locating a handy bush and then checking whether it is already occupied. By a lion.

In Churchill, Canada, they drive out in giant buses to go meet polar bears. If you’ve seen photographs of this, the bears only come up to the height of the tyres, which makes them look tiny. Then you read up and find out that the tyres are eight feet high, and you quake a little. Even the thought of just driving these giant things makes me whimper. But these people, men and women both, drive out in howling winds, on all the dangers that ice and snow present even when the only wildlife out there is fluffy little bunnies. You are required—required! By law!—to carry a gun. You go out there with the certain knowledge that if you do something stupid and make that bus topple, being eaten alive would be the quickest, easiest death. This is the kind of job where you are legally allowed to have a steely glint in your eye.

Similarly, in Iceland, you’re taken out to the volcanoes, which could pop at any minute, faster even than your insurance premiums. You have to manage loose stones up near-vertical grades, pack for ice storms and dodge the occasional flying rock and lava flow, much the same way a Mumbai driver has to dodge the occasional rickshaw. You have to do things that would put hair even on Daisy Duck’s chest. You will learn, my friend, how to inflate your tyres with a gol-danged blowtorch.

What an adventure it would be! I imagine myself driving along the savannah, or with icy mountains rearing up in the distance, with miles and miles of no traffic and spectacular scenery, the soundtrack to Indiana Jones or The Ghost and the Darkness playing in my head, pretending I’m in my own movie. I could even manage a steely glint, and chew a toothpick to complete the effect. It doesn’t have to be something impossibly exotic, either: the Alps would do just fine, if you’re offering, or a monsoon-drenched forest road in Chhattisgarh, or Utah. “Yeah,” I could drawl at my passengers, with a manly sniff. “Just another 3,000 miles. Piece-a-cake.”

I do have some problems with driving long distances, though. One is that I get really sleepy when I’m tired, which is not good when you’re driving, and the second is that I have mild lactose intolerance, and a weakness for coffee and ice cream. I, therefore, would need a vehicle that I could live in. The main reason I read Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley was because there was a dog in it, and because he had a camper van with its own loo. And bed. And kitchen. But camper vans aren’t cool: make mine an overland truck, and I’m sold.

I could take people across Mongolia and into Siberia, or along the Andes and the Atacama desert to Ushuaia, after which there is a patch of cold water, and then Antarctica. And I could do all that while being able to make a sandwich, take a nap and regret my last ice cream, all without leaving my little cocoon. I could have my own coffee machine. On the road. If that isn’t a Boy’s Own kind of life, I don’t know what is.

Of course, if nothing else works out, Uber could always do with another taxi.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

  • Vardhan Kondvikar is a travel, car, and humour writer and editor, who is known for road trips, generalised exasperation and far too many bathroom stops.

COMMENTS

Please Login to comment
YOU MAY ALSO LIKE