Driving on the other side of the road

photo (1)Of all the things I planned on doing this trip the idea of driving was the one that intimidated me the most. There were so many factors to consider: South Africans drive on the opposite side of the road, I wasn’t used to a manual transmission, I would often be by myself, other drivers in Cape Town can be quite erratic and so on.

On Saturday morning I got a lift about 30 minutes from my house to collect my rental car, which is a Volkswagen Citi Golf. That meant right off the bat I had to drive it back home on the highway without the luxury of getting used to the car on quiet neighborhood streets.

Thankfully before I left I had practiced driving a stick on David’s truck that turned out to have a more difficult clutch. Regardless, the initial trip in the Citi Golf provided for a few challenges.

The Citi Golf is a South African-made version of the familiar VW compact. It was produced from 1984 until 2009 and never had much of a design overhaul during its entire life. That means you can have a basically new car that looks like it was made 30 years ago.

I’m not sure what year my version is, but it does have a carburetor, so I had to learn to use the choke when starting the cold engine. There also isn’t power steering, air conditioning or even a radio. And of course the speedometer doesn’t work, so I’ll hope for the best when passing traffic cameras.

Besides those minor issues, the car seems to be in great shape and drives pretty well. The clutch is forgiving, which is helpful for this novice. After a spin around the parking lot we were off and on the highway back to Hout Bay.

Driving on the other side of the road required some intense concentration at first. The hardest part is coming to a stop sign and remembering that left turns are tight and right turns are wide. Otherwise driving straight is pretty easy when you remember to keep the driver’s side of the car closest to the center line.

I’ve been cruising around Cape Town for four days now and each day I feel significantly more comfortable on the road. The next challenge is learning my way around without having to rely totally on the iPhone to guide me.


3 thoughts on “Driving on the other side of the road

  1. Sweet Ride! I too remember learning to drive on the wrong side while in Moz. Not really bad, just different. The next challenge comes in a week or so, as I found once I was over the initial novelty/intensity I would sub-consciously revert back to the US side of the road. Good luck!

  2. There is a risk of slipping back once you get a bit comfortable. It especially happens at night where there isn’t as much other traffic to follow. Oliver warned me of that and it’s true.

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