Keep To The Left

15 Sep

Our 80s Mercedes

South Africans drive on the left-hand side of the road. Dana has been doing all of the driving while we are here. I frequently hear him muttering the mantra, “Keep to the left. Keep to the left,” reminding himself of the correct lane.  Staying in the left lane is hardest in parking lots, at roundabouts and in left and right turns. He has done an excellent job of mastering the new skill. We have traveled all over with few mishaps.

Our rental car in South Africa has been an 80s Mercedes. We rented from the Acker Brothers, Nick and George, (see their picture in the “South Africans” post) who specialize in old Mercedes. It took us a while to get used to the squeaks, rattles and quirks but we found the car’s size reassuring.  It was a marked safety contrast to our Sicilian Smart Car.

We observed some unique South African road realities while here…

Call Again

The call letters on Cape Town license plates is “CA.” One of the ladies we hike with told us Capetonians joke that the letters stand for,”Call Again.”  This refers to the nonchalant attitude of the region and the observation that you frequently have to make two or three calls to accomplish your goal and that it can take two or three weeks for a response.  We have found this to be true.

A little too close

Parallel parking can be quite challenging for a right-hand driver in a left-hand country. Above is a picture of our first rental car and an offending pole that appeared unexpectedly during an attempt at parallel parking on the right side. Once Dana got the hang of the estimating space on the “wrong” side of the car, it was a piece of cake. My task as the passenger was not to react to the perilous curbs or parked cars that rose up menacingly on the left.

Speed Limit

Speed limits are frequently painted directly on the pavement here, a very good idea.

On the road-literally

The pavement is also used for other informational messages.

Find Help?

Another on-pavement message which stands, we think, for “Fire Hydrant.” Our friend Obie suggested it might mean  “Find Help” when seeing a baboon in the road.

In general drivers in South Africa are the souls of decorum compared to Sicily. We both kind of miss all of the honking, hand gestures, yelling and near misses of the Sicilian vias. Here, of course, we have South African  water buffalo, baboons, Leopard Toads and guinea hens in the road to perk up the drive.

Leopard Toad

Guinea Hen

Have you had a left-hand driving experience? Tell us about it.

And be sure to comment and enter the contest for the Mandela Apron. Deadline is 8 AM Cape Town time on Sunday September 23rd.

8 Responses to “Keep To The Left”

  1. Nick September 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    We are glad you enjoyed your Mercedes “George Jnr” and your time in Cape Town. We wish you both an amazing trip ahead. Hope to see you in the near future, thanks Acker Car Rentals

    • Jill September 29, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

      We love the Ackers. If you ever go to Capetown rent a Mercedes from them. Thanks Nick and George.

  2. californian September 17, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    After driving in Australia, I still have problems doing left turns in a right hand country. When I make the left turn, I feel a car is going to come up from my back left and that I’m turning left over two lanes. It happens about once a month now, but when we got back it was almost daily feeling. Survival instincts at its best.

    • Jill September 17, 2012 at 6:20 pm #

      Well this will be interesting as it will be right hand drive in Chile, a Spanish speaking country. Can you say, “EEEEEK” in Spanish? In Australia we are thinking of renting a scooter. This should be fun…

  3. Joyce Tate September 17, 2012 at 2:13 am #

    … I enjoyed your comment, “and my task as a passenger was nit to react …” 😀

    • Jill September 17, 2012 at 2:44 am #

      And it was a hard job let me tell you. Riding on the right in the states there is leeway as you are on the traffic side of the car. Here you are faced with hard objects like curbs and poles and bicyclists. It required enormous self-control not to scream or grab the wheel. Australia is on the left as well but we will be back on the right in Chile.

  4. Nancy Lehrhaupt September 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm #

    Looks like a kiddie car next to Dana. Does he drive with his feet out the door?

    • Jill September 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      Always. That’s how he airs out his travelin’ shoes.

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