In the USA we drive automatics.
We turn the key and the car starts
We press the gas and the car goes
We brake and the car stops.
One Time in Africa…I Learned to Drive a Manual Car
This wasn’t just any manual car, this was a huge 4×4 truck that could climb over tree trunks and barrel through sand ridges. Those reading this post in other countries won’t understand because they begin preparing to drive a manual at birth. Automatics are seen as taking the easy way out when you get your license. In my world, you can’t even rent a car with a manual transmission. Your only shot is if you know someone who owns one.
We arrived at Bushtrackers in Johannesburg to pick up our brand-new Toyota Hilux. We get in and begin to slowly conquer the clutch and feel as if we are 16 again learning how to turn the steering wheel. We knew the basics, slowly let off the clutch as you add gas and boom you are driving. Right? Down shift when you slow down, up shift when you start going faster, and dont let the RPMs get too high. It can’t be that hard…
Josh climbs in the driver’s seat, I in the passenger seat and we catch a quick glance at each other. What were we doing? With no time to answer that question we had to conquer our first goal of getting the car to the closest supermarket less than 1 mile away.
Harry and Heather stand in the driveway and wave like it is our first day of kindergarten as we start the car. It stalls. Immediately, it stalls. Of course the gate at the end of their driveway is uphill. Embarassed but compelled to get our new car outside the gate we revved the engine one more time and they watched us sputter the car through their gate and onto the open road. It wasn’t the prettiest exit but we made it out and the safari had begun.
We came across our first stop sign. We stall. The cars behind us began to honk as they impatiently wait for the couple in the white truck to fumble with their keys, say some choice words and let off the clutch slowly as we violently jerk forward and the car once again continues on. The first 3 – 5 hours of driving was like walking through an expensive house where everything is made of glass. One wrong move could send the car into a shuddering frenzy. Of course, we chose the toll road, which meant every half hour or so, we’d stall as we approached the booth, or when we tried to pull out. I think we stalled at every single booth, we went through at least 8 of them.
I suppose we learned the best way, by being thrown directly into the fire. We had to drive a huge truck, on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right side of the car, in a foreign country, and we had to drive 7 hours to another country and 22km down a dirt road before we’d reach our destination. The only way we could continue our trip is if we were able to drive, and drive we did. With every shift and down shift I held my breath hoping that the car showed pity for us over the next 22 days.
What skills have you learned on the road?