While my friends would be the first to tell you what a lousy driver they think I am, I thought that my 3-year city driving experience was qualification enough to drive my club car. How hard could it be? No stick shift to be operated, just a forward-neutral-backward switch. Two pedals - one to go, one to stop. It would just be like driving a bump car. Easy as pie.
I should have known that kind of arrogance was a challenge to fate to prove me wrong.
Not everyone on the staff is assigned a Club Car, but everyone here knows how to drive one. The nature of my job as resort physician requires to me to get to any point on the island at the drop of a hat, so I've been assigned one all to myself. Until yesterday, I had been riding shotgun with the regular resort doctor since I arrived. Since I assumed driving the buggy was not a problem, I never once asked if I could try driving it under supervision.
Handling the Club Car on the island is quite different from city driving. For one thing, I need to kill the motor when I switch gears from forward to reverse. For another, I didn't realize how much I've come to rely on rear-view mirrors when I am backing up - and these buggies don't have one. Getting out of a parking spot has always been a challenge, and doing so in a Club Car has certainly upped the level of difficulty for me. In fact, I almost tipped my club car over yesterday when I shot out of my makeshift parking slot in reverse and went straight up the embankment across the road. (Of course it was still my own stupid fault for panicking, when I should have lifted my foot off the pedal as soon as I felt it going backwards.)
But biggest challenge of all when it comes to getting around the island is the complete absence of any obvious landmarks from the road. Since the villas, casitas and other infrastructure were all designed to blend in with the natural landscape and built far from the roads to ensure the privacy of the guests, the view from my Club Car is the same. And you can only imagine how much worse it gets at night. (No, there are no street lights.)
If this place were any bigger, I could end up driving lost around the island for hours. Thankfully, though, I've been lucky enough to drive by members of the staff who point me which way to go. And if all else fails, cellphone signal is great even here in the middle of nowhere. I have the option to call the clubhouse for one of the staff to escort me home - which I hope I never have to do!
It's early days yet, and I am, to my relief, becoming a bit more familiar with the roads in daylight. I can already get to and from the clinic to my bunkhouse even in the dark - an essential skill since I get called at night to see patients and have to pick up meds for them in the clinic and deliver them. But being somewhat direction impaired, I still tend to take roundabout routes to get from point A to point B even in daylight (to which my evil friends would say, "What else is new?")
It can only get better from here. After all, I'm going to be here for a while.
I just hope I never have to call for a rescue - I'd never live it down!
I think I promised you guys a picture of the beach on the side of the casitas - so even if it's not really related to my post, I've put it up anyway. You can visit the Amanpulo site if you want to see better pictures. I can attest that they're not advertising hype - what you see is really what you will get. If only I could ever earn enough to come back here as a guest some day!