The traffic of the valley

I have been living in Nepal for a little over 6 months now (how time flies!?) and feel a post about the traffic of Kathmandu is extremely overdue. When thinking about how to communicate the crazy mystery which is the traffic of Kathmandu, I found a very relevant passage a new book called ‘Kathmandu’ by Thomas Bell (my Christmas present and current read…). The author (originally from the North of England) writes about his experiences of living in Kathmandu over a decade long period. In this passage he recounts learning to drive a motorbike; “I learned a new set of rules. Anything might happen in front of you, but you can also do anything you like: the guy behind you is expecting it. There is never any right of way, which means you can never be completely wrong… I wasn’t slow to learn what to be wary of, nor to recognise the freedom the system gave me, and as I began to know it I found I liked the traffic.” Indeed.

#1 But it’s not just other drivers you need to wary of; obstacles can spring up anywhere. Some of them living; as cows are sacred they play the ultimate card on the traffic hierarchy, the one with pedestrians firmly at the bottom as I mentioned before;


#2 In Kathmandu there is a slightly different view of rush hour traffic jams, you’re never quite sure what you will find around the corner. It may not look like it but all of all of these situations were supposed to be in the middle of flowing traffic, however, progress is taking a while. The most amazing thing? That everyone involved just takes in the situation calmly and tries to slowly disentangle themselves. Okay, with a cacophony of beeping horns but still, the concept of road rage is non-existent and would anyway be ‘as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum’ in the immortal words of Baz Luhrmann;


#3 If I’m not on foot, then my main view of traffic is from inside the plentiful, if not a little chaotic at first, public transport. There are small electric tempos and slightly less eco-friendly but admittedly speedier microbuses which run the main routes throughout the city. Many routes run from close to my house making getting around a cosy, chaotic joy. Here one Saturday morning I had my own private tempo (a very rare occurrence, normally it’s more of a constant feeling that you’re in the start of a joke – ‘how many people can you fit in a tempo?’) with one of the many formidable lady drivers (another major reason I love the tempos); The general view from squeezing into the back of a micro; Or the occasional upgrade to a taxi doesn’t generally improve the speed of progress;


#4 Whilst hiking around the valley back in October during the festival of Dashain I witnessed a whole new definition of packed transport. Dashain is a time of year when a lot of Nepali people travel across the country in order to spend time with family – including the bus drivers!? So everyone needs to travel, and there’s virtually no public transport available – cue a few astoundingly over crowded vehicles. Though again, passengers on the roof happy enough to give a wave;


#5 So having seen the buses at times, you can understand why quite so many locals opt for the freedom and flexibility of a motorbike. Here’s a ‘drive through’ with a difference; shopping for fruit and veg straight from your bike. Note the three passengers on one bike with bike number three – a common sight. My record is spotting four people on one bike including three generations of the same family;

dashain bus & rosad side shopping

#6 With some of the vehicles it’s not entirely clear that they actually are vehicles. Here’s an example of a tractor used for collecting street waste – excellent camouflage huh!?;


#7 Finally, especially for my Mum, here is just a sample of the much loved Nepali and Indian lorries to be seen every day around the city or on the highways and byways;

trucks 1

#8 You can never have too many lorry pictures – right Mum?;

trucks 2


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