I have had many more adventures in Kathmandu that I hope to have a chance to share with you, but here is a description of one aspect of Kathmandu. As it is necessary for getting from place to place and is a daily occurrence for everyone, it seemed fitting to share!
Traffic in Kathmandu is chaotic yet weirdly organized. A crush of vehicles traveling in each direction added to the flow of pedestrians and the lack of set lanes (not to mention the occasional large hole from road construction) makes up the base. Then add large panes of glass, ladders, long poles, and the occasional coop of chickens being carried on bicycles and scooters. People in business suits and those in plain clothes scoot by on mopeds while microbuses (which have seats for about 12) crammed with many more than 12 people and city buses swerve in occasionally to pick up and drop off their lucky passengers. Youths hang out of the buses calling out the destinations with hands full of small bills. Sometimes they’ll jog alongside, jumping back into the vehicles at the last minute. The occasional ritzy tourist bus, sealed up from the noise and dust, practically empty with one foreigner per seat, inches through, a small bubble of glam still forced to contend with the crush.
If the way is blocked by traffic, scooters and bikes will drive around on the sidewalks or down through the ditch and back to the road, honking as they go. Horns are used to let folks know you’re there, which is all of the time when doing this dangerous dance. The cacophony of honks mixes with the belches of black smoke from the buses and work trucks. When an opening in the traffic occurs, everyone zooms in to fill it, stopping up short when they reach the vehicle in front of them.
Merging happens gradually, as to cross traffic one has to honk and just start to drive, nosing the way through as the rest of the traffic goes around. The same goes for pedestrians. If there is a short opening, one just walks across, being as predictable as possible while still pausing at times in the middle of the road as the crush of traffic moves in each direction.
Add to all of this the thick tan dust marking the end of the dry season, with occasional dust devils swirling though. People wear masks to help with it, and many women have scarves wrapped around their faces. Eyes are squinted against the sun and grit.
Despite all of the craziness, people yield to one another and let each other through. People slow down to keep pedestrians alive, and when crushed inside a microbus that is way over capacity, people are friendly and chucking at the ridiculous of it all. One women, who I nearly was in the lap of on a micro, turned to me smiling from a few inches away, saying, “How are you liking Nepal, yes?”
Yes, I assured her, I do like this place. But I won’t drive here!