Kathmandu Kaos

We were taken by Pim to meet the chief staff at the GWT Area Welfare Centre (AWC) in the city centre. These are the regional base of operations throughout Nepal. Dependants (including widows and children) come here to socialise, get medical assistance, help filling in forms; a wide range of services is available. the GWT has huge outreach program and engages with villages for projects such as new water supplies, bridges etc. It costs about £60m per year to run. There is a government contribution of £2.4m, the shortfall is made up from private donations and public donations in the UK.

We were made very welcome, had lunch with the staff and were told we would be taken to ride around the city for about 20 minutes that afternoon. We had already seen something of the madness in the taxi from the airport, and were quietly concerned for our safety.

We went out with two guys sandwiching Pete and I. We had already agreed we were going to stick like glue and not get separated. That lasted about 200 yards…

It appeared a totally lawless, chaotic situation. On the upside, Nepal is the same as the UK and traffic drives on the left. Allegedly. But it became apparent there is some order to the whole process. We were advised to beware of a right indicator as it could mean one of two things; either the vehicle is turning right or they want you to overtake. Overtaking seems to be the national sport and the whole nation practises at every opportunity.

If you want to overtake, sound your horn. As you are overtaking, sound your horn. As you complete the move, sound your horn. If you are being overtaking, sound your horn. If someone drives towards you, sound your horn.

The technique deployed in overtaking is simple. Just do it. A return gap is always there; you just pull in and create it. If you meet another vehicle, just brake and they will move or stop. Overtaking can be carried out to either the nearside or the offside. But even if you overtake on the nearside you have to watch out for oncoming traffic. Think about that one and let it sink in…

To turn right onto a main road is as awkward as in the UK. You need a gap to your right before you pull out. Nepal simplifies it a bit by not actually needing a gap in the traffic from your left. Just turn right into oncoming traffic then – you guessed it – sound your horn. Create your gap and drop into the traffic line that is (mostly) heading your way. This technique is used by every vehicle from scooters up to the huge, heavy TATA trucks that are plentiful.

Pedestrian crossings actually do have a rule…you drive over them slowly if someone is on it; don’t stop, just slow down. It was obvious we were concerned about this but it was pointed out if you do stop, you will get rammed from behind. Oh, and sound your horn.

There are many Police officers who will be engaged in a display of hand movements that could be construed as directing traffic. Of course, they don’t have horns; that would be silly. They have whistles.

After a while, though, it sort of made sense; all of this madness contains no malice; people will always make room for you…

They even sound their horn to let you know…

3 thoughts on “Kathmandu Kaos”

  1. “Overtaking seems to be the national sport and the whole nation practises at every opportunity.”

    I thought you’d gone to Nepal, not Italy…

    Much LoLling as I read this.

    Like

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