I am long overdue for an entry and apologize for my virtual absence. In case I have not yet mentioned it, I will tell you now that the internet in Nepal, at least that which I have access to, is slower than the connection in the 90’s. It is so slow that I cannot access the twotiger web page because it takes such a long time to load that the connection times out. So maybe this entry will be the same as several others, or maybe it will be something new. It will be a surprise for all of us.
First and foremost, for those of you who do not know, I will be coming home early. I have changed my ticket to return to the US one week from now. Nepal is amazing and I have no doubt that I will come back someday, but the truth is that one and a half months is more than enough for me at this time. Perhaps it would be different if I were in the mountains this whole time –maybe with the company of nature I could sit in a cave for 3 years, 3 months and 3 days like the monks… probably not. Either way, Boudha is nothing like the mountains. It is polluted and dirty and every form of transportation is like a taste of death which brings me to the topic of this entry: travel in Nepal.
I did not know this before coming, but it takes courage to get inside of a car in Nepal. There are no rules here, or if there are, they are not obvious. There are no speed limits or traffic signs. There are speed bumps and pot holes, but the drivers have no problem swerving into oncoming traffic to avoid them. In fact it seems like they have no problem veering into oncoming traffic for any reason at all. There have been several times when the driver goes to pass someone and I think to myself, ‘we’re going to get into a head on collision for sure,’ and then to my surprise, not only do we fit between the cars, but somehow a motorbike will have also squeezed in to this tiny gap to pass us on the right (in general, cars drive on the left here).
It’s a trip. The most common form of transportation that I have experienced, aside from walking, is the microbus. Microbuses are usually Toyota vans that drive on a particular route. There are no formal stops, instead a boy hangs out the side door and repeats all of the towns on the route to people walking by. He speaks so fast that even the locals have to double check where the bus is going. If you want a ride, you wave one down, jump in and then tell them where you want to stop. The last time we took a microbus there were nearly 25 people crammed into what is normally a 9 passenger vehicle. I have not had the pleasure of riding with animals, but I’ve been told that its not an uncommon experience.
I like this picture because it shows the bicycle, the motor bikes, and the cars traveling together side by side (I also like it because we took it from a rickshaw). What it does not show is the pedestrians crossing the street. People walking from place to place will look both ways, see oncoming traffic and then stick out their hand and proceed to cross. If an oncoming car honks for a long period of time, it means they are not going to stop. The noise pollution is horrible here. Horns are the main source of communication. Often times they will let out frequent short beeps to signal that they are going to pass, long beeps to say, ‘me first,’ and numerous beeps when traveling around blind corners or when telling animals to get out of the road. And of course traffic jams offer even more reason to honk.
I haven’t told you about jeep rides yet, but this entry is getting too long so those stories will have to wait for a future entry.