Anything is possible in Kathmandu

It’s common to many Asian countries. You see it on TV. You read about it on other people’s blogs. But when you witness it with your own eyes, only then you realize how ridiculously funny and dangerous it is. Of course, I’m talking about people transporting all kinds of crazy, odd and huge stuff on their motorbikes. They zoom by before I ever manage to say cheese and snap a photo of this exhibitionism. But believe me when I tell you – sometimes I spend days pondering how they get it on the bike and how, in the world, they manage to drive.

Most of these stunts include two guys: one driving and one sitting in the back struggling with the whatever odd object it is they are transporting. The front guy pretends as if absolutely nothing strange is going on behind his back and drives as usual. The guy in the back, however, tries very hard to display the same indifference, acting all cool, but in reality, he is scared, concerned and embarrassed at the same time. You can tell from panic glances he gives to passing vehicles.

So what have I seen so far, you wonder!? Let me list it out for you in less-to-more-crazy order:

12. A suitcase – now this is not your small take-on-the-plane suitcase. No sir, this is the real deal; at least 30kg monster which usually sits on the lap of the girl on the back of the bike. She struggles to hold the suitcase and herself, and I always imagine her legs going numb, and eventually blue from the lack of circulation.

11. Crutches – OK, so if the person is injured he carries his crutches. It’s not like he really needs his legs to function when he’s on a bike, right?

10. Dead chicken – most of the bikes in Kathmandu have metal rods in the front that protect driver’s legs from being hit or squished by something (at least that’s what I think). I have seen those metal rods sporting several dead chicken hung by their legs, just dangling casually as the wind ruffles their feathers (tmi?). Interesting sight. (edit 20 Oct, 2013: I have come to find out that the chicken in question are not actually dead. They are hung from the motorbike upside down upon which they faint. Oh boy.)

9. Mirror – it might not seem odd at first, but when you realize the guy in the back holding the mirror spends the whole ride looking at himself, it becomes darn hilarious.

8. Dog (or a goat) – or any live animal for that matter – it’s just plain odd and dangerous. Trust me, it’s nothing like the sight of ladies in Amsterdam who carry their small puppies in the baskets on the front of their bicycles, together with a bunch of freshly cut flowers. This is more like a semi-wild animal ready to jump off the moving bike at any given moment, and person struggling to keep the bike straight and hugging the animal real tight at the same time. Nothing cute or romantic there.

I have no good photos to illustrate this post. This one will have to do. Sorry.

I have no good photos to illustrate this post. This one will have to do. Sorry.

7. Blueprints and a variety of building material (insert whatever you fancy here – I’m sure anything and everything applies) – I have absolutely no comment here. Imagine the sight of someone transporting a bunch of bricks on a bike. ‘Nugh said.

6. Ladder – big, metal, real deal ladder. Front guy driving, back guy holding the ladder on his shoulder. No red flags or orange triangles in the front or in the back of the ladder that is twice the length of the motorbike. Those have been used earlier to decorate the trucks.

5. Satellite dish – it’s like carrying a plate, just bigger. Not. Definitely not. Hell no.

4. 20L jugs of water – one tied up in the back of the bike, the other one sitting freely in drivers lap. I have no idea how that guy maneuvers. It must be hell for him. Poor guy.

3. Mattress – imagine the problems with this one: if the bike is going to slow the mattress keeps on falling on the driver. If the bike is going to fast, the guy in the back flies off the bike together with the beloved mattress. Oh the struggle!

2. Gas cylinder – this one is self-explanatory – not only it’s heavy, dangerous and difficult to handle, imagine what would happen if it rolled off!

1. Grandma – see under gas cylinder.

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14 thoughts on “Anything is possible in Kathmandu

  1. Ah, your post brought back some vivid memories; a family of seven on the motorbike during morning commute; at least 30 live chickens bound and flapping on their way to market. Perhaps the one that amazes me the most does not involve a motorbike – a man, old and small, transporting a very large sofa by himself. The strap around the sofa went around his head, and by leaning forward he somehow leveraged the piece of furniture off the ground.
    Anything is possible…

  2. Hilarious!! Bikes are the real deal even in Lanka. The more I read your posts, the more I feel that Sri lanka is not very different from Nepal but yes as of my recent visits I haven’t seen matresses or goats on bikes, but maybe families.. like full fledged ones!

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  7. I have read most of your latest posts so far and surely they are intersting and picture perfect the condition of Kathmandu and Nepalese.
    Well! about this post:
    Mostly for underpreviledged people safety is a less concern and with risk are they making their living. Considering Nepal only less people in cities are fortunate enough to own a Car. So in that case transporting this way is cheaper and hiriing a taxi or what so ever will be more expensive than the cost price of goods itself. Being myself a bike rider before, riding bike in roads of Kathmandu is a risk, and definately transporting goods in not less riskier. It’s a common practise and people are used to this. And so far I have known there are very less causualties due to this reason. I wished you have expressed the things other way around. 🙂

    • Dear Shailesh,

      Thank you for your comment. I do, indeed, understand most of the reasons (I am not going to say all) for things being the way they are in Nepal. Poverty is great, and people are struggling to survive on a daily basis. I see it all around me, believe me, I am not oblivious to that. At the same time, I like my blog to be a place where I can share my personal observations in a more relaxed tone, and describe all the cultural differences from my perspective. Socio-economic hardships is a topic that would require a blog of its own. I pass no judgment, and I know people do things that they do simply because they don’t know better and/or do not have the abilities to do it differently.

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