Boy, am I lazy! I have fallen in a rut over here in Kathmandu. Days are slipping by as I am spending my days working and taking care of chores. The usual life. Nothing too exciting. But, I do have to share: I put on my brave face, took a deep breath, sat in the car, and started driving myself around. Yup, I go to and from work all by myself every single day. In a car. And I drive. It still feels a bit surreal. You should’ve seen me the first day. I think the amount of sweat I expelled was equal to my usual annual perspiration. But it was good. No one died. And I felt detoxed afterwards. I also had that feeling of tremendous achievement where you get so overwhelmed by your own success that you walk around proudly saying things like: now that I’ve done this, I can do anything! I was even considering bungee jumping. Not really, but I was pretty high on adrenalin after that first day of self-drive around Kathmandu. As days go by I am becoming more confident. That goes hand-in-hand with more road-rude and fast on the horn. Seriously, horn is THE one thing you cannot survive without, here. Even though all cars, buses and bikes have rear-view mirrors, no one really uses them. It’s not rare to see mirrors pointing at the driver or up at the sky. Anyhow, no one uses mirrors which means they just stop, start, turn, overtake etc. without making sure that no one is behind them or trying to go around them. That’s where the horn comes in. As soon as you approach another vehicle, from whichever angle, you blow your horn. The idea is to let them know you’re coming and for them to hopefully move aside. Most of the time it doesn’t work as they continue their reckless quest onto your lane. You have no choice but to break and wait for them. Which is probably a good idea especially when it comes to buses. On a positive note, the traffic moves pretty slowly so the worst that can happen are some dents and scratches.
My worst enemies are bikes. These people are so reckless; I am at loss of words. They seem unable to choose a lane so they just drive in the middle of the road. They overtake cars from all possible sides and angles, appearing quickly and without regards for anyone else. And if they scratch or hit your car – they simply run away. They scare me the most.
And then there are the pedestrians. They are something else. Usually you expect pedestrians to walk on a sidewalk (where there is one). Not in Kathmandu. Pedestrians mostly walk on the road, blocking the traffic and causing chaos. No clue why. It’s not like Nepali people are so large they cannot fit on a sidewalk. And the worst part is, they are not looking where they are going or whether there is an oncoming traffic when they are trying to cross the road. More than once I was inches away from a heart attack as a pedestrian unexpectedly jumped in front of my car. That’s what they do. One moment they are casually walking down the road, the next they jump in the middle of the road, looking the other way, trying to cross the street. Crazy, I tell you.
One thing I realized about traffic in Kathmandu is: expect the unexpected. If you think that bicycle that is going in the opposite direction three lanes away from you will suddenly make a u-turn and go right in front of you, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. If you think that the bus in front of you that’s missing its stop lights will suddenly go from 50kmh to a full stop, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. If you suspect that a pedestrian that you see ahead will suddenly start crossing the road right in front of you, you can rest assured that will happen. If you see a motorbike approaching from a side-street, driver looking in the opposite direction, be sure he will drive full-speed onto the main road, right in front of you causing you to slam on your breaks. Yes, all the crazy things you can only imagine happening in normal traffic are the rule in Kathmandu. The sooner you figure that out, the easier it gets to drive. I am still getting the hang of it, though I have to admit, I am very amused by the looks I get from other drivers. It’s fun to be white in Nepali traffic!