Driving in Nepal

Retailers have apparently been rationing gas for a year or two, as a result of the Nepalese supplier’s inability to break free of government regulation & fear of civil unrest to price their product properly, enabling them to pay their own bills.  It’s a bit of a mess – What little they do get is delivered into 4,000 litre tankers (compared to 7,000 gallon trailers used in the states) and then split up between at least two gas stations. Fuel lines then form more or less spontaneously, and two-three cars deep (or 5-6 motorcycles deep), generally completely blocking the roads. Unfortunately we live north of one of the busier ones, and one of the worst-located, given the current environment. Located at a turn in the road that is more than roomy enough for two cars and a couple of pedestrians, it is often completely stopped when the gas lines appear.

At lunch today it reached its worst point yet in my two months here and week of driving. Traffic was completely stopped on both ends by the fuel line and the inability of the one policeman on scene to properly flag traffic through in the single “open” lane, where both north and south-bound traffic met. Poor fellow was doing his best, but to move the equivalent of two small city blocks in the west/to move 10-20 car lengths took a good 20 minutes. One small benefit, though – After breaking through the lines I managed to break my daytime speed record, hitting a whopping 37 miles an hour.Going back from lunch, the cops had done something pretty nice – They’d roped off the existing fuel line to prevent its expansion and had reserved the one open lane for northbound traffic. Unfortunately for me, work is south of home. They directed traffic off onto a hither-too-unexplored road that leads to the ring-road around the city (an unpainted four car, two-cow wide road that has only one or two traffic lights but no less than 10 major intersections – the highway goes almost as slow as the rest of the city, as a result). In this lucky instance following the advice of Douglas Adam’s Dirk Gently (follow someone who looks like they know where they’re going) worked just fine – Survived the unmarked detour 3-4 km west of where I wanted to be, and arrived back at work just 10-20 minutes late.

We read numerous reports about the cows, cyclists, myriad pedestrians, and bicycle rickshaws (most of which are actually cargo-carrying, outside of the most touristy region in the city), and we were a fair bit freaked out about it ourselves, when we first arrived. After having gotten behind the wheel, though, and dodged cows and bikers on my own, I can attest that it really isn’t that bad here. After riding around and developing some familiarity with the roads, naval-style right of way, and traffic flow, and getting some pointers on how the Nepalese use their turn signals (Hint: Parked cars on the left with their right turn signals are trying to say “go around me”), it’s really been quite easy. There are many, many more distractions and potential problems on the road here than in the west, but considering that I moved here from Seven Corners, VA, I’d say this really isn’t that bad. I feel safer here than I did there, although the grossly inadequate insurance and the apparent lack of any western supplemental policies do have me concerned about potential legal liabilities, should, say, two oblivious pedestrians weave around traffic in front of me in both directions, leaving me with no way to dodge them both.

PS: I haven’t been able to take any time off to really do anything with it, but I received my first big sea-carried shipment from the states yesterday. Got the TV hooked up, but haven’t had time (or money – paid cash for the car, which felt nice but still hurt) to pick up functional UPSes to hook my computer up to, yet.

First post!

I’m here in Nepal. A month after arrival I’m still living off of the loaner stuff that was in the house before I moved in and the ~500 pounds of stuff we shipped in via air freight and carried on our backs, and bought here. That said, though, it’s turning out pretty nicely. All the shops in Kathmandu outside of the most touristy area (Thamel) are pretty straight-forward and inexpensive. Picked up a newish car here, too – More to follow.