I have mostly travelled towards the east of the country on each of my visits in Nepal. Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, so it is not surprising to see how bad the roads can be and how chaotic the traffic is. The highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara is one of the main roads in the country along with the ones leading to India. Most of the roads situated North of the highway turn into tracks before stopping in the middle of nowhere. After that is a big network of trails, some leading up to the Tibetan borders. Tracks are being built. In recent years, I have seen a lot of road works in some remote areas like the Gorkha district. Some trekkers may not enjoy it but it is a great news for the people of Nepal living in some remote villages. The first reason is for health care. They will be able to visit the nearest medical centre when possible. However monsoons are a real problem. During the rainy season, tracks turn into mud. Landslides can be very dramatic and sweep aside everything in their path. Part of some tracks can be destroyed in a second.
As a tourist I like travelling on local buses. It is part of the adventure and you get a real experience of what the real life of the Nepalese people is like. Here is the story of Life on the Nepalese roads based on my own experience and on what I have learned.
The bus driver’s assistant is one of the most important people during the journey, from early in the morning to late at night. He is the one who is responsible for calling and alerting customers, filling the bus, helping to load all sorts of luggage and goods, dealing with check points and the police, helping the bus drivers to deal with bad roads and traffic jams, mechanical issues … They are usually teenagers working in order to save money for their studies and to help their families. Some of them become bus driver. They make money each time a customer comes into the bus by taking a small percentage of the ticket price.
Depending on the journey, there can be two of them continuously swapping around during the day.
The highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara is the busiest road in Nepal. The main Nepalese road links the west to the east of the country. Everyday, hundreds of buses, tourist cars, lorries and motorcycles rush along it. Most of the road follows a deep river valley, which is especially impressive during the dry season. Sadly, road accidents are not rare and safety is non-existent except for private tourist buses.
All along the highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara are restaurants. Despite the noise pollution made by the traffic, they are really relaxing places especially after a few hours squeezed onto the bus. Food and drink are usually cheap.
On the restaurant’s car park along the highway between Kathmandu and Pokhara, travellers are waiting for the departure. Food breaks are usually quick. Around twenty minutes to eat a Dal Bhat, the main Nepalese dish.
As the bus is rushing through a village, the driver’s assistant is getting down from the roof of the bus. It is where the bus driver’s assistants go sometimes for a nap during their break. Some Nepalese travellers, who get car sickness also prefer travelling on the top of the bus in order to breath fresh air.
A fruit seller is waving at people in the bus in the hope of selling them a slice of coconut.
On the road, where buses are more likely to stop, food, fruit and drink sellers are everywhere. Because stops along the road are usually very short, most of the sales are usually made quickly through the bus windows.
Despite the risk of travelling on such a bad track, buses are very important in the everyday life of Nepalese people. They allow them to go to the nearest city in order to sell vegetables in the market, visit relatives to celebrate religious events, going to the medical centre, or just allow their children to travel to school and university.
Most of the roads which go to remote areas are more likely to be tracks, making travel by bus very slow. Because of it, departures are not every hour. For this reason, any kind of transport is an opportunity for Nepalese people to travel quickly whatever their safety. Most of them are aware of the risk taken by travelling this way. All of them wish they had better roads.
A long journey on the Nepalsese road can be quite exhausting. Noise pollution, lack of comfort, bad roads, multiple stops and heat are everything but relaxing. On his way to Bhulbhule and waiting for the departure, a porter is sleeping having a rest, Lamjung district.
Bus crossing the Marshyangdi river on the way to BhulBhule. Impossible is not a Nepalese word. This is especially true when it comes to travel in remote areas. At dry season when river levels are low, crossing a river is part of some journeys in order to get from one track to another.
To view a slideshow and pictures in a bigger size click here.