Chaos in Kathmandu

We made it to the world's third most polluted city. Could it be the dust from the goat tracks that double as roads here, or the adulterated petrol which has cheap kerosene added, or even the fires that burn the rubbish (there is no waste management)? Of course it could. We took a walk to the monkey temple on top of a hill, on our first morning here. There are no footpaths and we had to walk in single file to avoid being flattened by a constant flow of motorbikes. When we made it to a main road which probably had four lanes of traffic, but it was hard to tell as there weren't really any lanes, just a tangle of buses cars motorbikes and bicycles, we pushed our guide out into the traffic to stop it. We were on a pedestrian crossing, but they are purely decorative.

We have been most impressed with the drivers here, especially our bus driver tonight. Palermo has nuthin on these guys. The mostly potholed dusty roads, which are even worse than a NZ trail and probably skinnier, bear an enormous amount of traffic. Motorbikes overtake on the right or the left, duck out to cross in front of buses and generally make a nuisance of themselves and their two or three passengers. It took quite a while to figure out that Nepalese drive on the same side of the road as us. I think that might just be a suggestion, as they don't seem to have any rules, except to keep moving no matter what.

There are no traffic lights, or street lights for that matter and there are no street names either. Our drivers have got lost on each occasion that they have driven us back to our salubrious home stay. Last night the driver asked every resident of the district for guidance. Luckily I recognized an add for a gym that I had passed on the morning walk, so was able to direct him. 
The traffic is horrendous for most of the day. It took nearly two hours to travel about 15  kms, and even then we had to get out of the bus and walk the last kilometer, as the road was too skinny for the bus to fit (he had to back out). We were back to dodging motorbikes and cars, but at least it was one way traffic until a motorbike attempted suicide by coming up the hill towards us. What fun!

In lieu of traffic lights, they do have traffic police directing the traffic at major intersections. And when I say "directing" I really mean suggesting, as most drivers just ignore them. I did see one policeman walking down the center of the traffic blowing a whistle, which I understood to mean that he had given up on trying to do anything about the near gridlock, and liked the sound of the whistle.

Although I witnessed many near misses, and the bus was within two inches of vehicles most of the time, I didn't see any accidents, not even a dead stray dog. The live stray dogs like to lie in the middle of the road for an afternoon nap. Drivers like to use the horn a lot, just to make sure that the bus that is about to sideswipe them knows it. The chaos is constant, but at least it is slow moving.Don't miss the next installment on rubble I have seen.


Brenda a part of the "Living Corsage" at Singapore airport, although those fish are never going to get down those pipes.


We have arrived at Kathmandu, the world's third most polluted city. Apparently the mayor campaigned on getting them to number 1. Promised made, promises kept.


Just down from the Monkey Temple (or more accurately the Swaymbhunath Stupa) are these three buddahs (not sure that is accurate) who warm you up for the incredible cultural complexity of Nepal.


Now up around the Stupa, here is a snapshot of life in Nepal. Face masks, ramshackle shops and souvenir sellers, wild animals and half falling down buildings (since the earthquake)


Flags for the festival season and more smog. You will see in future blogs that the smog is ubiquitous.


Her and me in front of the gold facade of the Stupa. We had some fruit in a spot near by and the seller made us eat it around his stall for the reasons below.


Monkeys! All of a suddent we saw monkeys rushing from all around the Stupa, swinging from roofs and rails, running aling ridges and ledges. Often young and juvenile animals cling to the backs or chests of their mothers. They were making sure they did not miss out on their share of corn pellets that someone had spread on the ground. They will take food out of your hand if they get the chance.


Looking up at the Stupa from the bottom of the 365 steps that the pilgrims will climb each morning. We came down.


Brenda and Passan (who was a neice of the owner of our home stay and worked there part time) who guided us from the homestay to the Stupa. The monkey had no interest. This wall runs around near the bottom of the Stupa property and is probably, from what I have seen, the finest wall in all of Nepal.


More minor chaos and two three wheeled vehicles along with the usual dust, rubbish and smog. Three wheeled motor bikes are a rarity, but there are quite a few three wheeled tranport vehicles and taxis. This one may have been a former taxi. It is hard to make out but this one was carrying feight. It is not uncommon for about 15 - 20 people being in the back of one of these things.


Anyone for wire? Where do you start when something goes wrong?


A real feature of Kathmandu, the wires. And speeding motor cycles.


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