This is what it sounds like. Feel free to listen as you read this short description of—you guessed it—Kathmandu traffic.
About 10% of the time, traffic in the heart of Kathmandu is parked. Taxis, buses, motorcycles, and tuk-tuks alike are sitting still with engines off. The dust from all other traffic is the only thing moving, it seems, for just moments. Then there’s a jolt. Some grinding…
In first gear, the views of Kathmandu aren’t much different. If you’re familiar with putting a manual vehicle in first gear, however, you can imagine the grind and resistance the clutch gives every other second. This is the moment when you peer out the window and meet eyes with a stranger on a small 150cc bike. This stranger is accompanied by his wife, his daughter, and his infant son, who grasps the handle bars with his tiny Nepalese hands. Magically, the bike remains intact, like the refurbished cop car used by Jake and Elwood in The Blues Brothers.
In 2nd gear, you have reached the average speed of traffic—about 15mph. Everything seems normal. This is when you start to see blinkers. Wow! You came all the way from your country where blinkers are installed in vain because they are never used properly, and here the Nepalese seem to be using them. However, this is an illusion. A blinking blinker here is a signal to the car behind to pass. They are never used as indicators of turning. There are no stop signs. There are no lights.
Hope rises in your heart as you climb speed, as if something miraculous has happened and all traffic has cleared ahead of you, like a sinus cavity surgery that has removed all debris. 30mph, 40mph, this must be good news. A smile comes across your face. Then, as you approach true traffic-happiness, something is moving into the street from the corner of your eye.
If you ever reach 4th or 5th gear in the heart of Kathmandu, you have witnessed something truly special.
My next post will be an update on my progress as a volunteer. Topical posts like this one will be titled as such.