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Nepal: Balance

We stepped from the airport; a red-brick, two-story building set in a dusty field. A group of locals sitting at a card table under the verandah ushered us over. The sign at the table said something like “official taxis”. That was good enough for us. A a quick discussion about where we were headed, a young lad grabbed our bags and beckoned us to follow, and we were led to the taxi. It was an old, beat-up red minivan.

Our bags were thrown in the back, and we squeezed onto the dusty old bench seat. The sliding door was caught on its rollers, and took four attempts to close. I reached for a seat belt out of habit. Nup, no seatbelts.

The driver took off down the bumpy road. The drive into town was crazy in that “oh-my-god-I’m-going-to-die-but-hey-this-is-kinda-cool-and-look-there’s-a-cow-in-the-middle-of-the-road” kinda way. The road was barely wide enough to fit two cars, let alone the cars, vans, motorbikes, tuk-tuks and cows that seemed to be heading in every direction.

Bec and I were (well, we still are, actually) in Kathmandu. Capital of Nepal.

Damn, it felt good to be on the road again.

The thing is though, we’re not really on the road per se, but rather we’ll be staying in Kathmandu for the next three months. We’re volunteering with a local organisation called Umbrella, which runs a group of orphanages (about seven or eight), all located within five minutes walk of each other in Swoyambu, a suburb of Kathmandu. The orphanages have anywhere from 25 to 50 kids in them, ranging in ages from about five up to fourteen or fifteen.

We’ll be staying in a rented place just near the orphanages with other volunteers (maybe seven or eight, we’re not actually sure yet), and will spend most of our time at just one of the orphanages.

Our first few days in Kathmandu were spent in town at a guest house, so as to get used to the city itself, and the Nepali way, before heading out to the orphanage. And what does one say about first impressions of Kathmandu? After having not written a single word for the past, what, six months, trying to describe Kathmandu seems a mountainous task (whoa, look at that! Straight in with the pun! You know, with Nepal being home to the Himalayas and all. No? No good?).

The first thing that struck me as Bec and I walked from our guest house into the middle of town was the traffic. The roads are narrow, with three and four storey buildings reaching right up to the road’s edge. Footpaths do not exist, and, initially, we walked gingerly up the side of the road, pausing often to let past the tooting motorbikes, taxis, buses and tuk-tuks. But soon we got back into the travel stride, and learnt that, no matter how perislously close a car would seem to pass, they would always swerve and somehow manage to avoid us, the fruit seller, the cow, and the oncoming car.

The traffic seems to exist in perfect balance. Five-way intersections are a cacophany of noise (ha! I just used the word cacophany. First time for everything I suppose), as the cars come to a halt and the motorbikes, tuk-tuks and pedestrians weave in and out between them. Accidents seem about to happen every other second, but never do. It is as though if one single extra body was on the road; a motrbike, a car, a dog, then the whole system would collapse into fender benders and gridlock.

Then you read the paper, the English language Kathmandu Post, and see that in the past two days thirty-seven people have been injured, and nine people killed on Nepali roads. And all of a sudden that balance doesn’t seem so perfect.

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3 Responses to “Nepal: Balance”

  1. admin Says:

    Just a short one to begin with folks, to see if I can get back into the swing of this whole writing thing. I don’t expect updates to be too frequent, given that we will pretty much be in the same place for the next three months. Sort of depends on how many words I can come up with to replace “Nepali orphans are cute”.

    There’ll be no photos on this site, but I’ll be putting up as many photos as possible to flickr. or there should be a link on the side there somehwere. Although that is turning out to be a slow process.

    Anyway, thank you come again.

  2. Posted from Nepal Nepal
  3. Airic Says:

    I saw a few posts of yours from a few years ago about laptops and RTW trips. I was wondering have you met a lot of people traveling with them? Do you think having a laptop would be helpful if traveling for a over a year?nrnr-Airicnr

  4. Posted from United States United States
  5. admin Says:

    Hey Airic,

    Well, I managed to travel for six months in 2005/2006 without using one. For this blog I simply jotted down the odd thing every few days in a moleskin diary, then wrote each blog entry in an internet cafe (hence the frequent spelling and grammar mistakes throughout – there’s no time for editing when you’re paying for internet by the minute).

    For this trip to Nepal, I was very close to buying a laptop to bring with me, although that was more for photo storage, especially now that I’m using a digital SLR and the photo files are massive. Just this morning I’ve been using another volunteer’s laptop to transfer photos around, although I haven’t met all that many people travelling with one.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want to carry the weight of a laptop if I was on the road all the time. But then, that’s just me. Life would definately be easier if I had one, and I’m sure you can get super-light ones these days.

    Hope that helps!


  6. Posted from United States United States

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