Saturday, 31 May 2014

Downtown Driving, Pokhara, Nepal June 2014

Dear George, if you have nerves of steel then do it, otherwise forget it...

Want to drive in a Nepali downtown area? My advice, don't do it. Well, not unless you have nerves of steel and are in possession of something with a turbo boost - to get you out of trouble.

 After a few taxi rides in Kathmandu and several bus rides to downtown Pokhara Its pretty clear, the rules, if there are any, are not enforced too often. Reckless overtaking, no main culprits here, it's anyone with a powerful set of wheels (excluding pedal power of course). Equally reckless undertaking, especially by motorcyclists with little regard for pedestrians. There is huge regard however for the animals - and I don't mean the local kids! Cows and buffalo routinely taking up space on the roads around here. Goats have been spotted  roaming free range and even a camel regularly wanders up the city highway without any regard for humans whatsoever.  Yes, everything slows down for the animals, especially for that cow taking a break slap bang middle of the road.

 And negotiating the mini roundabouts is a particularly perilous feat where confusion reigns amongst all of those blowing horns. The whole process seems to be based on a system of pushing in, inching forward and taxi drivers are the main culprits in this practise hence it's not unusual to see a cab full of dents scratches, and bits hanging off! Cyclists inch into every nook and cranny regardless of that lorry or tourist bus ready to take that same space at any moment - a death-wish if I ever saw one!

Police are everywhere around here or so it seems. Loitering at strategic points along the roadsides they do little to enhance safety. They know how to use a whistle though and quite frequently too, but exactly why, well, that's anyone's guess since to the casual on-looker drivers do as they please regardless. But there is one good aspect to be celebrated - that camel will rest to one side of the road thus giving road users a clear run all the way to Lakeside.

So there you have it. Driving downtown can be a challenge and if you insist on this risky venture then all I can say is good luck and respect the animals! Slow down a bit and check both mirrors before swerving!

 Despite the apparent mayhem and madness, more applicable to Kathmandu than Pokhara, it all works. There isn't any gridlock, rush hour jams or school run chaos - none of it whatsoever. Never hear of accidents either, so perhaps there is something to be said for less rules and just letting life on the road work itself out. I mean, with all the rules and regulations in Britain, how many accidents are there on a daily basis?

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