Wild ride from Kathmandu to the Chitwan Jungle!

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If someone were to ask me the best way to travel throughout Nepal, I honestly couldn’t give them a good answer.   We opted for a private driver and car with our tour.  Part of that decision was that we wanted to see as much of the country as possible, something that you really can’t do flying.

However, knowing what I know now about the infrastructure of Nepal, I would reconsider driving everywhere.  That said, our Lonely Planet guide books says that Nepal’s domestic airlines has a questionable safety record.  Since 2008, there have been 8 airplane crashes with the most recent being in February of 2014.  In 2014, the website http://www.airlineratings.com listed the two domestic Nepali airlines – Tara and Nepal Airlines- as two of the world’s four most dangerous airlines.  I just looked these two airlines up on the airline rating website and their safety score is just 1 (for both of them) out of 7.  YIKES!!  The report went on further to say that no Nepali airlines are allowed to fly in European Union airspace because of safety concerns.

Honestly, there really isn’t a good answer as to the best and safest way to travel in Nepal. The roads are only two lanes and very curvy.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times, we went around a corner only to find a car or worse, a truck just stopped in the lane we were traveling in because of some kind of mechanical failure.  There were no warnings to slow down.  We just went around the corner and bam…there it was.

Mohan, was our driver for the week and he was absolutely wonderful.  I felt completely safe with his driving but then you had the other driver’s ability to factor in. Plus, some of the trucks that were on the road didn’t look like they had to have gone through any kind of an inspection.

There is an intricate dance that cars and trucks do among themselves.  The horn is used frequently.  I could never really figure out exactly what the use of the horn meant.  Sometimes, it seemed like they were honking the horn for a greeting.  Other times, it seemed that they were honking to say that they were passing the car and yet, another honk seemed to say “go ahead of me!”  Honk, honk, honk!!!  They used their lights to indicate if it was safe for a car to pass.

I must say, that they are very courteous drivers….allowing people to cut in when passing if another car appeared.  There was no apparent “road rage” like the uptight North Americans express so freely these days.  Still, at times, it was a little stressful to be in a  Volkswagen Jetta sandwiched in between huge semi-trucks and weaving out around them whenever there was an opportunity to pass.

I will share some of the photos that I took along the way to the jungle region and let them “speak” for me better than my words can.

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We are still in the city of Kathmandu on this road.  I took this picture to give you an idea of what the streets are like.

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This is the major road outside of Kathmandu that we traveled to get to Chitwan, the jungle region.  This road is also the only road to the border of India.  All goods being imported from India come in on this road.  

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This is an example of the trucks that bring goods in from India.  They were all decorated very colorfully.  The bumpers had different sayings on them…this one had “Night Rider.”  Other sayings were Road King, Speed Control, Iron Horse and Road Star.  Next to our little car, though, they were very large!

Since this road is the major road to India’s border, it sees much traffic.  For this reason, the government has started a project of widening 20 miles of the road….not an easy feat since the road hugs a mountain range most of the way.  This project has been ongoing for three years now and who knows when it will be completed.   Mohan told us that we had to leave no later than 6:30 to start our journey because everyday traffic is stopped from 10:30 to 4:00 so they can work on this project.

When I heard this, I was absolutely amazed.  The only major highway and it is completely shutdown for 6 hours each day?  Really????  After traveling on the road, I completely understand why they shut it down.  There is positively no place to redirect traffic, so they have no choice but to close the road down.  I am pleased to say that we made it past the point, where they stop traffic, before 10:00 AM so were able to reach Chitwan by late afternoon.

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See what I mean about the big trucks???

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At one point, traffic just stopped.  I jumped out and clicked this picture.  We waited about 20 minutes before going again. 

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This is the part of the road that they are widening.  The structure, in this picture, is someone’s home and business of a small store and/or restaurant.  Behind the home is a ravine with a river running through it.  I am certain that the home was there long before the construction began.  We passed several home/businesses along the construction route.  I just kept thinking about living with all of the dust that was stirred up daily, the construction equipment and all the traffic!

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We only passed a couple of bridges that was big enough for cars to go over to get to the other side of the river.  This was a suspension footbridge……I thought it was rather elaborate.  Along the river, there were other smaller footbridges that people walked over.  At some of the bridges, it didn’t look as though there were roads on the other side which meant that people walked to their homes on the side of the mountain, carrying whatever they had purchased in town that day!  It is a challenging life in Nepal.

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This is one of the few bridges that we passed for cars to cross the river. 

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This is what most of the villages we passed through looked like.  It appeared that most of the buildings had the family living space on the upper floors.  The ground floor was a business of either a convenience, grocery or hardware store or a restaurant.  Often, the buildings would appear unfinished with rebar sticking up from the roof.  Mohan said that people would add on as they were able to purchase the building supplies. 

It made for a very dreary trip.  The sun was occasionally peeking out, dust was swirling everywhere.  The truck’s exhaust added to the smog and then POOF, I would be rewarded with a splash of color……IMG_0131

The rice fields and green trees greeted us as we came into the town of Sauraha just on the outskirt of the Chitwan National Park.  What a welcoming sight!!!  It was a long, long day of hard riding…..about 6 1/2 hours.  I know that Mohan sighed a sigh of relief as we drove to our resort!

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In my next post, I will share our adventures of the jungle…some good, some not so good!  Grateful for the experience, though and always sending blessings to you my reader!

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