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.
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.
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……
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!
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!