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Roaddays from west terai to Pokhara
Sunday, 01 April 2007
After more than a week in Nepal we arrived in Pokhara coming from the west border crossing at Mahendranagar. A total of 4 days on Nepali roads, the rest we spend just relaxing at Bardia National Park. With Incredible India fresh on our minds the days on the road in Nepal came as a very comfortable experience. Our intensely trained reflex to blow horn, flash lights, scan for suicidal drivers, emergency manoeuvres and curse hard suddenly became totally pointless. There is no need for all this in Nepal, this is not India. Put differently, the combination of Indian roads and it’s deadly suicidal traffic is an extreme and brutal experience. Driving into Nepal is like coming from a bloody road war  into a peaceful and relaxing country in a mental state of Rambo – first blood. The first stretch in Nepali we drove in a confusing state of mind – hand on the horn waiting for total annihilation by the suicidal Indian truck or bus driver. Namasté! - Peace man - Nepal has arrived on you –

Looking at the roadmap Nepal has a fairly basic double / single lane asphalt road network. The Mahendra Highway from east to west with a loop between Butwal – Pokhara – Kathmandu and Hetauda. Of course the ancient and still well used road network of Nepal are the trails in the mountains. They can be seen up and down the hills snaking between farmer fields, villages and valleys.

The Mahendra (asphalt) Highway is build with Indian support – between Mahendranagar and Butwal there are many signs indicating a joint venture. Some bridges are massive constructions like the one at Chisopani. In all we didn’t experience the traffic intensity we saw in India, Pakistan or Iran. Motorized traffic is pretty much low key – many people use a bicycle or just walk.

With 53 Rs / liter diesel (€ 0,58 ct) Nepal had basically the same price as India. Like Turkey popular transport is by bus or minibus, to own a car is simply too expensive. From Mahendranagar to Butwal we the signs of new investments in a mini-bus system. Lots of very new Kia and Toyota (Hi-Ace) minibuses in an excellent state. Impossible to own such shiny new buses in a state like this in India – it would be dented and scratched after just 1 week of service.

Again TATA is the truck or bus in India. But different from India, no continuous honking or suicidal manoeuvres. Amazingly even subtle driving past cyclists and pedestrians – not like blasting into a sea of people at high speed with blasting horn as we saw so many times in India.

Morning time in Nepal is schooltime. Many many children walk to/from school in sometimes big groups. It’s the future of Nepal – it feels good to see this. We got the impression education awareness is high.

The road to Butwal has a few military checkposts – many of them just letting traffic through. Only a few required us to sign the time log. In most cases there was something like an army village nearby sandbagged like a fortress. They looked well equipped with clean uniforms and modern weapons – somehow there’s always money for defence.

The road from Butwal to Pokhara is quite a drive. It runs through the mountains on double / single lanes up to a height of 1400 meters or so. It takes about 6 hours to cross it but it’s just too nice mountain scenery to race through. Moreover racing is pretty impossible, an average speed between 20 and 30 Km/hr is quite normal on these curvy narrow roads. The best part of the stretch is like 20 Km before Pokhara. Quite suddenly the Annapurna range can be seen in good weather. Awesome scenery!

The total experience of Nepal after the horrific traffic of India is very relaxing and highly recommendable for anyone driving their own vehicle. Yet we can imagine when visiting India by plane and using  trains the difference between Nepal and India is far less remarkable.

Anyone who flies to Nepal from India might notice the difference in population density,  but not so much the sheer brutality of Indian road traffic. For us the combination of traffic and population density dominated the road to Nepal. We also think the road situation in India might get far more worse in the years to come. We desperately hope it won’t infect Nepal!

As we joked with fellow motorized overland travellers from India – it would make a extremely good reality TV show to let a freshly married European couple drive a brand new car from Delhi to Mumbay to Chennay. We guarantee the car is at least dented allover, scratched and maybe damaged completely. Moreover the couple will face a harsh time together in that car. If their marriage survives this ordeal, they might do so for many years to come. And…..they’d love Nepal for sure!

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