Wacky Races

It seems that in Nepal, like a lot of the developing world, road safety takes somewhat of a backseat. And by taking a backseat I mean it is kicked out all together and is basically nowhere to be seen…like honestly, you permanently feel like you are in a episode of Wacky Races…except in this case if you smash into a wall and burst into flames you are a lot less likely to be ready to shoot the next scene, real life is restrictive like that! What a bummer!

Wacky Races pic

Actually come to think of it, it was the exact same in China when I went on a trip to see the Three Gorges Dam…you wanted to be excited for your destination, after all you’d invested so much time scrolling through Wikipedia, but were more focused on saying your hail marys and promising yourself that if you make it through you will become a missionary and set up your own orphanage…

Somehow, some way, you get through largely unscathed, and suddenly forget all of your over the top promises…

But if I was concerned in China, I was absolutely SHITTING MY PANTS in Nepal. I had to do three of these death-defying journeys – a seven hour one (Kathmandu to Chitwan), a six and a half hour one (Chitwan to Pokhara), and finally…and worst of all…the eight hour one from Pokhara back to Kathmandu. The price for each bus journey? Well, under ten dollars! So at least if I was to die, I wouldn’t have wasted a tonne of money doing it. Is that good logic? Hmmm…probably not, but these little words to yourself seem to add a small layer of comfort when you are trying to analyse just how close to death you may be…which appears to be very, very close indeed. At all times.

The final leg of the journey was by far the worst. The only positive was that we had already endured two of these trips, so ideally we should be more acclimatised to its charms…unfortunately this wasn’t the case! Instead what was in store, was a thrill ride of DEATH. And no, I don’t think that is an exaggeration! I was basically entombed in a sweaty, sticky casket – along with the rest of my stranger inmates (as well as whatever foul smelling food each individual chose to bring with them…I mean come on man?!), there was some respite once we got on the open road…it meant that the vehicle could pick up enough speed to allow a refreshing breeze through the window, which was great! Oh wait…no…scratch that, the exhaust is continually spewing out a thick chalk black fog cloud – still cools me down, but it looks like a cartoon style TNT crate has blown up in my face. Yet another example of how this was just an episode of Wacky Races!

Hours pass. You kind of get into the rhythm of the rickety bus, and then WHIRRRRRRRRRRRR! A near collision with oncoming traffic! BREATHE IN , BREATHE OUT, BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT! Every bump was felt by the whole bus – at one point a middle aged Chinese lady crashed into my lap as her seat completely gave up under duress and threw itself backwards – at the same time, one of the curtain rails fell off and on to someone’s unsuspecting head…everything was literally falling apart!

It’s strange that on these crazy bumpy narrow roads, with no barricades at the sides – just a sheer drop to certain death; the Nepalese bus and truck drivers still feel that it is a fantastic idea to blaze around corners and effectively push other road users to their (highly) possible deaths!

Surely, surely, SURELY – if you were in these conditions you would be more cautious? Not still speeding around corners, scratching your sweaty armpit with one hand while halfheartedly steering with the other…I MEAN COME ON?!

In these moments I wish I could say that my life flashed before my eyes…that old chestnut…well, no, it didn’t. Instead the potential news headlines spun and spiraled in my imagination – brightly colored capital letters on TV banners – headlines like; “YOUNG ENGLISH MAN FALLS TO HIS DEATH IN NEPAL”, “THE WORLD MOURNS”, and “THE QUEEN IS REPORTED TO BE ON HUNGER STRIKE UNTIL ANSWERS ARE GIVEN.” But then I started to consider the possibility of escape…perhaps I could wriggle free, get out of this burning wreckage just in time to save my life…perhaps…wait…I had spotted a possible way of escape! With both hands I began to desperately tear open the stubborn window, sliding it along slowly but surely, dirtying my hands in the process as the unwashed surface met with my perspiring fearful fingertips…the gap was just enough to probably get through…I’d have to be quick though, as soon as the bus flew off the edge I’d probably only have a second or two to gymnastically flip through to safety. Better get prepared. Okay, so phone in my pocket, everything into my bag…aaah alright, passport and everything is in there, good, good…errr…right, seat belt off, that will cut down on ejection time…errrr, I think I am pretty much fully prepared…so I’ll hop out, probably cry for a bit I should imagine – and then stick out my thumb and hitch a ride back into town…or head down into the jungle and try to do my best to live there – possibly be found years later a transformed Tarzan creature that people both marvel and fear…all I have to do is jump out of a tumbling bus. No big deal.

Ahh…dammit…my sister…err…well I suppose my Mother wouldn’t be too pleased with me leaving her behind…she’d slow me down terribly, I guess I could grab her…argh, but she’d probably shriek loudly and pull awkwardly on my arm as I tried to hop out, she’d pull me to my death – God…SHE’S GOING TO FUCKIN’ KILL US BOTH!

I slunk back into my chair, there was no way we could both get out in time…I just had to make my peace with the fact that my life was in this driver’s hands…his unsure…erratic…and…OH GOD, LET ME OUT! LET MEEEE OUTTTT!!!!

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/07/30/taxi-stand-off/

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/07/18/blood-sucking-leeches-nepal

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24 thoughts on “Wacky Races

  1. John I empathise. Those bus rides can be hairy. I did an overnighter with my daughter in Vietnam. Bunk beds, that didn’t quite lay flat, sore back, sore neck as a result. Crammed in, stopping for pick ups for everyone to be woken each time with bright lights. The crazy driving, beeping of the horns to advise oncoming traffic they were coming through! Then the toilet stops.. By the side of the road, on hills, when my daughter and I nearly slid down very ungracefully into the rice paddies below.

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    • Ahhh yes the toilet stops, always too long and at seemingly inconsistent and inconvenient times! I don’t understand the logic of it all, or how people put up with it! There was enough space on the back seats for me to have laid out…but the bumpy roads would have had be on the floor in seconds!

      I am sure like me you were just relieved to get to your destination, at long last? haha!

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  2. Yet another splendidly terrifying adventure that I can’t quite seem to envy, despite wanting to see the views. The headlines were fantastic, btw. Let’s hope they never have to be used.

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  3. We once went to La Gomera (Spain) To get there you had to go by boat from Tenerife.
    Going there was ok 🙂 But going back was horror!
    On the day we had to go back there was a minibus waiting in front of the hotel. so fas so good…everyone got on the bus and there we went.
    Downhill all the way to the coast to catch a boat to bring us back to Tenerife.
    I don’t know waht had gotten into the driver but he drove like a madman!
    There was supposed to be a nice view but I did not see anything but green and blue flashes and some colored spots.
    Halfway down we stopped … some people (including me) had noticed their stomach was not so happy with the speedy downhill drive.
    After I think about 15 minutes we had to move on otherwise we would miss the boat.
    So in the bus we went…because we stopped the driver stepped up al little more so we went flashing fast furthermore downhill on these tiny curvy roads you usually find in the mountains on these small islands.
    My stomach had made it up to my head :-/ and our fellow passengers started to look a little pale too
    When we finally got downhill we had to get on the boat within minutes…
    I managed to get a pill against seasickness down and there we went!
    It was a little windy so the boattrip did not went as smooth as it did on the way to la Gomera..
    Looking at the horizon I saw the boat going up and down… and so did my stomach
    People around us were happy kids running around laughing…and there I was, hanging against the window whising this trip was over…
    After an hour or so we finally reached Tenerife…
    We rushed out and just sat on a bench for a while..
    Thank god it was over!

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  4. Hahaha! Very well written. I have experienced those drives you mentioned but thankfully I was in a car. No wait! It was worse in the car because all these bus drivers were almost pushing us down the hill to overtake!
    If you want a ride of your lifetime, India is the place! Much worse than Nepal

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  5. Wow this was seriously a horror story. Glad you made it out okay although reading your story and the other comments I would think that surviving horrible traffic adventures is part of the travel experience. In SOME countries not all of course. I love your travel stories! Even though this one was gripping the Wacky Races refrence still made me smile^^. I look forward to reading more.

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  6. I hate to admit this but I may be too old for one of these bus rides. I can barely even ride a roller coaster anymore. But I enjoyed your thought process as you contemplated a fiery death!

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  7. Lol hilariously written yet such a scary story – I guess that’s a cheap, extra long version of a roller coaster and to think we pay expensive park tickets here and wait for hours for a 30 second ride!

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