Published on March 28th, 201411
That Time I Pushed a Rickshaw to the Kathmandu Airport
And YOU thought… just because I’d circled the Planet to land here in Ecuador – you foolishly thought you’d seen the last of my bountiful Nepal adventures. Hah, silly you!
Ah yes, I’ve saved the very best (of my visit to Nepal) til last. And coincidentally, this particular tale was the very LAST few hours I enjoyed (umm… well sort of) in Nepal.
You see, on the morning of my departure, I awoke to discover that the Nepalese Maoists had decided (yet again) to stage an infamous “banda” – a strike in which none of the Kathmandu taxi and bus drivers are allowed to run. I’m honestly not sure of the political details, but suffice that such taxi/bus strikes are quite common in Kathmandu, and when they ensue – no-way, no-how will the taxis/buses budge.
And don’t bother bribing some taxi to get to wherever you were planning to go – even paying an exorbitant fare, you may well be stopped at an intersection, and altercations with the strikers can turn violent and/or tear gas may be involved.
Luckily, my flight out of Kathmandu wasn’t scheduled to depart til 3 pm – thus buying me at least a modicum of time to figure out a Plan B. As the airport was only about 7 km away, I actually considered walking, but… Suffice with the sun blazing down, and my wheeled backpack to cart around, walking really wasn’t an option. That left…
The only public transport that’s allowed during these “bandas” is the humble rickshaw. And though I’ve never been a fan of sitting imperialistically behind a struggling local, pedaling me/my baggage around for a relative pittance – that’s what I was forced to do. Actually the rate was 10 times the norm due to the strike, but I was more than happy to pay it, to get to the airport in time for my flight.
But here’s where the story takes a most disturbing, hilarious and memorable turn:
So I hop in the rickshaw with my bag and the driver (a dear chap btw, and nearly my age!) pedals off towards the airport. All well and good – til we got to a hill… I winced as the (impressive) muscles in his skinny legs strained to slowly move us forward. As we inched along, I repeatedly told him that I’d be happy to get out and walk a bit – but he would have none of it. His manly and/or professional pride simply could not allow his passenger (especially a dodderin’ lass) to walk. He also had no water, so I insisted we stop to buy a bottle. Thankfully he accepted my small gift of hydration aid.
Then we got to a truly gnarly stretch of rubble – we’re talkin’ deep potholes and jagged boulders strewn all over the (so called) “street”. It was utterly a nightmare – the heat, the rubble, the dust. I simply couldn’t sit in that rickshaw while he labored so. I hopped out and walked alongside the rickshaw, and… he didn’t protest.
And then… When we hit a particularly nasty patch of boulders and potholes – I couldn’t help myself.
I got behind that rickety rickshaw and… I PUSHED!
Yup, more than 6 decades on the Planet, and I’m…
PUSHING A RICKSHAW THROUGH A FILTHY, DUSTY, RUBBLE-STREWN NIGHTMARE OF A STREET IN KATHMANDU!
Intrepid? Yup, guilty as charged. CRAZY? Oh you betcha! Amazed that I didn’t have a stroke? Oh my dear mother-of-god, YES!
My only regret is that… as I was too busy PUSHING, I of course have not a single photo to prove it. So you’ll just have to take my word for it.
All I could capture of this most remarkably nutso event, was a handful of pics of the back of my dear driver’s head. That and, he happily posed for me when we finally arrived at the airport:
Seriously. YOU would have helped push too, no?