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Weird & Wonderful Nepal - Part II

Everywhere we travel to, we discover something interesting, funny, weird, intriguing or downright outrageous. Today’s post is about the last item on that list: DOWNRIGHT OUTRAGEOUS.

While we’re on the topic of public transport in Nepal, we thought it might be good to add this post about one of the mainstays of the system: the Tempo. The Nepal Tempo is almost the same as the Tuk-Tuk in other countries, with the exception that instead of carrying two people, it’s adapted to carrying more people, kind of like a mini-minibus.

Why did we call it downright outrageous? The things about the Tempo is that it doesn’t leave the bus park until 14 people have taken a seat. IN. ONE. TEMPO. The logistics are quite simple: The driver and one passenger sit in front. Then the back fills up with six people on each side. Yes. Six people. Bear in mind that the average Nepali is much smaller than the average South African, but still, six people on each side means some squeezing, to put it mildly. Now, imagine, if you’re NOT Nepali, and NOT a small foreigner. Finding a seat in a Tempo does wonders for your motivation to lose some weight, but honestly, it doesn’t change a thing about your current situation. You still have to look your fellow travelers in the eye and apologise for taking up all that precious space.

The Tempo is not very high, either, which means that, by the time you’ve completed roughly 5km 30 minutes later, you could do with some serious chiropractical intervention.

But – like a good infomercial – there’s more! Along the way to the final destination, the driver stops for anyone and everyone who wants to join or leave the party. No opportunity is missed (as in the case of the local buses) to add another soul to the slow procession up the hill. Once we counted 22 people in our tempo: 2 in front, 12 seated in the back, 2 children on laps, 4 crouching in the aisle between the seated passengers, and 2 standing on the steps at the back of the vehicle.

On another occasion we were only three – the driver, That-Man and myself. We could turn sideways on the benches and stretch our legs. It was definitely a novel experience, and we cherished each of the few short minutes we had the Tempo all to ourselves.

Now for the grand finale: the most outrageous part of this whole experience. The cost of a ride is NPR20 or about R2.50. That’s right, you heard me. You can travel up and down many hills in the Kathmandu valley for a mere R2.50 one way.

Is it a tight fit? Yes. Are the roads bumpy? Certainly. Does it feel like forever to get from point A to point B? Definitely. Does it beat walking a steep road which is too narrow for all the traffic it carries, in rain (when the muddy puddles reduce your footwear to brown slush), or shine (when the dust sifts down on you, layer upon layer)? Yes! Yes! Yes!

One thing is certain: in spite of the crazy Tempo system, it’s a quintessential part of Nepali public transport, and once you get used to it, you’ll prefer it over almost every other form of transport available.

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