Horn "OK" Please!

We are now traveling in three separate groups.

The French crossed the border out of Nepal at Sunauli on the 2002-11-02 and headed straight to Delhi to get their Iranian visas. Since then we have received two SMS (Text) messages from them:

Demain devrions avoir visa Iran: si OK, depart vers Pakistan. Passage frontiere 9 ou 10 . Amities. Serge.

We get Iran transit visa 7 days in 30 hours (validity 3 months). 1460Rs each. Consulate: 5 Barakhamba road (near Connaught Place) Tel: 00 91 11 3329 600.

The rest of the Anglophones planned to leave Kathmandu on the 2002-11-05 and spend two days in Chitwan National park (see below) then drive west within Nepal crossing into India at Banbassa.

We (Mog) left Kathmandu on 2002-11-02 (a very sad parting with the rest of the group!) for Chitwan National Park where we stayed at the Chitwan Jungle Lodge. (We e-mailed all the lodges in the park and Chitwan Jungle Lodge not only replied first, they sent two people round to the garage to see us, agreed to $110USA per person for two nights and also agreed to provide secure parking outside the park for Mog (N27.60009 E84.66271)).

The highlight of a visit to Chitwan is an elephant back safari in search of tiger and rhinoceros! On our first afternoon safari we saw three rhinoceros, one of which we "hunted" through the undergrowth on elephant back for several minutes. In addition to the safari there were escorted walks through the jungle (hoping not to see a tiger), lectures on the park's wildlife, and elephant bathing. Recommended.

We left Chitwan on the 2002-11-04 and spent the next six days covering the 2048 kilometres to the container port of Nhava Sheva (near Mumbai). Each day we got up at 05:30 and set off as soon as it was light. We stopped only to eat and camped by the road side each night as it got dark at 17:45. In spite of our route being on the main north-south National Highway #3 most of the way the road conditions varied from mediocre to appalling (with the one exception being the splendid four lane Indore bypass - thank you Indore!).

The good news was that by luck our trip coincided with the four day festival of Diwali during which many trucks seem to remain parked by the road side. The bad news was that some of them did not!

Everybody warns you that driving in India is difficult. It is. It is also very depressing!

The standard of driving is appalling. Trucks are driven on the assumption that everything else (except buses) will get out of their way, even if there is nowhere to go. I estimate that we saw at least ten very recent truck crashes in six days! It was common to find a single truck on its side with the cab crumpled (and the driver dead?).

There are two basic types of Indian trucks, Tata and the rest. On our route the Tata trucks outnumbered the rest ten to one. The cab of a Tata truck resembles a small religious shrine. The front windshield is dived into two with a central 300mm opaque section which houses, within the cab, the an illuminated "god". To ensure that the driver can not see out of the remaining part of windshield this is covered in tassels, stickers or better still dangling CDs.Why should I need to see?

There is one seat (for the driver) with no seat belt and only a rudimentary door. The other seven occupants of the cab, kneel or lie on the carpeted floor, or lounge on the tiers of bunks.

Most Tata trucks have the following painted on them.

Speed Control 40KM - No Tata truck actually in motion ever travels at less 50KPH.

Horn Please - This is painted on the back of every Tata truck and is an instruction to you that you must sound your horn before attempting to overtake. Since the truck will be in the middle, or right hand side, of the road you have little choice. However sounding your horn is unlikely to produce any response unless your horn is loud enough to be physically painful.

Wait for side - This requires more explanation. Tata trucks, when new, are fitted with flashing amber indicators (used in the rest of the world to indicate your intention to turn) however in India they are used only to indicate if the driver of the truck thinks he would like you to attempt to overtake him. It goes like this, you arrive behind a Tata truck in the middle of the road and sound your horn several times, if he wants you to overtake he moves fractionally to the left (they drive on the left mostly in India) and then indicates right! That means have a go, if you dare. Now I can hear you wondering, how do Tata trucks indicate their intention to turn left or right? They use hand signals. Indeed one, or occasionally two of the seven passengers are employed to make left hand signals. Every time a Tata truck cuts back in after overtaking you at least one passenger will be waving frantically out of the left hand window that he expects you to drive off the road into the bushes to make way for him.

Use dipper at night - as anyone foolish enough to have driven at night in India over the last 30 years will tell you, Indian drivers do not dip their head lights they flash them on and off every 2 seconds. I can happy to report that this behavior has finally changed! They just leave their head lights on main beam now.

One other interesting driving anomaly is the behavior of trucks when negotiating a steep downward right turn on a mountain road (or a steep upward left turn). They simply cross over and drive on the right. Think about it!

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2002-11-10