© Tim Möller-Kaya

A heck of a ride in the Himalayas


There’s good news and there’s bad news, as is generally the case. The bad news is connected with a road that I’m having a very hard time describing. Not, I hope, because I lack the skills to do so, but because it’s almost indescribable.

I was traveling by cab to my hotel about ten kilometers from the center of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. We were still outside the city, although you could hardly call it wilderness, and inching along at a snail’s pace on one of the city’s main traffic arteries. I would normally have considered it impassable except that everyone was using it. One against all and all against one. “No rules,” said the driver, taking advantage of every opportunity to move forward, although in fact there were none. Ruts and potholes, bumps and ditches followed each ­other in seemingly endless succession, all of them filled with muddy water of a depth impossible to determine. To me, it felt like the road’s unflagging attempt to ruin the car had already cost us our suspension. And any backseat handles that may have existed had long since been torn off. It wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that this rattletrap of a car was losing parts every 20 meters: a hubcap here, a fender there, until nothing was left but a skeleton with its bodywork in tatters.

But none of that happened. Kathmandu’s potholes evidently have differing effects on compact cars. They either pull them to pieces or fuse and jam them together in such a way as to produce a mountain goat. But what about me? And what about my spinal discs, which were forced to take over as shock absorbers? So much for my bad news. The good news is: I’m in one piece and on the road again.

Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.