Nepal’s condition from a tourist’s point of view
I arrived in Kathmandu on October 1, 2015. My brother, and our three good friends were due to arrive two hours after me, but China Southern canceled their flights due to Nepal’s lack of jet fuel. Naive at the time, I had no idea the extent of the “Nepal Fuel Crisis.”
I spent the last month slowly realizing the drastic effects that this fuel crisis is having on the Nepalese people. The worst part, it’s entirely unclear to everyone why exactly it’s happening.
On the way out of Pokhara the bus shuddered past a small bazaar. A continuous line of red fuel tanks sat together like a line of dominoes waiting for someone to trigger the collapse. Unfortunately for the Nepalese the collapse has already been triggered. The owner of each tank sat idle on top of the tank, guarding its place in line and hoping to move it even just a little further. These tanks represented each person’s hunger, for they are the tanks Nepalis use for cooking. And if they’re in line, they aren’t cooking, and if they aren’t cooking, they aren’t eating.
My bus crested the jungle ridgeline between the Trishuli River Valley and Kathmandu valley on November 5, 2015. At the end of the aisle, framed by the blue seat cushions and the shoulders of other travelers, was the sprawling city of Kathmandu, shrouded in a haze of pollution. Behind me, the Trishuli River slowly disapppeared below the pothole pocked road. Colorful trucks with canvas tops, doors decorated like wrapping paper and hilarious messages like “No Time for Slow” written on the bumpers were lining the winding road into Kathmandu. A symbol of welcome reading “Welcome to Kathmandu, we’re completely out of fuel.” The farther into the city, the more cars lined the side of the streets. The drivers absent, long since given up waiting in line, knowing there’s no fuel to be in line for. Motorcycles were parked tire to tire along the side of the cars, strings run through spokes to ensure their spot in this seemingly perpetual line. The streets were still packed with honking drivers and loaded down buses, it’s hard to imagine what the streets look like when all the cars have fuel.
Nepal has no fuel, and the repercussions are haunting. Like a foresight into that fabled day we all run out of fossil fuels. Will we all suffer the same fate?
In line with the cars are fresh water trucks, food transportation trucks, city buses, and taxis. Every city bus that’s still running is so full the passengers ride on the rooftops and hang out of the windows to reach their destinations. Taxis have had to raise their prices so high, even the western tourists scoff at the cost.
Homes and businesses all over the country recieve their water from giant water trucks. Nice places have underground water tanks and most have rooftop water tanks. The trucks pump their water through massive hoses to resupply. For every truck I see parked in the petrol line, I picture a family home somewhere, devoid of water.
The restaurants are suffering as well. Every restaurant in Nepal has had to abandon their normal menu and you get handed a “fuel shortage menu.” It’s a menu of more gas conservative items that cook faster. Consequent of all of these fuel issues, the level of tourism is down drastically. In Nepal, tourism is the major driving force of the economy. In my recent climbing trip to Dollu, near the Buddhist sanctuary village of Pharping, a young monk told me that tourism was a mere 10% of it’s usual rate in his village. 10% tourism, 10% income.
Once, I was riding on top of a bus heading south out of Kathmandu. Every seat, and standing place was filled inside, every space on the roof was full, and people were hanging out the door and the windows. I asked a young Nepali man, about my age, if it was India, or if it was complications in his own government that were keeping the fuel out. He wasn’t sure, maybe a combination of both. He told me that Nepal was a beautiful country, but that it’s leaders were ugly. Insinuating that his government was corrupt and had voted for a constituion that the Nepalese didn’t want. Many people began to protest, mostly around the border of India. Consequently, India stopped moving fuel across the border. However, the Nepali government claims that India has enacted an unofficial trade embargo, intentionally withholding fuel at the border. Both nations are pointing fingers at each other but no one is reaching any solutions; meanwhile the residents of Nepal are forced to completely change their way of life, and local income is down drastically.
“We don’t want to ride on buses, its embarassing and unsafe” said the man on the bus. He was right. We ducked electrical wires and branches while holding onto a bar to balance against the sway of the bus. That same day, a bus in another part of the country tipped over from the top heaviness of having passengers on top. It rolled off the road and down the mountain side, 30 people died. (http://www.valuewalk.com/2015/11/nepal-bus-accident/)
The entire time I was in Nepal, China was attempting to help by increasing it’s supply lines of fuel. Unfortunately, landslides consequent of the recent earthquakes have rendered a lot of supply roads from China, impassible.
On the road into Kathmandu, I spotted a yellow bulldozer in the fuel line. It was parked between a water truck and a food transport truck. Less than a mile farther a pile of earthquake rubble was pushed to the side of a small lot. The skeleton of a house being rebuilt was vacant, the absence of the worksite’s bulldozer bringing the building to a halt. The best example for the state of Nepal as a nation. The dozer had been clearing the lot so that the family could rebuild the home, but without fuel their home would have to be put on hold. Nepal is suffering the sad truth of being kicked, while they’re already down.
Tourists, go to Nepal. I had so many locals plead to tell my friends that Nepal was still safe. Begging for our presence in these hard times. I even had one woman compassionately thank me for not being afraid of Nepal. The fuel is low, but it just adds to adventure and you’ll be part of a Nepal that you’ll never see again.