18 August 2021
Battling monsoon rains in Nepal
Today buckle up as, WorldShare CEO Alan Butler reflects on some treacherous (and very bumpy!) journeys across Nepal amidst the monsoon season.
As we have been considering the kinds of journeys our ministry partners take each day to reach out to their local communities I have been thinking back to my time living and working in Nepal and my own experiences of travelling in tropical and sub-tropical climates. I had the challenge and privilege of working in Nepal for 12 years, meaning at least 12 monsoon seasons.
If you’ve never experienced monsoon rains, it isn’t like a wet day in the UK. The monsoon period in Nepal is from late May through late September. It doesn’t rain all the time but when it rains you know about it! Often it can be continuous rainfall for four or five days at a time and then when the sun breaks through it can be really hot and steamy. The rain isn’t cold rain, so raincoats are a ‘no no’, the best equipment is a large umbrella and open sandals. The humidity takes a lot of getting used to, with relative humidity close to 100%, meaning that often your clothing is wet from within as much as from without! …and then there is the mud, slippery roads or paths and the mould that grows on your clothing if it is stored in the open.
These conditions are ones which ministry partner Good Friends of Nepal (pictured) face each year as they faithfully serve remote and mountainous communities in need across Nepal. In just the last couple of months they have shared news of battling heavy rains to deliver vital Covid-19 relief.
So what is the impact on travel?
Monsoon travel in Nepal is always uncertain, the uncertainty being caused by the rainfall’s impact on roads, river crossings or unexpected landslides. Meaning a bus journey, which in dry weather can be 8-10 hours, suddenly becomes an endurance test of more that 12 hours or even several days if the roads are blocked, bridges are taken out or landslides end up blocking the road!
From my early days living in Nepal, I have ‘fond’ memories of a few monsoon bus journeys. I’ve tried to give you a sense of a more routine monsoon journey here:
Leaving Kathmandu early in the morning, as dawn breaks, before boarding, a hot cup of tea from one of the local vendors in the bus park and we are ready for the challenges ahead. Luggage normally goes on the roof and that often includes a few goats (live, in case you’re wondering) and people packed inside, although away from the gaze of the traffic police, there may well be people on the roof as well.
We climb out of the Kathmandu valley and the rain is holding off, we hope this continues. Reports from a few days before said about delays because of landslides. We reach the top of the Kathmandu valley and start the decent to the plains. The road goes down the hillside winding back and forward, and our driver needs to be careful, as there is traffic that has travelled through the night from India, coming towards us on the last stage of their journey. A little further on we come to the first of the roadside stops – breakfast. Then after a short break, off again on the journey, there are still at least 7 or 8 hours journey ahead of us, so far so good. But the rain has just started falling again.
Then another two hours along the road, there is a queue of stationary traffic. The rainfall has loosened an old landslide and mud and rocks block the road. Encouragingly, the Road’s Department has a bulldozer (which has seen better days) stored here and about ½ mile ahead of the queue of buses and jeeps it can be seen slowly working to clear the road – oh well, time to catch up on sleep, we could be here quite a while! Encouragingly only about 1½ hours later, the engine starts up and the bus slowly edges forward. Another hour further on, we stop for lunch. Nepalis hungrily consume their rice and lentils, I’m not so keen, a bouncy ride and a full stomach do not always sit well together! A sigh of relief as we finally arrive at our destination, about 3 hours late and some 11 hours after we left Kathmandu.
Maybe, my commute to the WorldShare office from Sheffield isn’t so bad after all!
By Alan Butler, WorldShare CEO
Our partner ministry Good Friends of Nepal daily work and travel across this beautiful, but poor country, serving young people through their children’s homes, providing support to widows, sharing the Gospel and establishing community development projects. Find out more about their ministry here and how they are helping to transform lives.