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January 13, 2023

Porters Transport a Car on Long Poles Across a Stream in Nepal, January 1950

Instead of cars carrying workers, Nepal has workers carrying cars on the rocky, hilly trail from Kathmandu. This old German-made Mercedes was going to India as a trade-in on a shiny American model in January 1950. Some 60 men, moving to the rhythm of a chant, balance it on long poles.

(Photo by Volkmar K. Wenztel, National Geographic)

In those days, stripped down automobile chassis used to be physically carried by up to nearly 100 porters each from Bhimphedi to Thankot, because there was no motorable road to Kathmandu.

“These days vehicles get paid to carry people, back then we were paid to carry vehicles,” Dhan Bahadur Gole, a porter, told Nepali Times.

The journey took the porters more than a week as they maneuvered the load across steep and narrow mountain trails. After they reached Kathmandu, the cars were re-assembled and driven around the Valley’s few thoroughfares by Nepal’s Rana rulers. Depending on the size of the car, the porters would be hired in multiples of twelve on each bamboo pole: 16, 32, 64 or 96, carrying the load on their shoulders and wearing straw slippers.


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