The King's Highway, or locally Tribhuvan Rajpath, is a 120KM stretch that starts near Hetauda, Nepal and ends near the capital city Kathmandu. Only 30KM's as the crow flies, the road winds and winds...and winds it's way through the lower hills of the Himalayas. I took this drive recently coming home from Chitwan National Park, which is West of Hetauda and just north of the Indian border. The road now holds the #1 spot on my list of favorite roads in the world.
Completed in 1956 it was the first road to connect Kathmandu to the outside world. Even though I live in Kathmandu, driving it from South to North conjured up a feeling of exploring a hidden kingdom for the first time. It was the kind of driving that I fantasized about before moving here. The road is a single lane 2 way road but the traffic is minimal as much shorter and safer roads have been constructed over the past 50 years connecting India to Kathmandu. The sense of history and romance associated with this road reminded me a lot of the romanticized Route 66. I loved every minute of driving it. No GPS, no detailed maps, just an idea of where the road was and talking to helpful locals when needed.
The reality of driving in Nepal in 2011 usually entails constant noise, a constant threat of death via head-on collision (with cars, trucks, motorcycles, water buffalo, etc) and copious amounts of black diesel smoke. Driving here requires constant vigilance and attempting to take in the scenery would lead to trouble in short order. The King's Highway is different. I only encountered 5-6 vehicles during the 4 hour drive and the ability to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the relatively clean mountain air was an amazing respite from daily driving in Nepal.
The switchbacks are endless. Overtaking is "fun" to say the least. Luckily I only had to do it 2 or 3 times during the 4 hour drive.
As far as Nepal goes, the road is actually in very decent condition. There were even a few road crews fixing small potholes here and there.
The villages along the road are certainly past their heyday. I thought these villages actually added to the romance of the road. They added to the feeling that this is Nepal's version of Route 66.
the village of Daman is where you crest and can see the Himalayas for the first time. There are several 8000 meter peaks visible and though in the photo Mount Everest is obstructed by my Montero Sport, it was clearly visible.
Who doesn't love driving over single lane bridges?
So, after 4 hours of driving bliss with the windows open and no diesel fumes, not to mention some of the most incredible views I have seen in Nepal so far, the King's Highway connected to the Pokhara- Kathmandu highway just outside the city limits. Bring on the black diesel fumes, suicidal motorcyclists and the all too common fatal crash with crowds of gawkers.