Nepal doesn’t have the best road safety record. Seemingly every day the Kathmandu Post runs stories of ‘xx dead in bus ravine plunge.’ The terrain doesn’t help. Nor do the vehicles, the majority of which appear to pre-date the Model T Ford, and are held together by bits of wire, glue and tape. Dubious driving practices only compound matters.
Now Bolivia’s North Yungas Road has lost most of its danger, let us put forward our nominee to take its dubious mantle as WMDR: west Nepal’s Karnali Highway. Of the many roads we’ve travelled by bike and bus, this stands out high above all others. A surface so bad that the tractor is the motor of choice; narrow stretches; crazy gradients; landslides; potholes that could swallow a yak; huge drops to the river below. Drivers who look far too young. Where are the old-timers? Have none managed to survive to 30, or even 20? Or do family men simply not regard driving the route day in, day out as worth the risk?
And were the stories we were told true? Had the police really banned driving at night due to the sheer number of fatal accidents? Had a bus really fallen off near Manma the month before, killing all on board? Who knows, though we spotted enough wrecks on the road (and far below it) to suggest that its deadly reputation isn’t entirely undeserved.
Thrill-seekers: if a ludicrously bumpy, uncomfortable and at times downright scary 18 hour trip to Jumla sounds like your idea of fun, make your way to Surkhet’s dusty bus station, the starting point for a rollercoaster journey.