Headquartered just outside of Los Angeles, our break room often echoes with bickering about clogged freeways and kidney-busting potholes. A few of us even hold the bravado to blast down a desert trail or two but none of us, however, have attempted to drive in Nepal.
And that’s probably a good thing. Kathmandu is noted for heavy traffic in total chaos due to the rules and etiquette of driving being generally ignored. Outside of town, the rural roads are narrow and so poorly maintained that travel rarely exceeds 30 mph, even along the most open and flat stretches.
But one Nepalese road stands out in particular: the Manang Sadak. It’s a sixty mile stretch of treacherous and exhausting switchbacks that run from Besisahar up to the Manang District in the Annapurna mountain range. Over those sixty miles, the road also ascends ten thousand feet so if the rocky terrain hasn’t wreaked total havoc on whatever you’re driving by the time you get to the top, the lack of oxygen to the engine intake will likely finish it off. Google maps suggests that the drive takes over five hours so think average speeds in the 11 mph range, assuming that a landslide hasn't blocked the road completely. There are, of course, other routes to take but the shortest alternative takes four days by Jeep.
The road started life as a mule trail carved into the side of a cliff and although some stretches are now paved, you’re probably still going to need a 4x4- with a Supreme Suspensions lift kit- to get up there. It’s also reported that sections are less than two meters wide so should you encounter a vehicle coming the other way, I guess you have to play rock-paper-scissors to decide who gets to back up to a spot where you both can get by. While backing up, make sure to watch your mirrors because there’s no shoulder or guard rail between you and that giant cliff that the road is carved into.
And that’s not even the crazy part. The Manang Sadak goes through not one but two waterfalls, and not little ones either. Apparently they lacked the space and budget to redirect the flow so they said, “we’ll just do it live,” and ran the road underneath them. Throughout most of the year, this isn’t too big of a deal, relative to the rest of the madness up there, but during the spring thaw, things can get a little gnarly. Check out this video:
So the next time you’re stuck in traffic, remember that at least you don’t have to inch your way through a waterfall while trying not to fall off of a giant cliff that would lead to certain death. While you’re at it, check out our YouTube channel for more great content and installation tutorials and check back here for more of our own quirky interpretations of international driving experiences.