Nepal’s most magnificent and hair-raising highway, the Tribhuwan Rajpath (usually just called the Rajpath, meaning “King’s Way”) heads west out of the Kathmandu Valley and then hurls itself, through an astounding series of switchbacks, straight over the Mahabharat Lek to the Terai. En route it passes through lush stands of rhododendrons (which bloom in April), and takes in superb views of the Himalayas, especially from Daman.
Built by Indian engineers in the mid-1950s, the Rajpath was the first highway to link Kathmandu to the outside world. At the time, India was on the brink of war with China and preferred to make any route through Nepal as inconvenient as possible to reduce the risk of invasion. Since the faster Mugling/Narayangadh route was completed, the road has become something of a backwater, which makes it perfect for mountain biking or motorcycling.
For its first 26km, the Rajpath follows the Prithvi Highway towards Pokhara. Leaving the Kathmandu Valley through its ugliest, most industrial corridor, it slips over a low point in the rim and descends to Naubise (945m), near the bottom of the deep Mahesh Khola Valley. At Naubise the Rajpath leaves the Prithvi Highway and forks left, climbing relentlessly for 30km to Tistung (2030m) before descending into the Palung Valley. The turning for Markhu and the Kulekhani Reservoir appears on the left 4km past Tistung, and the Newari village of Palung, at 1745m, is 5km beyond that. Daman is another 12km on, beyond which the Rajpath crosses the Sim Bhanjyang pass (2488m) where it begins a 2000m descent through jungle, forest and finally terraced farmland to the Bhimphedi turning, 40km from Sim Bhanjyang. Hetauda is 10km further on.