Nepal // The Western Hills //

The Siddhartha Highway

The Siddhartha Highway (Siddhartha Rajmarg) offers the most direct route from Pokhara to the Indian border at Sunauli, 180km away. It’s a relentlessly twisting road, however, so most buses and lorries travel via Narayangadh, to the east, and traffic is deliciously light – cyclists and motorbikers in particular will relish it. The scenery is certainly dramatic. After the first climb from Pokhara southwest to Naudanda (confusingly, not the Naudanda that lies northwest of Pokhara), the road clings to the side of the Adhi Khola valley. Around the old-fashioned town of Syangja, the valley closes in and the hills rear up spectacularly. Beyond Waling, the highway descends to the deep, steamy gorge floor of the mighty Kali Gandaki, first passing the access road to the vast Kali Gandaki “A” Hydropower Project – which is now the finishing point for rafting trips on the river. Crossing the river at Ramdi Ghat, the site of many caves, the highway climbs almost 1000m to its highest point just short of the turn-off for Tansen at Bartung. From there it’s a 35km, hour-long, brake-testing descent to Butwal and the Terai, on a landslide-prone stretch, then a further 24km to the border crossing of Sunauli – 120 glorious kilometres from Pokhara.

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