Dangerous but incredibly important

When you google “The World’s 20 Most Dangerous Roads”, the roads of Nepal especially in the Himalaya region usually feature quite high on the list. However, what this doesn’t tell you is how incredibly important these rough, muddy, rocky and steep roads are for the local people, and tourists as well.

During our trip in Nepal, we had the “pleasure” to drive not one but two of these infamous Himalayan roads in the Annapurna region. First from Besisahar to Koto and a few weeks later from Jomsom to Beni.

The road from Besisahar to Koto.
The road up the narrow valley to Koto.

Escaping the busy Kathmandu area traffic to the relative quiet of the outlying hills of the Annapurna region, Besisahar is the starting point for many trekkers hiking the famous Annapurna Circuit. The jeeps, buses, motorbikes, people and goatherds usually share only a single washed out track. The driving speed is seldom faster than 20-30 km/h, sometimes you’d actually be faster (and safer) walking than driving.

The narrow road often only has space for one vehicle.
A jeep crossing one of the bridges along the road.
Our jeep getting stuck crossing a river.

The annual Monsoon rains take a heavy toll on the road every year. Landslides are very common. During our drive, we had to bypass one landslide and change jeeps because of another. Until the landslide is cleared, which sometimes can take days, all cargo needs to be carried across the landslide and loaded up again on the other side to waiting trucks or jeeps. Helicopters are only used in emergencies and not to transport goods as they are too expensive.

Trucks waiting for goods on the other side of the landslide.

Before the road to Koto was built by the army, the only option of the locals living in the region was going on foot. This sometimes meant that it took them one week to get to the market to buy any goods or food they could not grow themselves at home. After the road was built, this time was reduced to only two days, and today it’s even possible to reach Kathmandu in one day by bus. So while these roads seem very dangerous at least in our Swiss eyes, they have changed the living conditions of the local people living on the foothills of the Himalayans tremendously.

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