The Arniko Highway is one of the most dangerous roads in the world. It provides Nepal’s overland link with Tibet and China. "One mistake, game over".
The road, part of the AH42, is asphalted, and connects Kathmandu to Nepal's border with China. It’s particularly vulnerable to landslides and sections are likely to be closed temporarily during the monsoon months (May to August). These parts are now gravel sections. The road is also known as Araniko highway. This road is of crucial importance to Nepal as it carries a very large amount of goods from China. It is considered one of the most dangerous highways in the country due its steep slopes. Heavy rains have caused multiple landslides on the road in recent years. The road has a long history of being blocked by landslides, particularly during the monsoon.
The road is 144 km (89 mi) long. It’s also known as Arniko Rajmarg. Every year, thousands of trucks drive on this road to transport goods between both countries. Many of the places in the area involves renting a solid 4WD or walking part of the way. It is among the most dangerous of highways in Nepal due to extremely steep slopes on each side of the road from Barabise onwards, massive landslides and bus plunges are not uncommon especially after rains. It’s more a narrow strip of tarmac or beaten earth snaking its way for 115km between ravines and peaks. It would be deadly were it not for the extraordinary dexterity of the bus and lorry drivers who negotiate its bends, working some sort of permanent miracle. The view is breathtaking, if you dare take your eyes off the road.
The road is located northeast of the Kathmandu Valley and attracts some mountain bikers, though bus and truck traffic can be heavy. It follows the extremely steep Himalayan mountainsides that are very prone to landslides during and immediately after rains (including monsoon). The highway is named after Arniko, a 13th-century Nepalese architect who introduced Nepalese architectural styles to Tibet and China.
The road is winding, in some places only wide enough for one vehicle, and in many places bordered by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. Leaving the Kathmandu Valley through a gap at its eastern edge, this is the Nepal’s only road to the Tibet border. Constructed by the Chinese in the mid-1960s – to long-standing rival India’s great distress – the highway is a busy conduit for lorry-loads of Chinese goods by way of Lhasa.
Pic: Mahmud Al-Noor Tareq