Daman’s pride is the Everest View Tower and Lodge, an ugly cement structure built and run by the government.
The view is incredibly comprehensive: all the five Annapurna peaks, the impressive form of Himalchuli, Ganesh Himal, the rarely seen Shishapangma (Gosainthan) in Tibet, Langtang, the Jugal Himal, and the many peaks of Khumbu Himal, including an excellent view of Everest. The eastern Himalaya is partly obscured by a forested ridge, but climbing up past the schoolyard gives a completely unobstructed view. The pivoting telescope, if it’s working, is a marvelous idea that lets you zoom in on selected peaks.
The view tower is crowned by a glassed-in, circular room with four beds at Rs 50 each. The setting is unique, but flaws include outdoor toilets, cramped quarters, and shattered windowpanes which make it freezing in winter. The battered guestbook makes good reading-evidently the windows have been broken since 1984. There’s no electricity in the tower, but the moonlit mountain views are incredible, and turning the telescope upwards yields the advertised “Whole Mountains and Space View from Bed.” A few tea stalls near the view tower dish out daal bhaat and will put up travelers in a pinch. The small hilltop gompa about a half-hour walk up the road makes an interesting excursion.
Daman To Hetauda
Continuing south, the Rajpath crests at the pass of Sim Bhanjyang (2487 meters), three km past Daman, then rolls down the gently sloping Lami Danda all the way to Bhainse. The succession of altitudes is laid out as clearly as in a botany textbook, as pines give way to rhododendron forest, jungle, and terraced fields.
The industrial town of Hetauda (466 meters), about 50 km from the pass, is the usual overnight stop for cyclists from India. Motel Avocado, tel. (57) 20-429, set in a shady grove north of the bazaar, is a pleasant surprise in this nondescript town, with rooms for Rs. 250-550 and the only guacamole in Nepal. Travelers to Chitwan National Park should catch a bus to Narayanghat/Bharatpur and get off at Tadi Bazaar, a quick 60 km from Hetauda. The bus park is in the southwest corner of town.
Hetauda itself is a dull roadside town noted only for its location at a major highway intersection. Its main claim to fame is as the starting point for a cableway to haul goods over the mountains into Kathmandu (visible from the highway, and again in the Kathmandu Valley from the Ring Road, near Kirtipur). A ropeway has been in use since the 1920s; the current version was installed in 1958, and is still used to carry cement from the Hetauda factory.
Daman to Kathmandu
The tiny ridge top village of Daman, 75 km southwest of Kathmandu, offers some of the finest Himalayan views in Nepal. The route there, the Tribhuvan Rajpath, is the most exciting-indeed, hair-raising-of the country’s mountain roads. Before its completion in 1956, the Kathmandu Valley was isolated from India and the outside world. Teams of porters lugged supplies, dignitaries on palanquins, even automobiles over the rugged mountains. It took India more than three years to build the stretch from Bhainse to Kathmandu: drive down it and you’ll see why. Nepal’s Hills simply were not made for roads, and this particularly rugged stretch was an enormous challenge.
Today most vehicles on the Kathmandu-India route use the Butwal-Narayanghat-Mugling road, longer in distance but wider and less nerve-racking. This leaves the Tribhuvan Rajpath nearly empty, perfect for mountain bikers, motorcyclists, and private cars.
Daman is about a three-hour drive from Kathmandu, four or five hours by bus. You might pass through here en route to Birganj and India, or as an alternate route to Chitwan National Park-it’s only an hour longer than the usual road. Day-trippers to Daman risk missing mountain views lost in afternoon haze, but overnighters are virtually guaranteed clear morning views. There’s a limited selection of rough and soft lodging available.
Reaching Daman by bus is problematic as there’s only one Sajha bus a day each way between Kathmandu and Hetauda, departing at 7 a.m. Night buses are more common, but the thought of making those hairpin curves in the dark is terrifying. Mountain bikers proclaim this the best ride in Nepal. By cycle it’s a tough one-day haul from Kathmandu to Daman; the trip could be extended to Chitwan National Park or down into India. If you’re cycling up from India, the Tribhuvan Rajpath is undoubtedly the best way in, as the main Pokhara-Kathmandu road is too crowded to be fun, or even safe.
Hetauda To Birganj
The Rajpath ploughs south over the Churia Hills, the final range of foothills separating the Himalaya and the Terai. A few km past Amlekhganj is the entrance to Parsa Wildlife Reserve, an adjunct of Chitwan National Park providing extra territory for its wide-ranging tigers. Parsa is not equipped to deal with individual tourists, though you can enter on foot, with a guide, after paying an entry fee of Rs650.
The Indian border lies four km south of town, a half-hour ride in a cycle rickshaw (Rs40). Customs and immigration offices are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. The Indian town of Raxaul is just across the border; catch another rickshaw to get to the Raxaul bus station. From here it’s a five-hour bus ride to the Patna railway station.