Monday, January 16, 2012

The Pangi Valley

This amazing road through the Pangi Valley in Himachal was one I wanted to bag since 2007. Year after year, I was thwarted by bad roads and the weather, but in October 2010 when the roaring nullahs had become fordable streams I completed this recce in a Mahindra Thar. Starting from Tandi, the road follows the Chandra-Bhaga river till the town of Killar, from where one road continues to Doda and Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir, and the other takes a spectacular ascent to Sach Pass before descending to Chamba.

From Tandi to Udaipur, the Chandra-Bhaga cuts a wide swathe providing rich farming land on its banks. From Udaipur onwards where Pangi actually begins, for a 100 km the road clings to the side of a vertiginous gorge and the video clip is from this part of the road. At Killar, the road to Sach Pass crosses over the river and ascends rapidly, first through cool, dense forests of walnut, pine and Himalayan Birch or Bhojpatra before abruptly bursting out into a rock scree strewn landscape thrusting skywards.

For a motorcycling adventure this road has a few parallels. The views are fantastic but the road is tough and it will take eight hours to ride 100 km, there are virtually no dhabas on this road from Udaipur to Killar and no petrol pumps till you cross over Sach Pass deep into Chamba. Ill-prepared motorcycles will break down and so will their riders, but for those who finish this ride, the experience will resonate with a soul satisfying fullness for many years to come.