I’ve been wanting to bag this amazing road through the Pangi valley in Himachal since 2007. Starting from Tandi, the road follows the Chandrabhaga (Chenab) river till the town of Kilar, from where one road continues to Kishtwar, and the other makes a spectacular ascent to Sach Pass before descending to Chamba. Year after year, I was thwarted by collapsed roads and the weather, but in October 2012 when the roaring nullahs had become fordable streams I completed this ride.
The many years of planning added a lot of options to this ride with forays into the Miyar Nala valley, the high meadows of Sural Bhatori ringed by snow peaks and the odd excursion up a dirt trail to find the perfect hidden camping spot to peg our tents and set up the barbecue. It’s best to ride this road with a support crew for there are no hotels or dhabas.
From Tandi to Udaipur, the Chandrabhaga cuts a wide swathe providing rich agricultural land on its banks. From Udaipur onwards where Pangi actually begins, for 100km the road clings to the side of a vertiginous gorge. At Kilar, the road to Sach Pass crosses 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-and scree-strewn landscape thrusting skywards.
For a motorcycling adventure this road has few parallels. The views are fantastic but the road is tough and it usually takes eight hours to ride it. After Udaipur, there are virtually no dhabas and no petrol pumps till you’re deep into Chamba. Ill-prepared motorcycles will break down and so will their riders, but for those who finish this ride, the experience will be a soul satisfying one.
Day 1: Manali to Tandi
Ride up to the Rohtang Pass from the Kullu valley. After crossing the Pir Panjal range make your way down the Chandra river valley to Tandi where the Bhaga river joins the Chandra to give rise to the Chandrabhaga.
Day 2: Tandi to Urgos
Ride along the Chandrabhaga to the town of Udaipur before heading up the subsidiary Miyar nala valley to the village of Urgos.
Day 3: Urgos to Raoli
Ride back down to Udaipur and continue on to the village of Raoli.
Day 4: Raoli to Sural Bhatori
From Raoli it’s a gradual ascent to the meadows of Sural Bhatori for the day’s campsite.
Day 5: Sural Bhatori to Satrundi
The toughest day. The trail rises steeply to the crest of the Pir Panjal Range to the Sach Pass. From here descend to Satrundi for the day’s campsite.
Day 6: Satrundi to Dalhousie
Follow the subsidiary valleys of the Ravi river to reach Dalhousie.
Day 7: Dalhousie to Dharamshala
How to do it
This is an entirely self-sufficient expedition. There are few places to stay on the route, apart from Manali and Dalhousie. Finding accommodation in places like Tandi depends entirely on the season. So it’s best to carry camping equipment and provisions. There are no mechanics on the road so carry your own repair kit and know how to use it.
The route is not long but the challenging terrain makes it a tough one. There’s no tarmac between Udaipur and Satrundi and on this stretch expect to ride on rocks, mud, sand, gravel and water. The road to Sach Pass is steep, and given the geology and altitude, it’s in a constant state of repair. The weather’s changeable so keep enough days in hand.