NH 22: One of the deadliest roads in the world

NH 22 ” reads a road sign standing aloof on the edge of a bumpy road.
I roll down the car window and inhale the crisp, chilly mountain air. Breathe deeply and look down. It’s a sheer drop of hundreds of feet. The River Satluj flows peacefully cutting through the deep gorge.

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Deep Gorges

There are no railings. The roads get narrower and the bends get sharper and at most places unpredictable.

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An adventure of sorts

As the car turns sharply on the curves, I notice the chiseled mountains with rocks protruding from the right, hanging precariously.

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This journey is certainly not for the faint hearted.
But Pawan is unperturbed.

He maneuvers the car skillfully while narrating anecdotes from his life on NH 22 and pieces of factual information that he gives out at every bend on the road.

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The NH 22
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Yes, that is a road.

The NH22 is one of the deadliest roads in the world ( and rightly so).

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We pass through a half tunnel on the Rampur – Taranda stretch and my heart skips a beat.

This road is nothing short of an architectural marvel, crafted till perfection by hundreds of construction workers who have toiled night and day to ensure people can ferry to and fro.

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Precarious looking rocks

Most of my Kinnaur trip was on the NH 22 and traveling on it is nothing short of a pure adrenaline rush. Helene explains it perfectly in her post on Kinnaur roads, when her husband drove and she navigated.

 

[Tweet theme=”basic-white”]The NH 22 is all about hairpin bends, single roads, landslide prone areas , rock cut mountains and steep gorges.[/Tweet]

 

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You will find traffic jams of a different kind or will spot pretty Kinnauri women , constructing roads, fully decked up. ( we are going to break stones and we will do it in style!)

 

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Traffic jam of a different kind

You will witness the respect and understanding among the folks of the hills, as they let each other pass in patience and co-operate with each other on the narrow , mostly single road.

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Narrow bends

You will see the waters of Satluj and Baspa meet at their confluence at Karcham.

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The confluence of the Baspa and Satluj rivers

 

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River Baspa

And you will find astoundingly clean public loos ( trust me, I am not lying!)
The NH 22 also known as the Hindustan – Tibet road starts at Ambala and goes all the way to Khab village near the Indo-Tibet Border.

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Driving on the NH 22 is extremely challenging

The highway was our constant companion throughout the trip and I shared an unspoken bond with it.
Of wonder:

When I saw the imperfectly yet perfectly perched rocks on the mountain.

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Of fear:

When I stood on the edge and looked down at a truck fallen in the gorge.

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Of faith:

When Pawan, Sunny and Lucky ( our three musketeers) who drove the cars , prayed to Taranda Maa for protection. Goddess Taranda Devi is believed to be the protector of all the people traveling on this road. She’s the deity that every driver will bow down to when he’s traveling on this stretch.

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Taranda Mata temple

Of awe:

When I saw how tiny a car appeared on a road far away on the hill. Showing how insignificant we are in this awe-inspiring landscape.

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Spot the car!

Of uncertainty:

When we lost our way on the old Indo – Tibet road and the road became narrower and it was difficult to hold on our nerves. It was adventure yes. But the road was practically leading nowhere and for one minute when the car was reversed, I actually felt we might be hanging off the cliff. ( no I wasn’t heroic enough to imagine it then).

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Of appreciation:

When you travel with people like Pawan who drive on the edge of the cliffs daily, yet adore their job. They teach you to value the present and be grateful for ‘now’ because forget tomorrow, even the next moment is a question mark.

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Of disappointment:

When I saw the numerous hydro electric plants on the Satluj and the Baspa rivers, promising mankind development but at the cost of natural sustainability. The blasting of mountains have caused the area to be extremely landslide prone and it is disheartening to see a gorgeous natural stretch reduced to a construction site rubble.
Of all the lessons I learnt traveling on this road the biggest one is on belief.

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When you entrust your safety in someone’s hands and they don’t let you down. In my case it was Pawan.

His confidence was infectious. It was not the reckless kind of confidence. It’s was the “I-know-what-I-am-doing” kind of confidence. And that very confidence put us all to ease.
His love for these roads reeks in his conversations and his passion for the mountains twinkles in his eyes. He knows every bend, every curve on these roads. But it felt the other way round. The roads knew him well too: Every bend, every curve.

That is the sort of camaraderie he has with this road.

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Sharp bends and dangerous curves

And as we traverse back and forth on the NH 22, I find it slowly warming up to me.

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The mountains are still raw, rugged and craggy. The roads still seem treacherous. The rocks still hang precariously.

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But it isn’t scary. The prayer flags on the army bridges are fluttering. The one liners behind the trucks are entertaining. And the are mountains are looming over me: protecting.

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The NH 22 enroute Chitkul

Note:

The route followed on NH 22 was Chandigarh- Fagu-Rampur- Sangla- Chitkul – Sangla- Kalpa.

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The most photographed stretch is the half tunnel on the Rampur- Taranda road.

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A big shout out and a heartfelt thank you to Pawan, Sunny and Lucky for being part of our NH 22 adventure and ferrying us to and fro, so effortlessly yet responsibly.

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The three musketeers: L to R Lucky, Sunny and Pawan

 

Watch a snippet of the journey here:

53 thoughts on “ NH 22: One of the deadliest roads in the world

  1. But it is so beautiful. I always enjoy riding here. But truly as you said, the hunger for power and henceforth bigger and bigger power projects, wider roads- all have created a havoc here.

  2. Oh God! That looks dangerous! For how many hours did the treacherous part long? I would want to do this one day too! I liked the way you put the song from Bollywood film ‘Highway’ in the video, loved the cycle shot!

    1. You must do it soon and let me know when you plan to do it:) after Rampur when you pass the Kinnaur dwar, that’s when the real adventure begins and it lasts all the while you are in Kinnaur.
      Glad you liked the video!

  3. Reading through, could feel the sense of overwhelm you must’ve felt on the road. Can relate to what you said about trust. I was in awe of the bus driver who drove us on the Leg Manali road. Couldn’t stop wondering how fake the corproate stress is. Driving through these roads is the real deal, isn’t it? Waiting for more of your road stories!

  4. Oh my! You reminded me of those scary road trips that I’ve taken. These mountains always make me realize how small we are in this world. People should always be grounded & humble for their existence. 🙂

    How did you manage to click that half tunnel on the Rampur – Taranda stretch photo? Did you get down off your vehicle?

    1. So well said. They really give us lessons on humility:)

      We stopped out vehicle at the half tunnel. That’s when I clicked the three innovas. All the other shots are clicked from the moving car:)

    1. You must do a road trip on this Indrani 🙂 Totally worth it. No, stopping for pictures is rare, we stopped only at the half tunnel (just for 5 mins). Most of the pics taken from the moving car:)

  5. Aww, great photo story Divsi. How ironic it is now that the road is not half as dangerous as it used to be not too long ago. The first time I was there on the NH-22 near Peo I actually didn’t think I would survive. And going there in the winter was a pure adrenaline rush! Thank you for this post, rekindles so many memories. And reminds me I should do justice to this region too by making small posts 🙂

    My favourite : His love for these roads reeks in his conversations and his passion for the mountains twinkles in his eyes. He knows every bend, every curve on these roads. But it felt the other way round. The roads knew him well too: Every bend, every curve.

    1. Thanks much Shubham! So happy you liked it!
      You have traveled on this stretch soo many times, I am sure this is routine for you 😀 hehe
      I can’t imagine how it would be a couple of years ago. You must do smaller posts on Kinnaur. I loved your comprehensive guide 🙂

      Thanks for reading and appreciating 🙂

    1. Thanks for reading Elita. A few years ago, at the confluence you could actually see a clear demarcation between Baspa and Satluj. Sadly , not any more.

  6. Salute! This was absolutely mind-blowing Divya! Honestly you realize your insignificance in this kind of a larger than life picture! You’ve taken some awe-inspiring clicks! My heart was pounding going through the post, so I can imagine what a rush it must have been for you. Hats off to the navigating team, you have to literally put your life in their hands!

    1. Thanks so much Kala <3 So glad you liked it! It is a gorgeous road journey and the pictures really don't do justice. The navigating team did a brilliant job and deserve all the applause!

  7. Although these roads look very scary and deadly, we would like to take a trip through them as it is so inviting to go there and see and feel the thrill!

  8. Breathtaking pictures, Divyakshi! I’ve heard a lot about NH22 and have seen many videos of this route on Discovery. And this route is indeed one of the toughest or say deadliest roads in the world. A big salute to you for covering this place and sharing this wonderful photo story with us! Must say, you’ve beautifully captured the massive mountains and narrow roads esp. when the margin of error was very less. Kudos! 🙂

  9. This was such a thrilling read… I have lost faith in some of my beliefs coz been scolded for my sustainable views of Govt. to not dam our rivers… my beleif was so strong that I felt it was worth fighting for… was called impractical and immature, I have cut off my link with this person and glad about it(: … and cheers and applause to Pawan… those awe inspiring scenes in your photographs are breath taking. Fear is always there,… not long back I was edge… I had to do something because it was right thing to do even though I would be in a uncomfortable position(: … I like it you recognized the labour put on by those forks on making roads on mountains… just very nice to read this(: … travelling gives you faith and confidence… thankyou so much for giving me faith that my sustainable views are not impractical(: … awesome… both the mountain road views and these sustainable views you showed that gave me reaffirmation on my sustainable views… thankyou…

  10. Divsi.. This is breathtaking 🙂
    I respect you comrade for taking these adventurous life that you have.
    And I really want to visit. So that we blend in with nature. Its locations like these that opens us and brings us more close to the Creator 🙂

  11. Oh My God! I am scared already. But it also looks so beautiful. All I could think of while reading this post is how do people take this way for biking trips and how are they not scared???

  12. That is one awesome post!! Reminds of our Spiti Valley Trip, we did it in April 2016. It was ma real challenge for us to manage our 11 months old baby while sustaining a good drive on one of the deadliest roads!!

  13. Indeed scary, but boy, the adrenaline! Being Himachali, I find this aspect of it quite mesmerizing – it’s beautiful and brutal at the same time. Btw, we recently drove on Mount Washington Auto Road, it’s not scary but super windy. He drove with expertise and I chanted – Jai Mata Di, Jai Mata Di… non-stop. 😀

  14. Wow! Those are quite some scary roads. Fantastic pics and each of them narrate a 100 different kinds of stories. I have always wanted to go to places like Himachal, Ladakh among others and need to bookmark this post for future use ;). I have heard of stories from my parents about roads to Badrinath, Kedarnath and all. But your pics surely bring the entire trip to life :D. I assuming this is surely one of the places in the Ice Road Truckers series right? 😉

  15. I have read about this road on the internet…I would be worried to traverse it often knowing how well we maintain them. And the corruption part is another matter.

    Had it been in the west, they would have still given us that adrenaline rush while keeping the road safe and sound.

    Glad to read your experience though.

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