A perilous ride to a remote journey

"Five of us packed into a car, allured by the promise of traversing one of India's most breathtaking and most dangerous roads" - in winter.

Five of us packed into a car, allured by the promise of traversing one of India's most breathtaking - and most dangerous - roads.

The Pangi via Kishtwar road passes through two remote districts, Jammu and Kashmir, and connects the mythical valley of Pangi - hidden between the Pir Panjal range and the Zanskar range of the Western Himalayas - to the outside world when the regular route (via Saach Pass) is blocked due to snowfall.

In November, the weather is normally volatile. Snowfall can leave the Pangi valley in complete isolation for months.

Yet, we were determined to make the trek. From one of India's premier six-lane highways in the sprawling, northern commercial city of Chandigarh, the roads narrowed and we eventually began our two-day ascent along the former mule track.

Now barely a one-lane dirt road, the route had been dynamited into the mountainside only a few years earlier.

Local lore has it that the people of Chamba, fleeing Mughal invaders, settled the hidden Pangi valley.

Noble families would send their women and children to Pangi to live in peace and secrecy.

When the valley later came under the rule of the Kingdom of Chamba in the 16th Century, officials posted here were given funeral allowance, since they were expected to never return home.

According to another legend, the King of Chamba sent criminals to the valley to serve life sentences.

The Pangi via Kishtwar road cuts rights through mountain ledges, and for the most part, is only wide enough for one car at a time. Somehow though, brave bus and truck drivers ply the route too.

If two cars meet each other going opposite directions, one driver has to carefully drive in reverse for potentially hundreds of metres until a suitable passing spot is reached.

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