Hindustan Tibet Highway 22, India.
What’s in a name? Well most of us will know the name Road of Bones for Magadan in Russia, made famous for riders by the series Long Way Round over 10 years ago (Yes, it’s been that long!) but what about just a little number like 22?
National Highway 22 (NH 22) is a 459 km (285 mi) National Highway in Northern India that runs from Ambala through Chandigarh and Himachal Pradesh up to Khab on the Tibet border. It is also known as Hindustan Tibet road. It has been called one of the most dangerous roads in the world! I think looking at the bus going around there is not going to be much room for a BMW GS with metal panniers full of survival goodies. Unless one of those goodies is a bike parachute!
It’s not all death or glory and many of the sections are modern well presented roads. For the first 40km this is what you get eased into with the route coming out of Ambala. You’d be riding along in cruising bliss on a four lane section with several bridges and three major flyovers.
This can be another lure of easy going roads that takes you all the way to Kalka, looking at the map and reading the sites. It’s after this that it starts to get funky, as you enter the mountain road section. Cheeky hairpin bends and pants staining drops galore and you can understand how religion has a strong grip on the drivers. Driving around here I think I may be inclined to glue some idol on my bike, granted that mine is more likely to be some kind of lucky gnome than any kind of deity. The road is dangerous due it not being maintained and left in a dire condition. People risk it due to this being a lifeline for the locals – I would imagine a lot like ‘Death Road’ in Bolivia.
For Western folk, just getting here could run enough adrenaline through you to keep a small A&E (ER for USA readers) going for a week. Are you going to ride down through the middle east where certain media publications would have you believe that behind every corner is some fanatic looking to throw your ass in an orange jump suit and chop your head off with a rusty spoon for youtube gore monkeys.
There is danger out there but it has been blown out of all proportion with the propaganda fed on both sides – keep them ignorant and keep them afraid is the best way to control any populous. When I was a kid it was the Russian people that wanted to kill me, hated me and wanted me a slave to communism. Now it’s easy and fun to ride right through to Vladivostok. I’d say you’ve far more at risk of being killed by the conditions and driving skill of the locals than you have of being ‘pick your fear of choice’. I still chuckle when I watch Rambo II or is it III where Rambo hooks up with the noble Afghans against the nasty Russian helicopter pilot. I do wish we could all just get along and then I could ride my bike where ever I wanted to... like this awesome highway!
The highway comes right up to the border of Tibet and into Chinese territory (don’t get me started on that one!) where you can put that sticker on your pannier and soak in the cultural difference, the changing landscape and thank whoever or whatever you may believe in that you made it through Highway 22... Now ride it back because the Chinese border guard won’t let you in.