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Karakoram Highway to Chilas


The Karakoram Highway to Chilas was the next part of my journey. It became later and later in the year. There was little chance I would be able to cross the Khunjarab pass as I had done a year earlier in a different part of the year.

The bazaars in PakistanI was now in Mansehra ready for the next leg of my journey: the Karakoram Highway to Chilas . When I cycled into Mansehra, I passed the famous Asoka Stones.

Emperor Asoka carved his fourteen rock-edicts at Shahbaz, Garha and Mansehra in the the second century BC. I found a small hotel in the middle of this little town.

But first I had to go back to Islamabad to pick up my Iranian visa. I got an alarming email that I had to be back in Holland about two months later. In the morning I took a bus and went back to Islamabad.

I left my bicycle in the hotel in Mansehra. I had to stay another night in Islamabad but the next day I was back in Mansehra, tired but ready to continue.

Actually at this stage on the Karakoram Highway to Chilas, the town of Mansehra wasn't too bad. Like many of these little towns it was a sort of one big bazaar.

Many mountain people come here to do some shopping and selling. although the town hasn't much to offer, it still has a good feel.

The plan was now to cycle in three days to Chilas. I didn't expect many difficulties. After all, after Besham Qila I would follow the Indus for awhile. That couldn't be too difficult.

I left Mansehra early in the morning after preparing my breakfast in the hotel room. Yes, I used my stove in the room too, after all, it was cold and I wanted to have some coffee. And it was still Ramadan.

Karakoram Highway PakistanBut it wasn't an easy day that would follow. In fact, after some kilometers the road started swindling up all the way to over 1600 meters. Climbing was not the only problem I had to face. Children regularly were throwing stones to me.

A man was even slamming an iron poke on my shoulder for no reason at all. Later I heard more cyclist suffer from this behavior.

And the parents are only laughing, they think it's funny. Later Pakistanis explained this behavior: "These people are not educated". It was the only area in Pakistan were I found that behavior.

The hotel in Daidai very basic, more like  the bus stop hotels in China. In another part of the year I may have camped out but half way December I found it too cold for camping. At night the temperature dropped down to below zero.

I left the cold hotel but I found myself struggling too much. The road now followed the Indus on my right hand. In Patan I decided to stay. The town didn't seem to be much but the hotel looked new and comfortable. The Karakoram Highway had been slowly ascending, never very high but it seemed never to stop.

Mountains all around you, north PakistanThis part of the Karakoram Highway to Chilas, Kohistan, was the only part in Pakistan I didn't like. But the road continued.

I was tired so I decided to stay Dasu, just the next stop before I would take the big jump to Chilas. I started to get physical problems. My legs felt like wax and the cold didn't make it easier.

Especially when I had climbed for awhile and then went down it was freezing, the northern wind made me feel like being covered in ice.

Dasu was another small town at the banks of the smaller getting Indus river. But what a scenery I had some of the times! And the high mountains came closer.

I decided to try to cycle to Chilas the next day. I had no idea if this was possible, but it didn't seem there were villages in between where I could stay and in this part of year I didn't like the idea of camping.

Dasu - Chilas

So I left Dasu and followed the canyon for awhile. The Karakoram Highway was now no more then a gravel road with potholes. After Dasu the road went north following the canyon. When I cycled in the sun it was nice but in the shadow it cooled off too much. Those first 45 kilometers were fine, it was reasonably flat.

Then the road went east, the landscape changed and I came out of the canyon. The mountains were hanging a bit further away and I got magnificent views over the eastern lands. This was the first time I got a glimpse of Nagar Parbat, one of the highest peaks in the world.

A day rest in Chilas, Karakoram Highway to Chilas north Pakistan
A day rest in Chilas, I needed it!

I didn't cycle fast. It would be hard to get in Chilas before dark. And cycling on this road would be dangerous. There wasn't much traffic but the trucks passing me would not be able to see me after dark and there would be little light though the moon would give some light. In other words: it would be dangerous on this part of the Karakoram Highway to Chilas.

The land widens and I saw the Indus back, but far away. There were villages on the other bank of the river. I became quickly dark now. I realized I had to cycle for at least an hour in the darkness. It was also new moon, so that didn't help me.

Surrounding of Chilas
Surrounding of Chilas

Though I had a light on my bicycle, the trucks passing me all had big lights one and blinded me. Usually trucks only had one light on which made it difficult to find out where the truck really was. I couldn't see more then just the light so I had to get off my bike.

petroglyphs near Chilas in PakistanIt took one and a half hour to reach safely Chilas. The Karakoram Highway to Chilas was no more then a gravel road at this point. I wondered what it would become further on. After all, I was only half way!

Although Chilas is nothing much there are several hotels and guest houses. I found a nice and cheap one, had some dinner and went to bed, too tired after that day.

The Petroglyphs

One of the must see things in north Pakistan are the petroglyphs near Chilas. There are various carvings in the rocks to be found.

They are dated around 800 AD. Some are big, others much smaller. Some rocks are darker then others, supposedly the darker the rocks are, the older the drawings.

The petroglyphs are easy to find in the area. Ask in your hotel for the direction. It's an easy walk.

It was really time to stay a day in Chilas. After all, why hurry? And the petroglyphs were also intriguing. I had seen them before but then I couldn't make any photo since my camera was broken.

So I spend that day walking around in the mountains and the Indus river which was nearby. Gilgit would be the next stop for some extra rest and Gilgit was two more days cycling.

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Karakoram Highway

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