The Karakoram Highway via Murree
My choice was to cycle the Karakoram Highway via Murree. That road looked more interesting to me then the main road. And I thought I main be able to sneak into Pakistan Kashmir (how innocent can one be?!).
Murree is a nice little old former British hill station like many in India. The British used it as an escape from the summer heat.
The present population of Rawalpindi and Islamabad does the same these days. But it was going to the end of the year and even in Rawalpindi or in short Pindi, it was already cool. I had to hurry up if I didn't want to be caught in the cold and the snow.
In the first kilometers after leaving Islamabad the road was flat and uninteresting but I could cycle quick.
After about 35 kilometers the climb started. In the beginning there was hardly anything interesting to see but the closer I came to Murree, the nicer it became.
From the many hotels open in the summer in Murree, there were only a few left now. Only a few shops were still open and even food was hard to get.
I had not expected the cold I was facing here, there was even snow on the roads. But I could have known, at an altitude of just over 2000 meter in December I should have known better. The next day I went north.
The idea was simple, I had traveled the KKH before but I knew there was a road from Muzzaffarabad to Manserah. Or at least, that is what my map suggested.
Muzzaffarabad is the capital of Pakistan Kashmir and I knew this was a no travel zone, permits are needed which I didn't have. However, I could try my luck.
I wasn't lucky. After 42 kilometers going down there were roadblocks. I tried my best to talk me through but the policemen were nice and unmovable.
I had to cycle back, again up to over 2000 meters. And it had been such a nice descending! One of the soldiers told me I better take a bus and helped me finding one. He was even helping me getting my bicycle on a bus. Bad luck.
Back in Murree I was still early, I decided to continue to Manserah, but then the normal way. Since I was at an altitude of just over 2000 meter I expected a road going down.
How wrong could I be! It was one long climb to Nattia Gallee, a little village well known by the Pakistanis as a summer resort but in winter used for skiing.
There wasn't enough snow now and the village was still almost abandoned. Snow was expected in a few weeks from the day I arrived. There was a little hotel open and I found a little restaurant with some basic food.
After a warm basic meal I found the temperature outside around zero degrees. In the room it was no warmer then 7 degrees! But there were good blankets and I was warm that night.
The next morning I got what I had expected a day earlier: a long and easy descending to Abbottabad. It started with some snow on the road but since I went all the way down, the snow disappeared and the temperature went quickly up to 20 degrees.
I was quick and decided it would be good to continue a bit further. After all, I had time enough for the day and Abbottabad was not far. Since it went so easy and Abbottabad didn't really look interesting I decided to continue another 40 kilometers or so to Manserah.
This part of the Karakoram Highway I had once done by bus and I remembered it was all more or less flat. Wrong!
After Abbottabad the road swindles up to over 800 meters and then went down to Manserah.
I had now left the Punjab and was back in the mountains and ready for the next leg of my journey north. And Christmas was coming. I wanted to reach the Karakoram Highway via Murree, and I had succeed although not exactly how I had it originally in mind.
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It's a good stop right in the middle of the journey to Karimabad. Very scenic valley so it's a good day hiking.
This is why everybody wants to travel the KKH: Hunza valley. If paradise ever existed, it might very well have been here.
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