Murree to Balakot – Four Wheeling in the Himalaya

We started today with a good buffet breakfast at the Maisonette Firhill, our hotel in Murree. Then we all piled into the trusty Bunyaad Toyota Land Cruiser and headed off toward Jared.

The view from Maisonette Firhill in Murree. The snow capped Himalayan Mountains are in the distance.
The view from Maisonette Firhill in Murree. The snow capped Himalayan Mountains are in the distance.
Ehsan, the driver, and Doug, riding shotgun
Ehsan, the driver, and Doug, riding shotgun, are ready for a long drive in our trusty Land Cruiser.

We had some great views of the mountains as we headed toward the Neelum Valley and the road to Jared.

Looking back towards Murree, where we stayed the night.
Looking back towards Murree, where we stayed the night.
Brilliant snow capped mountains.
Brilliant snow capped mountains.
Rows of blue foothills leading up to the massive, snow capped Himalaya.
Rows of blue foothills leading up to the massive, snow capped Himalaya.

After about 1.5 hours of driving on very twisty roads we crossed the Neelum River to the east side, the Kashmir side, and started driving up the east side of the river. Soon we came to a frontier check post where the official looked into our vehicle. He assumed Doug Horst was a Pakistani due to his full beard, but when he looked at me, Doug Dirks, he saw a foreigner right away and demanded my passport. By that time we had to admit that Doug Horst was a foreigner too and we both had to go into the inspection booth.

Turns out that there is some tension between Pakistan and India over Kashmir territory that they both claim and foreigners can’t visit without a special permit. We did not have a special permit so we had to turn back. Rather than going all the way back to Murree we decided to drive up over the mountain and take another route through Abbotabad, Mansehra and Balakot.

We drove over small landslides, around bigger landslides, forded small streams, bounced over bumps, rocks and boulders, turned around a couple of times because really big landslides blocked the way and finally twisted and turned our way over the mountain and on the main road to Abbotabad. We gained and lost over 5,000 feet in elevation in the process and added about 4 hours to our journey—lots of fun actually.

tea and snack stall
Along the way we stopped at a tea and snack stall where we had some steaming chai, fresh roasted corn on the cob and aloo pakora (deep fried, batter dipped potato).
Apples are in season! So, let's load them up in the family sedan and take them to market.
Apples are in season! So, let’s load them up in the family sedan and take them to market.
Mountain view along the way to Balakot.
Mountain view along the way to Balakot.
Pine forest on the lower elevations.
Pine forest on the lower elevations. The lower branches are often stripped and used for animal fodder and firewood. This leaves the trees looking like Sneed from the Lorax, a Dr. Seuss book.

We drove through Mansehra and headed on towards Balakot. At Balakot we found the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation (PTDC) Hotel and decided to stay for the night. Tomorrow we will continue on towards Jared to visit the rug makers in training before heading back to Lahore.

Stay tuned for Doug’s next trip post

We hope you’ve been enjoying the notes, experiences and photos and have been able to follow our adventures on the Bunyaad blog so far. Here is a link to all of the posts: Read Pakistan Learning Tour


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