Many people have been asking about the itinerary for Kuch gali trek. I thought to write it down here…
Stage1: Leave from Islamabad for Mahundari via Balakot. If you leave in the evening then night has to be spent at Balakot. We have identified a nice potential camping site along the river kunhar around one kilometer before the Shell pump in the main bazaar. It used to take less to reach Mahundari before the earthquake. Now, with road in not-that-good-condition, it takes around a couple of hours from Balakot. If you leave early in the morning, there are some hotels at Mahundari where night can be spent.
Stage2: Local jeep can take you from Mahundari to Manoor village via Bela. For us it was a bad experience as we had to wait for five or six long hours till it got the right number of passengers (and it was no less than 25 I counted myself) and left at around 2 pm. The conclusion for us is that if jeep seems not to be going in a couple of hours, go for it by foot which should not take more than 3-4 hours. During the adventurous journey on the narrow track, all of sudden everybody became quiet and started reciting the kalima. It continued for a minute until a sharp corner was passed. We were later told that just a month ago a jeep fell from here causing death of 22 passengers. That information made us speechless for a moment. It made me realize the sufferings of ordinary people here who have to travel on this dangerous road everyday. With all the bumps and sharp corners, the journey continued until we reached Manoor village bazaar in around a couple of hours.
Stage3: From Manoor, take the rough road-cum-trek heading straight towards Manoor rest house. You might want to explore some short-cuts too. In all its not more than 45-60 mins gentle walk up to the forest rest house. This walk in the beautiful forest of Manoor is itself a nice treat. Manoor rest house belongs to the forest department and can be booked in advanced from Mansehra. In case that is a difficult thing to do, head straight for there and you will be provided with some room with charprais and even blankets depending upon the availability. In case of non-availability, you can camp at their lawn. The old chacha there can cook food for you and you can give him a nominal amount for the night stay and food.
Stage4: Start the trek next day and reach Aansoo lake via Manoor gali and Kuch Gali. You can camp near Kuch Gali or if time and remaining stamina permits, you can reach Saiful Mulook the same day and can camp there. Aansoo lake lies just below Kuch gali at an approximate height of 4000m from sea level. This trek is pretty tough as you gain some 2000+ meters approximately from rest house up to the Kuch Gali. It is not recommended to do the trek without a local guide if you are unaware of area’s geography. In routine season, a guide can be hired in 300-500 Rs per day (as of 2007). We went in Late October when nobody was really willing to go with us because of tough weather conditions near the top and we had to give three times more to the couple of guys we found from Manoor village. As it took some time for us to arrange a guide, we left late and were able to reach Kuch gali in around 6 hours where we decided to camp for the night. Its a further 3-4 hours walk up to the lake Saif-ul-Mulook.
Stage5: Reach Naran from Saiful Mulook which is another couple of hours descend by foot or a little less than an hour jeep drive and take public transport for your home.
Recommended time for doing the trek is from June – Septemember. Weather becomes pretty hard after mid October specially around the night. We kept fighting the cold inside our sleeping bags for almost the whole night at Kuch gali top for the night where it was below freezing point outside.