I have spent a last few days in the Neelum Valley. “Mess” is the word I will use if someone asks me to describe the latest road situation in a single word. As of now (May 2010) the 84 kilometers long road till Athmuqam is in the worst situation. Although you feel a lot of construction activity and heavy machinery on the road, the overall working pace doesn’t seem to be very fast. Places where road had been widened last year are still waiting for the next phase to get initiated. Comparing to last year, the only difference I felt this time was the presence of Chinese Engineers and workers. Unless you are in an air-conditioned vehicle where you do not have to open the car windows, the dust during hours long journey is going to certainly change your appearance once you get dropped. There is very little tangible progress on the patch till Ghori bridge which is nearly half way to Patika where the work seems to be in final stages. But based upon the overall road situation, it seems like it is going to take at least a couple of years before the work could get completed.
If you have to travel in to Neelum valley anyway and looking for better slots, try night travel or Friday. Friday is the best day to travel on this road as it is an off day for the workers. Else, try night traveling if you can manage it as the work usually stops before sunset. If you are traveling in daytime on a day other than Friday, chances are that you will be stopped every few kilometers for letting the heavy machinery work freely. The halt could be anything from five minutes to an hour. Once you cross Athmuqam, construction work on the major project stops but the road remains shaky and some construction work is continuing on a few patches. Till Athmuqam, the drive could take something between five to seven hours.