The first day you meet, you are friends. The next day you meet, you are brothers. (Afghan proverb).
I’m sitting here at Kabul Airport, and trying to collect some thoughts. It’s about two hours before the departure of my flight (the flight it 1hr late), there is nothing else to do here. So, here we are.
Today is my last day in this country. I had a great time here. There is nothing like seeing the country with your own eyes. There is nothing like saying hello to locals. I had a truly amazing time.
This morning we decided to clime one of the mountains. There are a lot of mountains or very large hills around Kabul and we went for a walk.
The friend who suggested that we do that, had done it before and he described it as a “light walk”, that was “fairly safe”, and that it only took 40min of light walking. So off we went. Up the hill. Up the stairs. And up the hill again. And then more. And then more. Here is a young boy going to school with a dog. I think it was about 7am. It was a very fresh morning.
I didn’t think we would make it to the top of the mountain, but we persevered. The views were breathtaking. Hey, maybe that’s why we were all out of breath.
There is an ancient wall that goes along the ridge of the ranges, an old fort, an old wall. Apparently it was build in the 600s (or 1600s? need to confirm that). Just when we reached that wall, we noticed a group of AF soldiers following our steps behind us. I think they would be about 500m away.
I don’t know what they wanted, but they kept on showing something at us. We kind of thought that it would be better to somehow to avoid them and we pushed on. At the top of the mountain we met a bunch of US muscle guys with a lot of large guns. Apparently they were from local embassies and just want for a “walk”, same as us. After taking some pictures with them, they quietly warned us “Hey, you be careful there. They’re talking about a lot of kidnappings”. And off they went. It was interesting to see a very polite greetings exchange when they walked pass those AF soldiers that we were trying to get away from. We pushed on, making some lead time before the AF soldiers would catch up with us.
We walked along the wall on the ridge of the mountain and now we started to walk down. I have to say, it’s much easier to go down than climbing up. Now, the soldiers just got to the top, when we were about 100m down the mountain and they started to shout. “Hey, you” etc etc. What do you do? We decided to ignore them and continue on on our way. Apparently, as my friend said, they won’t shoot unprovoked. I hoped we didn’t provoke them by ignoring them!
Very often, soldiers or police (all heavily armed) would try to stop our car at a road block, but more often than not, we’d just ignore them and keep on driving. Amazing really. There was once, when one of those soldiers wanted to stop our car by pointing his gun at us. But hey, after saying “Salam Aleikum” we were able to drive by, also, without stopping.
Walking down the mountain we encountered a group of army people, now, of a different type. They were marking an area that had land mines.
They used rocks that were painted two colors – white, pointing to the safe side and red pointing to the mined site. See some photos below. It wouldn’t be the most pleasant job to do by any means.
Then we we met a bunch of kids, from a hut nearby. They chatted for a while with Phil. I have no idea what these people do for food. How does their mother feed her 5 little kids? The hut is so high up, to walk “down the shops” would really be walking “Down” to the shops. And then up. Just imagine (for those who are in WA), to live at the very top of Bluff Knoll. I don’t know. They must have it really tough.
Kabul mountain kids.
And after I gave them some money they went back to their mother back at the house.
So, the walk down the mountain was very enjoyable, to say the least. We were very sore, but now, we had a chance to walk though the “real Kabul” – all those little mud huts, donkeys and lots and lots of kids. As we walk down, everyone is smiling. It’s amazing how much Afghanis smile at you. It’s amazing to exchange “Salam Aleikum” with a total stranger, shake hands and just wish each other good luck. Afghanistan is a nation of smiling people.
Donkeys are the only reliable transport that the tradies use here in the hills.
Bricks, concrete… there is a donkey for everything!
At the bottom of the mountain I bought a kite (!) and we then caught a taxi home.
My bags were already packed and here we are, sitting in the waiting hall, ready for boarding my flight to Dubai, together with Kam Air.
The process of getting through the passport control and security checks deserves another blog post. But big thanks to Phil to was able to walk me through the most checks and convince most guards to leave the contents of my bag alone. Thanks brother.
This concludes my journey to Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan. This trip gave me a lot of food for thought. Let’s see where this experience takes me in the future.