Afghanistan – Pakistan

Thursday 23rd July

Hit the Afghanistan border town about 8:15 in the morning. It took us 6 hours to get through both customs! This included a ¼ hour drive through nomansland between the two borders. We learned that a man got stuck here a few months ago, for the Afghanis let him out but the Iranians wouldn’t let him in as he didn’t have a cholera certificate. He drove up and down between the two borders for a couple of days (the Afghanis wouldn’t let him back) until in desperation he tried to crash the border and was shot. We were beginning to despair of getting through the Afghani red tape until it transpired that one of the customs officers had a friend who wanted a lift to Herat. When we offered one we were cleared in 5 minutes!

Drove straight to Herat and booked into a hotel recommended by a friend where you could sleep on the floor for 1/- a night. We took to Afghanistan like ducks to water. The people were very friendly, food was cheap and hash, although illegal, could be bought at any shop. We went window shopping in the evening, mostly looking at fur coats, which seemed to be $6-10 depending on size and complexity, which is pretty good considering that for the more expensive ones the decoration is done by one bloke with one needle and takes him about three weeks to do a single coat.

The tea here is superb – 2 1/2 d buys a pot of nice green tea with enough for 4-5 small cups.

Friday 24th July

Decided to spend another day in Herat, and spent it being shown round by two Afghanis we’d met the previous night. The town has a fabulous mosque, with detailed tiling on the outside, and also one or two ruined mosques and tombs. I found some root-beer tablets on one stall – exactly the same as I used to buy in Washington DC 15 years earlier. The American influence is pervasive!

Saturday 25th July

Changed some money at the bank after a wait of an hour or so, and then drove to Kandahar, arriving just after dark. Found a hotel that would let us sleep on the veranda for 1/- and ate out in the town on “pilau”, which is the main Afghani dish – a heap of rice and a small side dish of meat.

Sunday 26th July

Drove to Kabul, picking up a female French hitchhiker and after calling at the Post Office went straight out to the reservoir, about 10 Ks out of town, where there was a sort of campsite, free. The water was dirty and smelt, but we had a swim anyway, and then drove in to the Khyber Restaurant, which specialised in western food, although the prices were high.

Monday 27th July

Looked round Kabul, and also went to the VW agent to have a few things done up on the ramp. Very good service, and only 10/- for 1 ½ hours work, which is pretty good. Tried the local milkshakes. These are 10d each for ½ pint, fresh mango, banana, peach, apple or chocolate.


Delicious. I had five in one morning! We also changed some money on the black market. They give around 30 Indian rupees to the pound instead of the official rate of 18, so I changed £20. We later (too late) discovered that the rupees were cheap only at the expense of poor emigrating Indians. They are not allowed to take money out of India, so they smuggle out cash only to be royally fleeced by the money-changers whom they have no choice but to use.

Went back to the reservoir and cooked our own meal with an American we had met at the VW garage. He had crashed into a border barrier in the dark and couldn’t open his doors. He had a Combi like ours and had been climbing in and out of the windows for several days, which is no mean feat!

Tuesday 28th July

Did a bit more window shopping, and a bit more to the van, and then, after collecting our Pakistan Road permit which we’d left the day before, we set off for the Pakistan border. We hit the border just after it closed, so after a quick meal in the local eating place (charpoys in the open air, pilau 10d to be eaten with fingers) we kipped down in the car park. Didn’t get much sleep as there were a lot of mosquitoes around and the ground was very hard.

Wednesday 29th July

Much to our surprise we went straight through the border (entering driving on the right and exiting driving on the left) and were clear by about 8:00, so we had a quick cup of tea and then headed for the Khyber Pass. This is a really fantastic place, heavily fortified, with a superb view and a large fortress at the top. One could almost feel the atmosphere of an invading army as one climbed up and met dugout after dugout.

We drove right through Pakistan, which had a very odd countryside, being made up of familiar sceneries put together in an unusual way (the only description I can give). The dress of the people is very much like the Afghanis, but they seem a bit poorer and a bit more careless in their appearance. And of course at monsoon time the countryside is much greener than Afghanistan.

Soon after dark we got within 2 miles of the Indian border, where we were stopped. We also managed to pick up a puncture. We were at Ferozepore, and the border was closed, so we pulled into a little tea shack for a cup or two, stood us by an English-speaking Pakistani, and with his help rented charpoys at a 1/- a time and kipped down by the roadside. We later found out it is illegal to camp, or even leave the road, within 10 miles of the border. Things are still rather unsettled there.




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