Afghanistan, Kandahar to Kabul

We left Spin Boldak heading for Afghanistan's second largest city Kandahar. The country was deserted, dry and rugged but the road was in reasonable condition and we made good time arriving mid afternoon. This was not an overnight stop for us, we were heading for Kabul some 490kms further on. Everyone had a tea break while the cooks found some fresh bread then we set off for Kabul. a 6-7 hour drive. With luck we would arrive around 11pm at the Mustaffa Hotel just near the entrance to Chicken Street. The road was in good condition and we were able to travel at our top speed of about 80kms per hour. By 7pm we had covered 240kms and it was fast getting dark. This road is a toll road, not in the way we would expect, no toll booths or automatic collection machines. The only sign that you are approaching a toll point is a thin chain or barrier across the road. You are expected to pull up, go over to a small mud hut and pay the toll through a very small window, then a man will stroll over and lift the barrier for you. During daylight this is easy but at night things are different.

Camels in Southern Afghanistan

For a start there is no electricity in this part of the world, so no lights. As you approach the barrier it is in total darkness, so just spotting it is more luck than judgement. Then you have to find the hut (which is not as easy as you might think). Inside the hut they only have a candle burning and this you can only see through a window barely big enough to get your hand through.

A truck being driven by two Frenchmen failed to see the barrier one night and hit it at full speed. Unfortunately for them the barrier man was standing nearby and the barrier hit him and killed him. I visited the driver in Kabul prison once and the conditions were sub human, he was paying dearly for that lapse in concentration.

We had the music up loud and everyone was having a great time, the cooks prepared sandwiches on the move and a couple of bottles of red wine did the rounds. Driving long hours at night is never easy, but if you have to, its better to have everyone awake and active than sitting there with heads bobbing about like balloons on a stick. The joke of the night was everyone complaining about how tired they were and saying "I must hava hotel", our nights stop was to be The Mustaffa Hotel.

We approached the top of a rise and there it was, Kabul laid out below us in a thousand little lights. I will never forget that moment when I first saw Kabul, it was magical. After 7 hours driving through the desert (most of it in darkness) this view said "welcome home". My next thought was "how the hell am I going to find the Mustaffa Hotel amongst all those lights". I must hand it to Fred who had only been there once and had not approached the city from this side. He did well, we got lost but not for long, the Mustaffa Hotel appeared as if by magic. The city looked like any from the top of the pass, but once we arrived it was different. Most of the building were made of mud brick, the roads were in poor condition and the vehicles were of an earlier era. The city was alive, people everywhere but it had the feeling of a place that has suffered a major catastrophy.

Kabul at Night

It was late and after unloading all the luggage we cleared the roof, as we would have to park in the street overnight and Kabul is not the safest place in the world. By the time we got inside there were plates of chips and omlettes all round. A young Afghan "Abraham" was having a great time going round chatting up the girls, he turned out to be the manager. He spoke reasonable English but it had a liberal sprinkling of four letter words which rolled off his tongue with not a care in the world. Nothing was too much trouble he could fix anything, but nothing much happened, he told you what you wanted to hear. ( Abraham turned up at an overland party in England a couple of years later on the arm of an Australian girl. As soon as he set eyes on me he came out with the loudest " Fucking Derek how the Fuck are you", typical Abraham. He went to Australia with his girl where I heard he died in a traffic accident, drunk by all accounts).

The hotel was good with hot showers, great food and an interesting mix of travellers with lots of stories. During the night I heard quite a bit of gunfire, but not having been here before I asumed it was normal. About 5am Fred woke me to the news that there had been a coup d'etat over night and the King had been deposed and the government taken over by Lieutenant General Mohammad Daoud Khan. There were lots of troops about in the morning but life seemed little changed.

Kabul

We decided to spend the day around town and get the feel of this "after Coup" life before heading further north. The thing that strikes you about Kabul is how poor and primitive it is. I saw things that were new to me. Getting a puncture fixed was something else. There was a garage (well lets be generous, it was a yard full of scrap vehicles) where they stripped the tyre, found the leak and proceeded to fix it. Normally this would require using a vulcanising maching to melt the patch and weld it to the tube, Kabul has no such machine and a even if it had, the electricity is so unreliable that they wouldn't be able to use it. They do have a system which consists of a patch mounted on a shallow metal tin filled with some explosive powder. Once the patch is held in place with a clamp, they strike a match and set off the charge, which burns like a firework. It only lasts a few seconds but in that time the tin gets hot and vulcanises the patch to the tube. All that 's left is to pump the tyre up, they don't have a compressor. They are going to use a hand pump, how are they ever going to put 90PSI in to a tyre with a hand pump. They use two pumps, one compresses the air into the second pump and that compresses it even further, it takes 20 minutes but it works.

The trip continued Map of trip so far
An overland journey to India following the India overland trail through Belgium, Germany, Austria Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, & Nepal. Visting sites of Dubrovnic, Split, Kotor, Athens, Kerimoti, Istanbul, Galipolli, Troy, Delphi, Efes, Goreme, Nemrut, Tehran, Esphan, Persepolis, Shiraz, Kerman, Bam, Quetta, Kandahar, Kabul, Bamian Valley, Kyhber Pass, Indus river, Lahore, Punjab, Amritsar, Kashmir, Delhi, Agra, Taj Mahal, Vanaris, Patna, Raj Path, Kathmandu, Himalyas. All this undertaken in a 20 year old Asian Greyhound, Swagman Tours, LS Bristol bus. This Indiaoverland company was held together by Norm Harris an expatriate Aussie living in Windsor. With drivers like Bob Ashford, Geoff Lawrence, Clive Parker, Dave Watt, Ronnie Martin, John Witchard, Ken Mcdonald, Derek Amey & couriers Fred Fisher, Jos Livingstone, Peter Swift, Kieren Smith & mechanics Gordon Hammond, Graham Libby, Pomme John & Rastas just to name a few.