i just got back from a recce trip to afghanistan with lupine travel. thanks for making this happen… it’s been a long time coming.
this trip was more about the overall travel experience than specific sights, so i will focus more on pics rather than a lengthy write-up.
kabul was obviously the first stop. we had a quick change into “local clothes” to draw (slightly) less attention to ourselves and then we were out on the town.
bagh-e babur gardens was next stop and then on to a few markets.
there were more women on the streets than we expected but we were not allowed to take pics.
to be honest, life seemed fairly normal on the surface even though the spectre of the women’s rights hung over everything.
we became regulars at barg restaurant. great food and a welcoming atmosphere at a classic ex-pat destination
playing music out loud has been banned, but it was good to see bowling alleys have not closed yet. the amusement and zoo are also still open.
buddhas of bamiyan
the buddhas of bamiyan have been at the top of my travel list for decades.
sculpted out of the side of a cliff in the 6th century, they’ve survived multiple attacks over the centuries (including attempts by babur and genghis khan).
they became further etched into history when they were finally destroyed by the taliban in early 2001.
their obliteration has taken on a whole new significance and their empty shells now symbolise how much wasteful destruction has taken place here over the years.
band-e amir national park
a short drive from bamiyan is the band-e amir national park.
it took us 2 attempts to get in.
the first attempt failed because we were with women who were not allowed.
the second time was more successful.
it really is a unique place. one of the nicest lakes i’ve ever seen.
it has the feel of an old fashioned holiday park including rides, a market, waterfalls, swimming and of course the legendary swan paddleboats.
this was our paddleswan.
i have named him chuckles.
taliban presence was in every city, road and village, but in general there was little interaction with them.
the area around bamiyan offers so much. as an alternative to visiting the lakes on the first attempt, we had a pic-a-nic bar-b-q lunch in a field.
it was a nice and relaxing way to spend the afternoon and allowed us a slight glimpse into life around a smaller village.
also around bamiyan were shahr-e gholghola (the wonderfully named city of screams) and shahr-e-zahak (the red city).
herat had quite a lot of great sights but the highlight for me was visiting a tile factory where they hand made tiles for the mosque.
it was my first time seeing mosque restoration first hand. quite an exquisite process.
other sights included the herat citadel, the minarets of herat and the shrine of gohar shad begum.
bamiyan to mazar-e sharif
wow. what a classic travel day.
originally estimated to be a 12 hour drive, it got updated to 15 hours when we found out that the tunnel between the 2 cities was under construction.
and as always…
travel estimates are never accurate.
we left unpromptly at 05:00 in the morning (e.g. 05:30) and made decent progress until around 10-ish.
in reality, this should of taken 18 hours along a relentless and aggressively bumpy road…
but after being stopped behind a broken down truck, this estimate was quickly forgotten.
we waited for about an hour until we found out that they’ve been trying to fix the truck since 3 am.
so we turned around to head through kabul instead.
of course, 30 minutes of driving later we found out that they’ve finally fixed the truck.
turned around again and finally arrived in mazar shortly after 3am. visibly shaken and a shell of our former selves.
after a quick sleep we groggily wandered out around mazar-e sharif.
it was interesting to see the world food program trucks since we didn’t realise they were in the country.
and all good trips require mandatory stops for ice cream.
take note of this pic with covered faces. this was common around the country – most noticeable in barber shops which often had the faces on the signs spray painted.
safety wise we had no issues. the war is over and people are tired of fighting. we took slightly more precautions then usual but the country was more chilled and welcoming than expected. hopefully the situation for visitors will continue to improve over time.
i had to cut my journey short due to another overlapping trip. we ended at the blue mosque before i headed to the airport.
thanks if you made it this far. i really enjoyed this afghanistan travel blog. feel free to check out my other travel entries if you have time.