Why did we go?
For once, my journal started before our trip, mainly because the overriding response from people when we tell them where we’re going is “why”? The answer is easy. Afghanistan has been top of our wish list for years but it was impossible to go while my partner was still working. Despite its Western reputation for being solely a war zone, Afghanistan has always been one of the most fascinating, seductive, beautiful countries in Central Asia. Its history is complex, enmeshed with our own. Its society is both feudal and sophisticated. Its people are renowned for both extreme hospitality and tribal feuding lasting for generations. Its stunning mountains are celebrated in a thousand years of poetry and its carpets are some of the best in the world, as are its archaeological sites.
I was determined that this would not be a trip of negatives but of exploration.
We did our homework over several months, speaking to many people who have been there, both recently and in calmer times, and eventually chose a company that had been running tours there for over 20 years and has important links with the Ministry of Tourism. Their Director, G, always accompanies the groups himself and after meeting him we trusted his judgement completely. All travel has its dangers and Afghanistan was just one level above what we’ve done many times before. Who knows what will happen during the London Olympics while we are away?
So, we were prepared and fully aware of the risks. We’d taken out specialist insurance and it was time for the big adventure now that we’d both retired.
Afghanistan 2012 Day 1: The flight to Kabul.
It was a slightly more interesting start to a holiday, as the Olympics began and bells rang out across the country for 3 minutes. We flew to Dubai and spent 20 minutes trying to locate the unsigned transfer bus to the next terminal before we met up with our group leader, G, and two fellow Brits (P and S) and an American (A).
At 3.30 am it was 38 degrees and stifling.