Up at 2am, a quick chai and then a taxi to Herat Airport for a 6am flight – Sounds easy? This became a traveling experience like no other.
The taxis dropped us off at the army checkpoint and then sped away. We stood in pitch darkness for nearly an hour, unable to progress into the airport perimeter because it wasn’t yet open for passengers. When I unthinkingly switched on my small head torch to get something out of my bag, I was yelled at to switch it off because it was a “problem”. Too bloody right it was. We were huddled, exposed on the Herat / Kandahar Highway, hoping that it was far too early for some moron to take pot shots at us as they passed by.
Eventually men with wheelbarrows arrived to load our luggage and take us through the checkpoint to an office area 20 yards away, made from shipping containers . We waited another 45 minutes as both the dawn and other passengers arrived. We then needed another set of wheelbarrow porters because the first lot couldn’t get their barrows through the narrow gap to get to the check-in (a ploy to get double the tips). We then had all of our luggage hand searched because the x-ray machine was not working – despite its green “on” light.
We carried our own bags to a truck and had them taken to the plane, while we walked to the “International Terminal” built, as cheaply as possible, by the Italians. There we sat until we were called forward for our hand luggage check, then escorted to the one and only departure lounge and told to separate into male and female sections.
Despite the slowness of the procedure, our flight was only 30 minutes late taking off. We flew over the magnificent mountain range in 1 hour – it took us 5 days by road – and arrived back at our Kabul hotel to find it totally deserted. We waited, alone, in the foyer for ages until staff turned up with keys to slightly better refurbished rooms (we’re repeat customers now!).
We’ve returned to a slightly more dangerous Kabul, so it wasn’t sensible to walk aimlessly, even in pairs. G spent his time trying to organise a trip to the Guldara stupa tomorrow. We’re told we’ll need armed guards to travel south of the city and will cost $100 each.
We took dinner at the same family restaurant we ate in last time, sitting in the same booth, surrounded by middle class families. We were joined by a small tabby cat that took an immediate liking to G and sat on his lap to have a fuss made of her. Manti and chips all round