The Kabul Highway had been partially tarmaced but the weight of thousands of petrol tankers and massive container trucks has shredded the surface until little remains. G told us that the road was completed 2 years ago. It’s now wrecked. In places the surface has been bulldozed off and piled at the side of the road but there’s no sign of any repair work actually taking place.
We stopped at a chaikana for tea before passing through a large, industrial city that looked like it was from Dante’s Inferno. The air was heavily polluted and the river was chocked with rubbish. People walked around covered in fine white dust and it was impossible to even see what colour their hair was. Small children played on the side of the road while HGVs overtook and undertook each other at high speed. The wreckages of unsuccessful manoeuvres went on for miles.
The Salang Pass is a 1960’s Soviet built miracle. It’s a collection of concrete tunnels attached to sheer cliffs and it scares the life out of you. There’s also one 3 kilometre tunnel cut through the mountain and vehicles vied to push their way through the narrow track , creating massive traffic jams and fraught tempers (not a good thing here where so many are armed with semi-automatic weapons).
There was little ventilation in the unlit, pitch black, main tunnel and all we could see were the brightly lit brake lights and illuminated decorations on the numerous Pakistani trucks. It’s the place where the Mujahedeen massacred 1,000 people when they bombed and poured petrol into the tunnel in 1982 (The Soviets claim it was a traffic accident after a fuel tanker caught fire).
After 13 hours on the road we arrived in Kabul. This was probably the most dangerous road we’ve ever travelled (and we’ve done a few) and we were all exhausted.
The bad news is that the Director has called G to say that only the men are allowed to go to Mes Aynak. Allegedly there’s not enough room in the truck. Bummer.