We were up at 4am to start our 428 kilometre drive back to Kabul. Our new driver was young, fast and a very aggressive driver.
Our first stop was Kholm (alt: Khulm, / Tashqurghan) to view the appalling remains of what was once the largest domed, ancient covered market in Asia, destroyed deliberately by the Soviets in 1986. It’s now a vacant shell of old mud walls, crumbling, revealing layers of pottery sherds incorporated into the walls to give extra strength. It’s so sad.
Next stop was Takht-e Rostam at Samagan for the stupa and Buddhist caves. The 4 caves are badly damaged but we could just make out the carved lotus flowers under centuries worth of soot on the domed ceilings.
The stupa is unique because it was carved out of the rock (similar to the Ethiopian Churches at Lalibela) and is set 28 metres below ground level.
The top of the hill gave fantastic views over the plain towards Samagan but we couldn’t visit because it was too dangerous. Two weeks ago a roadside bomb took out several tankers, a car and a local dignitary.