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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Welcome ladies and gentleman, to the return of prohibition.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Due to the Xmas season and the Muslim Eid holiday, my classes have been postponed for a week, the consolation prize is a preview into my last day of the Christian year 2006.

We started out early at 8am and after a gazillion pit stops for food, wheel chains and Indian music tapes (Yes cassettes are still the preferred driving music medium here) we got to Salang Mountain. On the way I kept asking my Afghan companions: “Is there lifts on the mountain? Can we hire ski gear there? Can we get a lodge for the night….?” There was no response.

After an hour of winding roads through blizzard proof villages, we came to the tunnel. We been through 10 other tunnels, but this one was 'the tunnel'. We disembarked and went to survey our slope. Over the edge was the legendary snow run that one of the Afghans had ripped up the year before.

Maybe last year it was a clear day with the sun shining down on the valley, but this year it was an abyss of white haze. With visibility at two metres and not even chairlift poles to navigate the way, we would surely get lost and dead by the end of the day. After many trilingual discussions, we decided to take the safer option and ski down the road we drove up! Trucks, pick ups, cars and donkeys ploughing through the blanc mist all inclusive.

We had scrounged some ancient equipment from our compound and it took us another hour to figure out the ski and boot combinations. Then with a push from our dedicated support team we took off on the 10 degree decline down the road. To start it was more cross country style skiing than down hill and when our arms could not push us no further we came to a halt.

This lull in our downhill deed brought us to the entrance to one of our beloved tunnels. Snow doesn’t fall inside tunnels. So how were these budding skiers going to pass through this Soviet built concrete passageway..? Call in the support van. “Just grab onto the back and we can tow you through!” The sound of grinding fibreglass on iced asphalt has such a nice ring to it, not to mention how good it is for the skis!

People driving by honked with glee or stared dumfounded with amazement. We made through the tunnel and picked up momentum for the steepest down hill of the day. It was so steep my snowboard shuttered with fear, or was that just the fibreglass on asphalt again. This was to be the golden run of the day. Not only because of the orgasmic velocity that we reached, but also from the amusement of having the Afghan police pull up beside us speeding skiers and say, what the f@#* are you doing? This is so dangerous! My fellow Afghan skier replied in Dari: “Hey don’t worry, if we kill ourselves, its our problem” The policemen was gob-smacked, he wound up his window and drove off.

Satisfied with conquering the mountain, we headed back to Kabul, ate our fill and warmed our frozen toes. After this well needed respite, we ventured out again in search of pre-007 entertainment. Now I’d like to remind anyone who may have forgotten where we are at this moment……Kabul, Afghanistan. I can only lay part of the blame on my “green behind the ears” hosts (they don’t get out much.) But the majority of blame has to go to the current Afghan government and the puppeteers who play them.

It took us 7 bars/restaurants to find a place that would accept me and my fellow Afghan New Year celebrators. Welcome ladies and gentleman to the return of prohibition. Six bars refused us entry because I were socialising with Afghans!!!!! In their own country, ruled but their “own people” Afghans are refused entry from alcoholic serving venues and are routinely asked to provide a passport. “If you are not a westerner, then please turn around and go back to your democracy.” If you are not from Afghanistan, then please come in, drink as much as you like and desecrate this holy soil.

When we finally found a venue that would accept us, it was a kaleidoscope construction of a Mexican restaurant, run by Russians, full of Afghans and playing Euro-Pop music. Perfect. We made ourselves at home, celebrated our night with food, drink, laughter and we danced the last moments of the year away to George Michaels hit “Got to have Faith”

Wait a sec, did I say we were in Afghanistan…….. I meant Kazakhstan……

So welcome to Kabul a city where you can easily miss the madness if you stay in the middle of the road. But if you do stray to the side, we can't guarantee where you will end up, what you’ll see and if you’ll come back.

Happy 007 to everyone, everywhere.
posted by Travis, 8:02 pm


My man Travellin' Trav, Happy 2007! Nice slopes in Afghanistan I see... A little retro-like conditions and gear, but the thrill is to ride right? Show them Afghans how Oz does it. Stay alert and stay safe mate.
commented by Blogger Ogami Litto, 12:02 am  
cool blog trav, only you could end up snowboarding through dry afghan tunnels! happy new year to you too ;-)
commented by Blogger angie, 7:58 am  
knowing someone out there is enjoying the snow while my body swelters in the Melbourne summer... well it comforts me. As for skiing on ashphelt... well thats what hire skis are for dood. But you can rest asure... I won't be lending you my gear in a hurry buddy. You look like your having a ball. Enjoy and play safe.
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