Thursday, November 30, 2023

The fabled Khyber Go from Kabul to Pakistan – Rick Steves’ Journey Weblog

With the autumn of Afghanistan, I’ve been reflecting on my journey experiences there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “Hippie Path” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and immediately, it’s a poor but formidable land that international powers misunderstand and demand on underestimating. 

On this remaining journal entry from 1978, stow away with me as I journey from Kabul over the fabled Khyber Go to Pakistan.  

Friday, August 4, 1978: Kabul to Rawalpindi, Pakistan 

This was the morning I used to be psyched for. I don’t assume I may have woken up feeling unhealthy and I didn’t. Each Gene and I felt good. We had a final huge Sina Lodge breakfast and caught our little 8:30 bus to Pakistan. 

This bus was the best way I needed to do Khyber Go. I had dreamed of crossing this romantically wild and traditionally harmful move for years and it was very excessive on my life’s guidelines of issues to do — within the prime 5 for positive. Now I used to be sitting on this kinky outdated brightly, however badly painted, bus subsequent to a beautiful open window that permit me lean half of my physique out if I needed to. Our seats had been huge and excessive but crowded and the bus was stuffed with Pakistanis and “Highway to India” vacationers. 

I used to be glad to get out of Kabul and nearly instantly we had been in a scenic mountain move. From right here to the border, whereas nothing by Pacific Northwest requirements, was the closest factor to lush that we’ve seen in Afghanistan. We even handed a lake, however I noticed no boats. I questioned what number of, or how few, Afghans had ever been in a ship. 

Stopping in Jalalabad for a hurried lunch break, we had been again on the highway in 20 minutes. We had been nearing the border and apprehension grew. We hoped it wouldn’t be an excessive amount of of a problem however by now nothing stunned us. 

The Afghanistan border station, whereas time consuming, was simple. We simply sat round consuming a melon and wishing we had cash for a Coke. Truly, we had deliberate our money reserves very properly and had been leaving with no afghanis. We waited our flip to be searched, stuffed out the shape, acquired our passports stamped — the standard course of, and loaded again on solely to cease 100 yards later for our introduction to Pakistan. 

This place was fairly unruly. We piled right into a room and one after the other we had been known as as much as the desk. The customs official “hunt and pecked” our important statistics into his register and stamped our passports. 

Passports in hand, we knew we had been simply midway via the method, however we weren’t positive the place to go subsequent. We wandered into one ramshackle constructing, and in a darkish room, two males jumped up from two cots and welcomed us to put down. No thanks! We acquired out of there and had been overrun by dope sellers and black-market cash chargers. The whole lot was so open and blatant that it nearly appeared authorized. We purchased $10 price or Pakistan rupees after which tried to get our luggage searched so we’d be accomplished. Pissed off within the chaos, we simply acquired on the bus and skipped the bags examine. At our window we had been entertained by numerous hash sellers and a very persistent man with a small bottle of cocaine — 4 grams for $30. I took his image and instructed him to get misplaced. 

Lastly we had been loaded and able to do it — to cross the Khyber Go. I used to be thrilled. Bodily, it was identical to another rocky mountain move, however whenever you’ve questioned, dreamed, and thought of one thing for a few years, it turns into particular. Up and up the bus climbed. Hanging out the window, I attempted to soak up the whole lot — each wild flip within the highway, each fortress-crowned hill, each stray goat, each gaily painted truck that handed us, and each mud hut. I regarded on the rugged individuals who inhabited this treacherous move and questioned who they had been, how they lived, what tales may they inform. Dry, rocky graveyards with wind-tattered flags littered the hillsides. Clouds threatened. We had been transferring out of the arid Arab facet of South Asia and into the moist Indian subcontinent. To any extent further we might really feel muggy — however benefit from the inexperienced countryside. 

We crossed the Khyber Go and handed via a tribal village to pay a toll for the privilege. I may see the boys round with rifles ignoring the bus and gathered in circles buying and selling each items and tales. 

In a couple of minutes we had been in Peshawar and located {that a} direct prepare to Lahore was leaving in an hour. We noticed nothing to maintain us in Peshawar and the magnetism of India was getting stronger and stronger as we acquired nearer and nearer. We hassled round making an attempt to determine how, what, and the place to purchase our tickets. This was a brand new expertise — studying methods to deal with the Pakistani prepare system. A little bit bewildered and unsure what was our greatest transfer, we purchased $3.50 ticket (top quality) for the 12-hour journey, wolfed down a fast 60 cents dinner, and located a spot on the not-so-classy first-class automotive. 

The one distinction between first and second class was padded seats and $1.50. We figured for 12 hours it could be good to have the pads. Our automotive was very crowded. I used to be pleased to be close to a window that blew in scorching, muggy air. We pulled out at 5:50, nearly on time, and I savored the breeze.  

The countryside was flat, lush, and attention-grabbing. After some time, I started studying Orwell’s Animal Farm. It was good and the time handed properly. Then it acquired darkish, and the bugs got here. The lights labored like on my outdated bike — the sooner you go, the brighter they shine. This was not a really vibrant prepare. The bugs acquired on me so to talk and I made a bloody declaration “Demise by ruthless squashing to any bug that lands on me any more”. I made a decision that I’d simply mash them with my thumb or fingers and roll them via my arm and leg hairs till they disappeared — both rubbing in or falling off. 

The journey dragged on. We determined to interrupt up the journey to Lahore at Rawalpindi, the midway spot, catch an early prepare within the morning to finish the journey. 

It was practically midnight as we stepped into the muddy puddled streets of Rawalpindi. There was a 5:15 prepare to Lahore within the morning so we may catch a great 4 hours of sleep — if we may catch a resort. It regarded very unhealthy — each one was full and different folks searching for a spot had been additionally annoyed. Fortunately, I discovered a man with a single open and a bathe subsequent door (Gene didn’t inform me in regards to the lizards till later). In any other case, it was a gap barely price the10 rupees ($1) we paid. But it surely did serve its objective. I took a cooling bathe and located a snug spot among the many bumps and curves of my cot and shortly I had labored myself to sleep. Right now was a great day — numerous miles lined, a brand new nation and I had crossed the Khyber Go. 

(That is journal entry #5 of a five-part collection. In case you missed any alongside the best way, scroll again to Tuesday, Aug. 17 on my Fb web page.) 

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