Sunday, August 1, 2010

Salam Afghanistan

Updating the blog on the way is a real challenge, even bigger than actually crossing borders. What’s more, my small laptop seems to have given up the ghost for good. So I hope you will excuse the short articles. The number of photos will depend on the ability of the Chinese authorities to actually block the net here in Kashgar (this is where I’m doing all the updates from the past month, we didn’t have any other internet access so far).

Following the border with Afghanistan for so many days, seeing the colourful tiny small villages bustling with activity on the other side of the Panj river, I felt I really wanted to travel to that other side.

The visa was easily obtained in Khorog. The lady at the consulate was really nice and even offered us tea while we were waiting. Crossing the border from Tajikistan at Ishkashim was just as easy : our panniers were vaguely searched and our passports quickly stamped by the friendly officials. A few hundred meters after the border, some bloke tried to get money from us by asking for a bicycle permit, which we knew wasn’t needed. Ricky got the brilliant idea to show him the visa receipt the embassy gave us. That worked.

The formalities to travel further on once in Afghanistan proved a bit more complicated. They included meeting a few local officials, getting a letter of invitation signed by the warlord of the area who happens to be the chief of the army and probably the leader of the opium trade in the region, and paying 50$ per person to a go-between for the permit.

All this left plenty of time to wander around the small town of Ishkashim, which was a very interesting experience.
Paradoxically, the bazar has more supplies than that of the neighbouring tajik Ishkashim : honey from Iran, biscuits and sodas from Pakistan, fruits from the valley, colourful fabrics and clothes....

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