Moving on with Bucephalus Travel

After being left to our own devices for an afternoon while our tour leader went off to make last minute preparations, we have now got under way on our travels out into the Hindu Kush. This involved piling everything and everybody into a four wheel drive bus early in the morning to get over the Shibar Pass and into the Bamiyan Valley before evening brought out any unwanted attention.

Much of the road had recently undergone a considerable upgrade and we would have made it in plenty of time had we not encountered no less than four police roadblocks along the way. While not outright hostile they clearly had nothing better to do than to ask all sorts of nuisance questions and make us get out items of luggage for perfunctory searches. As we had a battered looking vehicle and were conservatively dressed it was obviously difficult for them to pigeon hole us and so they fell back on the old stand-by state of generalised disbelief. Not that they were unpleasant: when I got out of the bus rather too quickly to un-padlock my suitcase at the top of the pass and felt the inevitable altitude head-spin, the guy in charge was perfectly solicitous and insisted I splash my face with water before getting back into the bus. Later, at the last stop before entering Bamiyan, another guard insisted I get out of the bus but it turned out that he was only concerned that I get a proper photograph of the impressive overhanging ruins of the Mongol Fortress Shahr-e Zohak, instead of squinting through a narrow chink in the bus window. He had the most amazingly blue eyes, a rarity here but a characteristic of the ethnic mix at this, the crossroads of Asia. However, even I realised that to ask for his picture would be going a bit too far.

We are a lively mix of three men and four women on this trip; or perhaps I should say three women as one of our number has already succumbed to the altitude, heat, and dust and arrangements are being made for her to be transferred back to Kabul where she can decide whether to fly out to Herat to join us later in the tour. My room mate is a veteran of this type of travel who, it turns out, met up with Elisabeth in Iraq last year. Both nine points crazy and neither of us neat-freaks, we immediately bonded and sat up late on the first evening discussing men, the universe and everything amongst the chaos of our scattered luggage. Of course, if I awake suddenly to see her padding across the floor in her white nighty with her hair down after she has prepared for bed, she does bear an uncanny resemblance to something that crawled out of a television screen in that most terrifying Japanese horror film, the Ring. Oh well, onto every situation a little rain must fall.

Since first uploading this post I have been asked to remove all reference to the travel company and any pictures of the tour leader. It is not for me to point out how easily such references can be found elsewhere but rather to listen to the dictates of courtesy and re-edit all my posts and photo galleries in order to comply. Unfortunately, those tasks will take a little time, especially as I might as well edit out the rest of my travel companions at the same time rather than risk having any of them decide to jump on the proverbial. I can hardly pretend to have made the journey across this wild and remote country all alone and so I’m going to have to be accompanied by a number of shots of hands, feet, head-scarves, silhoettes and, of course, the ubiquitous extra-long camera lenses. I hope that my compositional skills are equal to the task. Bucephalus Travel (pseudonym) is one of the few remaining operations to provide accompanied tours in this part of Central Asia, where once scores of hippy buses plied the ancient pathways of the Silk Road on the route to Kathmandu.   

Categories: Central Asia

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