2nd trip: Nuristan

October 28: departure for Nuristan (press here for a short history of this closed province) with our hostess, G. (ill with pneumonia) and very many bottles with tea. We took the busy highway in the direction of the border with Pakistan along the River Kabul to the city of Djellalabad, where we lunched  in a tchaikhana. Beautiful views along the way, but also many vans lying upside down …. The climate here is different: many orange and other fruit trees in full bloom. After lunch we took a splendid route with many water falls to Chagha Sarai. We visited many shops looking for sheets and a blanket as our hostess had forgotten her sleeping bag. Dinner in the largest tchaikhana and before 20.00hrs in bed with a lot of DDT.

The next morning we crossed the heavily guarded bridge we could see from the hotel (passport control) and arrived after a really beautiful trip at Barikot where Nuristan begins.

Nouristan border

Barrier, many policemen, our permit to enter Nuristan was copied and we met an Afghan guide we had encountered before, who was surprised that we entered Nuristan alone (i.e. without guide) and gave us some useful information. But we were in the company of our hostess, which was not only pleasant but also practical, since  the Nuristani – although they speak their own language(s), also master the Pashtu language to a certain extent.  And then we embarked upon a really magnificent drive through Nuristan along the green river Kunar, forming the border with Pakistan. We saw the wooden sculptured tombs, the inhabitants with their flat woollen headgear, their wooden houses in villages which seemed glued against the mountains. The weather was gorgeous:  warm with a clear blue sky. There was snow on the peaks of the high Hindu Kush mountains and although there was often unrest at the border, we  now picknicked in complete tranquillity near the river. After a wonderful dinner (soup, spinach, white rice with chickenlegs, potatoes and tomatoes) we went to bed at 7 p.m. in the beautifully located Kamu Hotel.

October 30: we left at 8.00 hrs and after 20 minutes we left the car and the driver (who did not like to climb) and climbed for 2 hours before reaching Upper-Kamdesh, where we were supposed to have lunch. Everybody we met while climbing, with or without children, donkeys, goats or cows, greeted us warmly and shook hands with us. When we arrived at the village, small children ran towards us and offered us nuts! To our regret we could only offer them peppermints, which the eldest child immediately divided among the smaller ones who were patiently waiting in a sloping line … how touching! Followed by the children we walked across the village with its wooden houses with beautiful carvings; we saw 3 women coming back from the mountains with large baskets with wood on their backs.

Women colecting wood

But our host was absent. So no lunch, but actually we were only thirsty and luckily had brought our tea bottles. It was a pity, however, that we could not visit his house… We met him during our descent and he apologised profusely that he had been detained. Later on we realised that S. and I  had just done what everybody had warned us against: just the two of us had walked downhill far in front of the others while encountering fierce-looking Nuristani men, mostly armed…. They were very friendly though and greeted us politely. It was a pity that we could not understand what they were saying, but we had not been afraid at all!  After having eaten something from the coolbox in the car we drove on to Lower Kamdesh, meanwhile helping a man with leg wounds with our medical supplies. He was so grateful that he invited us all for dinner at his house! We declined gracefully as we did not want to be a burden to him.

Small village

On October 31, still driving along the Kunar river, we arrived at lunchtime in Barg-E-Matal, just when the school ended and little girls (!) with wooden, carved stools on their head ran home, meanwhile staring with big eyes at us. A friendly woman invited us to visit her house, she and our hostess conversing as best they could. After again a picknick alongside the river we drove back to ”our” tchaikhana in Lower Kamdesh were we stayed the night.

November 1: back to Kabul. The long trip started out badly: flat tire (the 3rd one of the trip). Although repaired on the spot we decided to go to a garage in Chagha Sarai. Meanwhile we taught the cook in the not very clean (!) kitchen of a nice-looking tchaikhana how to make an omelette…. In Djellalabad 2 flat tires! All this caused so much delay that we only arrived at 10 p.m. in Kabul. As usual our host received us with the words: “the bathroom is waiting for you”, which sounded like music in our ears! But we had greatly enjoyed our visit to Nuristan with its beautiful landscape and friendly inhabitants. Little could we imagine that in the following years merciless wars would be waged here (first the Nuristani against the Russians, later on the Americans against the Taliban) ….