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Right through a dangerous war zone

date of entry 08/10/2005
mileage 505,470

capital Kabul

area 652.864 km²

population 29.800.000

GDP 15,61 Bill. US-Dollar

In 2005, when the Holtorfs crossed Tajikistan on their way to Pakistan, things were relatively quiet. But many people thought they were crazy. They crossed the country without any major difficulties, visiting a German army camp in Kunduz and the capital, Kabul. Here, they camped in the city’s only beer garden. A few days later they crossed the legendary Khyber pass, used mainly by supply trucks, on the way to Pakistan.
  • Most were as overloaded as extravagantly as they were decorated
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  • In 2005 the Holtorfs left Tadjikistan and used a pontoon to cross the Amu Daya, the river forming the border. The route was uneventful despite unrest in the country. At the time, this was the only way of getting into the country from the northeast.
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  • On the banks of the river, Otto was greeted by billboards
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  • There are checkpoints all over the country. Here, Otto is on the road from Kabul to Jalalabad. There were no problems. The people at the checkpoints were always very friendly.
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  • The Holtorfs often saw reminders of past and present conflict beside the road. In this case, the remains of a Soviet tank in the north of the country.
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  • Camels are still used as transport, but mostly away from the roads.
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  • Otto often had to dodge herds of sheep being driven across the roads, even here on the main road from Kunduz.
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  • The couple then went from Masari Sherif across the north of the country towards Kabul. On the way they passed Bamyan, whose huge statues of Buddha earned it world heritage status. Sadly, these were blown up by the Taliban.
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  • One of the country’s few fertile areas, irrigated by a river. This field is being used to cultivate grain, but many farmers grow opium poppies.
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  • Large parts of Afghanistan consist of inaccessible mountains with few roads.
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  • There are four main overland routes to Kabul from various directions. Otto reached the capital from the west.
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  • The international airport had been the scene of many battles over the last few decades. In 2005, the situation was somewhat quieter.
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  • But armoured vehicles belonging to the International Security Assistance Force, in this case an Italian tank, were ubiquitous in the streets, and all the soldiers wore bullet-proof vests. There were still fatal attacks during Otto’s visit to Kabul.
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  • This is a city of contrasts: modern gated villas...
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  • ... and dusty markets where you can buy almost anything. The biggest of these is held in a dried-up riverbed that runs through the city. Gunther wandered around taking pictures, while Christine kept an eye on Otto.
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  • Moneychangers do the job of banks.
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  • There are colourful fabrics in abundance.
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  • There is a wide range of vegetables on offer, but these are simply too expensive for many inhabitants of the city.
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  • Herbs and spices are sold from sacks.
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  • Bread is displayed on tables beneath sunshades.
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  • Meat, stored in open containers, includes the occasional boiled sheep’s head.
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  • Many roads are unsurfaced and mainly used by heavy trucks. This one leads from Jalalabad across the Khyber pass to Pakistan. The only cars apart from Otto were taxis, whose passengers had to transfer to Pakistani vehicles when they crossed the border.
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  • Otto left Kabul, heading east: The Holtorfs crossed the Khyber pass, from where many of the country’s supplies come, and continued to Pakistan.
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  • All the Pakistani trucks they saw on the pass were very colourful, despite the dusty road.
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  • Video: Afghanistan: a beer garden in the desert