In the afternoon I managed to crossed the border after a bit of a wait and being asked to slip the guard behind the desk a cheeky 20 soms, as I crossed over there was definitely a moment in which I had both regretted and revelled in what I had just done. The place was a ghost town and the people out in the street hanging around with ak47s which I could only assume were security guards (for what I was unsure of) just stared. As I made my way through the town, I came across a man who worked in a bread shop, he called me over and in broken english and hand signals told me in what direction to go to Kunduz and also felt the need to tell me it was DANGEROUS, I know this because I made sure I had committed a few key words to memory, dangerous being one of them. As I left him I wondered on down the road with people from the roadside stalls staring at me. Just before I was about to cross the road to go pick some water up a motor caid of about 5 humvies containing afghan soldiers came screaming around the corner out of a walled complex,  having nothing to do with me they stopped and soldiers on the turreted gun above the armoured vehicle started ordering food and drink, suddenly a man inside one declared his interest in me and waved me over, both his wrists covered in gold jewellery and a gold watch, his hair immaculately combed and eyebrows perfectly shaped. He was in full military uniform and seemed to be in charge. After they realised I didn’t speak a word of Pashto or Dari they requested to see my passport to which I obliged and they seemed to be ok with everything. There was a bit of deliberation, but the overall consensus was that I could leave and so they waved me off. After that I thought to my self that if every encounter was as straightforward as that I would be fine. But as I made it down the road another group of soldiers stopped me and tried to make sure I knew that it was DANGEROUS, as I assured them all I could do, nervously laugh and carried on walking. I sensed a pattern emerging. Afghanistan
Later that evening I walked through a busy town of farmers who seemed to be packing up for the evening and taking their tools home. As I reached what I thought was the end of the town I came across a military checkpoint guarded by 6 officer of the ANCOP (imagine police, but militarised), who I would become to know very well during my travels in Afghanistan. They waved at me to come over and I tried my best to explain,  whilst they looked at me with complete contempt. They asked if I was from Pakistan and I replied with India, suddenly jovial smiles all around crept over their faces, suddenly I was their friend, they ran to get one man who spoke punjabi in the village and I had a conversation with him in the best punjabi I could muster. I explained what I was doing and they were, in an instant, my friends, more than that, suddenly they’re were brothers, “Afghanistan, India friends! Brothers!” one of them shouted smiling. “Pakistan, terrorists, Taliban”. Another shouted as the groups gave sounds of agreement whilst nodding. As I explained I was going to try to camp,  they assured me it would be DANGEROUS at night (again glad I memorised that word) and if I wanted I could stay within the compound. The compound was complied of enormous sand bags, each around 2 meters in diameter and 2 meters in height. These were stacked on top of each other two sandbags high to form a ring with one entrance around a single building. On top of these walls of sand bags were turret guns. As they ushered me into the building surrounded by armed men and armoured vehicles I couldn’t help but feel very out of my depth, I had definitely pushed out of my comfort zone and suddenly thought to myself I suppose that’s what travelling was supposed to do. That evening they practised their English with me and they took me on a guided tour of how many tv channels they had, trying to get me to tell them what language each station was. The majority they knew but the ones they didn’t were Russian and English, which I found strange. I couldn’t help but think that this would not be the normal reaction I would get from the ANCOP, because although these boys were lovely to me, hospitable and generous, they were boys, they didn’t seem like soldiers. This seemed like something they shouldn’t have been doing, letting someone in their complex and having food with them. As grateful as I was I decided to turn in as I was shattered and they assured me that I could take any of the bunks in the room next door that I wanted, feeling bad at taking their bed for the night I asked if I could sleep outside, they agreed to let me but first led me to the top of the sand bag wall next to a turret, to a space wide enough to place my sleeping bag, “here, safe, good”, to which I got ready for bed and led down, after which i texted a friend telling them I was currently: camped on top of a military checkpoint in Afghanistan, next to an armed guard in a turret. I had to share that experience. In the morning I asked for a picture with the group but as I suspected they couldn’t let me take pictures in or out of the complex. So disappointed I couldn’t get, what would have been the most epic camping shot on Borderwalk, I left to carry on walking. Not before one of the guards cut down a sizable length of wood and whittled it down for me to use as a cane,  they said it would help with dog,  as I later found out was true.

About theborderwalk

Journey on foot from the UK to Australia. www.ArjunBhogal.co.uk

One comment

  1. Anda

    Wow. It’s fantastic to read this. I amazed and hope you are well. Bless you. x

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