The next morning I woke and called the commanders son who could speak English, he agreed to meet me and help me arrange transport back to before Baghlan. I met with him outside the hotel and he seemed to know everyone. We decided to take a walk to the edge of town to go get a car. During our walk the conversation eventually turned to the Taliban, and I recited a story that I had heard that a couple of weeks ago the head of the Taliban in that region had been shot dead by the afghan military. He scoffed at the idea and said that it would make no difference, “someone will just take his place, there is always someone to take their place”, it led him to tell me his story which would be similar to the hotel managers. He told me he worked with the German troops as a translator many years ago and that about a month ago he was approach by someone who said they were from the Taliban, they told him they knew what he had done and they wanted all the money he made through his work with the German’s, if not they would kill him. He said since then he has been at home not going out at night and trying to start to process to seek asylum in Europe. I asked him why he had not asked Germany, he said he had, but they refused his application. We made it close to the outskirts and he told me that he could not be seen in this part of town, so we would have to get an auto rickshaw, to which I agreed. We made it to a car he bargained a price for me and we said our goodbyes before he promised to add me on Facebook.
That day it was a strange day, I walked through Baghlan and managed to make great distance clocking nearly 35-40km. feet aching but hadn’t been stopped once by soldiers at checkpoints all day, I thought it strange but thought don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Later that night I went to camp off the road as the sun set and decided to call home and let them know how it was going, the conversation ran until it was dark. As I was on the phone a red pickup truck had stopped at the edge of the field but had not turned off its headlights, as I tried to think nothing of it and carry on my conversation, out of the glare from the headlights I could make out a silhouette getting out of the car and making it’s way closer to me. I told my dad that I had to go because I saw people and I didn’t want them to hear me. As soon as I hung up the phone, 7 men dressed in non military clothing came running at me with AK47s from all angles, all pointed at me shouting in Dari which I later found out would mean “hands in the air”, it’s a good thing that’s my natural reaction when people point guns at me. With guns drawn and in broken english I managed to understand that they wanted me to get down on the grown, I did as they said and at gun point they quickly flicked through my things, because of the poor light they decided to take me back to the roadside, which would be a difficult task, as they were adament on keeping their weapons drawn on me, I felt like one of those mastermind criminals that everyone was afraid of, if only they knew the truth, I’m actually just an idiot walking through. Once we got there they made me sit on the curb where there was light and searched through my things, still not letting their guns drop as I sit there. One of them spoke English but didn’t properly understand the reason for me being there and also didn’t tell me who they were. As they hurriedly repacked my stuff, they told me to get into the pickup truck and we all packed in for a long drive. On the way there in their conversation heard the word taliban a few times and eventually the man who spoke a bit of English told me they were the military, my joy was extremely visible on my face as the whole time I thought I been taken. They drove me to a compound and ushered me into a room full of older gentlemen, none of which spoke English, I rang the commanders son from the previous night and he explained everything for me. There were laughs and smiles and even one of them men in the office added me on Facebook. They then took me to a sort of men’s refuge place and told me they were going to hold my passport and that they would pick me up in the morning to fill out the paperwork and then take me where I wanted to go, which a assumed would be back to where they picked me up. But also whilst I was there not to answer the door to anyone else. In fact they padlocked me in with water and food.
In the morning at 8.15am the policeman from the previous night came to meet me and we walked through the bazaar rammed with people screaming and singing, trying their hardest to sell their goods to anyone who dared to come close enough to their screams or make eye contact. Through the bazaar we came to a corner, once round the corner, any notion of a bazaar had dissipated by the military guards standing guard at the entrance to a large military complex. Not only did they have automatic weapons and armor on but they were also joined buy humvies with turret guns on top and next to them, if that wasn’t already enough, a cannon. I was escorted to the entrance and told to wait outside. As I waited for 30 minutes. I saw many people come in and out. They were all older men wearing suits coming and going, but lingering a while to look at me. Every now and again they would stop and ask the guards where I was from. They would say India and suddenly I would be inundated with handshakes along with the phrase I had heard so often during my visit, “Afghanistan, India, friends!”. Finally the man came out with his answer. He told me he had been ordered to take me to Kabul by car to stay however long I needed and then was to arrange a car from Kabul to the border but under no circumstances walk there. After a quick phone call from my friend in Kunduz who was acting as my translator, I found that the military were telling him that apparently the Taliban were aware of a British national walking around and that for my own safety I was to travel by car and if I refused, I was to be deported. I couldn’t help but feel the Taliban element of the story was slightly fabricated to convince me to change my mind but I suppose I will never know. After a few raised voices and the help of my “translator” eventually I had no option but take him up on his offer and we got into the car and made our way through the mountains to Kabul.