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The fabled Khyber Cross from Kabul to Pakistan – Rick Steves’ Journey Weblog

With the autumn of Afghanistan, I’ve been reflecting on my journey experiences there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “Hippie Path” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and right this moment, it’s a poor but formidable land that international powers misunderstand and demand on underestimating. 

On this closing journal entry from 1978, stow away with me as I journey from Kabul over the fabled Khyber Cross to Pakistan.  

Friday, August 4, 1978: Kabul to Rawalpindi, Pakistan 

This was the morning I used to be psyched for. I don’t assume I may have woken up feeling unhealthy and I didn’t. Each Gene and I felt good. We had a final large Sina Lodge breakfast and caught our little 8:30 bus to Pakistan. 

This bus was the best way I needed to do Khyber Cross. I had dreamed of crossing this romantically wild and traditionally harmful go for years and it was very excessive on my life’s guidelines of issues to do — within the high 5 for positive. Now I used to be sitting on this kinky previous brightly, however badly painted, bus subsequent to an exquisite open window that permit me lean half of my physique out if I needed to. Our seats have been large and excessive but crowded and the bus was filled with Pakistanis and “Street to India” vacationers. 

I used to be glad to get out of Kabul and nearly instantly we have been in a scenic mountain go. From right here to the border, whereas nothing by Pacific Northwest requirements, was the closest factor to lush that we’ve seen in Afghanistan. We even handed a lake, however I noticed no boats. I puzzled what number of, or how few, Afghans had ever been in a ship. 

Stopping in Jalalabad for a hurried lunch break, we have been again on the highway in 20 minutes. We have been nearing the border and apprehension grew. We hoped it wouldn’t be an excessive amount of of a problem however by now nothing stunned us. 

The Afghanistan border station, whereas time consuming, was straightforward. We simply sat round consuming a melon and wishing we had cash for a Coke. Really, we had deliberate our money reserves very properly and have been leaving with no afghanis. We waited our flip to be searched, crammed out the shape, obtained our passports stamped — the standard course of, and loaded again on solely to cease 100 yards later for our introduction to Pakistan. 

This place was fairly unruly. We piled right into a room and one after the other we have been referred to as as much as the desk. The customs official “hunt and pecked” our important statistics into his register and stamped our passports. 

Passports in hand, we knew we have been simply midway by the method, however we weren’t positive the place to go subsequent. We wandered into one ramshackle constructing, and in a darkish room, two males jumped up from two cots and welcomed us to put down. No thanks! We obtained out of there and have been overrun by dope sellers and black-market cash chargers. Every thing was so open and blatant that it nearly appeared authorized. We purchased $10 price or Pakistan rupees after which tried to get our luggage searched so we’d be performed. Annoyed within the chaos, we simply obtained on the bus and skipped the bags verify. At our window we have been entertained by a lot of hash sellers and a very persistent man with a small bottle of cocaine — 4 grams for $30. I took his image and informed him to get misplaced. 

Lastly we have been loaded and able to do it — to cross the Khyber Cross. I used to be thrilled. Bodily, it was identical to some other rocky mountain go, however once you’ve puzzled, dreamed, and thought of one thing for a few years, it turns into particular. Up and up the bus climbed. Hanging out the window, I attempted to soak up all the things — each wild flip within the highway, each fortress-crowned hill, each stray goat, each gaily painted truck that handed us, and each mud hut. I seemed on the rugged individuals who inhabited this treacherous go and puzzled who they have been, how they lived, what tales may they inform. Dry, rocky graveyards with wind-tattered flags littered the hillsides. Clouds threatened. We have been transferring out of the arid Arab aspect of South Asia and into the moist Indian subcontinent. Any more we might really feel muggy — however benefit from the inexperienced countryside. 

We crossed the Khyber Cross and handed by a tribal village to pay a toll for the privilege. I may see the boys round with rifles ignoring the bus and gathered in circles buying and selling each items and tales. 

In a couple of minutes we have been in Peshawar and located {that a} direct practice to Lahore was leaving in an hour. We noticed nothing to maintain us in Peshawar and the magnetism of India was getting stronger and stronger as we obtained nearer and nearer. We hassled round attempting to resolve how, what, and the place to purchase our tickets. This was a brand new expertise — studying how you can deal with the Pakistani practice system. A bit bewildered and unsure what was our greatest transfer, we purchased $3.50 ticket (top notch) for the 12-hour journey, wolfed down a fast 60 cents dinner, and located a spot on the not-so-classy first-class automotive. 

The one distinction between first and second class was padded seats and $1.50. We figured for 12 hours it could be good to have the pads. Our automotive was very crowded. I used to be completely happy to be close to a window that blew in sizzling, muggy air. We pulled out at 5:50, nearly on time, and I savored the breeze.  

The countryside was flat, lush, and fascinating. After some time, I started studying Orwell’s Animal Farm. It was good and the time handed properly. Then it obtained darkish, and the bugs got here. The lights labored like on my previous bike — the quicker you go, the brighter they shine. This was not a really brilliant practice. The bugs obtained on me so to talk and I made a bloody declaration “Loss of life by ruthless squashing to any bug that lands on me any further”. I made a decision that I might simply mash them with my thumb or fingers and roll them by my arm and leg hairs till they disappeared — both rubbing in or falling off. 

The experience dragged on. We determined to interrupt up the experience to Lahore at Rawalpindi, the midway spot, catch an early practice within the morning to finish the journey. 

It was almost midnight as we stepped into the muddy puddled streets of Rawalpindi. There was a 5:15 practice to Lahore within the morning so we may catch a great 4 hours of sleep — if we may catch a resort. It seemed very unhealthy — each one was full and different folks searching for a spot have been additionally annoyed. Fortunately, I discovered a man with a single open and a bathe subsequent door (Gene didn’t inform me in regards to the lizards till later). In any other case, it was a gap barely price the10 rupees ($1) we paid. Nevertheless it did serve its function. I took a cooling bathe and located a snug spot among the many bumps and curves of my cot and shortly I had labored myself to sleep. At present was a great day — a lot of miles lined, a brand new nation and I had crossed the Khyber Cross. 

(That is journal entry #5 of a five-part collection. If you happen to missed any alongside the best way, scroll again to Tuesday, Aug. 17 on my Fb web page.) 

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