INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for roads

Breakfast with the Taliban — تناول الفطور مع الطالبان


Downtown Kabul, past the largely expat Wazir Akbar Khan and distinctly expensive Shar-e Now neighborhoods, is a friendly place to stroll. Nestled deep in a high valley and lined with sandstone cliffs two-hundred and forty kilometers northwest, Bamiyan is even calmer. But for all the paving efforts that have made it among the smoothest in the country, and despite the stunning backdrop of jagged, dusty hills rising up through cooler and cooler air, the road in between is not so nice.

Seven days before we took our chances on this route from Kabul through the Shibar pass, head of Bamiyan’s provincial council Jawad Zahak had been pulled out of his bus by the Taliban. Three days later, he was beheaded. A fellow passenger pointed: “Right there.”

Half an hour outside of Kabul, we entered an ethnically Pashtun area. The land now controlled by the Taliban across Pakistan and Afghanistan is almost entirely Pashtun, and this stretch, as had been made tragically manifest days earlier, was within their territory. My foreignness was a danger not only to myself but to the four other Afghans in the beat up white Nissan. They should have kept me hidden inside the car. But we all wanted kebabs.

The video below is taken from my phone in a particularly dangerous stretch. In retrospect — not sure it was worth all the fuss.

[Dear readers: I am submitting this story to something, and cannot ethically publish the rest of this post however loosely I interpret the word “publish”. This doesn’t mean it’s any better than other posts. But if you’re still looking to read this nail-biter about the kebabs the Taliban eat, send an email with the words “breakfast”, “Taliban”, and “Dominique Strauss-Kahn” used in one sentence to INGULFED at GMAIL dot COM.]


All the pictures from Afghanistan here.

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Into the Woods


Sri Lanka Part Nine

Sri Lanka Part Eight

Sri Lanka Part Seven

It was in the town of Hali-ela, where I thought I’d lost the car keys but had them in my pocket, where I had bought packets of spices that I really did lose and never cooked with, that we turned west, away from Badulla, up into hill country.

A sundried man gave driving directions: it would be two and a half hours, he said.
But the A5 — it’s an A-Class road.

“It is thirty-two miles,” he articulated, too much like a soothsayer reading a bad omen.
“Okay, fifty kilometers.”
“Yes. Thirty-two miles.”
“So… about fifty kilometers.”
“Yes. Thirty-two miles.”

The A5.

Three and-a-half hours later, we were there. If you are ever in Hali-ela, you mustn’t argue with the man outside the appa stand.

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Fool of a Tuk-Tuk, or The Carma Sutra

Sri Lanka Part Two

You drive like a local is everywhere both curse and compliment, a label given to one that has just saved a life or nearly lost one (or both). To earn such damnation/praise in Sri Lanka, a driver must adopt all of the English sentiments toward the left side of the road while rejecting every ounce of their trademark restraint, propriety, and unexcitability.

Almost every road in the country is two-lane (one in each direction), always curvier than topographically necessary, and rarely with room for central Asian third-laning between your lane and oncoming traffic. Passing has got to be fully committal, usually before a blind curve and with no shoulder for aborted missions. Honk honk.

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