Yesterday was my last day in Kabul. We were lucky to get a free car from mid morning to take us to Chicken Street -the traditional hippy shopping street when the Silk Route was followed by many.
Needless to say I had to buy a war carpet as a souvenir. There are different styles (all pretty ugly!) – some with the twin towers on them, and some with areas of Afghanistan depicted by the weapons of choice in the region.
We then headed to the airport and got dropped as close to the terminal as you can, with most people quite a bit further away than us. Unfortunately news started to trickle through about our flight being delayed until somewhere between 6 and 9pm, when it was originally meant to leave at 1530. Kabul isn’t the best airport to be sitting around as you don’t get anywhere near the terminal building until check in time.
After a while some people started to get offered flight changes to catch connecting flights that night, so suddenly we had a connecting flight too, organised by our ‘fixer’ in Dubai (therefore explaining why we never had tickets ;->).
After being barred from the airport by the Afghan police, and Kate being taken out again after managing to get through, we finally made it in. At each step someone else tried to stop us getting further, even at the final hurdle of the x-ray machine. One cop said “no”, while his mate took my arm and said “go through my friend”. I was lucky at getting through all the stages without paying any bribes at all despite having probably 4 opportunities where I could have used one to ease my passage through.
Eventually we were in the last 5 people to get our Kam Air flights changed to Pamir Airways – so good the ISAF troops are banned from using them. The stewardesses were grim not raising a smile once, and the pilot decided to pump his brakes at various points along the runway after we landed. The interior was definitely due a refit, but I’m sure there are many worse airlines in the world.
Finally we landed in Dubai only 90 mins or so after our original arrival time, and my body seemed to lapse after a hectic 10 days in Afghanistan. Walking off the plane reminded me of arriving in Bangkok after visiting Burma last year – it felt like you had just came from another world. No dust, modern buildings, and everywhere was lit up.