2003.10.17 Kabul, Afghanistan
Can't believe we've made it to Afghanistan. I figured something would hold us up: perhaps not being able to obtain an Afghani visa, secure re-entry to Pakistan, or something similarly trivial. Everything has managed to come together.
For what it's worth, the Afghani consulate in Peshawar will issue a visa to anybody who pays thirty US dollars. Doesn't seem to matter where your passport is from. It takes a bit of paperwork from the Pakistani Home Office to get permission to travel through the Khyber Pass to the border; an armed escort is obligatory.
Staying in Peshawar was a bit unnerving. I felt that we kept running into the same people on the streets a bit too often, and the hotel staff were a bit too curious about where we were going every day and just what we were up to. (It probably didn't help that I put "Juggler" as my occupation in the hotel register.) Turns out my suspicions were correct. The Pakistani police followed us around for at least a day, and asked people what we had been up to places we had visited. (We found this out the day we picked up our Afghani visas, as the one worker who spoke a bit of English let us know.) The tourism office said that being tailed by the police "happens" especially for the Americans, occasionally the British. If you're Japanese, there's evidently no interest whatsoever. I suppose it doesn't make sense that two random American guys would be travelling around Pakistan, looking into crossing the Afghani border and not really being up to more than they say.
Regardless, we're now in Afghanistan. I was extremely psyched to cross the Khyber Pass, which was indeed beautiful. I hadn't realized that the best was to come, following the river through the mountains into Kabul itself. Sheer cliffs fell straight into the side of the road; we would backtrack up switchbacks to gain altitude and eventually cross over each pass. Bypassing a few rusting tanks along the side of the road added to the scenery.
En route to Kabul we stayed in Jalalabad, a city a couple hours into Afghanistan from the Pakistani border.
Kabul is quite an experience. There are still occasional ISAF armored vehicles rolling through the city with foreign soldiers. One of the most common past-times for boys here is to fly kites so Mike and I bought one and had some local kids show us how it's done.