A final trip

30 09 2010

 

First Glimpse of one of Band e Amir's lakes on the road from Bamian

 

My last trip from Kabul took me a day’s drive north-west to Bamiyan, the site of two 6th century Buddahs before the Taliban decided to destroy this UNESCO heritage site. Along with the lakes at Band-e-Amir, Bamiyan valley is the most beautiful thing I have seen in the region and  forms the country’s only tourist attraction unless you believe accounts in the Guardian or BBC’s Sandi Toksvig .

 

Arriving at Bamian Valley by small prop plane. One Buddah niche can be seen to the left with another to the right in shadow

 

Although the trip is drivable we flew from Kabul in a 10-seater that spirals down amongst the mountains to land on what seems to be a short, broad road cutting through the green valley bottom.

 

Looking across the Bamian valley from rooftops hotel to the cliffs where the Buddahs used to reside until their highly publicised destruction by the Taliban

 

The remains of the two Bhuddas lie in piles of crumbling stone and clay. The Taliban made no mistake and I remember footage of the pre-publicised destruction sending forward huge clouds of dust. Almost as big a travesty is that it took the loss of a piece of heritage, rather than a more human story to bring the world’s attention to the plight of the Afghan people. In a country where billions of dollars are spent on military action and mere millions go towards development and infrastructure the Japanese and Germans and Italians are attempting to stabilise the remains with a view to possibly rebuilding parts in the long run.

 

One of the larger lakes at Band e Amir. The deep blue comes from the high mineral content which also forms beautiful dams as the water flows from lake to lake.

 

Two hours further north-west lie the lakes of Band-e-Amir. These are more stunning than the valley at Bamiyan, with deep water providing a palate of blues that would make Van Gough green with envy. The water is clear and the blue sky does nothing to detract from the contrast of grey and red cliffs against the unbelievably striking tones.

 

Kabul restaurant owner Jerome riding on the gun-mount left by Russian forces. The bearings still run smoothly giving a spinning 360 degree view of the countryside

 

Nearer to the regional capital of Bamiyan, overlooking the 8-hour route from Kabul lies the Red Fort. This has been an important strategic position in these inaccessible lands and was occupied most recently by the Russians and is still heavily mined.

 

Prominent battlement of the Red Fort overlooking the riverside route from Kabul

 

The steep walk up from valley winds up through mud-brick battlements and past piles of unexploded ordinance.

Duncan DJ

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