|Day 26 : Travel Day 14 : 9.8.69.||Previous||Next|
Mashhad - Herat
E.Route : Ealam Qala - Kandahar : ETD 0600 : ETA 1700 : Dist 450 m.
A.Route : Mashhad - Herat : ATD 0757 : ATA 2020* : Dist 251 m.
Jim Lindsay's diary:
Once we were on the road we were treated to more of the state's munificence in the form of a landscaped road with statues on roundabouts, and large houses in their own grounds. Even the Shah's resources had limits, though, and very suddenly we found ourselves on horrible corrugated roads that set everything shaking. Our poor little bus evidently did not have a wheelbase capable of tuning into these ripples on the road. Every so often there would be a groan or curse as something hard vibrated over the edge of the rack and hit a body below it. Even things that should have been firmly fixed came loose, including a rather ominous crack in the struts holding one of the luggage racks up.
On we rattled though an arid landscape with dust devils running through the fields. We actually drove through one but it was a tame affair. Eventually we got to the customs post at Taibad, which would have done nicely as a set for Beau Geste. Soldiers could be seen peering over the wall of the mud fort. The Afghans were keen to know about alcohol and cameras, and drivers were questioned in a bungalow. Outside was a convenient standpipe with a litter of bits of watermelon skin round it, which would become a familiar sight in Afghanistan.
Russia and the USA were in competition to provide aid to Afghanistan, and they contributed more or less equal shares of the new main road that ran down from Heart to Kandahar and then back north to Kabul. The Russians knew better what they were doing and used prefabricated blocks, much easier to make good after flash floods. The Americans had laid continuous tarmac, a nicer surface but much more vulnerable. The spur from Taibad was actually American-built but soon gave way to the top of the Russian section.
Not long after Taibad we were met by our first toll. These came up quite regularly but it was not always clear who was running these. The army worse dusty green and the police wore dusty blue, but some of the uniforms at the toll points were impossible to place. For all we knew they may just have been men from local villages supplementing their incomes. Normally they gave us quaint little tickets in exchange for the toll.
Not much further down the road one of our tyres shed its tread, the first of many. It turned out later that Goodyear had given Comex a defective batch. In a way Cuddles was lucky to be hit early, because a lot of other contingents hit big problems at the same time and had great difficulty getting a share of the replacements.
Towards the end of the day we were escorted into Herat Airport, a hub of Ariana Afghan Airlines. I think the airline had only two planes, so whole days passed when there were no flights. There was a mildly unsavoury incident where various contingents fought over a pre-ordered meal. Food always brought out the worst in people.