Afghanistan 1972/73


These pictures were taken during a journey from Amsterdam to Kathmandu (as one did in the 70s), entering Afghanistan near Herat and travelling North to Kabul, via Mazar-i-Sharif, along the border to Russia (in mid-winter, no less). 

Travelling this route in winter was treacherous and foolish, indeed, we're lucky to be alive. At one stage we met four armed horsemen ... we tried to communicate with them, but they argued amongst themselves and then - reluctantly - rode off. When we came to the next town we were greeted with astonishment: Apparently four men had gone off to rob us ... and presumably kill us; I assume what saved us was that my vehicle looked somewhat un-assailable to them as well as the fact that there were seven of us vs four of them (our travels were advised from one town to the next by radio). I was told the ins and outs of this incident by the young man I call 'The Grandson' ... the only villager we ever met on this trip who spoke some English. 


We stayed in Herat for about two weeks ... enough time for the innkeeper to get to know us well enough to fall in love with my partner Saskia (picture #5). On the last day of our stay - as it was - he took me into his inner sanctum and loaded up the hubbla-bubbla with a mixture of hashish and opium so pure it hurt from the first puff (he put a little opium or hashish into every one of his dishes, his inn was called Crazy Spoon). When he thought he had me where he wanted me he made me an offer he thought I couldn't possibly refuse: He wanted to buy Saskia. He offered twelve camels, $2000 and as much hashish and/or opium delivered to Amsterdam as I wanted. We left the next morning, before sunrise and breakfast.


In the background of picture #7 is who we thought was a hitch-hiker, together with two armed men, one travelling in each of our cars. He travelled with us for about three days. Only once he had bid his farewell, in Mazar-i-Sharif, did we learn he actually was the Governor of the province we were travelling through. He accompanied us for our protection. We had no idea, which shows just how naive we were about the danger we had put ourselves into with travelling through remote Afghanistan at a time of the year when there were no other travellers.


We were travelling in winter. Temperatures dropped to minus twenty five degrees at night. In the mornings the oil in our petrol engines was frozen solid (diesel engines of the locals were left running all night, with the drivers sleeping in their warm cabins). We had to thaw the oil in the engines every morning with a fire under the oil sump (picture #8).

See also pics from the same trip, from India and Kathmandu & Nepal.

Afghan snapshots 
#5 of Saskia with the innkeeper who made me a fascinating offer
#7 in the background the Governor of the province we were travelling through
#8 the fire we had to light under the oil-sump of our car, before we could start the engine

a petrol station attendant

Afghan boys

Afghan boy

market in Herat

downtown Herat

a butcher's premise

the butcher

a China-tea-pot repairer; a new teapot cost about one or two dollars, a recycled one 50 cents

the cobbler

a cook

a Herat merchant

a kebab cook

metal workers

the metal worker

a photographer in Mazar-i-Sharif

a shop keeper

a spice merchant

a wool merchant


the Grandson (and his grandfather); this young man filled us in about the plan to rob us

a bird cage in the market