This is my first post on freerangeinternational, I think those who’ve read Tim’s posts would have come across my name a once or twice. At the moment I am up in Mazar-e-Sharif which is located in the north central part of the country… I am the ‘BOT’!
Two days ago, I traveled to Hairatan which is located approximately 65km north of Mazar-e-Sharif. It is also located on the Amu Darya river (formerly know as the Oxus River) which is the longest river in Central Asia. For someone like myself who has never operated any where else other than the southern or eastern parts of the country, it sure came across as a bit of a surprise.
The road leading into Hairatan is probably one of the best I have travelled on in the country, smooth, flat and relatively staright. It runs through a very flat plain, which is surrounded by sand dunes. The road ends at the Afghan side of the ‘Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge’.
Just like any other border city in this country, whether it’s Torkham, Herat or Spin Boldak – Hairatan is subject to a vast amount of import trade from its neighbour, Uzbekistan.
One of the most striking impressions that I got was seeing an operating freight rail system. After being to most corners of Afghanistan, and only witnessing ‘Jingle’ trucks and semi-trailers it was quite a sight to see a train in operation. The main purpose of the train is transporting fuel, which is imported from Uzbekistan.
Once we rolled into Hairatan, I enjoyed the company of a fellow Aussie mate (ex-Royal Australian Regiment at that) and a Rhodesian bloke for a refreshment and a top notch steak. We hung out for a couple of hours chatting and swapping waries (war stories) like most blokes do.
Even though there are hot spots in the northern region, there seems to be a much more positive atmosphere amongst the people in regards to getting on with their lives. This could be due to ethnical differences being tolerated amongst the popullation. If this attitude could be passed south/south east from here, maybe the results would be much more promising.
The sun has beaten us by the time it was time to head home. Although in most parts of the country this would be a dilemma, we rolled down the road with windows cracked open, a slight breeze and the moon shining upon the desert. This was an experience I haven’t had the chance to enjoy without the dramas of encountering the AGE or even friendly fire.