The fabled Khyber Cross from Kabul to Pakistan – Rick Steves’ Journey Weblog

Must Read

With the autumn of Afghanistan, I’ve been reflecting on my journey experiences there as a 23-year-old backpacker on the “Hippie Path” from Istanbul to Kathmandu. Yesterday and at present, it’s a poor but formidable land that international powers misunderstand and demand on underestimating. 

On this last journal entry from 1978, stow away with me as I journey from Kabul over the fabled Khyber Cross to Pakistan.  

Friday, August 4, 1978: Kabul to Rawalpindi, Pakistan 

This was the morning I used to be psyched for. I don’t suppose I may have woken up feeling dangerous and I didn’t. Each Gene and I felt good. We had a final large Sina Resort breakfast and caught our little 8:30 bus to Pakistan. 

This bus was the best way I needed to do Khyber Cross. I had dreamed of crossing this romantically wild and traditionally harmful cross for years and it was very excessive on my life’s guidelines of issues to do — within the prime 5 for positive. Now I used to be sitting on this kinky outdated brightly, however badly painted, bus subsequent to a beautiful open window that permit me lean half of my physique out if I needed to. Our seats have been large and excessive but crowded and the bus was stuffed with Pakistanis and “Highway to India” vacationers. 

I used to be glad to get out of Kabul and nearly instantly we have been in a scenic mountain cross. From right here to the border, whereas nothing by Pacific Northwest requirements, was the closest factor to lush that we’ve seen in Afghanistan. We even handed a lake, however I noticed no boats. I puzzled what number of, or how few, Afghans had ever been in a ship. 

Stopping in Jalalabad for a hurried lunch break, we have been again on the highway in 20 minutes. We have been nearing the border and apprehension grew. We hoped it wouldn’t be an excessive amount of of a trouble however by now nothing shocked us. 

The Afghanistan border station, whereas time consuming, was simple. We simply sat round consuming a melon and wishing we had cash for a Coke. Really, we had deliberate our money reserves very properly and have been leaving with no afghanis. We waited our flip to be searched, crammed out the shape, bought our passports stamped — the standard course of, and loaded again on solely to cease 100 yards later for our introduction to Pakistan. 

This place was fairly unruly. We piled right into a room and one after the other we have been known as as much as the desk. The customs official “hunt and pecked” our very important statistics into his register and stamped our passports. 

Passports in hand, we knew we have been simply midway by the method, however we weren’t positive the place to go subsequent. We wandered into one ramshackle constructing, and in a darkish room, two males jumped up from two cots and welcomed us to put down. No thanks! We bought out of there and have been overrun by dope sellers and black-market cash chargers. Every little thing was so open and blatant that it nearly appeared authorized. We purchased $10 value or Pakistan rupees after which tried to get our luggage searched so we’d be executed. Annoyed within the chaos, we simply bought on the bus and skipped the luggage examine. At our window we have been entertained by plenty of hash sellers and a very persistent man with a small bottle of cocaine — 4 grams for $30. I took his image and instructed him to get misplaced. 

Lastly we have been loaded and able to do it — to cross the Khyber Cross. I used to be thrilled. Bodily, it was similar to another rocky mountain cross, however if you’ve puzzled, dreamed, and considered one thing for a few years, it turns into particular. Up and up the bus climbed. Hanging out the window, I attempted to soak up the whole lot — each wild flip within the highway, each fortress-crowned hill, each stray goat, each gaily painted truck that handed us, and each mud hut. I regarded on the rugged individuals who inhabited this treacherous cross and puzzled who they have been, how they lived, what tales may they inform. Dry, rocky graveyards with wind-tattered flags littered the hillsides. Clouds threatened. We have been shifting out of the arid Arab aspect of South Asia and into the moist Indian subcontinent. Any further we might really feel muggy — however benefit from the inexperienced countryside. 

We crossed the Khyber Cross and handed by a tribal village to pay a toll for the privilege. I may see the boys round with rifles ignoring the bus and gathered in circles buying and selling each items and tales. 

In a couple of minutes we have been in Peshawar and located {that a} direct practice to Lahore was leaving in an hour. We noticed nothing to maintain us in Peshawar and the magnetism of India was getting stronger and stronger as we bought nearer and nearer. We hassled round attempting to resolve how, what, and the place to purchase our tickets. This was a brand new expertise — studying methods to deal with the Pakistani practice system. A little bit bewildered and unsure what was our greatest transfer, we purchased $3.50 ticket (firstclass) for the 12-hour journey, wolfed down a fast 60 cents dinner, and located a spot on the not-so-classy first-class automotive. 

The one distinction between first and second class was padded seats and $1.50. We figured for 12 hours it might be good to have the pads. Our automotive was very crowded. I used to be pleased to be close to a window that blew in sizzling, muggy air. We pulled out at 5:50, nearly on time, and I savored the breeze.  

The countryside was flat, lush, and attention-grabbing. After some time, I started studying Orwell’s Animal Farm. It was good and the time handed properly. Then it bought darkish, and the bugs got here. The lights labored like on my outdated bike — the quicker you go, the brighter they shine. This was not a really brilliant practice. The bugs bought on me so to talk and I made a bloody declaration “Demise by ruthless squashing to any bug that lands on me any longer”. I made a decision that I’d simply mash them with my thumb or fingers and roll them by my arm and leg hairs till they disappeared — both rubbing in or falling off. 

The experience dragged on. We determined to interrupt up the experience to Lahore at Rawalpindi, the midway spot, catch an early practice within the morning to finish the journey. 

It was almost midnight as we stepped into the muddy puddled streets of Rawalpindi. There was a 5:15 practice to Lahore within the morning so we may catch a great 4 hours of sleep — if we may catch a lodge. It regarded very dangerous — each one was full and different folks on the lookout for a spot have been additionally annoyed. Fortunately, I discovered a man with a single open and a bathe subsequent door (Gene didn’t inform me concerning the lizards till later). In any other case, it was a gap barely value the10 rupees ($1) we paid. However it did serve its function. I took a cooling bathe and located a cushty spot among the many bumps and curves of my cot and shortly I had labored myself to sleep. In the present day was a great day — plenty of miles coated, a brand new nation and I had crossed the Khyber Cross. 

(That is journal entry #5 of a five-part sequence. If you happen to missed any alongside the best way, scroll again to Tuesday, Aug. 17 on my Fb web page.) 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

5 Causes you’ll love Vilnius within the Spring

Uncover one of many lesser-known gems of Japanese Europe with a visit...

More Articles Like This