Overland to Bangladesh 1973 – Part 7: Kabul to Peshawar
Kabul to Peshawar
After the usual acrobatics with my trunk – in this case, a porter balanced it on his head – we left Kabul punctually at 8 am and were soon passing through the spectacular Kabul Gorge under perfect blue skies. It was breathtakingly rugged with superb rock formations and jagged outcrops. The Kabul River ran clear and white over rocks, gradually turning pea-green as it reached the plain leading to the Khyber Pass. Suddenly, there was a marvellous green glacial lake with the mountains of the Hindu Kush as a backdrop. We felt we were on the roof of the world.
After a short stop in Jalalabad where I bought a melon, we started the gradual ascent to the Khyber Pass. The way was punctuated by hill forts. We came to the Afghan border post, where to my great relief, they did not have my trunk taken down from the roof of the bus and we passed through quickly. The Pakistanis did not bother checking half the people on the bus and never looked at a single person’s luggage. I discovered that it was only permitted to bring 20 rupees into the country and went through Customs with 96 rupees concealed in my camera case.
The Pakistani section of the Khyber Pass was heavily fortified and tank-trapped – and even more spectacular than the Afghan part. Our excitement was increased by the break-neck speed at which our driver took us down to Peshawar. We thought the mileposts were in kilometres!
Our arrival in the Indian sub-continent represented another cultural step-change in the journey. It also meant that we finished with buses and switched to the railway. A welcome change.
After the usual melee at the bus station, we arrived at the massive, mud-red Kamran Hotel. Our huge room had three beds, easy chairs, a table, dressing table, balcony, bathroom with shower and a huge fan swishing high overhead (all for 7 rupees each a night – about 30p). We had a good chicken curry in the hotel and took a taxi to the railway station where we reserved sleepers to Lahore. Although the train was not scheduled to depart until 9.30 pm, we were advised to arrive by 7.00 pm to claim our berths. My trunk was registered with much ceremonial form filling and I was assured that it would reach Lahore at the same time as me. We were then led out of the station and down a siding to where our coach was standing in total darkness. By touch, we established that we had a roomy compartment with four bench seats and a berth above each seat. After an hour, a steam engine shunted our carriage up to the platform, at which point there was a small invasion of Americans and Australians, followed by a much larger invasion of Pakistanis, most of whom had come to amuse themselves by gawping at the westerners. I spoke to a young medical student through the window. He said he was in favour of Bangladesh being independent, but disapproved of the country being under India’s thumb at present.