Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Tuesday May 5th - Jalalabad Road

It is never easy to sleep, however tired I am and last night the sounds of the city, the dogs barking, the American helicopters flying so close that the whole building seemed to shake, the guards talking and the drums at a wedding party mingled with the call to prayer and the soft thud of distant thunder, conspired together to interrupt the short hours of night.

Said farewell to Matthew and he went off to catch his UN flight back to Kabul. I was just heading off to the cricket camp, when he reappeared. The flight cancelled. His UK flight is this afternoon, so we had to make a swift change of plan. With the weather so changeable and the flights so unpredictable, I decided to get us both back to Kabul by road. Bismillah sorted us out 2 cars for security. As we were leaving, the logistics head, Najibullah, came up to Matthew and said ” excuse me sir, but am I right in thinking you are THE Matthew Fleming, the famous cricketer ?” Matthew gave him his MCC shirt and he was completely overwhelmed with joy... his passion is cricket and there is nothing he doesn’t know on the subject and this was his great moment!

So, we set out under dark clouds along the infamous Jalalabad road. We had tried hard to avoid it but with fights cancelled, had little choice. Everywhere, signs of war. Walled, wired in military posts along the way. Through Sarobi –the bleak place which has long been known as the badlands ...where 5 journalists were taken from their car and shot....and on up the heights towards the magnificent gorge and tunnels which lead to Kabul.

There we meet chaos! Long lines of lorries and cars are at a stand still on the steep hairpins. Men stand on the back of lorries carrying large rocks, ready to spring into action should the lorries start slipping backwards down hill! Kuchi nomads with their entire homes piled high atop camels weave in and out of the traffic with herds of sheep, goats and cows and to add to the extraordinary scene, a military convoy tries to steer its way through the traffic in huge armoured vehicles bedecked with guns and dark-glassed soldiers. The tunnel is blocked by this strange mix of humanity and we question whether Matthew will make the flight ...... but at last we move on and snake our way through the last high bends and on towards Kabul beyond.

It is lovely to arrive, greeted by familiar guards and Gul Noor—who has a delicious lunch all ready on the table and great mugs of cardamom tea. I say goodbye to Matthew again... and long to be heading home to my family...... just wish so much I could catch that plane!

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