|Our journey back to Kabul is less than straightforward, with the minibus breaking down at least 5 times during the bone crushing 12 hour ride. After Bamiyan, Kabul is an oasis of paradise.
On my last full day here, I went for a walk around the Ka Faroshi bird market and its environs, which I recommend to anyone who comes here. It really is like walking back 100 years in time, with the street lined with bird-sellers in their shops untouched by modernisation.
Its time for some final thoughts on Afghanistan. I can't recommend visitng the country because of the security situation; there's no doubt its a country only for the brave. I wouldn't revisit until the security situation improves. Despite being told that the northern areas are mainly safe, we did have one scary moment in particular (more of that later), and I did feel slightly tense throughout my time here.
When coming to Afghanistan, you need to:
1. Obviously get an accurate up to date summary of the security situation. At the time of writing (Nov 2007), the insurgent areas I knew about were Helmund and Khandahar provinces, Herat region (but Herat city was considered safe during daylight), Baghis, Vardak, Nuristan, and on the road from Kabul to the Khyber Pass, the towns of Jalalabad and Sarobi should be avoided if possible.
2. There are a number of minefields, some unmarked around the country, so always stick to well worn paths and take local advice on where to walk and where to avoid. Its sobering to bear in mind that we only visited 'tourist' sites outside of Kabul and never saw a clearly marked minefield, despite being told that some areas we visited were mined.
3. I found the taxi drivers the most aggressive I've encountered so far on my trip. Whatever you agree, confirm and reconfirm at the beginning of your journey will almost certainly be challenged surprisingly agressively at the end. Before you know it, you will also be surrounded by 20 or more Afghanis who will enjoy watching a foreigner being wound up over an inflated taxi fare. How did we deal with this? - unfortunalty we caved in and always ended up paying the inflated fare.
Some other final thoughts on Afghanistan:
1. Without doubt its the dustiest country I've ever been to.
2. The skies are the blueist I've ever seen.
3. Some Afghani's seem friendly enough, and some seemed pleased to have the overseas forces there. Others dont acknowledge you and give the impression that they would rather you weren't there.
Overall, I think its a 5/10 for Afghanistan.