Jeg har ligget nedsænket i antibiotiske bade og været ude af stand til at kigge på en skærm uden at få akut kvalme og hovedpine. I dag har jeg indtaget fast føde for første gang i fem dage og føler mig endelig stærk nok til at stå ud af sengen og skrive et par ord. For ikke at overbelaste mig selv unødigt vil jeg dog give dem til en anden rejsende.
I 1975 rejste Paul Theroux med tog fra London via Indien til Tokyo. Jeg har desværre kun været i stand til at følge ham til Khyber-passet da mit eksemplar af The Great Railway Bazaar fra bogbyttehylden på Annapurna Guest House i Mandvi mangler de resterende sider. Uddraget slutter med de tre eneste afsnit han skænker Afghanistan. Jeg citerer dem her som et sindbillede på den forgangne uge:
The Customs Office was closed for the night. We could not go back to the Iranian frontier; we could not proceed into Herat. So we remained on a strip of earth, neither Afghanistan nor Iran, a hotel without a name. There was no electricity in this hotel, there was no toilet, and there was enough water for only one cup of tea apiece. Bobby and his friend, who went under the name Lopez (his real name was Morris), became frightfully happy when the Afghan in the candlelit foyer told us our beds would cost thirty-five cents each. Lopez asked for hashish. The Afghan said there was none. Lopez called him a “scumbag”. The Afghan brought a piece the size of a dog’s turd and we spent the rest of the evening smoking it. At about midnight a telephone rang out in the darkness. Lopez said, “If it’s for me, tell them I’m not here!”.
On our way into Herat the next day an Afghan passenger fired his shotgun through the roof of the bus and there was a fight to determine who would pay to have the hole mended. My ears were still ringing from the explosion a day later in Herat, as I watched groups of hippies standing in the thorn bushes complaining about the exchange rate. At three o’clock the next morning there was a parade down the main street of Herat, farting cornets and snare drums; it was the sort of bizarre nightmare old men have in German novels. I asked Lopez if he’d heard the parade, but he brushed my question aside. He was worried, he said; cawing like a broker, and waving his bangled wrists despairingly, he told his bad news: the dollar was quoted at fifty afghanis. ”It’s a rip-off!”.
I went, by bus and plane, to Kabul, via Mazar-i-Sharif. Two incidents in Kabul stay in my mind: a visit to the Kabul Insane Asylum, where I failed to gain the release of a Canadian who had been put there by mistake (he said he didn’t mind staying there as long as he had a supply of chocolate bars; it was better than going back to Canada), and, later that week, passing a Pathan tent encampment and seeing a camel suddenly collapse under a great load of wood – a moment later the Pathans pounced, dismembering and skinning the poor beast. I had no wish to stay longer in Kabul. I took a bus east, to the top of the Khyber Pass. I had a train to catch there, at Landi Kotal, for Peshawar; and I dreaded missing it, because there is only one train a week, a Sunday local called the “132-Down”.