Herat - The last chance

9 May 2011

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Hauling Combi on the roof of a bus

Many of you must be wondering what is going on, and if Afghanistan is just about cats, cars and mechanics.

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A few days ago, Aurel left Kabul on his own for Herat, a city close to the Iranian border in order to meet the combi bus which had been sent to Herat in a most interesting way. The road between Herat and Kabul goes through Kandahar, which is notorious for Taliban checkpoints, making it very dangerous to drive if you’re not Afghan.
So, in order to get closer to the border, the only safe way was to ship the combi to Herat, fly there to meet and retrieve it, and from there drive the two hours to the Iranian border.

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At the Kandahar Bus Station in Kabul, the combi was tenderly lifted onto the roof of a bigger bus transporting passengers and embarked on a three day journey to Herat. As always in Afghanistan, the unexpected happened and the bus company took six days to drive there – therefore making it three days late. First, the passenger bus wouldn’t start, (the engine being apparently reluctant to kick in), wasting half a day, and then it got stuck in Kandahar for two more days with some mechanical problems and a huge sand storm. Pretty normal stuff over here.

What you need to know is that we haven’t figured out the paperwork issue for the bus yet. After three weeks in Kabul trying everything and begging the lord to get a road pass, we realized that we were fighting against windmills, and that it would lead nowhere (read Red tape nightmare blog post for more info). After being kicked out of the ministry of Foreign affairs by the bureau chief yelling to us “Stop interrupting us and wasting our time. No road pass for you. You hear me… GET OUT!!!”, The Afghan administration had definitely won a battle against us, but the outcome of the war has yet to be decided. We assessed the situation and decided that we should try to cross the border anyway, even without the proper papers, even with the high possibility of being refused access to Iran. It’s that or nothing, right?

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View of Kabul

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So, operation Last Chance has started. Aurel flew to Herat, while Diego flew to Istanbul in order to meet Molly (Diego’s visa for Iran was rejected, so the only option for him was to fly over the country and wait for Aurel on the other side, in Turkey).
Now, Aurel has been in Herat for four days, and things are as always nothing short of complicated. Everyone in Herat warned him that trying to get into Iran without a road pass is impossible and that he would be crazy to try. It started to look like we had met our defeat. But then a friend that knows the general of customs in Herat put Aurel in touch with him, so there might be one last chance to get that damn piece of paper. What should have taken one day took four (the notion of time is definitely different in Afghanistan), but after a bunch of pulled strings and special phone calls on the general’s part, Aurel might have the road pass today – Hard to believe, right? His Afghan visa is expiring in three days, he has to get out of Afghanistan before Saturday. Talk about down to the wire. . .

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Aurel working with the Camera Obscura

In other news, he’s been staying with people from a German NGO who fell in love with the combi and the Combinations project as only Germans could go head over heels for a German car making it’s way almost back to its homeland, and have been very kind and helpful. They got him a translator to deal with the Office of Customs and the Ministry of Traffic, and an escort who will drive through the border with him until they reach Mashad – the first big town in Iran. So Aurel won’t have to drive on his own, which is a pretty stressful thing in this area.

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Meanwhile, life in Istanbul has been fairly mellow for Molly and Diego. Diego’s been staying at Florent and David’s house, two of the nicest French fellows living around Istanbul while Molly (who’s been in Turkey for more than a month now, and is really itching to get on the road) has been at Danielle’s a few blocks away – Another very nice French citizen who has let her crash in her guest room for over two weeks.

Tomorrow Molly and Diego will head to Olympos, a tiny village on the southern coast of Turkey, to wait for Aurel, relax a little, and hope for the best with the papers.

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Please, let Boussefouloux go through Iran!

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