We took a whirlwind trip to the Konduz and back in the last 48 hours. At least 18 of which were spent in full battle gear sitting in the back of an MRAP. Konduz is a hot spot of trouble here in the north since there is an isolated Pashto area in the otherwise Tajik and Uzbek areas of the north. It is a 250 km one way trip to Konduz. The day we drove to Konduz was a very beautiful day with plenty of visibility and sunshine. We were able to see snow on the higher mountains, and drove with snow on either side of the road while at the high point of our travels along the passes of Ring Road. Police checkpoints occured at regular intervals along Ring Road, as did stripped hulks of Russian tanks and armored vehicles. Once we arrived on the other side of the pass we followed river valleys to Konduz. Wherever agriculture was possible it was present. The wheat, rice and scant amounts of corn were all harvested already. Cotton was still out in many fields. I could see cauliflower and carrots being harvested in the fields. The vegetable markets at Pol e Khomri had diakon, squash and onions demonstrating that they were still in season. With the recent rains I saw lots of tilling of the fields. It was not uncommon to see a team of oxen working right next to a tractor. There was freshly growing grass present in many areas which gave an uncharacteristic green tinge to Afghanistan.
I especially liked seeing the trees. We don't have many trees in the Mazar e sharif area. I actually got to see the full spectrum of fall leaf colors along the route. Most of the trees were either maples or poplars. The poplars were grown in small tree farm plots as well. It has been a long time since I have seen a pile of leaves.
There were lots of animals to see as well. I must have seen thousands of goats and sheep. There were many different types and breeds. The shepherds were always present keeping a watchful eye. There were a few small cattle herds in the open areas going over the pass. In the river valleys many people kept chickens. I was suprised to see turkeys as well. The two turkeys pictured were actually on the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Konduz. In the villages the butchers were busy as well judging by the chicken, goat and sheep carcasses hanging on display. There were some beautiful horses and many donkey carts working. The wildlife I saw was limited to dogs and some hawks watching over the open areas.
Mud was the main building material. Most houses were in walled compounds. The walls and house were made of mud bricks. As we travelled it was easy to see the progression from new house, to delapidated compound, to ruins. Much in the same way a sandcastle succumbs to the tide. Even the headstones in many of the cemetaries were made of mud. I did see several new schools, which were made of concrete. Sadly I only saw one school that looked in use.
Our mission was to redistribute some medical supplies in the area. We were able to meet with one of our mentees, coordinate with another mentor and bring back some supplies as well. The security team who transported us did have some difficulties with the ground conditions. This photo was the second time this MRAP got stuck in the same field.
The weather was not as cooperative on the way back. It was very foggy, limiting our visibility. It was also much colder. I had two long days of riding in the back of the MRAP while wearing all armor and gear and strapped in tight. My sitting area, back and knees are still sore. It was good to get out to do and see things, but I will be glad to spend a few days at Spann to recover.