Thursday, December 07, 2006
Jalalabad - Gunner
We had three humvees on this trip and on the way home, three of us who really aren't supposed to be gunners were the gunners. If SGM Hansen would have been there he would have pitched a royal fit. I’m glad I did it though as it was a beautiful drive and I could see so much more of the countryside.
Since I was in the last vehicle I was security for the rear of the convoy. It allowed me to see where we had been as well as where we were going. Because the weather was so nice, people were outside. I got to wave to all the kids and give them the thumbs-up. They are the future of Afghanistan and if we can win their hearts we’ll have so much more success.
For most of the way we traveled next to a river. I should find out its name but don’t want to get up right now and find out. It was beautiful. I saw a young man in a hand-drawn ferry pulling a ferry/raft across the river. He had something on his ferry/raft, looked like boxes, but I couldn’t tell for sure. It looked like something you would have seen in our country a hundred years or more ago.
At one point, I saw a tiny village on the other side of the river, and I mean tiny. There were only about a dozen mud huts all clustered together on the side of the hill. I couldn’t see any way for them to get across so have to assume that they don’t have a burning need to get across. Either that, or they travel miles either up or down the river to the nearest crossing.
As we began to enter the mountainous area, the river took on the appearance of the Columbia River Gorge when you come out of Pendleton. It was incredibly beautiful.
I saw several caves throughout the mountains. I thought of the caves that Bin Ladin has been reported to be living in and imagined that he could have lived in any one of these. That was a sobering thought as I thought that at any time an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) or similar destructive weapon could come firing out of one of the caves. Just my imagination running away with me.
We then entered the gorge that would take us up the mountain pass to the Kabul valley. Graffiti must be one of those universal things as it was all over the place. Not only did you see people’s names, I’m assuming, but advertisements. I saw several “canned goods” ads painted on the rocks.
As we got higher up the pass, we began to serpentine up the side of the cliff – literally. I wish I’d had a camera to take a picture at the narrowness of the road, the sheerness of the cliff and just how high up we were. At first I tried not to pay attention to the road and the drop but I made the mistake of looking. I leaned out over the side of the turret and couldn’t see the shoulder of the road. All I could see was a drop off of at least a thousand feet or more. That’s when the wave of vertigo hit me and I had to sit down in the turret and close my eyes. It was an incredible sight but not one that I could linger on. All too soon the drive was over. Even though it was close to three hours it went by so fast. I’m looking forward to doing it again.