On Friday last, we hiked the Ghar (Ghar in Dari means mountain – isn’t that real original?). We mustered at 0430 and left by 0500. The sun had just started to rise when we got there so it made for a beautiful morning hike.
You’ll be able to tell from the pictures the kind of terrain and the steepness of the slope. All I can say is that I was glad that I’d been working out every day for the last year. But, despite all the time I’ve put into the gym, I still got winded as we traversed the side of the mountain.
The Ghar is surrounded by the firing ranges. We parked in one of the range parking lots. There was a young Afgahn male there asking for “one doll-ah man to watch your truck.” One of the guys paid him a dollar but it was a dollar wasted as they guy was no where to be found when we got back. Actually, we left two security guards there so the guy probably felt like he didn’t need to stay.
I fell in at the end of the column of the hikers. I noticed up ahead that there was a group of guys staring at the ground, taking pictures. I thought, “Why are they taking pictures of sheep turds?” Well when I got there it was not just simply a sheep turd. It was a perfectly round sheep turd that was rolling around on the ground. Have you guessed what was causing it to roll? OK, from the picture you can probably tell, but it was a dung beetle. Another first in my life. I can now dazzle my friends, relatives, acquaintances and complete strangers with my tale of seeing the dung beetle rolling his ball of dung. And now you can say that you’ve seen one as well. Aren’t you just thrilled?
About 1/2 way up there was a shepherd on the side of the mountain singing to his heart’s content. His sheep and goats were traversing the side of the mountain foraging for food. As we passed him, he too asked for “one doll-ah man.” Must be a racket. He was amazing though as he was running up and down the side of that steep hill in nothing but a pair of loose fitting sandals. One bit of advice though that I didn’t get until too late – stay down wind from him!! Not a lot of showers on the side of that mountain.
Scattered around the side were several Taliban lookouts. OK, I don’t know for sure that they were Taliban outposts but that’s what one of the guys who had been on the hike before told me. They were certainly well placed as the views of the surrounding valley were incredible. You could see for miles and miles. You’d be able to see further if it weren’t for the smog, dust and fecal matter hanging in the air. Have I mentioned that we’ve been told that the air here has 8 parts per million of fecal matter. Ummm. Doesn’t that sound yummy!!
Anyway, the views from the lookouts were magnificent as well as very strategic. Scattered around them were Russian shell casings, rocket tubes and other discernable signs that weapons had been fired from these locations.
And yet, despite the obvious signs of war and destruction, there were signs of great beauty as well. Wild flowers littered the sides of the hill. Small signs of beauty amidst the barren landscape, a real testament that you can find beauty just about anywhere.
Before you reached the 7,500 peak, you had to crawl across a spine of rock. I hope the pictures do the experience justice. I’m not a big fan of heights so needless to say I was just a tad bit nervous traversing the spine, but I made it.
A group of French soldiers had started about 20 minutes before we did so of course they were already there. As I mingled among them I could smell the distinct odor of alcohol. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was and then I saw the champagne bottle. The French were up there toasting the rising of the sun, drinking their cheap champagne in plastic champagne glasses.
I had brought an American Flag. I flew it over Camp Blackhorse on Veteran’s Day last November and will take it home to be the new flag that we fly in front of our house. I’m glad I brought it as several people took advantage of it.
Again, the view was incredible. Since we were at the highest point, you could turn in any direction and see forever. Blackhorse was hidden from view by a small hill but you could see the KMTC, you could see the airport and planes landing and so much more.
As we were hiking down we met a group coming from the KMTC. It made me smile to hear them grumble and complain about how steep it was, how hot it was (it was only 0745 by then) and how they didn’t think they were going to make it. One of the senior officers from the KMTC was climbing with them. It was his 40th hike and he was wearing his body armor. We couldn’t decide if he was a manly man or just insane. We finally decided that he was insane.
It was a great hike and I’m glad that I did it. I realized that I had done about the only “touristy” thing available for the soldiers to do. So now I can say that I’ve finally become a tourist in Afghanistan.