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Sunday
Jan112009

Escaping Winter

The time has finally come to go on leave.  The goal here is to obviate about four weeks of what it hopefully my last winter in Afghanistan.  It's not that good a plan because I'm going to the bleaker environs of the UK, but at least they understand the concept of central heating there.

Getting out of Afghanistan in winter is always especially stressful (as it getting back into the country, but who cares if their return from leave is delayed?).  In my case there will be two hurdles to contend with.  The first involves crossing the 3500m pass of Salang and the second is the flight to Dubai.  The weather is a great deal shittier and colder in Kabul than here...while we get 10-15C on many days, Kabul has considerable trouble peaking above freezing (mainly because we are at 300m while Kabul is at 2000).  This means the weather on the Kabul side is often cloudy and snowy when it's just fine here in Mazar.  That said, the authorities do a stellar job of keeping Salang open throughout all but the worst blizzards.

The departure from Kabul by plane is also traditionally stressful.  It might be better now as the airport seems to have gotten better navigational facilities (planes can land at night now).  The problem is planes landing in low visibility it seems--they don't need much to take off, just lift in the direction of the flight path and then pop above the cloud cover.  So as long as the plane is already on the ground your chances are improved, as opposed to a plane coming from Delhi which might have to turn back before it can land.  For this reason it's good to go with the local airlines, who will take off no matter what.  Once those first 5 minutes are over and you're skybourne, it's smooth-sailing to Dubai and you relax and appreciate the well manicured Iranian countryside below you (lucky bastards with their fancy freeways and roadside foodcourts).  It's also a good idea to have a few extra hundred dollars on you so you can buy a ticket on another (potentially less scupulous and safety-conscious) airline.

With all luck my next post will be from the UK, where I will be feverishly socialising and networking my way into the new year.  Or else it could be a drunk poste from L'Atmosphere in Kabul!

Reader Comments (2)

Good luck with your travels and your break in the UK. I thought driving the 13 hours to MA from here was obnoxious--you win.

January 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterbecca gomez farrell

Good luck. I expect to be hearing you talk about the terrible English food next.

January 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTall Pale Jason

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