Driving to Kunduz from Pul-i-Kumri:
Of all of the NGOs at work in Afghanistan, I saw the H.A.L.O. Trust in the most places doing the most work. After the H.A.L.O. Trust has cleared a space of land mines, they paint their logo on a feature in the area to indicate that the area is now clear. Some have criticized the H.A.L.O. Trust for hiring locals and paying them (so I was told) around $120 a month. Obviously, a Westerner demands a higher salary. However, I observed the local de-mining talent in action and they appeared extremely competent (I suppose they would have to be or they wouldn’t be on the job long). And what better way to spread the effectiveness of a chronically under-funded NGO than by hiring as many people as possible to do an important job at the lowest cost?
Below is a picture of an expanse recently cleared by the H.A.L.O. Trust:
When we got to the outskirts of Kunduz, the first thing I noticed were these burkha babes. Definitely not a picture that would have been approved of… Fortunately, I have a small camera that I can tuck in my hand and use to occasionally snap pictures like this:
I dropped my stuff off at the hotel we were staying in and immediately started walking around the town, starting with these colorful market stalls directly across the street from where we were staying:
Kunduz is a horse town and many shops feature elaborate saddles and other horse-related gear such as these offerings in a shop selling rope:
This boy spoke a little English and was absolutely fascinated by the presence of an American in town:
There was a wedding taking place in the hotel on the day we arrived. This was one of the guards hired to keep an eye on things because suicide bombers like to strike events such as weddings and funerals with large gatherings of people:
I shot this video from my hotel window the night before we left. I think it gives a good feel for daily life in the city – right up to the dueling kites at the end:
The Germans are having a difficult time in Kunduz with the Taliban, but I encountered no trouble or hostility when I visited.
The next day – driving to Mazar-i-Sharif… We’re leaving the mountains of the Hindu Kush far behind now and really getting into the desert: