G-string Journey

One Wild Journey, One Crazy Couple, One Life to Live

Scotch and Civilization

As the days passed, I started to feel somewhat removed from the rest of the world.

Feeling removed is a nice feeling in many ways – as long as you like your own company. Lucky for me, I am quite fond of my company – and Juma has certainly grown on me. This contentedness gives way to surprise when I walk over my final pass and see civilization again. Ok, so it is a yurt on the path back to Sarhad e Broghil, but it is the first dwelling I have seen for a while.

I have mixed feelings. I want to walk back the other way and disappear again, but at the same time, the idea of some of that nice yoghurt and bread is quite enticing. Yesterday I ate my special kale chips treat that I had been saving and I only have a few Trek bars left. I even took a photo of Natasha’s Living Food’s Rawmazing Kale Crunchies’ ‘final eating place’ for posterity. Who does that?!

So, when Juma asks if I want to go to the yurt for some tea I eagerly agree, hoping for a nice snack. I was not disappointed. We are served some lovely tea (with yak milk of course) poor man’s bread, as they call it, and yak yoghurt. It all tastes fabulous. I am told poor man’s bread is called such because it is baked with an old grain that they grind by hand; as opposed to a rich man’s bread that is refined and ground in a mill. Poor is perfect for me and my refined-foods restrictions. It tastes that much better now that I know I won’t suffer for eating it!

As we finish our tea, I have come to grips with the idea of civilization again and am ready for the trek back in to town. I take my final photos of the panorama of the Wakhan and head down toward the valley where I can already see the rivers of fresh water from where I intend to drink enough to hydrate a thirsty camel. I have, by now, been able to dig my hat out from the bottom of my bag and am feeling less sun scorched and dessiccated already.

We pass through town and I receive a homecoming welcome from everyone. Its amazing how nice people can be when their livelihoods rely on it! The kids are again chanting “axe, axe”, for their photos to be taken and the women are wandering behind, staring at my clothes and hair. I take a photo of four kids who walk with me from one side of town to the other and another of several young girls who are taking a break from collecting water. I show them their images and they all laugh with delight. Their laughter is contagious.

I walk the rest of the way smiling. I set up my tent in the same place I did the first night I arrived. I eat my last Wakhan meal and dig into the bottom of my food bag to see what all is left. I come upon a mini bottle of scotch that I had forgotten was there; now that is a homecoming welcome! I decide to take my little bottle of airline scotch to the top of a hill that overlooks the valley, where I can sip my golden contraband liquid, read my book, and watch the sunset. Alcohol, although illegal in Afghanistan can be found in the city quite readily (for a cost). However, I gave up alcohol with my diagnosis. Today I figure I can treat myself.

I find a beautiful spot to sit and watch the sunset with a view of a rock to my right that boasts petroglyphs of animals and warriors. A perfect setting. As I prepare for my first sip, a man with a 12 band radio on his shoulder appears from the other side of the rock. He is listening to BBC in Russian. He sits down beside me and I hide my liquid gold under my shirt. He smiles a toothless grin at me and says “Canada”. He twirls the radio dial until he gets something that sounds like Chinese. “Canada. BBC English”. “Neh”, I say. “Not English”. He looks very disappointed.

After twirling the dial back and forth across the bands checking with me for ‘Canada’ each time we hear voices, he finally gives up. His eyes wander toward the river where he sees someone who may offer better conversation. He calls to the woman who responds by gathering the tether of her camel and walking up to join us on the rock. I put down my book and tuck the bottle of scotch into my pocket as I resign to having company. The camel and Waki woman are hilarious. She seems only to have one pitch – high – and the camel seems to respond to her laugh with his own. They are an entertaining duo. I have no idea what she is saying, but I am in fits of laughter. The camel decides here is a good a place as any to use as a toilet. As my former perfect setting starts to pool with camel urine I give up the thought of my scotch and solitude all together.

However, soon the BBC man and the camel lady grow bored of my mimes and wander off toward town. The sun is just about to set. I find a a dry seat further down the rock and the scotch and sun are both gone before I know it.

9 comments on “Scotch and Civilization

  1. Mazar Mick :-)
    November 6, 2012

    Nice, Such a pity you didn’t have some real whiskey, that would have rounded things of perfectly 🙂

    • gstringjourney
      November 6, 2012

      Notice I didn’t refer to it as whiskey…notice I also did not have any soda water!

  2. Roger Perdomo
    November 6, 2012

    I love the photographs. The photo of the kids reminds me of Honduras. I can see in their faces that they are happy to pose for the photo and know that someone our there is going to see their faces. The pic of the camel Lady is a great shot too. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • gstringjourney
      November 6, 2012

      They do have a bit of Honduras in them! Thanks for reading!

  3. heather northcott
    November 6, 2012

    loved the story and the photos sheils! it’s like being there with you. you know i always am!

  4. Brent
    November 7, 2012

    Nice to see you have given up alcohol Henry. 🙂

    • gstringjourney
      November 7, 2012

      And to think an airline bottle of scotch sent me off the wagon again!

  5. AWalkingIWillGo
    March 23, 2013

    I’ve enjoyed your postings on the Wakhan enormously, yours is my favorite blog on the subject so far! You have such a great attitude towards things! I want to go more than ever, now, though I am much more mindful of cameras, streams in late August, and loosing my sunscreen than I was before I reading this.

    Is there any way to contact you and get your take on a few things re: the Wakhan? I promise to not push my luck too far!

    Thanks again!

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