Being here in Nuristan is also exciting from the point of view of the tourist. Nuristan-a remote little area tucked away in the mountains, almost 3000m above sea level , currently only reachable by helicopter or donkey—or else through hours of driving in a 4×4, along dirt tracks and through rivers. In many ways it feels like I am right at the heart of Afghanistan; the Afghanistan to which ballot boxes had to be transported on donkeys; the Afghanistan where people walk for hours with food, straw or other materials on their backs; the Afghanistan where people ride on horse back, galloping up steep mountains; or sit and watch goats and sheep graze up in mountain valleys; the Afghanistan where you can pick walnuts straight off a tree and crack them open with a stone. ….
……Oh my—and also the Afghanistan where suddenly people walk into your living room with a live goat, with lots of wool and fur and wonderful horns, telling you that that is going to be your dinner!!!! I am not kidding you, this is literally what is just happening around me. I am told goat’s meat is nice—but having seen the goat, I would rather eat beans and rice for a third time running. ☹ I think I will give the slaughter-ceremony a miss, or else I might have to become a vegetarian…….
It is so beautiful here, with the river running straight through the little capital of Nuristan which consists of 3 houses and one small little shop that sells everything and nothing; the trees, whose leaves have gone green, brown and yellow here as they would anywhere during the autumn; the snow capped mountains that surround the valley that we are in.
We are supposed to be picked up by the helicopter and fly back to Jalalabad via Khunar on Saturday. This is looking increasingly unlikely as we are snowed in and this means it will not be possible for the helicopter to land as it navigates purely by sight through the narrow valleys around the majestic mountains. It was already very cold yesterday and we woke up this morning to the first snow flakes falling. It is quite an adventure being here, with only Afghan males in addition to the 3 expat blokes and two Nepalese gurkhas……I am the only female which is an interesting experience especially when it comes to showering in a communal bathroom where there is no curtain or door on the shower cubicle!!!! Mind, not that I would stay there long anywhere as the hot water tank is bust, so the water is ice cold mountain water…..I braved it this morning and think I earned the respect of those around me for it, as none of them had the guts. I wonder how long they will last before cold water is better than being smelly?
Apart from being cold and hovering around our little wood-stove in the living room, we have also been outside, had a snowball fight (picture Afghani men in blankets and flat hats running through the snow!) and went for a long walk yesterday, with another following at 2pm today. It will look different today…….as our paths will be covered with snow……And then, tomorrow, the meshrano jirga election which will hopefully go well, too. We are hoping that the remaining two female members of the provincial council will be there, too.
The newly elected Meshrano Jirga, Nuristan