Rock wall and the lush greenery across the river in Afghanistan

Sandy beach by the riverside

Mountains rise steeply from the river

Narrow gorge in the mountainside

Towering rock faces dwarf the river

Small village by the river

Footpath carved into the cliff

Border crossing and the expansive views

Afghan village spread out over the mountainside

A brush of color in the dry landscape

Still snow-covered peaks in the distance

Landmines by the side of the road

Ancient houses on the edge of the cliff

Abandoned rock houses

Steep footpaths climb the cliffs

Vibrant green landscape as the road winds into Tajikistan

Kulyab, Tajikistan

Scenes from Afghanistan

May 28, 2012

O' beautiful, for spacious skies

But now those skies are threatening

They're beating plowshares into swords

For this tired old man that we elected king

Armchair warriors often fail

And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales

- Don Henley

To get to Dushanbe from Khorog you face a 14 plus hour drive over bad roads in a vehicle that is more than likely to be in equally bad condition. On the upside, the road traces the Tajik-Afghan border and offers stunning views of a remote corner of Afghanistan. The entire stretch of road on the Tajik side is mirrored by ancient footpaths on the Afghan side, sometimes they are literally carved into the rock faces of the opposing cliffs. Other times these amazing paths seem to climb up impossibly steep hillsides to reach green pastures high above the valley floor. These footpaths are the only access points that link some of these tiny villages together. For all their remoteness, these villages are set amidst beautiful scenery, jagged and still-snow-covered mountain peaks tower above smaller vibrantly green hillsides that in turn overlook the dryer lowland areas. The old rock and mud-brick houses fit the natural surroundings perfectly, as they did hundreds or even thousands of years ago.

But there are reminders of the recent past too, the shells of Soviet tanks, scavenged clean, can be seen by the roadside, along with signs indicating the presences of landmines, depicting a one legged stick figure with its missing leg above an explosion. These speak to the volatility of the region and how it is still the northern front in a conflict, though this one of a different nature. While these pictures may convey how beautiful the scenery is, my camera isn’t good enough to capture the lives of the people living across the river in Afghanistan. Highlights include donkey caravans led by colorfully clad herders and women in colorful purple burqas walking past naked children playing in the river. Driving through this volatile region with such amazing scenery it is hard for your thoughts not to wander, imagining a parallel universe where tourists raft down this picturesque river valley and locals sunbathe on the sandy riverside beaches with a cold beer in hand to combat the hot sun.