Vacanze sul Khyber Pass
Fonte: dal blog Free Range International del 21 giugno 2012
“It turns out that my buddy Dr. John Ryan had spent five years in the army as a properly tabbed Special Forces medic. And all this time we had thought he was a heterosexual. I had to say that as Marine Corps bushido demands such things. After John and I traded more inter-service insults Elisa, who had been enjoying the jokes flying back and forth, said she needed to know the back-story to the pending visit with MI6.
I had finished a contract in March of 2006 and had a month to wait before returning to the USA in order to qualify for the overseas tax exemption. I talked my buddy Yahya Afridi into taking me on a tour of the Khyber Pass because, being a military buff, it was one of those things one must do if the opportunity presents itself. As you do I applied for a visa at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, flew into Islamabad and was fitted for a couple of low grade Shawar Kameez (local dress also called man jammies by some internationals) and headed for Peshsawar to link up with Yahya’s kin. We arrived on the 13th of March and checked into a local dive called the City View Inn. The rooms were OK but what made the place
“When we checked into the Northwest Frontier constabulary office for a travel permit the officer who helped us couldn’t have been friendlier. He issued me a travel permit without complaint or delay, arranged for a Northwest Frontier police officer to accompany us, which was required by law, and then said to Yahya in Pashto “I think there are problems at the university; please hide the foreigner well until you are sure it is safe to travel with him”.
The year prior some libtard named Michael Isikoff writing at the lamestream magazine Newsweek had published a story alleging abuse of the Koran by the American military. The story turned out to be complete fiction apparently created during a serious crack pipe binge but Newsweek being Newsweek publish this rubbish and it resulted in about 1000 people being killed in the subsequent rioting in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Apparently this years riots were about some cartoon contest in one of the few European countries that had yet to be colonized by Islamic refugees. A magazine had published some of these cartoons several months earlier but for some reason it appeared that the students were going to riot about the cartoons now. Yahya was pretty sure it wouldn’t amount to much as long as we went to ground until our Afridi hosts came to fetch us for the Khyber Pass expedition. What better place to go to ground then a dive hotel right across the street from a KFC franchise?
The rioting started the next day with attacks on a Korean transportation outfit called Sammi Daewoo and the Norwegian telecom company Telenor. The crowds were large and violent so the Afridis sent in reinforcements who took over the hotel and held the owner and family in their rooms at gunpoint so that word of my presence would not leak out. They put two “Parwans” (Pashto for wrestlers) in the room with Yahya and I and also gave me an AK and some piece of shit makarov pistol that I doubted would even function properly. A makarov shoots a 9×18mm round that would mostly piss people off if they were hit by one and I prefer a .45 cal pistol which pisses people off too but puts them down hard at the same time. The Afridis had all brought their sons along who lined the corridor to function as runners as needed since the Telenor system was down and our cell phones useless.
I looked out the window toward the KFC and noticed workers were putting large red blankets over the KFC signs and closing up for the day. One of the Parwams dispatched a runner to Musa Burger to get us a stash of hamburgers just in case. The kid came back with three bags of greasy burgers and a bottle of vial Vat #9 scotch that I refused to touch saying it was against my religion. I value my liver and, although Irish by heritage, I draw the line with certified rotgut.
We slept fitfully that night, each of us stood watch and when not on watch the Parwans snored so loudly that I stuffed my ears full of Chinese toilet paper which has the texture of sand paper and doesn’t do squat about keeping ambient noise at bay.
The 15th of March came with a spectacular sunrise and 70,000 or so furious Islamic protesters heading down the University road and straight towards us. I looked out the curtain and started muttering filthy curse words – you get that from me sometimes and I’m not going to apologize about it either. Yahya looked over my shoulder and paled. He got the Parwans up and they too got a glimpse of the crowd but maintained the serene visage of ancient Buddhas. They spoke rapidly in Pashto to Yahya who then turned to me and said “well Mr. Marine officer do you have a plan for this?”
“I have a plan for every contingency Yahya; watch and learn”.
I went into the little kitchen area, unplugged the refrigerator and tipped in on its side. I then took the mattress from one of the beds and wedged it between the fridge and cupboards. Reaching into the zippered compartment of my back pack I took out eyeshades and my I pod, got a blanket, put on my eye shades, laid down on the mattress, turned on my I pod, closed my eyes and curled up into a little ball. Happy thoughts – that was what I was telling myself over and over….think happy thoughts. This was admittedly a weak plan but it was a plan.
One of the Parwans came over and said in perfect English “you’re our guest Dalton we’ll get you out of the this or we all go down together.” You have to love the Parwans because it is always nice when giant scary looking dudes are at your side even if you are facing off against 70,000 hysterical lunatics. More of the Afridi clan arrived each with a son in tow and armed to the teeth with AK 47’s and pistols. One of the runners brought back a box of CD’s and a little CD player for me to watch from my nest in the kitchen. It turns out my plan was solid because if one of the 70,000 or so rioters saw me it would be game on and their was no doubt how that would end.
I went through the box and found 43 copies of Al Gores “Inconvenient Truth” which apparently the Afridis couldn’t give away much less sell. There were 20 or so porn DVD’s and I hate watching that stuff because it’s so pointless. At the bottom of the box I found a Food Network DVD of the Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson who I knew nothing about. I started watching her show and fell instantly in love. What a classy, beautiful, woman and listening to her purr on and on about things like potatoes cooked in duck fat caused me to lose all sense of time and place. I was watching the DVD for the third time when the head of the Afridi clan arrived about 15 minutes before the rioters stormed the KFC across the street and torched it.
Enzer Gul Afridi (Enzer Gul translates to Rose Flower) was a true man of action and a shrewd one at that. He looked at the mob looting the KFC before they set it on fire and started spitting out orders to teenage runners who took off like rabbits. He then turned to me and asked in English what I was watching. I told him I was watching a show by the Domestic Goddess about cooking. He told me every man should know how to cook and I handed the DVD player to him so he could get a glimpse of Nigella and boy did his face light up when he saw her. He closed the DVD player and handed it to one of the runners who took off with it to parts unknown.
The Afridi clan has a long history of being the premier land pirates of Central Asia
The boys were straggling back with various articles of clothing and dozens of hand grenades. Enzer Gul handed me a pure white Shawar Kameez and a white turban to wear. Another runner came back with a pretty realistic looking fake beard that was a good three fists long. As a rule longer beards indicate greater piety in Islamic males and three fists is as long as they get. By the time I was dressed and had the beard glued onto my face we had 10 Afridi fighters with us who all had AK’s, hand grenades and pistols.
The rioting mob was looking for another target to attack now that the KFC was burning to the ground and somehow they had word that a “foreigner” was in the City View motel. Enzer Gul’s runners had spread that rumor on purpose and the mob was surging around the building looking for a way in. It was time to go but there was one last thing that needed to be done and Enzer Gul apologized to me before taking out a straight razor and slicing a good six inch gash right above my hair line.
Nothing bleeds more than a scalp wound and blood was pouring down my face in sheets, covering my fake beard and soaking the white tunic I was wearing. The Afridis formed a body bunker around me and we went through the front door yelling, “you have shot the Sheik” over and over at the top of their lungs. They brandished their rifles and forced people out of the way with vicious butt strokes. The word that “the Sheik” a.k.a Osama Bin Laden had been wounded and was fleeing the scene spread through the crowd instantly. Most of them melted away but several thousand turned to clear a path for us as the Afridis rushed me towards the first police van we could find. When the Pakistani police officers saw me they turned pale and ran leaving the van for us to use. We jumped in and headed for Baab-I-Khyber gate that marks the start of the Northwest Frontier, which is an area where Pakistani police and rioters are not welcomed. We drove past the gate at speed and turned left into a warren of little cinderblock building that turned out to be local gin mills. We stopped at one and climbed out of the van, the Afridi’s started cranking off their AK’s in the air to celebrate our successful escape and we all poured into one of the gin mills for a round of Vat # 9. I was still bleeding like a stuck pig but being a good sport about it because that’s what one does in these situations.
I was drinking Vat #9 in copious amounts and even smoking cigarettes, a nasty habit I had successfully avoided for 48 years. Some more vans arrived, more blasts of AK fire went up into the sky as we were joined by dozens of the Afridi clan who wanted to take pictures with the bleeding fake “Sheik”; I have all of them saved on one of my hard drives – they’re pretty cool to look at. Two hours into our bender Dr. Shakil Afridi arrived to sew up my scalp. I told him not to worry about causing me pain because I was already drunk and also certain the cigarettes I had been given had more then just tobacco in them. He told me I was fool to be there in the first place and that he had lidocane to numb my scalp and just what the hell kind of doctor did I think he was. I displayed my extraordinary ninja skills by apologizing for being a knucklehead and shutting up. Dr. Afridi shaved just a little bit of my hair around the wound and did an excellent job of suturing the wound closed. He took the bloody Shawar Kameez from me and placed it in a plastic bag that was handed to a runner and taken to I have no idea where. That was a smart move because it would prove that he had not come in contact with the real Sheik which would be a most dangerous thing to do at that time.
He then asked what I was doing in Peshawar and Yahya explained I had flown in for a trip to see the Khyber Pass because if I went back to America I would lose my foreign earnings tax break. Once the Afridis digested the fact that this entire ordeal had occurred so I could avoid paying taxes they ran outside and let lose several more volleys of gunfire in celebration. Enzer Gul kissed me on both cheeks and declared me an official member of the Afridi clan. Apparently taking huge risks to avoid paying taxes was a trait they found most appealing; even in a foreign devil like me. A convoy to take me on a tour of the Khyber was set up for the next morning, sleeping mats were brought in by the teenage runners and things settled down enough for us to get some sleep by around 0100. I was drunk, probably stoned but nobody would fess up to that (I didn’t know how to speak Pashto back then) and happy to be alive.
there are 100′s of these regimental plaques on the Khyber Pass
The next morning started with rounds of Vat #9 some greasy eggs and many rounds of gunfire to make sure everybody had a weapon that worked. A Pakistani Tribal police officer showed up to be my official escort and we took off up the Khyber. We had driven maybe two miles before the lead vehicle spotted an old man tending a flock of fat bottom sheep and we all stopped while they haggled over a price. Once the deal was struck we piled back into the cars and the sheep was thrown into the lap of the Khyber policeman and I because we had the back seat of the biggest car (a stinking corolla mind you) in the caravan. The sheep proceeded to crap every 5 seconds of the next two hours. By the time we reached Landi Kotal (the last town in Pakistan before you enter Afghanistan and the end of the line for our tour) there was a good 3 feet of sheep crap on the floorboard at my feet. And man did that beast stink.
How many armies have marched through this pass? It was so cool to stand on the very ground where legends were made
But I was still happy to be driving through the pass – look at these pictures and imagine the history of this unbelievable place. It was a dream come true for me despite the sheep shit and the scalp wound. At Landi Kotal we stopped at another cinderblock dive where the boys who had been riding in the trunks of the various cars of our convoy promptly slaughtered the sheep after haggling with the owners of what passed as a restaurant over the price of cooking it. My dietary habits could best be described by the word scavenger but even I would have normally balked at eating that damn sheep in what appeared to be the dirtiest cinder block building in the world. But I was starving and joined in on the feast as if it was cooked by Nigella herself. Believe it or not the sheep kabobs were delicious and I didn’t get sick or even get the runs after dining in what was clearly a world-class shit hole.
Rolling up the intestines from the damn sheep that crapped all over me for most of the day. I could not have been happier when the boys slit that beasts throat. And I ask you my friends – would you want to eat in a place like this? Of course not but it was good chow – honest
We drove back to the outskirts of Peshawar and I had to lay low for three days until the airport opened and I could catch a flight to Dubai. I asked Enzer Gul for my food channel DVD and he smiled and said “not a chance in hell Dalton” but I did find a bunch of old English books about the region and spent my time pouring through them while also trying to learn Pashto from the dozen or so children who were always running around the compound I had been stashed in. There was an emotional farewell party for me the night prior to my departure. The Afridis cried, I cried, we all drank and shot rounds into the air, gave each other big man hugs and the next morning I left dressed in western clothes and with a suture job so well done you couldn’t even detect they were there without a close examination of my hair line. I arrived in Dubai and checked into my usual hotel spending the day catching up on much needed sleep. I was up in time for happy hour and went down for a cocktail or two and that is when things really got crazy.” (Babatim, on Free Range International)
N.B. Free Range International è un blog americano su cui si ritrovano a scrivere soldati, contractors e reduci dei vari interventi militari americani in giro per il mondo. Ne viene fuori uno spaccato autentico – anche se ”letterario” – che sulla guerra dice più cose di tanti editoriali che si possono leggere sui mass media mainstream.