Published in The Australian, 2012

Before the Afghan War, before the icing on Kathmandu’s Freak Street cakes had dissolved, and before Goa had become the enclave of the rich and famous, l went to Kabul.

Along with thousands of others, I trod the carefree hippie trail from Australia to Europe, however when I arrived in Kabul, my only “goods and chattels” were the clothes I was wearing, which included my partner’s jeans.

For reasons I will never know, on that particular day I’d put all my souvenirs plus my camera – and heaven forbid – my contraceptive pills – into my backpack, and boarded the flight from Delhi with just a small hand bag.  Consequently, several rather desperate hours later, after waiting in vain for my belongings to appear on the luggage trolley in Kabul, I realised I’d literally kissed them all goodbye.

Thank goodness I still had my passport!

Travel insurance and American Express rendered me a meagre thirty dollars to buy essentials like toiletries and underwear.  Imagine the incongruence of shopping in the very English ‘Marks and Sparks’ in Kabul, under the watchful and rather furtive gaze of male salespeople.

Later, armed with English knickers and a toothbrush, I retreated to our drab gray concrete hotel, from where I could hear the muezzin’s call to prayer, intertwined with the music of Osi Bisa, Deep Purple and the Rolling Stones.

I soon discovered that even with a male partner, exploring the delights of Kabul, with its camel caravans and turbaned police on horseback, could be scary.  Shopping in the bazaar for clothes also took rather a lot of fortitude.  The minute my partner turned his back I was literally bulldozed into a corner and forced to fend off the advances of over-eager and mischievous salesmen bearing armfuls of dresses.

With the only condoms on offer not dissimilar to a good old Wellington boot, we took our chances and continued to explore the magic of Kabul, including Chicken Street’s deliciously famous apple turnovers.  But although I entered Kabul in ‘hippie mode’, it seemed my sense of adventure had disappeared along with my backpack.  Plans to travel around Afghanistan and explore Iran were replaced by the desire to get on a plane and go to Greece. 

So, two months later we arrived in England, and nine months after that saw us residing in London with a permanent reminder of our short sojourn in Kabul.

©2012 Tina Blackmur