6.30am. Time to go. I have to drive fast. I need to go there and back twice in a day. It’s how I, and my co-driver, earn our daily wage. The bus is full of Afghans on holiday with their families. There is also the bearded stranger and his sister. All tourists love going to Band-e-Amir. Six natural lakes, 3,000 meters above sea level in the Hindu Kush. They are astonishingly turquoise; they reflect the deep blue Afghan sky and the minerals in the water. One geologist told me they are 5,000 meters deep. Really?
I drive out of the lush Bamiyan valley. The massive Buddha statues in the cliffs are in shadow. We reach the mountains. The foreigners point at goats and at men scything grass on distant slopes. There are some mud villages; but mostly there’s nomadic dwellings, tents surrounded by gorse fences. I race past them. Doing the 75km in two and a half hours means we have a chance for the two return journeys, earn the money we need. Accelerator pedal; we speed round bends on unmade roads; 100-foot drops on one side draw squeals from some of the tourists.
The village at Band-i-Amir is only for the tourists. 8 hotels and 4 shops, all small. The tourists get out, I collect more. I drive back to Bamiyan.
I am back in Band-e-Amir by 2.30, filling up with petrol and baggage. The stranger and his sister are last on. Their hair is wet. They have obviously been swimming. The lake water is freezing but clear; you can see thousands of chush (yellow fish) swimming around. At 3.15pm I catch up with the rival bus after a frantic chase. It starts half an hour before us in the morning; as the day goes on we try and make up time, to steal passengers. I wiggle and weave; it won’t let us past. Pssst. First puncture of the day. 4pm, puncture number two. We limp home after 6pm. Tomorrow I am doing the Kabul run at 6.30am. The two foreigners are with me again. I won’t manage to have the spare tyres mended in time: I hope we don’t have another puncture tomorrow.
[PS: We did]