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Afghanistan: Road Warriors


Images by Travis Beard and Frauke de Weijer

The remote village of Chirast in Sur e Pol province of Afghanistan lies on the ethnic border between the Tajiks and Hazaras. Although the village is not considered to be under Taliban control, the villages did burn their own school down. And it was only three years ago that they lifted the ban on Hazaras entering the village (punishable by death). Due to this years late and heavy rains, the three roads out of the village were over run by rivers, effectively cutting the village off from the outside world. Local Malik (leader) Haquani convinced bus drivers to start a route between Chirast and the nearest village on the 'main road' Tahpaj. After much deliberation the drivers agreed to give it a go. Only one obstacle left: a 3000 metre pass and no road. So they built one.


 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230383

The environment in Sur e Pol province is some of the most stunning in all Afghanistan.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230384

After finding out the road is under river water, our new 'guide' Gorban takes us off the back roads and onto goat tracks and river beds in order to get over the pass.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230385

Just over the 3000m + pass there is a rock slide pit with tennis ball sized gravel, making it very hard to traverse

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230386

A young man greets us as we enter the village of Chirast, while local children watch us with interest.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230388

Locals with un-verified links to the Taliban check out us and our bikes as we enter the village of Chirast.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230389

Many local villagers were accommodating and friendly, while others kept their distance from us

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230387

Attempting to drive out of the valley, we enter a gorge where under the moving water there is an apparent road. An old man passes by and tells us that the road is not passable.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230390

The improvised road is made with hard labor all present, gravel is removed and replaced by large rocks which give traction for the tires.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230379

Gorban helps Travis push his bike up the in-passable pass.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230391

The improvised road is made with hard labor all present, gravel is removed with a shovel manned by two men as the Malik of the villages gives orders.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230392

The improvised road is made with hard labor all present, gravel is removed and replaced by large rocks which give traction for the tires

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230380

Local strong man Ali picks up a 60kg rock and carries it across towards the newly built road.

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230381

The improvised road is made with hard labor by all present, gravel is removed and replaced by large rocks which give traction for the tires

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230394

Once successfully traversing the pass the vans carrying women, children and old men make their way down the rocky riverbed toward civilization: Tahpaj

Prvince: Sur e Pol Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 25/05/2009

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230393

Once successfully traversing the pass the vans carrying women, children and old men make their way down the steep goat track toward civilization: Tahpaj

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 00/00/0000

 

Travis Beard / Argus / Picturetank BET0230382

Driver Ali goes through a set of tires every 2 months, worn totally bald before being replaced

Chirast, Sur e Pol, Afghanistan - 00/00/0000



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