Saturday, July 10, 2010

Band-e Amir

In Kabul, it's easy to forget that the tenseness between one's shoulder blades is not normal, that heightened awareness and perpetual caution are a deviation from some calmer norm. It's not that I feel threatened in the city - my life putters along far more normally than might be expected - but that the knowledge that everything will be okay right up until the moment it isn't has a way of weighing on the subconscious.

In that sense, Bamiyan is paradise, as it is a place worthy of superlatives even were it not an escape from the dusty chaos of a city in conflict. Imagine setting out in a dusty 4-Runner and bumping along surprisingly good gravel roads for two hours to discover this view at the end of the journey:

Sitting for kebabs at a tiny house in Band-e Amir with Afreen, the sheer absurdity of our location - one of the world's most beautiful lakes, several thousand miles from home, ostensibly in a failed state/war zone and yet outrageously serene - struck in a way that laughed away any remaining stress built up by the previous six weeks.

Anything else that can be said about Band-e Amir is best said in photographs - it is a series of lakes, after all, tucked into a high-altitude plain about two hours' drive outside Bamiyan city. Minerals in the water give them an unnaturally blue shade, and a man at a picnic table outside the mosque built into the cliff along Band-e Haibat rents swan-shaped paddleboats for $6/hour. The words "any color but..." had barely escaped my lips when Afreen asked the man for the pale pink. What protest would be worth it here? Pink it was:

A crowd along the shore gathered to stare as we navigated clumsily out into the middle of the lake, until we disappeared around a curve into a shaded cove. Scarves off, fingers trailing in the turquoise chill, we pedaled only when necessary to reverse our slow drift back out into the bright sunshine.

(As with the Buddhas, a full album is linked from each of the photos above. Enjoy!)


Sarah said...

Hey Katy - awesome pictures of the lake. I can't see the Buddhas, even when i click on the pictures to get to the album - are they there?

Anonymous said...

Wow. Amazing! Glad that there are still oases in war zones!