Editor’s Note: The following is the opening excerpt from “A Tourist’s Guide to Afghanistan” by Bowe Bergdahl. The world-renowned author is a former US Army soldier and adventurer, having spent over five years traveling through the Afghan/Pakistan frontier.
When I first gazed upon the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, I was struck not only by their stark beauty, but the sense of timelessness that encompasses the entire region. Alexander the Great may have stood upon the same ground I now walked. British soldiers climbed, fought, and died over the same breathtaking landscape. It was awe inspiring.
I’d always been fascinated with the area. Being from a small town in the Midwest, I never imagined I’d be able to explore a place steeped in so much history. I spent those first few months studying the culture. Visitors to the region can sample such wonderful foods as boiled goat, boiled mutton, chai tea, and yogurt of all varieties.
When I was offered the chance to take a once-in-a-lifetime hike through the eastern mountains I jumped at the opportunity. As the sun set on Kunar province that first night I knew I’d made the right decision. Tiny mud hamlets dotted the landscape, and the distant rumble of fighter jets mixed beautifully with the sounds of insects in the night air.
The people I met on my journeys were some of the most charming on earth, never hesitating to ask me about my background, where I worked, or what I did. Within hours I had made fast friends with a group of men who graciously offered me a seat in their battered Nissan truck. The rest as they say is history. I’ll never forget Mohammed, Aziz, and the countless others who hosted me over the next five years of my travels through the frontier.
From bathing in the frigid waters of Char-e-Bouk with my cook Faisal, to sketching some wonderful portraits of American military bases for our group leader Mustafa, to watching the local women harvest opium poppies to make black-tar heroin, this book highlights some of the best memories during those unforgettable times.
Now that I’ve returned home I still feel something calling me back to those intoxicating mountains on the other side of the world.
Like many countless others before me, I feel like I’ve left a little piece of myself in Afghanistan and I can’t wait to go back. I encourage anyone who reads this book to visit as well. You might never return.