The Taliban are on the march, and as matters stand, it is only a case of when, not if, they win Afghanistan’s civil war. Once that happens, such freedom as Afghans have enjoyed in the last twenty years will vanish and a new age of oppression will begin.
I am ashamed of how the western powers, specifically America, has treated the country. And not only Afghanistan, but their own soldiers, too. Those western soldiers who died in Afghanistan. Those who were injured: What did they die for? What were they injured for? No more, it seems, than for our leaders to renege on the commitment they owed to that country and leave.
Maybe, though, Joe Biden et al, had no choice: the cost to the West was too high. The cost? Of making Afghanistan a safer, freer place? But these things are either priceless – worth any cost – or they are valueless – not worth anything at all. If the latter, we should never have gone there to begin with.
Recalling the anti-war marches in London in the early 2000s, I know that many people would have preferred we didn’t. Not me. I was very happy to see the overthrow of the Taliban, and of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, after the 11th September attacks. We won the war in both countries but lost the peace – comprehensively so in Afghanistan. It didn’t need to be like this. It still doesn’t – not that I’m expecting the West to do anything – but the way we have thrown Afghanistan to the wolves is deeply, deeply shameful.
Unfortunately, international politics is littered with deceptions and lies. Afghanistan isn’t the first country to be betrayed by the western powers and won’t be the last. All because we went in without a proper plan, commitment, and desire to do whatever needed to be done for the country. I hope Presidents Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden, and their allies, are pleased with themselves tonight.
This was a tough day to walk, and is a tough day to talk about. The two key words for it are sore and monotonous.
I was sore; or rather, my right leg was. I should have taken ibuprofen for it but didn’t. That was a mistake and robbed me of such enjoyment as I could have taken from the monotonous walk.
So, about that. The path cut a straight line through the fields of the meseta. As far as I remember, deviations only occurred when it sometimes dipped or rose according to the contours of the land.
With all that said, however, the morning – for we arrived in Calzadilla de la Cueza around midday – was not without its charm.
As we walked through Carrión at the start of the day, we stopped for a quick second breakfast. We ate doughnuts that we had bought yesterday. This led to much posing like Kate Winslet in Titanic on the sitting stones nearby.
mmmm you sexy beast.
Moving swiftly on – one reason we bought the doughnuts was to insure ourselves against failure to find anywhere to eat later on. Fortunately, however, we found two cafés along the meseta path. One was a van-café, and the other a stand next to a crumbly shed. We stopped here.
While we ate, Ellena played with a dog the size of a very big dog that I would never have dreamed of going near in case it bit my whole leg off. She, of course, had no fear about playing with this mighty beast. And no wonder, it was very well behaved and frankly a bit of a goofball.
As you can see from the photograph above, we saw mountains in the distance today. Well, not just today, but anyway – Someone asked us if they were the Pyrenees. Woe to us if they had been as it would have meant that we had managed to walk in a circle over the last two weeks.
It’s funny, though, how – in the absence of a map – our sense of place can suffer so badly. Did you know that when Alexander the Great was in Afghanistan, he thought he was not far from Europe?
But let me not laugh at the person who thought these mountains were the Pyrenees as I have to admit I have no idea what this mountain range is called. Please leave a comment if you know.
We left the lovely, goofy Huge Dog behind and continued walking – straight on, under the sun, no cover, drinking our water,
until we walked over a crest and saw a hamlet ahead of us – Calzadilla de la Cueza. It was a blessed sight.
Two albergues greeted us as soon as we entered the hamlet. We picked one, dumped our backpacks and joined our friends outside for a beer.
Later on, a photograph was taken of me sleeping. I look very silly in it – yes, even more than normal, thank you for saying – and so the photograph has been deposited in a bank vault for all eternity. I took a photograph of Lillian and Tony looking like mafiosi. It’s one of my favourite Camino pictures as you could not meet two more unmafiosi like people. What can I say, but that I like a cheeky juxtaposition from time to time.
Our albergue didn’t make meals so in the evening we all descended upon a hotel dining room to eat. I met Colleen from Montana again, who rescued me on the first day with a bottle of water, and Alex from Bavaria who I think I also met that day with another German fellow – the latter had since left his company. One pilgrim went missing halfway through their meal, never to be seen again (that night, anyway, and only by me, as far as I remember) and the rest of us had a very pleasant time. Well, to a point (Lord Copper): Ellena was struck by pain later on and another part of my dodgy front tooth broke off today. The larger part of it remained intact but would the rest survive the rest of the pilgrimage? (Narrator: Yes, it did).