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Ageing Traveller Series

The Ageing Traveller series is written by Rose Howell, who has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club. Her passion for travel is documented on her website www.ageing-hipsters-travel.com.

Click here to find out more about Rose.

The destruction and rebuilding of the Bamiyan Buddha Statues

Afghanistan

Bamiyan, Afghanistan is an extremely poor and remote land in one of the world's most underdeveloped countries. The Buddha statues were once a major tourist attraction, but Afghanistan has been at war virtually nonstop for more than three decades. The fighting drove away the tourist’s years before the Taliban blew up the statues.

They were destroyed by using explosives in 2001. At the time they were blown up, the statues were the largest Buddha carvings in the world, and it seemed they were gone for good.

But today, teams from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, along with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, are engaged in the painstaking process of putting the broken Buddhas back together.

I travelled to Bamiyan as a tourist in 1977. Following is an account of my time there. Getting to Bamiyan from Kabul entailed a 10 hour trip (236km’s) in a bus with no leg room and sitting 4 across, but the scenery makes up for it.


Rose with two Afghani kids

The road back in the 70’s to Bamiyan was unsealed and followed a narrow gorge with the typical barren, craggy Afghani hills running up each side and a fertile belt surviving around the river through the centre. Really wild canyon scenery, towering cliffs above and in most cases snow on the peaks. A sprinkling of mud houses, forts and stone walls along the way.

We crossed the Shibar Pass at 2987 metres into more amazing scenery. Age old hills of soft, red brown sandstone eroded into many different shapes, curves like one continual ‘Devils marbles’ with spattering of forts, cliffs, caves, battlements, ruined cities on rounded hills.


On entering Bamiyan, not far from the road stretches the vertical face of a couple of kilometres of cliff. This is the place where a great Buddhist Empire flourished in the early centuries after Christ.

Here in front of us stood two statues of Buddha, the taller at 162 feet and was the world’s biggest.

Along the face of the wall are hundreds of man-made caves, monasteries in long gone days for monks and pilgrims use from all of Asia. These caves had interior staircases that lead to the 162 ft. Buddha’s head.

The main street looked like something from the Wild West with turbaned Afghanis walking past leading pack donkeys and kids riding past on horses. The buildings were made of mud and painted an orange colour.

We had no trouble finding a hotel because most of the buildings were hotels or restaurants. We decided on the ‘Friendly’ (see photo) at 10 cents each a night. It consisted of a communal bedroom, lounge, restaurant and chai shop in an area 50ft x 20ft. The floors and walls were covered in deep red and maroon carpets while around the perimeter consisted of shallow mattresses with red velvet cushions as back rests and pillows.

To keep us all warm they had a pot belly stove which also was a water heater.
We didn’t have any privacy but it was a great atmosphere, sitting there with the locals drinking chai and chatting to other travellers.

Food consisted of kebabs, steak, roast beef, casseroles, apple pies, fruit, ice-cream, porridge etc.

There was no early nights here because at about 7.30pm the entertainment started. The locals (men only, not women, as they have to stay covered and at home) and other travelers from the nearby hotels come in to watch and listen to musicians on drums, harmonica, sitar and clapping and cheering from the audience. At about 10pm they started to drift off home and we bedded down with two other westerners, plus the hotel staff and their friends.

The Buddha’s were only 100 metres or so from our hotel which was ideal.
It was one of the most amazing places, an unforgettable experience.

We left Bamiyan in bitterly cold snowy weather. It was an interesting trip. The roads were very slippery and the driver had to go at a snail’s pace and on top of that we had a flat tyre and had to stop constantly to put chains on the wheels. But the best was when the rain got so hard the driver’s assistant had to work the windscreen wipers by hand. Hilarious. Then to top it off an Afghani and his fully covered wife got on the bus and demanded my partner move so that she could sit next to me and not him (just in case he groped or stared at her I guess). The trip took 10 hours to get back to Kabul.

We really would have liked to go and see the Band - E Amir lakes (photo below) but were unable to because of the weather. It looks amazing too.


What a pity these places are no longer safe to visit.

Go here to hear about the rebuilding of the statues

Rose Howell Biography

Rose has been traveling the world for over 40 years, beginning with New Zealand and then the ‘Hippy trail’ in the 70’s. Her travels have taken her to; Asia, Middle East, UK, Europe, Africa, South America, USA, Canada, China and the Pacific Islands. In total she has visited 67 countries plus all the states of Australia except Western Australia, and her goal is to make the century club.
She has taken all kinds of transport and accommodation from budget to luxury. She has travelled through war zones, survived a bus accident in the Andes and visited areas that are no longer available to tourists, such as the Khyber Pass and Bamiyan Statues in Afghanistan.

Rose wants to inspire others to travel and offers free advice to all travellers in particular those who are embarking on their first travel experience. She has a passion for travel and since retiring from an Adult teaching position with TafeSA, has recently resumed clocking up kilometres interstate and overseas.
Her daughters have inherited the travel bug from their parents. The eldest daughter is a travel journalist/documentary maker based in a beautiful area called ‘Byron Bay’ in New South Wales and with her husband, has two globetrotting toddlers who at the age of 5 and 2 also love to travel. Her youngest daughter and fiancé have recently returned from 2 years working and traveling in the UK and Europe. They have only been home a couple of months and are already getting restless. Oh the travel bug!!!!

Rose has developed a website for the over 50 traveller www.ageing-hipsters-travel.com where you can access for free all her advice and past and present stories. You can add stories of your own too.

She also has a blog on:
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