“August 2014, I got a call to come up to Mali. “Where the f#@k is that?” That was the first thing that went through my head. After a brief google search, I found it, West Africa.
Bags packed and off I went, via Ethiopia and eventually I found myself in the terminal building in Bamako waiting for my bags. That was the start of my life as a contract/bush pilot. In the last three years I’ve travelled the world and met many people.
One tour stands out however.
I received an email, I was off to Afghanistan. I had heard that drawing cash in Kabul was sometimes impossible, so, not wanting to go without cash, I went to the local forex and bought some dollars. In order complete the transaction, the man behind the counter wanted to see an e-ticket. Fine. I handed it to him, he looked up at me and asked, “Where are you going?”, to which I replied, Afghanistan. Hearing this, a lady that was stood at the counter next to me, remarks, “What are you going there for?” Me being a bit sarcastic, replied, “Just a holiday”.
That was the start of a great tour.
After getting my visa in Dubai, I boarded my flight to Kabul. I had googled Kabul in spring, it said the weather was mild to warm, 22 degrees to 25 degrees…a light hoodie should do the trick. On the approach to land, I noticed all the local people onboard my flight get up and start donning their winter woollies. I looked out the window, only to see a snow-capped mountain range. I fked up. To my relief, in the compound there was a decent shop. I spent my first $50, buying a double lined life saver of a jacket.
The flying in Afghanistan is amazing, to say the least.
One of my favourite approaches was coming into Fayzabad. After 40 Mins flying over the Hindu Kush mountains, which are part of the Himalayas we would start our approach.
The mountain range reaches up to 25230 ft, and Fayzabad’s elevation is close to 4000 ft. So during the descent we would continuously around 5000 ft agl as we dropped into the valley.
It was spectacular.
The snow-capped mountains gave way to Swiss-like rolling hills, with plush green fields.Then onto final approach along a river which divides the town of Fayzabad.
Adjacent to the current runway in Fayzabad is a steel runway build by the Soviet Union. It’s an interesting place. We would usually have some ground time after landing and would head off to the compound. Anyone who has been to Afghanistan would/should have tried the local flatbread and kebabs.
That would be our lunch and wow, it was great.
I often think how fortunate I’ve been to be able to see places like Afghanistan.
It would be a prime holiday destination if it weren’t shrouded in conflict.”
Go check out Ian’s Instagram pics! HERE