|We obtain our permits for the taxi journey to the Khyber Pass, and we're allocated a policeman who acts as our armed guard through the tribal areas outside of Peshawar and up to the border. The border town of Torkrum is very chaotic, but we sail thorugh the border formalities without any problems, book ourselves a taxi and its onto Kabul.
Afghanistan's initial impressions surprise us: the brown dusty desert-like hills and clear blue sky are more scenic that we expected. There's no doubt that we're in a country under occupation though, as we pass by our first military bases and encounter US Army patrols and armed convoys. Our taxi driver takes us (probably without even thinking) through the towns of Jalalabad and Sarobi, known for being sympathetic to the Taliban cause, unknowingly our first brush with danger.
We manage to book ourselves into the excellent Mustafa Hotel in Kabul, something of an institution amongst journalists and other foreigners passing through Kabul. Kabul cartainly gives the impression of a city getting back onto its feet after 30 years of fighting, in particular central Kabul with construction sites and the surburbs expanding daily. In central Kabul near out hotel there's Chicken Street, which should really be renamed 'Tourist Street' after all those shops selling carpets and tourist tack, Flower Street which does manage to squeeze some flower shops amongst all the small grocery shops, and the centre where the first of Kabul's more upmarket shops reside.
On our third day, the three of us decide to take a walk arund the Barbur Gardens, which in themselves are not particularly special, however its the Afghan families taking a walk in the park that are the main event. I've noticed that Afghan children seem to love having their photo taken and stand in front of us until we do, especially in these gardens.