Tour de Kaboul

Le Tour de Kaboul has yet to garner the prestige of the Tour de France with all of its athletic prowess, but for the dizzying danger of the course and brave recklessness of the competitors, it deserves respect.

Between the potholes, mud dust and air pollution, the appalling, terrifying driving of taxis, buses and gun-toting security companies, it is a formidable event. The danger posed by crazed French spectators is nothing compared to that from the Afghan hawkers and pedlars, seemingly blind and oblivious school children and flocks of angry goats. Policing of the event, by bored, scared soldiers and a few futile traffic policemen does little to calm the tensions. Cycling in Kabul is a hazardous affair.

The bikes are all the same; simple black Chinese things, straight framed and usually falling apart. Brakes are optional; their use frowned on as unsporting, as is the ability to judge speed, distance or looking where you are going. The use of performance harming drugs appears to be not uncommon.

The riders in this year’s Tour are as always a startlingly eclectic bunch. Here are the ones to watch out for:

The proud wearer of the yellow jersey is to be seen also wearing a pakol, surgical mask, and swimming goggles to keep out the dust.

Weaving at full pelt between a crowd of cars while holding an umbrella to keep the sun off, looking ever such a dandy, is the wearer of the green jersey.

Winner of the polka-dot jersey, the man with a hundred-weight of freshly cut sheep-skins and offal piled high on his handlebars and back panniers, his wobbling route marked by dots of blood in the dust.

Sharing the white jersey, and current record holders for most people on one bike, five kids.

Awarded the title of Lanterne Rouge for coming in last but at least surviving, the guy who fell of his bike while cutting up a military convoy and, surprisingly, didn’t get shot.

Sadly, previous year’s Tours have been marred by cheating, with at least one competitor filling his bike up with explosives (technically termed a BBIED, or Bike-Borne Improvised Explosive Device) and blowing up himself and several spectators. He was disqualified.

Finally, though not strictly a competitor, an honourable mention to the beautiful Afghan woman, sitting side-saddle on the back of a bike as it creaked through the maelstrom, looking as serene and composed as a queen in her carriage.


4 Responses to “Tour de Kaboul”

  1. Marianne Says:

    Worried you aren’t achieving much with all that ‘development’ carry-on? Forget about it. This is what you were born to do. This is quite possibly what you are in Afghanistan to do. Write stories that reveal something of the beauty and humour as well as the complex mess and suffering that is to be found in Afghanistan. You remain one of my all time favorite writers.

    • harryrud Says:

      Ah mate. Getting to work feeling sick as a parrot to be greeted by such words has made it worth getting up this morning after all. x

  2. Cris Says:

    Completely accurate, however you seem to have missed the Light Blue Jersey, which goes to the disgruntled international staff member, sick of waiting for the car to arrive from transport dispatch, scurrying between their Guest House and Chelsea Market, Spinneys or A-One with plastic bags full of Tabasco sauce, English Mustard, pot noodles and bottled water over the handlebars…

  3. Afghan Atheist Says:

    Life goes on regardless of the intensity of the dangers. Great to see youngsters engaging in activities that are refreshingly new to us all.
    Keep it coming.

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