National Geographic : 1968 Jan
In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great Ever so slowly we neared the summit. And then the horse Helen was riding stepped into a drift-concealed hollow, throwing her into deep snow (page 45). "... When they struggled to rise again, they could not do so. But they were roused from their torpor by their fellow soldiers, for there was no other cure than to... go on." The Afghans were already at Helen's side when I reached her. Gently they helped her up and brushed away the snow. They urged her to mount again, but she knew she must walk, and walk quickly, to keep from freezing. EKTACHROMEBYHELENANDFRANKSCHREIDER ) N.G .S . At the summit I paused and looked back down the trail. I imagined Alexander's army, stretched out in single file, a continuous ant like stream on the white snow, each soldier weary, wondering where he would sleep. No village guesthouse awaited us that night. At dusk we stopped at the first trailside shelter and blessed the old Afghan amir, Abdur Rahman, who almost a century before had built these dome-shaped huts to protect travelers on the Khawak Pass. Two days later we reached Deh Saleh, a village on the far side of the Hindu Kush. We had covered 47 miles in five days-and gained a new appreciation of what it must have been like to climb through this mountain country in Alexander's day. Rough Riders Score With a Dead Calf After returning by truck and bus to Kabul, Helen and I recrossed the Hindu Kush in Bucephalus. Again we picked up Alexander's route and followed it north and west to Balkh, where he had gone in search of Bessus. We found the once-great caravan center a mere village surrounded by mud-walled ruins. Bessus had fled Balkh as Alexander ap proached, but the Macedonian made it his headquarters for two years while he pursued the pretender and subdued the wild tribes men who roamed both sides of the Oxus River, now named the Amu Darya. The hard riding nomads were the toughest adversaries he had yet faced. We saw a sample of how tough they might have been at nearby Mazar i-Sharif, present capital of Balkh Province. Today, as in Alexander's time, northern Afghanistan breeds horses famed for their power and speed. They need both to compete at buz kashi, the Afghan national sport, surely one of the roughest in the world. With Mohammad Entezam of the Afghan Information Office, we watched some 30 horses and riders warm up in a field. The horses were handsomely caparisoned with leather and bright brass, the men in velvet jackets, red for one team, green for the other. Greeting Iran's King of Kings, uniformed schoolgirls abloom with pompons await a birthday appearance of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi in Teheran. Heir to the ancient Persian title, the Iranian monarch rules an arid but oil-rich land that steadily improves the lot of its nearly 26 million people.