National Geographic : 1950 Nov
674 Afghanistan's King Authorizes the Americans' Trip Through Forbidden Wakhan Corridor His Majesty, Mohammed Zahir Shah, a subscriber to the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, keeps a copy on his desk in Kabul (page 682). His War Minister, Gen. Mohammed Omar Khan (standing), lent the Shors an altimeter from one of his precious military planes. The friendly intervention of these two enabled the authors to retrace Marco Polo's steps across an ancient mountain gate between Occident and Orient (page 673). for the next lap of our journey. The governor insisted we should wear Badakhshan costumes, since much of our trip would be along the south bank of the Oxus River, in plain view of the Russians on the other side. So we shopped in bazaars for long-sleeved, ankle length white woolen chapons, the standard outer garment in that region, and for hand knit stockings, scarves, hats, and gloves. To the governor's assistant, Mohammed Wajid, we suggested that it might be advis able for us to purchase our own horses in Faizabad and sell them at the end of our journey. He was indignant. After all, he informed us, we were the guests of the Gov ernment, and horses and pack yaks would be furnished by the Army. The only money we would need, he insisted, would be perhaps 100 afghanis, about $7.50, for tips. I kept 1,000 afghanis and mailed the rest of our currency to a friend in Kabul. The next day we met Cadet Syed Rashid, who, with two young soldiers, was to provide our escort. Cadet Rashid was a slender-waisted young man with a haughty look, a tired hand shake, and heavily padded shoulders. We all climbed into the now-crowded station wagon and started on our adventure. For 20 miles the road climbed steadily through a narrow valley following the foam ing Kokcha River. The road is new-only two cars had preceded us over it, the King's and the governor's-and frighteningly steep and narrow. Our progress wasn't helped by the fact that the telephone line is laid, in places, right down the middle of the highway. A solid wall of rock, 45 miles from Faiz abad, marked the end of our travel by motor.