I enjoyed the peace after the loud Kabul. Approximately 900 caves surrounded the impressive Buddha-statues. Genghis Khan's warriors destroyed the faces in the 13th century and other barbarians further damaged them in later years. When I saw in 2001 the pictures of their total destruction by the Taliban, I had to cry! What they really looked like, the Chinese monk Xuanzang describes in his writings in the year 632. His search for Buddhist scripts led him on an adventurous journey right up to Bamiyan and he tells of statues covered in gold and adorned with precious jewels. And he was also delighted by a gigantic sleeping Buddha. Measuring 300 meters he was laying at the feet of his brothers.
I went through the caves which were connected by corridors to the head of the large Buddha, and felt an incredible energy. In these caves thousands of monks have been meditating for the benefit of all beings.
Inside the caves
Above the head of the Buddha I admired a fresco. Even if it was very faded, it's still radiated. I sat down. From this view one could see the whole valley.
View from the top of the Buddha
Photos by John Bower - 1972
I closed my eyes and absorbed the energy of this magic place and before my inner-ear the centuries of mantra-reciting and chanting came to life again. It filled the cave-labyrinth, and the monastery was vibrating by the sound of horns and drums. Pictures of infinite space and a feeling of eternity filled me. And I saw the unharmed golden Buddha. Wearing a red garment and with his open eyes of lapis lazuli he guarded the blessed valley.
Image by Chris De Bié
OUT OF THE CAVES
When I opened my eyes it was almost dark. Fortunately I had a flashlight and so my way back became a small adventure. In the hotel they've been already concerned about me. Full of gratitude about this experience I fell asleep.
Next morning I started on a day-trip to Band-e-Amir. The 75 km to this gorgeous natural spectacle I travelled in a comfortable Minibus. On an elevation of 3000 meters one is overwhelmed by the 6 lakes that were formed naturally through travertine dams.
Travertine dam Photo by Mick Whelan - 1971
Today only 5 lakes are mentioned because Band-e-Kambar is almost dried up. Due to the different mineral contents and various depths of the lakes their colour varies from a deep luminous lapis lazuli blue to a green and blueish-green turquoise.
Small wonder! The most beautiful lapis lazuli are found in the province of Badakhshan only 400 km away and the most precious turquoise are found about 700 km away in the region of the Ali Mersai mountain in Persia.
One of Nature's miracles that literally takes ones breath away. 'Undescribeably beautiful' is the best description for this. Later on Irish Mick told me that he had been stupid enough to have dived into one of the icecold lakes. It was like a cartoon and he practically flew back out. After his "dive" he came to a small shrine with a Mullah who was tying a rope around the pilgrims and chucking them into the lake. Probably he decided how long they remained in for their sins.
Photos by Mick Whelan - 1971
During my last journey this place was covered in snow and everything seemed even more unreal. Lapis lazuli and Turquoise in a sea of powdered sugar. With a bit of luck the reflection of the mountains could be seen on the crystal clear water and on the horizon the snowy peaks of the Hindu Kush.
The next week I spent almost exclusively in the cave monastery. I would have remained longer, but I was not on a pure leisure trip. Strengthened and encouraged in the faith of divine rules and justice I went back to Kabul where I remained for a couple of days. I enjoyed this atmosphere of “Love & Peace”, but was disgusted of all the junkies around. So I bought a ticket to Peshawar. The street from Kabul to Peshawar followed the Kabul River for a great length. The source of the river is close to Kabul and it flows into the Indus River.