Saturday, August 29, 2009

Take a walk on the wild side

Saturday, 29th August. COP Wilderness, Paktia Province.

What started as a normal day ended with total exhaustion, revelation and I daresay it was one of the most physically trying day in a long, long time.

So finally my orders came through and I was to get on a convoy which will take me to another outpost before being picked up for my final destination: COP Wilderness. As the name suggests it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Our departure was delayed due to an ambush on the mountain pass but eventually we rolled out but at about halfway to the pickup point we had to dismount because an overturned truck had blocked the road. Now this was at the beginning of the KG Pass, the mountain pass that leads to Khost Province, and the terrain was rocky and steep. Well, the US Army, in its infinite wisdom, decided that instead of waiting we would climb down, over said rocky and steep terrain, to meet up with our pickup vehicles. This is where the fun part begins!

When your body hits the tender age of 40 and above it tells you every so often and this was one of those. I was fortunate that someone volunteered to carry my main pack and I was left with my small pack jammed with an extra camera, lens, hard drive, a laptop and a bunch of other shit. Now add on the body armor with protective plates, helmet and a main camera and you get the picture. It was downhill all the way, literally! My knees were trembling and weak, my breath came in short gasps, and I felt like puking. All the good living in Beijing with minimal exercises and outdoor activities has taken its toll on me. Plus being 44 didn’t help. It took forever to get down and all the while you worry about getting shot at. Granted I had Uncle Sam keeping an eye on me but that didn’t dispel my worries.

Finally I made it down without tripping, falling, puking or passing out. Walking to the waiting MRAP with wobbly legs, I told myself perhaps this should be my last embed ‘cos whether I care to admit or not, this is a young man’s game. Or maybe I’m just a whimp…

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