Before we move on further East I would like to fast forward to the fall and harvest season when I returned to Turkey. I was camped out on a quiet bay on the southwest coast and met up with a Turk of dubious character but with large quantities of freshly harvested powder of what is still erroneously called pollen hash or kif. It is neither one of these things but we can address that at another time. The point of this digression is to describe how these fresh tricomes are pressed into hash when you are living on a hillside above a clear calm ocean in the month of October.
Sutka would show up in the evening to visit around the fire. He smoked cigarettes and always had a pack with him. He would also always have a few grams of powder that had to be pressed before we could smoke. The ritual would go as follows. First take the cellophane wrapper off of the cigarette pack. Fill the cellophane with the loose dry tricomes and fold over so none would escape. Then take strips of newspaper and wrap the cello packet with a few layers and moisten with water. The waterlogged paper would adhere tightly to itself and not come apart. Take this little bundle, throw it in the fire and watch it diligently for a few minutes to be sure that it doesn't start to burn up. When the time is right, with some type of tool, a stick will do, you retrieve it from the coals and place it on flat ground and step on it as hard as you can doing a little dance to add the the festive occasion. After only a couple of minutes you can begin to unwrap the layers and soon see your nice little block of freshly pressed hashish. This could then be crumbled in a cigarette emptied of its tobacco and smoked.
Earlier in the year the hash I smoked in Turkey was good enough for the time but once in Afghanistan the memory of Turkish hash was just a mediocre thing of the past. This new crop though was right up there with some of the best. It was a lot lighter than Afghani but with a dry smooth smoke that didn't hit as hard right away. You could feel that first hit but then it would sneak up and without warning you would realize that even though you were talkative and widely alert, the likelihood of moving much for the rest of the night was not going to happen.
The trip across Iran was loaded with wonderful sights and new experiences but no hash due to strict laws that could have ruined the whole experience. I didn't look for any and none was offered.
After a not so friendly farewell on the eastern border, we, the nine of us in the 2 ton Mercedes flatbed sped across the frontier to Islam Qala, the Fortress of Islam, our entry point to Afghanistan. In the fading light of day the tall mud walls and huge double wooden gates looked like something from another time that for most of its history would be approached on foot or horseback along with one's caravan of heavily laden camels The gates were closed and we wondered if we would be admitted at this late hour but they opened just enough to let a man squeeze through. He ran to the back of the truck, jumped up and held on to the sides with just his turbaned head showing and breathlessly uttered, "Welcome to Afghanistan." The gates opened wide and we entered the Kingdom of Afghanistan. Once inside we were treated to an oasis filled with trees and bushes in geometric Persian gardens. The feeling was one of welcoming kindness and it felt very good to be there.
Unlike most times it wasn't me who found the hash. One of my comrades had acquired a nice chunk and with a pipe suggested that we go inside a circle surrounded by thick bushes to try out this legendary smoke in it's home territory. The pipe burnt large billows of blue grey smoke and after a little coughing and a couple of passes the six of us seemed quite content to just sit there on the ground in the last glow of sunset enjoying the moment in an easy silence.
The effects kept on coming and only speaking for myself, was about to enter another state of consciousness when everyone registered a dog bark very nearby. It was just on the other side of the foliage that enclosed us and soon there were more barks until we realized that we were surrounded by what seemed like a pack of very angry dogs snarling, barking and gnashing their teeth only a few feet away. My instinct told me to stay calm, show no fear and remain seated. This was not a problem due to my state of mind but my colleagues collectively thought otherwise and as one organism promptly rose and were gone. I thought that their behavior would draw the pack away from me but all of them stayed leering through the bushes at me. I could almost feel their breath and see the saliva dripping from their sizable fangs. Just then one of them let out a bark with a pitch different than the previous aggressive sound and immediately all the dogs were gone except for one. He came through the screen of plants right towards me at a slow pace. He approached and from the position I was in his head was above mine. When he was within an arms length his front legs extended and his head came down as if in a greeting, I reached out and patted him on his huge head that felt like it was made of bone about 2 inches thick. He moved back on to all fours and gave out another quick bark, a signal to the others,. I rose to my feet and this huge seemingly wild dog came and rubbed against my leg, turned and led me through the bushes into the night where music of a dotar and primitive drum filled the air and fire supplied the only light. The new crescent moon hung above the western horizon and my new friend stayed close as I moved around the fire. When it was time to sleep I got out my bag and lay down near the truck. He stayed by my side all night and was standing over me in the morning.
In our next posting, we'll pause to review some current hashish offerings available in the legal recreational market before heading back out on the road.
Thanks for reading!