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The Broken Promise

Page 1

Annie Ryall

Packing up and sorting out my city flat to move to the country, I came across a shoulder bag. No ordinary bag, it was made of hand-woven carpet with naturally dyed wool. The strap had become frayed and moth infested. It was time to do a Marie Kondo on it. It didn’t “spark joy” but did bring memories flooding back. 

After two years living in France from 1975 to 1977, my French-anarchist-existentialist boyfriend and I decided to return to Australia, on his Suzuki 750 motor bike. The overland route from Europe to India was a rite of passage for free spirits of the 70s, although Georges was the ultimate anti-hippy. Easy access to hashish and a transcendental experience were not for him. The bike’s saddlebags smelt permanently of leather and Roquefort cheese, with a subtle overlay of red wine.

Turkey delighted us with its rich traditions of Greek, Roman and Ottoman cultures, and we managed to survive a road accident in Iran before heading into Afghanistan. There were two routes. One across the north was shorter but more treacherous, the one going south was longer but a better road. We were within 50 km of Kandahar when the bike puttered to a stop. All attempts to start it failed. Georges was furious, as only the French can be: Fait chier, Putain de merde, and other expletives expressed his disgust.

Meanwhile I started to panic and felt sick in the stomach. Stranded in the Afghan desert, I had visions of dying from sun stroke and dehydration, or another quicker, more violent end.

There was nothing for it but to try and thumb a lift into Kandahar.

After about ten minutes – amazingly - an old tray truck came past and pulled to a halt. I imagined bandits brandishing Kalashnikovs jumping out, but it was two pleasant-looking guys in the traditional Perahan Tunban, a white loose long top and pants.

They were curious about the bike. We mimed bike broken and need bike repair shop. Without any fuss they proceeded to lift the wounded Suzuki onto their truck. Georges clucked and fretted over his baby, worrying about how it would cope with this manhandling. Through gritted teeth I thought, For Christ’s sake Georges, bugger the bloody bike, let’s just get to Kandahar.  These lovely guys have stopped to help us. Let’s just be grateful!

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