The Untamed Borders autumn newsletter 2022
In this issue:
- A note from James
Looking back on the virtual marathon of Afghanistan
Our Afghan tour guide Fatima hits the headlines
A Note from James Willcox, Founder
In September and October this year, I visited Afghanistan for the first time since 2020. It was the first time we’d run a trip to the country in over a year.
Afghanistan holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first country where Untamed Borders started guiding, back in 2008, and we have pioneered all sorts of trips and projects there, from skiing and marathons to horseback riding and kayaking. Between 2008 and 2020, I was visiting two or three times per year.
Over the past year, a lot has changed in Afghanistan. Some friends have left the country and many others have had their lives turned upside down. We and others have invested time and energy in trying to find ways to support those whose income and lives were affected. Further down in this mail, you can see some of the ways we have worked to adapt to the new reality for those who have left and those who have stayed in Afghanistan.
However, our core work is to guide people in hard to visit places and so we always wanted to return to Afghanistan. The decision to start working again in Afghanistan was not easy, but ultimately our mission is to engage and exchange through tourism. We try to ensure that the guests we bring understand the country’s context, and to make sure the people and communities we visit benefit as much as possible, too. How we do that is always a work in progress, but we will continue to bring tourists to parts of the world that tourists rarely see and ensure that the interaction is done on a personal, human scale.
The route we chose was one that allowed us to visit many areas that were previously impossible or very difficult to visit, due to security concerns over the past decade.
We covered 2,000km in 14 days. First, we took the Central route from Kabul to Herat. The highlight of this section was spending a night camping under the stars at the Minaret of Jam. At 63m tall and 14 hours’ drive from the nearest paved road, the minaret is one of the country’s most fabled sights. To spend 15 hours here watching the sun set and rise was really a privilege.
From Herat, we visited Lashkar Gah, Kandahar and Ghazni – all jewels in the history of Pashtu civilisation, marked by the arch at Bost and the towers of Ghazni that date back to the 11th century. It was first time we were able to bring our guests to the Pashtu heartland of Afghanistan.
We will be running a full schedule of trips to Afghanistan in 2023, including this cultural tour, as well as skiing and trekking trips to the Wakhan. Keep an eye on our website or email us for updates on upcoming dates.
Wishing you all safe and happy travels,
Our Spring 2023 departure dates are live! We’ve picked a couple of our favourites here, including our new itinerary in the Horn of Africa, our upcoming trip to South Sudan and our first fixed-date itinerary in Algeria. You can find a full list of our upcoming group itineraries below or online.
For the first time, we will begin the overland journey into Somaliand from Djibouti. This eight-day trip will give you a taste of traditional Somali life and visit some extraordinary desert scenery, in the Horn of Africa: a region where the Arab and African worlds collide.
Our trip to Algeria takes you into the very heart of the Sahara. Experience 10 days in some of the world’s most remote landscapes, while meeting the people that call it home. Starting and finishing in Algiers in February 2023, the tour includes all transport, accommodation and entrance fees as you discover the spectacular Roman ruins of Djemila, the elevated city of Constantine and ancient desert rock engravings.
An eight-day-immersion into South Sudanese culture, experiencing the country’s complex diversity first hand. Starting in Juba, you will travel between remote and isolated villages, meeting some of the country’s different tribes – from Toposa villages to the foot of the Boya Mountains home of the Larim tribe, before passing through the Lotuko territory on the way to meet the Mundari tribe in their livestock camp.
For more inspiration on Untamed Borders’ destinations, listen to our founder James Willcox speak about why travellers seek out challenging experiences and destinations, on the Battleface Uncharted podcast last month.
Looking back on the virtual Marathon of Afghanistan 2022
This is a belated but huge thank you to everyone who took part in the virtual Marathon of Afghanistan earlier in the year. Collectively, we raised over £5,000, which was distributed to Afghan people who significantly helped with the organisation of the Marathon of Afghanistan over the six years it was held.
Since the virtual race, the organisers have been busy making sure that the funds went to the right people in the right way. Spread across over 30 people, it’s a massive help to them, and signals that people are still thinking about them, the marathon event, and Afghans generally.
It’s not always easy to reach Afghans spread around the world, so thank you for your support.
Our Afghan tour guide hits the headlines
Over the last few months we’ve been teaming up with Fatima Haidari, our guide from Afghanistan, to bring you virtual tours of her home city, Herat.
Fatima is currently living in Italy and has been hosting the tours from her new home. They’ve been picked up in travel magazines and newspapers, including Travel + Leisure, Matador Network and The National.
Profits raised are split between Fatima and an underground school educating girls aged 10-18 in Afghanistan. Book online if you’d like to join us for the next and final one, at 7pm (BST) on 18 October.
It’s the perfect chance for anybody considering booking onto one of our 2023 trips to learn more about travel in Afghanistan. If you would like to be notified about future dates, let us know here.
If you would like to talk to us about anything mentioned in this newsletter then please do get in touch.
We hope to see you all on an Untamed Borders adventure at some point soon.
The Untamed Borders Team