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Note: Although this article is filed under: Travel, neither Wendy nor I have travelled in Afghanistan. The nearest we have both been is to Tajikistan on the northern border and Wendy has travelled in Iran to the west. 

 

The harrowing scenes (27th August 2021) of people blown to pieces while struggling to get to Kabul Airport in a futile to catch a flight out of mortal danger recalled scenes from the withdrawal from Vietnam but also brought into focus the terrible suffering of that benighted land, going back to the massacres of the Saur Revolution that prompted the Russian invasion in 1979.

Afghanistan has seldom been a stable place.  It has a two-and-a-half-thousand-year history of invasion. The population is correspondingly diverse, ranging from Persians to Arabs to Mongols to Chinese, harbouring age-old enmities and grievances, with residual population left over from each invasion. Tribal leaders and residual families jostled for power.

Kabul is correspondingly ancient. It's mentioned in the Hindu Rigveda, composed between 1500 and 1200 BCE. Around 2,700 years ago it was part of the Persian Median Empire; annexed by Cyrus the Great; conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great; then by the Arabs on their first Jihad; then by the Mongols under Genghis Khan; then again by Timur (Tamerlane) who would use the trade route provided by the passes from Afghanistan to conquer India. His dynasty would install the Islamic Mughal Empire, famed for the Taj Mahal. Afghanistan in turn became part of the Mughal Empire through to the 18th century. 

 

Even before Alexander the Great the only practical trade routes, by land, between the Indian subcontinent and Europe were through a handful of passes that traverse the Himalayas from northern India (now Pakistan) into Afghanistan. The most famous and easiest to traverse of these is the Khyber Pass but the Dorah Pass is one of four or five more challenging alternatives. These trade routes would come to be called the Silk Road. In the past two decades we have travelled to many locations along this ancient trade route and can read a lot more about the Silk Road and its history on this website:

 

Central Asia map

 Elsewhere, (in Travel) on this website, I've described places along the Silk Road, from Beijing to Venice. 
Along this 'road' are northern China; the 'stans'; India (and on to the spice trade); the Caucasus (the sea route to Venice); and Turkey (Constantinople)
Visited cities, appearing on elsewhere on this website, that also appear on the map above, are marked with a red dot. 

 

 


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Travel

Ireland

 

 

 

 

In October 2018 we travelled to Ireland. Later we would go on to England (the south coast and London) before travelling overland (and underwater) by rail to Belgium and then on to Berlin to visit our grandchildren there. 

The island of Ireland is not very big, about a quarter as large again as Tasmania, with a population not much bigger than Sydney (4.75 million in the Republic of Ireland with another 1.85 million in Northern Ireland).  So it's mainly rural and not very densely populated. 

It was unusually warm for October in Europe, including Germany, and Ireland is a very pleasant part of the world, not unlike Tasmania, and in many ways familiar, due to a shared language and culture.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Cars, Radios, TV and other Pastimes

 

 

I grew up in semi-rural Thornleigh on the outskirts of Sydney.  I went to the local Primary School and later the Boys' High School at Normanhurst; followed by the University of New South Wales.  

As kids we, like many of my friends, were encouraged to make things and try things out.  My brother Peter liked to build forts and tree houses; dig giant holes; and play with old compressors and other dangerous motorised devices like model aircraft engines and lawnmowers; until his car came along.

 

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Opinions and Philosophy

The race for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine

 

 

 

 

As we all now know (unless we've been living under a rock) the only way of defeating a pandemic is to achieve 'herd immunity' for the community at large; while strictly quarantining the most vulnerable.

Herd immunity can be achieved by most people in a community catching a virus and suffering the consequences or by vaccination.

It's over two centuries since Edward Jenner used cowpox to 'vaccinate' (from 'vacca' - Latin for cow) against smallpox. Since then medical science has been developing ways to pre-warn our immune systems of potentially harmful viruses using 'vaccines'.

In the last fifty years herd immunity has successfully been achieved against many viruses using vaccination and the race is on to achieve the same against SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19).

Developing; manufacturing; and distributing a vaccine is at the leading edge of our scientific capabilities and knowledge and is a highly skilled; technologically advanced; and expensive undertaking. Yet the rewards are potentially great, when the economic and societal consequences of the current pandemic are dire and governments around the world are desperate for a solution. 

So elite researchers on every continent have joined the race with 51 vaccines now in clinical trials on humans and at least 75 in preclinical trials on animals.

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