Tea with the Taliban: Travels in Afghanistan by Ian D Robinson
David Bateman, $29.99
Readers of Herald Travel will be well aware from Ian Robinson's stories of horse treks across the wilds of Mongolia and forbidden parts of Tibet that he is a genuine adventurer.
This book about his recent trip to strife-torn Afghanistan is, like much of his writing, the sort of journey it's great to read about from the comfort of your armchair, marvelling at his crazy courage, rather than an inspiration to follow.
It offers fascinating glimpses of Kabul's still lively bazaar, Afghani attitudes to women, the battered remains of the glorious Silk Road city of Herat, the unreal life of the expat community, the tantalising ruins of the ancient city of Balkh, the hospitable nomads who wander the lonely Wakham corridor, the tragically blown-up Buddhas of Bamiyan, the incompetent local bureaucracy and much more.
But it also portrays what it's really like to travel this benighted land - at once scary yet welcoming, depressing yet magnificent, and, as Robinson says, "at all times an unforgettable experience."
As a matter of fact, I so enjoyed reading this that I do feel inspired to go, except that - fortunately? - my wife won't let me.