Ardent Enthusiast

“The third stage, above the barracks, consisted of warehouses, bakeries, kitchens, and other residential rooms. The view from this stage is magnificent, but the way to it should only be attempted by the most ardent enthusiasts”

Nancy Hatch Dupree [describing the climb to the top of Shar-i-Zohak, the ruins of a castle destroyed by Genghis Khan, at the entrance to the Bamiyan Valley] – An Historical Guide to Afghanistan  (1977)


Paul Clammer at Shar-i-Zohak

Paul Clammer at Shar-i-Zohak

August 2006

On The Central Route through Afghanistan with Lonely Planet Author Paul Clammer – Researching  the 2007 Lonely Planet Afghanistan   guidebook.

In Bamiyan Paul  and I hired a 4WD Toyota for the three-day drive to Chaghcharan. Our Hazara driver refused to take us beyond that city as  it was too dangerous for him. A friend of mine from the 70′s in Kabul now runs the ‘Roof of Bamiyan’ Hotel and  he found a reliable driver for us. Since we weren’t leaving for another day,and we were already paying for his services, we had him drive us to the ruins of Shar-i-Zohak – “The Red Fortress”, at the entrance to the valley.  We spent the day doing a Funky Trekking-style climb to the top. The sun beat heavily down at nearly 3,000 meters, but at least it was a dry heat. The strong wind cooled us, but made the climb a bit treacherous . Though once we reached the top we found it to be more than worth the effort. It was one of the most spectacular views in all Afghanistan – a country well-known for spectacular views.

View from the Top

View from the Top

We only made one wrong turn on the way up; taking the easier path to the right instead of choosing the steep goat trail, and thus we found ourselves in the middle of a live mine field. There were red painted rocks the size of double fists scattered all around. Rather than go back we just spread out and carefully stepped in the foot prints left by someone who had made it through safely. After that the wind torn  climb was a relatively safe and welcome relief.

Russian AA Gun Atop Shar-i-Zohak

Russian AA Gun Atop Shar-i-Zohak

At the top we found the rusted remains of an olive green Russian anti-aircraft gun. A relic of the fight against the Soviets. We had the Nancy Hatch Dupree guide book with us. It is still one of the best guides to the ruins which abound in Afghanistan. That’s how we found the passage describing the climb we had just made. It was most apt. From then on, where ever we went, we tried to travel in a manner which ‘should only be attempted by the most ardent enthusiasts.’ Hence the title of this website

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