Meet the back­packer who is not afraid

Western Leader - - FRONT PAGE - MAHVASH ALI

Knit­ting, gardening, golf, bowls not for Ahmed As­gher.

The 70-year-old re­tiree is an un­likely back­packer. And his lat­est trip was go­ing to be his most dan­ger­ous yet - with plans to try his luck at hitch­hik­ing from Kabul in Afghanistan to Aleppo in Syria.

But a mate has gone away, leav­ing him with­out a place to crash in Kabul so the Ora­tia res­i­dent is set­tling for a three-month so­journ from the Per­sian Gulf through to south­ern Iran.

The Auck­land lo­cal says all he needs is in­ner peace, his pass­port and a change of clothes.

It’s his sixth hitch­hik­ing trip, ad­ven­tures that in­clude trips to Europe and three in the Mid­dle East.

As­gher says he prefers to hitch­hike be­cause it puts him close to the lo­cals.

He came clos­est to ‘‘what peo­ple may con­sider dan­ger­ous’’ while trav­el­ling through Sad­dam Hus­sein’s Iraq in 1976 when he was shot at by the guards at the bor­der, he says.

But de­spite this close en­counter with bul­lets he is not afraid to set off to the tur­bu­lent re­gion again.

‘‘Ev­ery­where is safe. Peace is not out­side,’’ he says.

As­gher says he rarely stands on the side of the road signalling for a lift.

‘‘You put word out and some­one who knows some­one will talk to some­one else and there will be a ride ready and wait­ing for you.’’

As­gher says he has an idea of his itin­er­ary but will do most of the plan­ning while on the jour­ney.

He plans to use a map, but does not be­lieve in us­ing GPS and he also prefers not to stay in tourist ho­tels. He will start off in April by head­ing to Dubai, be­fore hitch­hik­ing his way to Oman and from there he will take a boat trip to the is­land of Kish in the Per­sian Gulf. He will then re­turn to land in Iran.

Next he plans to travel 500 kilo­me­tres to the the south­west­ern city of Ah­waz.

Af­ter Ah­waz he hopes to meet lo­cal gyp­sies and travel with them to Tehran.

And he’s not giv­ing up on Afghanistan or Aleppo. ‘‘I will still do that trip, but I need to have some­one to put me up.’’

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