Meet the backpacker who is not afraid
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.’’