Kandahar Airfield Traffic School

While this blog will remain focused on the culinary wonderland that is KAF, I’m going to occasionally branch out into other topics. This is all part of my quest to build a Martha Stewart-like empire around the KAF lifestyle. It could be the next big thing….I can see it now, everyone wandering around New York and Paris in beige clothing, eating dried out chicken with plastic utensils, rockets, cases of water and piles of rubble everywhere…Sorry, I got caught up in my revery.

Today I’m going to discuss KAF traffic. There’s all different kinds of vehicles here with drivers from all over the world which makes for some interesting…umm…idiosyncracies.

Roundabouts

Entering a Roundabout

Over the last year or so, COMKAF has added several roundabouts in an effort to smooth the flow of traffic around the base. Good idea but there were some flaws in the execution. Roundabouts should not have stop signs as you enter them, they should be yield signs. However, if you’re going to insist on having stop signs you should decide where you want them and leave them there. Moving them randomly around the intersection every day or week just causes confusion.  You also might have wanted to provide some training for people from a certain country considering that roundabouts are not very common in North America and judging by the vehicles I’ve seen turning the left into them, stopping in the middle, and/or failing to yield as they enter them, my guess is there are none at all in the USA.

Right of Way

Back where I come from there’s this little thing called right of way. An accepted set of rules so you always know whose turn it is to proceed. It’s all very civilized. Apparently, this is not a world wide concept. There’s a four way stop right up near the boardwalk that is always busy. Rules such as “first to arrive” or “person on the right” to determine right of way do not apply. Some countries, as far as I can tell use rules like “I’m not paying attention so I don’t even have to stop”, “never have two vehicles in the intersection even if they are facing each other and both going straight”, “tailgate the guy ahead of you so you both get through at once”, “turn signals are for sissies”, and the ever popular “4 way stops are confusing and frightening so I will just give up and sit here in front of this Canadian food blogger and watch his face go red in my rear view mirror”.

"After you my good man"

There is one KAF right of way rule that my co-workers and I developed and abide by every day. “Armoured vehicles have the right of way, especially if they have big guns on them.” This just seems prudent.

Parking

Parking at KAF is pretty simple. As far as I’ve been able to tell, you know you are in a parking spot if you have stopped the vehicle, removed the keys and walked away. It all seems rather haphazard. If you want a reserved parking spot the process is only slightly more complex; just spray paint your name or title onto a rocket barrier et voila. There’s something to be said for living in the wild west east.

Hazards

As with anywhere else, driving here can be hazardous, it’s just that the hazards are a little bit different. The number one danger here is dust, especially at night. It brings visibility down fairly low. Now, it’s not as low as driving in a blizzard back home but back home one can usually count on the other vehicles having goddamn tail lights. Many of the very large Pakistani and Afghani trucks here do not. To be fair, they do have the most extravagant paint jobs and bangles and frills I’ve ever seen. Here’s an idea, truck driving guys, how about you tie only 19 instead of 20 pretty scarves on your truck or paint one fewer idyllic pastoral scenes and then use the time you save to fix your fucking lights?

One should also be wary of the Ecolog poo trucks. I’m very glad they’re here and appreciate the job they do keeping the rockets clean but driving behind it at 20 kmh for 20 minutes can be rather odoriferous. If it ends up in front of you, I recommend you consider an alternate route.

Those who were here pre-2010 may remember the wadi. The road between the north and south sides of the runway ran right through it. The wadi was fine during the dry months but during the rainy season it varied in water depth between not too deep and too deep and it was pretty impossible to tell which it was at. Driving through it once in our old Toyota van, the water came up over the hood. We made it through and I convinced my passenger that the lights on the dashboard, all of which were suddenly illuminated and accompanied by a low buzzing sound, meant that “all systems are a go”. When our more technically minded staff heard about this, they suggested I take the alternate route.

That Wadi didn't look too deep today, did it?

Now, the alternate route was a very narrow (about 1 1/2 lane) rutted path between two barbwire fences with “mines” signs on them. For the uninitiated, this means there were very likely uncleared land mines buried just on the other side of the fence. This was especially frightening when you encountered another vehicle coming the other way and you had to inch yours ever closer to the fence. I drove through the wadi a lot with “all systems a go”.

The Fuzz

I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts that the speed limit is, for the most part, 20 kmh (12 mph) here. There are some paved stretches around the far ends of the runway where we are allowed the dazzling speed of 40 kmh (about 24 mph).It’s pretty hard to drive this slow, particularly just after coming back from leave in the real world but ya’ll better do it. The International Military Police (IMP) set up pretty regular speed crawl traps. I guess this is fine, we all know what the rules are. But I think it’s kinda unfair for them to randomly change the limits on the various roads…this must be another thing that every new roto of military folks has to do to put their stamp on things. Just like the stop signs at the roundabouts (most, but not all, of which are gone now) the speed limit signs move about every other month.

Oh, and did you know you’re not allowed to pass at all? When a co-worker and I got pulled over (he was driving) after passing 3 trucks (the second of which was an IMP), he questioned the young Dutch patrolman rather extensively as I whispered “shut up”. The conversation went something like this:

“So, I can’t pass anything?”
“No”
“What if I’m behind a forklift going 5 kmh?”
“Well, ok, maybe then”
“But this time I was passing that water truck going only 10 kmh”
“You can’t pass him”
“Why not? This all seems rather arbitrary”
“Let me put it this way: Don’t pass when the IMPs are around and don’t pass the IMPs.”

Let that be a lesson to all you smart asses out there.

Virtual Kandahar

For those of you who can only dream of living in this little desert paradise, J, A and I prepared have prepared a video so you too can experience the wonder and excitement of our daily drive to breakfast at the Northline. I realize that I’ve put Northline on my no-eat list for breakfast but no one listens to me around here. Former KAF rats may also enjoy the video as it may cause them to wax nostalgic about dust and dirt piles.

A few notes on the video. A is the driver, J is the videographer and I’m sitting in the back doing nothing of value, which is my forte. The mystery Gypsy town that gets brief mention will be discussed in a future blog about KAF accommodations. Betcha can’t wait for that. You’ll also note that the pavement suddenly ends at one point. I saw a plan that called for the whole road to get paved but over a year ago the contractor just seemed to lose interest. In the interest of avoiding cruel and unusual punishment, I’ve edited our 20 minute commute down to 5 but don’t worry the world famous KAF dirt mine is included.

Click here to view the video and if you know how to embed videos directly in a wordpress.com blog, leave a comment. Please bear in mind that I’m far to cheap to pay for the $60 video upgrade.

The Last Word

Driving in KAF kinda sucks.

Advertisements

11 thoughts on “Kandahar Airfield Traffic School

  1. Perhaps your stop signs and their frequent migratory patterns are a source of entertainment and light amusement for some. Don’t take away their small pittance of daily fun!
    Rule of thumb no matter where you live: anything bigger than you has right of way, armed or not. No sense in ending up a bug on a windshield, so to speak.
    Never pass the police. Never question the police. They rank right up there with your wife.
    Another good police rule of thumb. Don’t hit on them. Don’t ask don’t tell included. Just don’t.
    Just sayin’…

  2. I had absolutely no idea you had to drive that far in KAF, at that rate of speed, to go get a meal! Possibly, HQ should increase your per diem to include pain & suffering. Umm, ya right, that will happen the day after hell freezes over.

    Can we talk about the dirt piles & dirt mine? Do you happen to know if the dirt mine is listed on a stock market anywhere? It looked like it was doing a good business, maybe we should be investing in dirt in KAF…specially considering the way the stock market here is crashing!!!

    Also, I noticed a bus heading away from the dirt mine. Was that a tour bus, or perhaps it was like you see at home, where a bus stops at various places throughout the city, picks up passengers and then takes to a casino in the US of A! Just a thought.

    Excellent video J, A & Mr. Kafoodie! Once again I laughed out loud and your added soundtracks were exceptional as well.

    • It’s only that far to Northline which is right across the street from where we work. Most of the other DFACs are on the south side of the airfield within theoretical walking distance of our accommodations.

    • M is actually one of my coworkers…I know, his codename varies between M1 and M. That’s depending upon whether M2 is in theatre. It’s all very complicated.
      The drive is somewhere between 6 and 10 K…oddly, I’ve never measured it which is very unlike me.

  3. I may have an answer to some of your roundabout questions. There are quite a few of them in New Jersey as well as a traffic anomaly known as a jughandle. A jughandle is a way to make three righthand turns in order to accomplish one left hand turn. In New Jersey the people already in the roundabout must yield to the people entering the roundabout. To normal folks this makes no sense but is perfectly logical to the denizens of NJ.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s