Photos: From the air, Kandahar reveals itself

GlobalPost
The World

Standing out in the motor pool early in the morning, begging rides from the outgoing convoys is probably your best bet for traveling from base to base in Kandahar Province. But if a helicopter seat has your name on it, take it.

The helicopters come late, they come early, they come not at all, they fly you to the wrong place, often leaving you stranded for days and chasing down stories about soldiers filling sandbags and burning trash.

But when you strap yourself into that Black Hawk and feel it drop your lungs into your stomach as it lurches into the sky, it makes all the waiting and the hassle worth it.

Southern Afghanistan is beautifully stark from the air, in a way that it's hard to appreciate when you're dodging bullets and mines down below. Mountain passes wind down to seasonal rivers supporting little villages while armies of dust devils twist across the horizon.

Since there are countless tiny settlements in Kandahar and a very finite number of troops, you see places you'd never get to see on foot while embedded. No one is going to mount a patrol to visit the temporary huts of four Kuchi nomad families making their way through the desert.

From the air the ancient architecture of the province resolves itself, forbidding mountains and dark rivers and deep wells of cold water feeding the fruit trees and the poppies. MORE

(Photo by Ben Brody for GlobalPost)
(Photo by Ben Brody for GlobalPost)
(Photo by Ben Brody for GlobalPost)
(Photo by Ben Brody for GlobalPost)
(Photo by Ben Brody for GlobalPost)
(Photo by Ben Brody for GlobalPost)