In spite of the monitor showing our progress over the planet, demarcated by coastlines and cities, my geography has failed me. I’m pretty sure we were over Georgia (no, not that one – the one north of the Black Sea). And Armenia, too. But I’ve got no idea what the squiggle-shaped country between them was. Wedged between the windblown sea and towering Caucasus mountains (those were marked), were a handful of frozen little cinderblock cities looking like they’ed been left by the Soviets when they discovered better things to do.
A left turn south of Tbilisi, presumably to keep us out of Iranian airspace, and across the Caspian Sea (also marked). But I’ve got no idea what we’ve been flying over since. I don’t recognize the city names on the monitor (Mashhad?), and I can’t see the cities themselves from the air. In fact, for the past three hours, I’ve seen nothing on the ground that even betrays the existence of life on earth, let alone civilization. The endless frozen red dunes could easily have been Mars.
The dunes gave way to ragged snowcovered fishscales of rock, which gave way again to canyonland immersed (again) in ice. I hadn’t expected this kind of landscape – so vast, so barren, so cold. I’ve tried taking pictures through the window, but a tiny point-and-shoot digicam can’t capture the scale and stark beauty of the desolation.
Cabin monitor indicates that Kabul (yes, Kabul!) is 164 km off to the left. Can’t see it, of course. As the last bit of dusk has left the sky, I’ve kept my eye on the horizon for a light, any light from the surface, that might suggest we aren’t alone on/above the planet.
[Followup – completely wrong on my geography guesses. Ukraine first (Yalta), then Georgia for the mountains. Azerbaijan forthe frozen sea, then Turkmenistan, followed by Afghanistan for the desolation. I knew Afghanistan was there somewhere. (reminder to self: Kabul is capital of the scary country that begins with an “A”; Islamabad is the capital of the scary country that begins with a “P”. God, I’m such a gringo!)]
In any case – see the pics over at http://picasaweb.google.com/david.cohn/IndiaJan08