On a sunny morning in northern Afghanistan in 2016, excited children and bemused policemen lined the banks of a fast-flowing river to watch a group of Europeans in multicoloured plastic kayaks navigate the whitewater. The boys, who were on their way to school, squealed and raced along the rocks as they watched the unusual spectacle. No kayakers had ever come to the Panjshir Valley, some 140km north of Kabul. Callum Strong tells of his ambitious expedition to paddle the length of the Panjshir River, reflecting on the rich geography, history and culture of one of the most stunning, hostile and yet hospitable parts of the world.