Former students’ reunion 50 years after Afghanistan expedition

By Caleb Spencer in Local People

A GROUP of former Aberystwyth students have returned for a reunion, 50 years after they embarked on a remarkable student expedition to Afghanistan.

In 1967, a group of intrepid 11 students between the ages of 19 and 22, all members of the University of Wales Aberystwyth Exploration Society, set off on a three-month expedition to Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, between 8 and 10 July, six of the original 11 — including Mervyn and Deborah Powell (née Owers), who would go on to get married — met up in Aberystwyth for a reunion to mark 50 years since the 10,000-mile round-trip.

The six included Bill Horncastle, who was leader of the expedition at age 19 and driver; Charlie Payne, co-leader and driver; Mrs Powell, sociologist, chief cook and barber; Mr Powell, chemist, driver and in charge of equipment; Paul Griffiths, geologist and chief scribe; and Barry Keywood, botanist and driver.

Speaking to the Cambrian News this week, former economics and sociology student Mrs Powell, who is now 70 and retired, said the mammoth journey to the Bamiyan Valley in northern Afghanistan and back to Aberystwyth was completed in a former military vehicle which cost just £40.

“Our journey did not start well,” said Mrs Powell, who moved to Geneva with her husband in 1985 where she worked in the International School.

“After a frantic day of packing everything into the lorry, we were towed along Queen’s Road and out of Aber.

“However, we made it to Dover for the ferry to Ostend, and with many mechanical and tyre problems we finally got to Kabul four weeks later."

See this week’s south editions for the full story, in shops and online now

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