Reporters on the Job

ON THE (MULE) TRAIL OF BIN LADEN: Reporter Philip Smucker retraced what he was told is the smugglers' trail that Al Qaeda fighters used to escape from the Tora Bora cave complex (page 1). He also suspects that his Afghan guide took him for a ride, of sorts.

"He insisted that we needed four mules at 3,000 rupees each (about $50). But I don't know why, unless we were hauling all of our earthly possessions," says Phil. He rode on his mule for only part of the three-hour journey. "It became awfully uncomfortable to sit on. So the mules basically just meandered along behind us."

And he thinks the mule train marked them as wealthy foreigners. "About 20 villagers followed us on the trail, persistently offering to be our guides," he says. But when a US surveillance aircraft appeared overhead, the crowd scattered. "They were concerned that bombs might soon follow."

FIRST FLIGHT: Reporter Mike Crawley joined a group of 26 children on a DC-3 aircraft that was ferrying them from a Congolese refugee camp, to be reunited with their families in in Kinshasa (page 7).

"For some of the children, it was their first-ever time in a plane, and for the rest it was their second, having been ferried to Goma a few days earlier. As the aircraft gained altitude, the kids sitting behind me had their fingers stuck in their ears because the change in pressure was hurting them. I turned around and showed them that yawning would make it feel better."

Red Cross delegate Jean-Jacques Simon took on the flight attendant duties, bringing a bag of hard candies around to the kids, but doling the sweets out judiciously. "Last time, they had bubble gum." the South African pilot, Andre told Mike. "They put it all over the seats and in their ears. The candies are better."

David Clark Scott

World editor

Cultural snapshot

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