Traveling with your own car gives you so much freedom and that’s one of the things we really like. We can go where we want to go, we can stop and stay for the night wherever we want and when necessary we can change plans in a split second. Besides we don’t have to wait for a shared taxi to be full or think about buying train or flight tickets to get from A to B. Uzbekistan has its limits regarding this freedom with the obligation to register yourself at government registered hostels, guesthouses or hotels every third night. But after depending on local transportation for three months this winter, we can handle this semi-freedom quite good.
A bit of planning was in this case, because of the registration, inevitable. We already slept one night with Raxmat and his family and the next day with Ruslan. After two nights of registration in our pockets we could spend some nights in the dessert and drive to Nukus. Fortunately we have the freedom as said earlier, because when we left the Kupkari game we got into one massive sand storm. The decision to turn around and go into a totally different direction was easily made. Dani with her contact lenses could not even open her eyes outside and Tom could not see a lot more. The idea of camping two nights in the dessert was getting less and less attractive. So we drove first to Bukhara and decided to drive the loop we had planned the other way around.
Going to Bukhara first turned out to be a good decision with some nice surprises. Rumi Hostel in Bukhara was one of the few hostels in Central Asia where we were lucky to meet other overlanders. We met a German couple who drove with their Fiat Ducato almost the same route, only they took a bit more time, as we did. But also we got to finally meet with Sang in person. Dani had already for a while contact via Instagram with this very energetic South Korean guy, who already drove his bike from Vladivostok to Bukhara. We didn’t know when we were in the opportunity to meet each other but by coincidence it turned out to be in Bukhara in Rumi Hostel. Nina, Taylor, Cami and Ana with whom we already spent a night in Tashkent were as well in Bukhara. It was just a very enjoyable time of meeting up with people. Beside the fun we had we were also completely impressed by the beauty of this city and the chilled atmosphere. We strolled around in the city went for a coffee or a tea when we wanted to and met every time other familiar people. At night we dined with each other and the next day we all went our own way.
Except Sang and us, we decided to go the same direction. Sang on his bike and we by car. He left the hostel in the morning and we somewhere in the afternoon and should meet up with each other after 80 kilometers. We found a nice spot to camp, Sang bought a big bottle of beer somewhere along the road and we already did some groceries that morning at the bazaar. That night was a night just as you would picture the perfect camping night. We enjoyed a campfire had beer, tea and vodka and ate a meal prepared by Dani. It was just all very idyllic and therefor too bad that we had to say goodbye already the next morning. We would drive in one day to Khiva and for Sang would this take up to four days.
Khiva is very special and almost surreal. The very well conserved ancient center almost feels like a museum. Every year this city attract loads of tourist, but fortunately the tourist season didn’t start yet and we could do it in our own sweet times. Although the weather wasn’t working with us. Temperatures were below zero and the cold wind didn’t make it very attractive to stroll around. Fortunately a pot of tea will only cost you around € 0,30 so we could treat us once in a while with a warm tea to heat our bodies. Bukhara is fantastic but Khiva is stunning too. Uzbekistan treats you with beautyfull cities and when time passed we got more and more curious about Samarkand. After spending two days in Khiva we decided to move on. Unfortunately our Suzuki didn’t agree with this because we still had to change both CV boots before further damage would cause more problems. This fix kept us for half a day in Urgench a bigger city 30 minutes away from Khiva.
Like at many other places we have visited in the last months things go just slightly different then we’re used to in Europa. And Urgench was no exception when we visited a mechanic shop. Around 11:30 they started to work on our car, despite changing a cv boot isn’t difficult it will take some time. And there is a time that the mechanics get hungry. The owner asked already twice if we were hungry but we sad we were fine. But then at 12:30 he asked if we had ever heard about Plov a traditional Uzbek dish and if we wanted to eat this. We said to each other why not? Together with the two mechanics we got in the car of the shop owner and drove to the other end of the city. We stopped somewhere at a place where you expect nothing else but misery. But nothing was further from the truth, okay the Kantine we entered had seen better times. Painting felt of the walls and furniture looked like it had been used for ages but this was the place with the best Plov in town. And there we sat with eighty other men, no women because they were the one working, waiting for our plate with Plov. Google Translate helped us to have some sort of conversation while we were enjoying our Plov. And yes the Plov was damn good. Back at the mechanic shop we had to wait for another 2 hours before the car was ready. With € 20,- less in our pockets but with two new cv boots and our bellies filled we left the shop.
The temperatures still didn’t rise, but in our minds we still thought about Sang on his bicycle and camping every day. So we thought that we hadn’t the right to whine about temperatures and decided to do the same. One and a half hour north from Urgench are several leftovers from old fortresses. Some big some small and the one more picturesque than the other. We visited one and decided to look for a campsite near the fortress. The wind already felt freaking cold so we were both very eager to find some wood for a campfire. Unfortunately there was not much wood for a good fire but we ended up with a reasonable stash of wood. We both put on a few layers of warm clothes and Dani started cutting tomatoes with here gloves on for a nice and warm soup and we kept drinking tea in the hope it kept us warm. The campfire was nice, but not satisfying because it was still cold. And in the tent too. But we had agreed to not to complain about the cold. However, when we woke up the next morning and noticed that the bottle of water that was inside our tent was frozen we really thought that we were both quite though. That morning we visited one other fortress and later headed to Muynaq in our very warm car. Thinking about the cyclist we still knew we had nothing to complain.
In Muynaq you can find a few shipwrecks. These shipwrecks are the left overs of one of the biggest natural disasters caused by mankind. The once very big Aral sea, situated between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was the fourth largest lake in the world before it started shrinking around 1960. The main cause of this is the construction of an irrigation system used for cotton production during the Soviet time. For this irrigation system the Soviets used the water of several rivers that fed the Aral sea. In 1997 only 10 percent of the Aral sea was left and divided into 4 smaller lakes. It’s a sad story and the shipwrecks, the cows and camels who are now walking over ground that was once the bottom of the lake where fish had lived are the living evidence of this disaster.
After spending one night in Nukus in a hotel, only to get our registration slip. It was finally time to drive the route through the desert. Slowly we drove to Samarkand, really slowly because the road was so bad. Holes, craters and vanished tarmac, faster than 20km/h was on most parts of this route impossible, but we carried on and found a camp spot in the dessert. Unfortunately there, we found out in the middle of f*cking nowhere, that our radiator hose is broken. Horrible timing not only because of the location but also because the coolant was spraying around and we had only left a half a bottle of coolant. Luckily Tom could fix it with a few meters of tape and tie rips as a temporary solucion. We followed our way and we mainly see dessert and a few villages built for employees for mining companies, not very attractive places to live. The fix of the hose is holding well but Tom has to take out for one more time his tools. Fortunately this time not for our car. A local van got a flat tire and they didn’t carry the right tools to loosen the wheel bolts. While Tom is helping them to unbolt the wheel Dani attracted the bored teeners from the van. Curiously they gather around Dani to ask her things and to make selfies. After the tyres were changed Dani said goodbye to her groupie and we drove further to our camping spot at the lake. The next day we drove to Samarkand, our last big stop in Uzbekistan.
Samarkand is seriously beautiful. Despite we preferred to stroll around in Bukhara mainly because it’s a bit smaller and there are no cars at the main sites however, Samarkand has definitely the most beautiful mosques, madrassas and mausoleums. They are big, beautiful and impressive. We really enjoyed the days we spend in Samarkand although it was really busy because of the national holiday of Naurus. Spring just started and we could walk around in our t-shirts enjoying the sun. We woke up early a few days just to visit some attractions before the big crowd got in. Somehow a lot of men wanted a selfie together with Tom and every time they repeated names of (old) football players. One morning we met two local guys who just wanted to hang out with tourists to improve their English. We promised them to place a picture of us together. So guys here you are getting famous for the rest of the world on Follow this Postcard. Was nice to meet you guys. In total we stayed four days in Samarkand and from here we slowly drove through the border with Tajikistan.
We hadden er drie weken opzitten in dit prachtige land, wat was het een feest. Met onze kapotte koelslang rijden we naar Tadzjikistan, daar wachten we op een nieuwe. Onderweg naar de grens doen we nog een aantal dorpjes aan en halen we wat boodschappen op de bazaar. Oezbekistan we hebben van je genoten, de gastvrijheid en de toegankelijkheid van de mensen, de prachtige steden en de verrassende natuur. We kamperen nog één nacht en dan is het tijd voor een volgend avontuur: Tajikistan en het rijden van de Pamir Highway. We zijn er klaar voor!
For more pictures click here.