From Samarkand to Tashkent
Trip Start May 14, 2009
34Trip End Jun 15, 2009
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The journey by car was interesting as we passed through farming areas interspersed with large townships, markets and industrial areas. At one stage we had to divert our route and travel on a large loop to avoid driving through neighbouring Kazakhstan. Such are the absurdities of the border changes in Central Asia. Farmland was mostly used for extensive cotton growing with some maturing wheat crops and barley crops ready for harvest. Once again labour was mostly women chipping weeds by hand with a few of the larger farms housing tractors. The main livestock we saw were goats, dairy cows and sheep. A lot of local transport was by way of donkey carts. In the distance was the snow capped Pamir Mountain range.
Probably due to my complaints to poor Odil about the horrible Tashkent Palace Hotel we were accommodated at the lovely Markizy Hotel in Tashkent. We were very grateful. Centrally located, this hotel was quite luxurious. We enjoyed the opportunity to relax for an afternoon on our own. We walked for several kilometers and found the wonderfully interesting Marrakech Restaurant. It was beautifully and exotically appointed but by the time we walked back to our hotel we were just too tired to contemplate another evening walk. A lovely meal at the hotel was made special by the visit of two cats that much to the waitresses’ concerns made themselves quite at home in the restaurant. We were missing our animals at home.
The next day we were bound for another adventure – our trip to Kyrgyzstan. You would think that we would have got used to Uzbek bureaucracy during our stay but….. Tashkent airport this end really took the cake! We had at least six baggage checks and just as we thought we were clear, we had to undergo another check but this time we had to take off shoes, jackets or any clothing thought to look suspicious and anything metal. If it had not been so tiresome it would have been hilarious watching poor beltless men, including Alan, clutching their trousers while stumbling through the screening area carrying all their clothes, shoes and bags. For some reason Alan let all the alarms off and had to repeat this humiliating process. A Muslim woman in stunning traditional and elaborate dress came to a worse plight. She was literally undressed in the search the authorities gave her. No niceties at Tashkent airport.
We finally were herded into a waiting room with no air-conditioning. It must have been around 40 degrees outside and people were looking distressed, including our Alan. In desperation he went over to the only place that sold drinks and tried to buy us a bottle of water. Yes, we were still in Uzbekistan but the bar would not accept anything other than US dollars! As you received Uzbek sum currency for change – a currency that cannot be exchanged outside Uzbekistan – we went without. It didn’t help our fraying tempers when we boarded our stiflingly hot plane and found we were wedged three abreast in a jam packed plane.
Despite all the bureaucratic frustrations it was a wonderful destination and we would highly recommend our trip to other travellers.