Uzbekistan (Oezbekistan in Dutch) consists mainly of desert with some amazingly beautiful old Silk Road cities. I enter via the border with Kazakhstan and the border formalities are handled very friendly. In an attempt to welcome everyone in English there is a large sign above the passport control building with “Good luck” on it, undoubtedly meant friendly but it sounds like: try to enter our country just one 🙂
I crossed the border fairly early and drive straight on to Moynaq. An old fishing village at the Aral Sea (lake). However, in the seventies the Russian government moved the two rivers that feed the lake to help the cotton industry. As a result, 90% of the lake has disappeared. Moynaq is now a desert village with as tourist highlight a number of dry ships in the middle of the desert.
The road is bad and it takes me quite a while to get there, but eventually I find the ships. In my overconfidence I ride the motorbike into the desert and not long after that I get stuck in the loose sand. The weight of the bike in combination with the type of tires makes it impossible for me to go anywhere. On the picture it seems not that bad, but the engine could only go backwards and that was up. All the luggage was taken off the bike and luckily a car came along with two men who helped out for a while. It was heading for 40 degrees so I was glad I drove again 🙂
After two days I arrive at Khiva and check in at a hostel where 5 more bikers arrive within the hour. We are just outside the old city wall and the view is beautiful, especially when the sun is low at the end of the day.
We have a nice dinner with the group of travelers and more and more people are joining us. The last beer we drink with about 12 people. It’s very nice to have met hardly anyone after two weeks, to be able to speak normal English again and to be able to exchange stories. I stay here for two days to recover and to feel the atmosphere of the town. It looks spectacular but once there was the biggest slave market in Central Asia. People were picked from the land and traded here. In addition, daily caravans with merchandise went to and from the town.
After Khiva, I visit the trading cities of Buchara and Samarkand. The cities are connected with reasonable roads but again through dry and hot desert areas. Nice to look at but also heavy from time to time. The wind is hot and strong and there are hardly any stops to relax in the shade. The conversations on the way are always nice and in a special way I enjoy the vastness and relentlessness of the desert. The cities are beautiful and definitely worth a visit. Look here for some more pictures: http://oskar.verkamman.nl/en/photos-kazakhstan-en-uzbekistan/