Posts for September, 2013


Finding the border (Buston, Tajikistan)

Journal entry for Sunday 1st Sep, 2013 (day 151, miles 11151)

Our mission today was to find "the" border crossing into Uzebekistan. Even when we were back in Gig Harbor planning this trip with all the resources of google available to us we had trouble understanding the convoluted border line between Uzbekistan and its neighbours and now that we are "on-site" it is no clearer; infact maybe even less so as the 4 maps we have of this region (3 paper and 1 electronic) show quite different road networks across the border between Tajikistan and Uzebekistan. So todays mission was to sort this out and by the end of the day know our way to a border crossing.

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The Uzbek border crossing (Buka, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Monday 2nd Sep, 2013 (day 152, miles 11198)

Crossing the border from Tajikistan into Uzbekistan was a long drawn out affair, so dear reader please bare with me it is going to take a while to tell this story.

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Camping Uzbekistan

Posted Monday 2nd Sep, 2013

When is came to Uzbekistan camping places were a whole new deal.

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Escape the heat (Zarmin dam, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Tuesday 3rd Sep, 2013 (day 153, miles 11300)

This morning when we woke all our hosts of last night had departed and the place was silent, cool, and deserted. We took advantage of the morning peace and cool to prepare for the day with the usual myriad of chores.

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Finding our hotel (Samarkand, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Wednesday 4th Sep, 2013 (day 154, miles 11400)

Todays task or challenge was to find our hotel in Samarkand and organize to park the truck there. But of course the first step was to get out of our river valley, back to Zomin and from there find the main road to Samarkand. Now we seemed to have accomplished this and were following a rural road (which had passed through a number of desert villages and their conjested markets) and were just about to rejoin a main road when we came upon a narrow low railway underpass - no more than 10 feet high. While I was sitting there contemplating a 60 km retracement and detour Nina noticed that a local farmer was pointing us down a dusty goat track. With no really good options she convinced me to follow this advice and after about 5 miles of the dustiest trail we have yet traveled we eventually found ourselves on the main Tashkent-Samarkand road.

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We have posted some new photo Galleries

Posted Wednesday 4th Sep, 2013

Today we posted some new photo galleries for Afghanistan (but only as seen from Tajikistan), Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. To see them click the Photo on the main menu.

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Electricity - not (Samarkand, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Friday 6th Sep, 2013 (day 157, miles 11400)

When we woke Wednesday morning we discovered that the electricity in the hotel (and the surrounding neighbourhood) was "out" and it remained that way for the next day and a half. Later in the day this situation would cause an interesting traffic event that we thought accurately demonstrated the difference between drivers in "the emerging world" and drivers countries where "road rules" have more effect on behaviour; but I will come back to that a little later.

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Bukhara here we come (Navoiy, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Saturday 7th Sep, 2013 (day 157, miles 11537)

This morning we packed, said our goodbyes and were in the truck trying to navigate our way along the rough and busy Penjikent road towards the Samarkand ring route by 8:30. The first of our "on the road" chores was to try and find some diesel fuel. Fuel of any description is scarce in Uzbekistan as they have no oil supplies of their own and diesel and petrol/gasoline/benzene is all imported. Most local vehicles are running on compressed gas of some form which is much cheaper and more readily available as Uz has ample domestic supplies of natural gas. Fuel stations are an interesting sight, there are many derelict stations along the highway and also many new stations under construction. Of the ones that are established and appear working, many are actually closed as they either have no fuel to sell or are only selling it to locals. Thus we felt very fortunate this morning when we managed to buy 50 liters of diesel at 2800 soms per litre (US$1.07 per litre or just a little over $4 / gal).

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Finding a parking place (Bukhara, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Sunday 8th Sep, 2013 (day 158, miles 11595)

The 80 kms into Bukhara this morning was through flat hot country. Initially somewhat desolate but increasingly inhabited as we got closer. We had lost a little altitude since Samarkand (700 m down to 250 m) so the morning was hot, 85°F by 10:30. On the outskirts of Bukhara we found a fuel station selling diesel at 3750 soms per liter ($5.45 / gal) and then we ran into the now expected no trucks sign on the towns main entrance road. After a little looking around we found an alternative and managed to get within 2 km of our hotel, the Kabir. I left Nina to look after the truck while I walked to the hotel to find its exact location. There was a bit of confusion at the hotel as I expected that they would have arranged a parking place for us, but they seemed to know nothing about it. After a bit of looking around I found the parking lot of the Asia Hotel only about 300 meters from the Kabir.

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Relaxing and Landrovers (Bukhara, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Tuesday 10th Sep, 2013 (day 160, miles 11595)

Our 3 days in Bukhara were nice and relaxing. We spent the morning and afternoons of each day out seeing the buildings and other sites and during the middle of the day we hid from the sun and heat in our nicely air conditioned room. The "center piece" of Bukharas list of old buildings is perhaps the Kalon Minaret which is 880 years old, stands 47 meters tall. The guide book claims that when Ghengis Kan invaded this part of the world he was so impressed by the astoundingly tall structure that he ordered it not destroyed. In addition to the minaret there are a number of famous mosques and medrasses in varying states of repair and all showing variations on the blue tiled domes and decorations. Another major building (whats left of it) is called the Ark it is the citadel or fort of the city. This is Bukharas oldest historic structure and was occupied from the 5th century until 1920 when it was bomded by the Russians. In the photos below note the unusual rounded buttreses in the outer walls.

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The desert (Kyzylkum, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Wednesday 11th Sep, 2013 (day 161, miles 11717)

Now we are headed for Khiva and we have 2 nights on the road. Not far out of Bukhara the country side changed to low brush and sand to signal that we are truely in the Kyzylkum desert. We are both pleased to see that the weather forecasts we have been reading for the past couple of days are accurate and that the temperatures have moderated. Thus even though we are in the desert with no shade in sight the day is pleasant and the temperatures peaked at 85°F. The past few days in Bukhara the maximum temperature was well over 100°F.

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MTV (Ayaz qala, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Thursday 12th Sep, 2013 (day 162, miles 11870)

We had a rare treat today; really good road. Not long after getting underway this morning the road transformed from broken down tarmac to nice new concrete and more over it continued for much of the days drive. Apparently a German company has been contracted to build a modern concrete 4-lane divided roadway. So far only 2 of the 4 lanes are open but never the less those two lanes were drivers heaven. Just to remind ourseves that it is possible we had a brief burst of travel at 110 km/h (70 mph).

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Low wires and the walled city (Khiva, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Friday 13th Sep, 2013 (day 163, miles 11932)

Today we got another lesson regarding the disadvantages of tall vehicles. The good German road of yesterday was no where to be seen as we wound our way over rural roads back to the main E40 highway, and then along a very rough road to Urgench the largest city in the area. Fortunately Urgench has a ring route that was evident on our GPS map and so we were saved the struggle of navigating the center of the city. From Urgench to Khiva the road was very good except for the fact that an electric trolley bus service operates on that road and the overhead wires that provide power to the buses vary in height from 5+ meters (which is plenty high enough for our truck to clear) to under 3 meters (which is defintely NOT high enough for our truck). So we had an interesting 20 km drive into Khiva trying to avoid low electrical wires and other traffic.

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Khiva sightseeing (Khiva, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Saturday 14th Sep, 2013 (day 165, miles 11932)

Yesterday afternoon at a local super market we met a local English speaking guide (he helped us figure out the check out procedure). During the course of this morning we arranged with him by phone and sms to have a tour of the highlights of the old city.

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Carpets, weddings and vintage cars (Khiva, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Sunday 15th Sep, 2013 (day 165, miles 11932)

Today was to be "a last look at Khiva" day and so we headed into the old city to re-visit some of the buildngs of yesterday (and try to remember what the guide told us). Along the way we bumped into a number of wedding parties using the old city and its buildings for their photo shoots and in the process giving the hordes of tourists some photo opportunities. It seemed a little surprising to us that the young couples seemed not to have a problem with their wedding parties becoming tourist attractions.

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A drive to Nukkus (Nokis) (Nukkus, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Monday 16th Sep, 2013 (day 166, miles 12062)

Today was mostly an uneventful day of traveling to the town of Nukkus (or Nokis) from which we will (tomorrow) take a 2 day 1 night tour to the rapidly vanishing Aral Sea. We left Khiva before 9:00 am hoping to avoid some of the traffic on the road back to Urgench with its low trolley-bus wires; a strategy that was somewhat successful. There after our route took us through some more flat cotton farming areas and then into the desert for the bulk of the trip to Nukkus.

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Aral Sea - Part 1 (Aral Sea, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Tuesday 17th Sep, 2013 (day 167, miles 12062)

I am sure that most people know of the Aral Sea, a large body of previously fresh water that has been steadily disapearing since the 1960s. It is famous (or maybe infamous) as a stark example of environmental mismanagement resulting from the introduction of large scale cotton farming and associated massive irrigation on Uzbekistan territory during Soviet times. We were here to see this "wonder of the world" and to do so "while it is still there" - as the Lonely Planet guide book suggests.

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Visas

Posted Tuesday 17th Sep, 2013

From the earliest days of research for this trip it was evident that visas would be an issue both in terms of arranging the timing so that consecutive countries matched up on entry and exit dates and in terms of the process. A complicating factor was that we would have to get many of the visas while in transit as it was not possible because of timing issues to get all visas in advance of starting the journey.

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Aral Sea - Part 2 (Nukkus, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Wednesday 18th Sep, 2013 (day 168, miles 12062)

We were awake in time to watch the sun rise over the Aral Sea - a very pretty sight. Indeed the entire camping experience had been good/pretty. It is a long time since we have camped (in a tent) in a desert and the whole experience had caused us to reflect on our camping days in Australia.

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Chores (Nukkus, Uzbekistan)

Journal entry for Thursday 19th Sep, 2013 (day 169, miles 12062)

Day 169 of our Central Asian journey was a day full of chores preparing for tomorrows crossing into Turkmenistan; not very interesting to anyone including us..

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French Fries in Dashogus (Dashogus, Turkmenistan)

Journal entry for Friday 20th Sep, 2013 (day 170, miles 12152)

Tonight in Dashogus we had dinner at a local hotel and french fries were on the menu so I could not help but order some as we have not had, nor even seen, french fries since we left the USA nearly 6 months ago. They were not great, but still a treat. So now I should go back and start at the beginning of the day.

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Camping Turkmenistan

Posted Friday 20th Sep, 2013

We have posted a new new photo Gallery of Uzbek images

Posted Friday 20th Sep, 2013

Today we posted some new photo galleries for Uzbekistan. To see it click the Photo on the main menu or click this link.

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Traffic Police and the Devil's Gate (Devils Gate, Turkmenistan)

Journal entry for Saturday 21st Sep, 2013 (day 171, miles 12337)

Our guide turned up at the agreed time, with a GSM chip for my phone as promised and we set off towards the no-longer existing town of Davaza (Derweze) about half way to Ashgabat. According to our guide book the town no loner exists because the previous president decided he did not like it and had it "removed". So if it does not exist, why go there? Well it is famous for a man made wonder called Devils gate, but we will get to that.

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The Mog in sand and more craters (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan)

Journal entry for Sunday 22nd Sep, 2013 (day 172, miles 12515)

During the course of yesterday afternoon I started to think (fear?) that the sandy track we had traversed on the way in to view the crater yesterday afternoon may not be as easy to get over on the way back. There was one good sized sand dune along the track, and on the way in the track up to the top of that dune had a hard base but the track down was very soft. On the way out the soft part of the track would be up hill and I was concerned it would give our mighty-mog some trouble. As it turned out I was correct and I struggled for some time trying to climb the dune in the soft sand. My struggle was amplified by a few locals who insisted on reversing down the same hill I was trying to climb at the time I was trying to climb it and forcing me to avoid them. Eventually a more judicious selection of route overcame the problem and we were back on the highway.

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Safe trouble (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan)

Journal entry for Monday 23rd Sep, 2013 (day 174, miles 12515)

We spent the day preparing for tomorrows crossing into Iran. That meant cleaning the truck, finding our way to a supermarket,and getting some more money as there is no international banking in Iran. Each of these chores had their own little challenges as we had to find our way around Ashgabat by taxi and work out the Turkmen system for such mundane things as ATMs, internet and groceries.

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Iran (Quchan, Iran)

Journal entry for Tuesday 24th Sep, 2013 (day 175, miles 12610)

Today was - Iran here we come, with all sorts of unanswered questions about how the border crossing would go and how we would manage in a country where we could not even read the writing let alone understand the language. A Turkmen guide arrived at the hotel at 8:20 am to escort us to the border and we followed his little white Nissan van onto and along the border highway south into the mountains that separate Turkmenistan and Iran. First stop a few kms down the road was a Turkmen checkpoint that ensured that only those with legitimate business at the border post (a further 25 km away) could actually get to the border post. The checkpoint took only a few minutes and then we were on our way up into the mountains. Note for other travelers, contrary to the advice we had received from the Stantours manager in Ashgabat this checkpoint clearly opened well before 9:00am.

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Camping Iran

Posted Tuesday 24th Sep, 2013

Entering Iran, Ninas perspective

Posted Tuesday 24th Sep, 2013

September 24th 2013 Waiting to enter Iran

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We found a real campground (Mashhad, Iran)

Journal entry for Wednesday 25th Sep, 2013 (day 176, miles 12702)

I will get to the campground a bit later. Once underway this morning Nina started reading from the short Iran language primer that is at the end of the Lonely Planet guide book for Iran. So as we drove along we started trying to read the license plates on the vehicles that were passing us. This seemed like an achievable goal as the plates seem to contain mostly numerals. For the interested here are the numerals zero through nine - ۰ ۱ ۲ ۳ ۴ ۵ ۶ ۷ ۸ ۹. Unfortunately it is not quite that easy as there are two alternative symbols for the numeral 4 and also for 6, but I cannot find a way of putting in the alternatives.

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Surprises (Mashhad, Iran)

Journal entry for Thursday 26th Sep, 2013 (day 176, miles 12702)

I hate to admit it but we arrived in Mashhad yesterday almost totally ignorant of the importance of Mashhad to Shia (Shiite) Muslims and to some degree the sheer size of the city. So today when the local guide we organized yesterday turned up and took us on a short tour of the city we were more than a little surprised by what we found.

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A ride in a police car (Deyhuk, Iran)

Journal entry for Friday 27th Sep, 2013 (day 177, miles 12967)

Today we headed south with the plan that over the next 2 or 3 days we would make it to the desert town of Kerman. So as the day progressed the landscape dried out, and the temperature increased. We had company on our travels. We shared part of todays journey with the Seabridge-tours but about lunch time they turned more directly west while we contnued south. We also had the company of many long distance trucks.

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Hot desert (Kermen, Iran)

Journal entry for Saturday 28th Sep, 2013 (day 178, miles 13209)

We got going early this morning in the hope of getting close to Kerman by the end of the day, and also in hope of covering a good distance before the days heat was upon us. As it turned out we covered a lot of distance and finished the day within 80 km of Kerman but we did not really escape the heat as during the middle of the day we crossed some really spectacular desert country (called the Dasht-e Lut) complete with heat haze, drifting sands and temperatures of 100°F. Again we lamented the demise of our trucks air conditioning system.

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The Kaluts (Dasht-e Lut, Iran)

Journal entry for Sunday 29th Sep, 2013 (day 179, miles 13376)

The first leg of the days travel was a pleasant mountain descent that brought us to the main highway into, and about 35 km from, Kerman. There we were confronted by another no-truck sign and an indication that we should take a western ring road around the town. We were a bit perplexed by this as none of our maps, even the GPS map, indicated that this ring road existed. We followed this for some time as it made a very wide detour and eventually linked up with another major highway running west out of Kerman towards the city of Yazd. Again no-truck signs seemed to bar our entry to (or even bypass of) the town.

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Mahan, a quick visit (South of Rafsanjan, Iran)

Journal entry for Monday 30th Sep, 2013 (day 180, miles 13566)

After a few more photos we started early on our return trip from the Kalut in the hope of covering some of those kilometers before the sun got hot. The climb back over that mountain range seemed longer on the return and as on yesterdays drive the altitude moderated the temperature. So we stopped for a break at the summit and spent a while simply enjoying the cool air.

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