Published: May 2nd 2008May 2nd 2008
Khiva from top of minaret
One nice day in Tashkent we were in a big hurry to go to train leaving for Urgench. Why such a hurry? Well, trip was planned long time before, but plans changes and the final decision to go on a trip which will last about a week was made a day before. But we were able to come in time to train station and buy first class ticket (“we” means me, my Uzbek friend Bekzod and my Czech friend Roman). So that’s how it started. First of all we had to survive 20 hours on train, which did not seem too hard being in the first class, just us three in whole cabin. But unexpected things do happen and while enjoying our first class comfort we saw an Uzbek lady, about 50 years old, and her, most probably, granddaughter lurking just outside our cabin. To close the door? Not to? But it was too late – she stumbled in with her big bag and her little kid and occupied half of the cabin leaving us in horror. We were sharing the hopes that she might get out at Samarkand, but when Bekzod had a small talk she told that she’s going
Lake near Aral Sea
On a way to Aral Sea
to the last stop. Then about an hour we were complaining to each other how unfair this was and we had a right, because with the lil kid it was 5 people, well 4.5 person, in a 4 place cabin. So eventually Bekzod sorted out this with the conductor man and after throwing out old lady and little kid we enjoyed our freedom. Hm… well not without some complaints from consciences of course – we are not bad people. But the next morning we were really happy that we regained our freedom, because after night cabin seemed to be even smaller and we could not imagine how the old lady and her daughter could have fitted in there… So about the same evening – we were in big hopes to get some dinner, it was a first class after all! But our hopes were broken and we had lots of regrets we did not take any food with us. The good thing is that in every stop salespeople came to train and we bought some extra expensive sausage and canned beef from a lady. At Samarkand stop we were attacked by bread salespeople and eventually bought two pieces of wonderful
Samarkand bread (it is though to be the best in Uzbekistan). So, the next day at about 1 o’clock we came to Urgench – city that has nothing to show. But we had some other Erasmus friends living there in a house and Urgench is the best destination to Khiva and Nukus. We had a walk in half empty Urgench. It seemed like a city that is too big for its people, as there were just few of them and the city itself is built in soviet big-monument-big-street type. Quite creepy town if you have seen lots of ghost-town type of movies. So the sleep was good and the next day we took a taxi to Khiva. Just one thing was quite lowering our moods – it was freaky cold! It was just about 14 degrees, which was so unexpected (and kind of taught us to look at weather prognoses before any trip).
Khiva… For people who haven’t seen Samarkand and Bukahara Khiva would make a big impression. For those who have (so us three including) it was nothing special, even quite disappointing. The true what most travellers say that Khiva is like a museum under the sky –
Bottom of Sea...
What was used to be a bottom
it looks nice, but it has no real life there - just tourists and lots of salespeople. Kind of interesting to see, but I would prefer Bukhara much more, as it has same type of architecture, but still has life. So we walked around the artificial city district and after that took a taxi to Nukus. Well that didn’t happen that fast as there were some problems with taking money out of our credit cards. We’ve been to all Khiva banks and eventually had to go back to Urgench and we succeeded taking money there. Huh… that was lucky! So we went to Nukus. On a way our taxi driver was telling about one kind of castle or fortress which was further from road. As he told it was built by some khan and he locked his daughter there for disobeying him… I really waned to visit that place but it was too late that evening and on a way back it wad not possible either, so pity. I’m quite sure I won’t be visiting that place again, so it was a missed chance. So, Nukus – hotel and sleep.
Early next morning our driver came. And the Aral
Shore where it is now.
Sea trip began. The car was old soviet type jeep, but it was ok, at least until we started going on extremely bumpy desert roads. Again the thing lowering our mood was very strong wind and coldness. It was SO cold and we had just sweaters. I thanked myself for taking two sweaters and thanked online travel tips for taking gloves. Also we ate some sort of weird things in some sort of weird café. The trip from Nukus to the Aral Sea where it is now took about 8 hours, about 6 of them on bumpy-jumpy road. But it still was interesting. We stopped by a nice lake and even saw a horse pack wandering around in a middle of desert. And when it was about “I can’t take it anymore” we came to Aral Sea. (For those who don’t know about Aral Sea disaster you can search wikipedia). We came out of the car still feeling jumpy-bumpy. What we were standing on was the bottom of the Aral… well what used to be the bottom. All ground is covered with sea shells. We still had to walk quite a long way to see the Aral itself. It was
REALY cold, the wind was extremely strong, so no one even had a thought of swimming in it, although we did go into it bare feet. And I think it would be quite difficult to swim there as bottom is very shallow and there is mud where you just sink into. And, of course, because of the salt. All in all it was a sad picture. So we camped near there, further from sea. We had tea and nice Uzbek meal of potatoes and onions. A bit of hiking on nearby rocks and a bit of sitting by the fire and eventually going to sleep. The night was cold, but we survived. I kind have a thought that during these kind of trips body gets into some sort of a emergency status and doesn’t get sick that fast. Because now after a night by open window in the dormitory, while nights here are very warm, I got cold and then sleeping in not warm tent and cheap sleeping bags, walking bare foot in freezing sea while strong wind is blowing all the time it was all OK! So the next day we went back on to a bumpy road, but
the trip didn’t take that long, because we turned to Muynoq – the ex-fisherman village. Now there are rusty ships brought to the place where the Aral shore was. That was a really sad place. And then - Nukus>Urgench. It was kind of hard to get from Nukus back to Urgench, because taxi drivers were trying to fool us and take twice or three times the money of what the trip was worth. But eventually, with skills of Bekzod, we found normal price taxi and happily got back. The next day we decided not to waste too and went on a trip to see the Qalas.
Qalas are fortresses built of mud in old times. Now they are just ruins, but quite well preserved and not guarded. So we were climbing through them all day. We visited three Qala places all near Urgench. We also had nice lunch in tourist yurts, as one of the Qalas is near that place. And surprisingly there were lots of tourists coming there to sleep in yurts. Unfortunately the camel keeper was sick so we couldn’t ride camels. Well next time…
Getting back was again exhausting trip by train from Urgench to
Rusted ships on what used to be shore of Aral
Tashkent. But it all was worth it.
There are more photos below