From Volgograd we took off on the 29th direction Kazakstan. The Kazakian Border was easy and the border control personnel very friendly. They where more involved with making selfies with Quitschi than doing actual border control stuff. The road after the border was paved, but it must be the worst road in the world: no road at all would have been better. The neglecting they show towards there infrastructure is hard to believe.
We left this bump track to drive an unpaved road along a new pipeline. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and put up our camp. It didn’t take 10 minutes and 2 police cars appeared out of nowhere and instructed us to camp at least 100 meters away from the pipeline. I guess it is a good idea not to make a fire next to a gas pipeline anyway.
We made good progress and reached the uzbekian border at around 3 o’clock. Although the passage was planed for next morning we decided to try it right now. We knew it will not be easy: When you leave the Kazakian border you see a very big sign with ‘Good Luck’ written on it, and indeed that is what you need. Somehow they have a special tourist program: we could bypass all the queues and got our own guard that was guiding us through all the control stations. They where endlessly slow and super friendly. They controlled the content of every car, Alex had a cough medicine containing codeine: they took it and destroyed it right in front of here: it’s a drug. But they didn’t charge her for drug trafficking they said, guess we should be grateful. It took 4.5 hours for the whole group to pass. But we have been lucky: There own people are waiting at this border several days for sure, with small children at 40 degrees celsius in the shadows: Punishment for working abroad or just a demonstration of power?
Anyhow, we made it through this infamous border one day earlier, meaning we can hit Khiva one day in advanced, which gives us one more day to hang out in an air conditioned hotel room: we are happy. But before we reached Khiva we drove to the new shore of the Aral lake, we drove 200 Km sand piste and off road for 5 hours without seeing a single human being. The land is so flat that you think you can see the curvature of the earth. And then we reached a cliff and you are 50 meters above the aral sees shore: Stunningly beautiful.
Next day we got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to watch the sunrise above the lake and to be off driving while the temperature was still bearable. We drove more than 100 Km on the former ground of the lake until we reached Moynak. 50 years ago Moynak was a prosperous fishing town with a harbour, nowadays you can still see some of the ships that where stranded when the lake disappeared. In a country where water is everything this is an unbe lievable disaster. Moynak now looks very very poor, third world feeling. We saw two older people that where watching over a goat, probably there only valuable possession.
Then we drove a few hundred kilometers on surprisingly good roads to Khiva. Here it looks and feels very much like in Iran. But woman usually don’t where scarfs, there is beer, and the food is much better. Khiva is simply beautiful and worth a trip. They have an unfinished minaret, the story goes that it should become the worlds tallest minaret. To ensure that the architect could not build a higher one anywhere else the sultan planed to kill the architect after finishing the minaret. He found out and run off. Hence the unfinished tower that indeed looks spectacular.
In Khiva we have one free day, but we need to clean the car and fill up on Diesel. That sounds much easier then it is. There is no way to buy Diesel in this country other then on the black market. The receptionist ordered a few hundred litres and they will bring it to the hotel tonight. Of course you never know what you get. It’s a risk but we have to take it. Almost all Uzbekian cars run on metan or propan gas. There is not much traffic here. I think most people can not afford a car. Instead the use shared taxis. Like in Iran you wait for one to stop and get in. But unlike Iran they have this very small clownish looking Vans to do the job. The drivers really like Quitschi, they wink and horn. Very nice people here.
And as last a pro tip for campers in the bush: Do not try to burn your toilet paper as I did. They bushes will be in fire at now time and you will create a little disaster. But fortunately there is really nobody here that would care about a little fire.