From Kiva we drove to Bukhara. Bukhara is even more beautiful than Kiva but also more touristic. We went for dinner with Frank, Bernd, Dieter and Johan and had a very funny evening also because of the 4 cto of vodka. cto means one hundred in russian, meaning you get one decilitre of vodka, a standard size for a vodka drink. The dinner costs around 50 dollars, unfortunately this has to be payed in som, or sumsum as we call it, and this his how that looks:
When we entered Uzbekistan we got 6000 som for one dollar, on the last day we got 6500 som, that’s quite an impressive inflation.
Next day almost everybody got sick by the stomach. It must have been the unbearable heat. Nobody in his right mind would travel to Uzbekistan in the middle of summer. But we have no choice: we need to be back before the winter hits Russia. Most tourist we meet hence have the same destination: Mongolia.
We spent one free day in Bukhara and then we drove further to Samarkand, which tops Kiva and Bukhara in terms of beauty, although that is hard to believe. Unfortunately in Samarkand we just had a two hours stop before we continue to the Kyrgysian border.
Once more our guide Bernd ensured that everything is going to be super easy and we will pass the border in no time. Well, before we even got close to the border we had to drive through the fergan valley. The fergan valley is one of the most tense populated areas in central Asia, 3 million people are living here. And as Uzbekistan tries to compete with North Korea we had to pass through 5 or 6 police control station. At each station all 8 drivers had to get out of the car, walk to the commanders office who had to write down our names and car details in a book, which took around half an hour every fucking time. We arrived late at the border. But hey, no problem, this border is going to be easy. Well, I guess some 4 or 5 hours later we all got through. I could write a separate blog post just about this passage, it was that ridicules. But once more: The women with the newly born baby that probably just wanted to visit some relatives over the border and had to wait in line and endure this torture had all my sympathy. We let here in front of course, but fucking nazi officer sent her back to the end of queue.
Once more we had to drive in the dark to reach the camp side, a no go in this region. At the end of the one hour drive an off road passage awaited us, as always our guid was way in front of the group and we where standing there trying to figure out how to get over the earth hill that someone obviously put there to prevent people to drive through this road. Of course I made the wrong choice and got stuck, two wheels in the air, no way to go forward, no way to go backwards, in the dark, after one week of unbearable heat and a 12 hour day spending with lazy arrogant bureaucrats. Obviously at this moment I hear our beloved guide on the radio screaming: Benno where are you, you have to tell me when you stop somewhere, stick to the rules for once. My answer: Just be quiet for once Bernd. Quiet. Therese and Alexandra help me with the flash light to find the right passage and I’m through and through. Bernd on the radio: Benno, if you do not talk to me I will just let you stay here and go. Never has anyone told me to be quiet in my life. Alexandra takes the microphone: Well, then it is about time.
Drops the mic.
I could write a whole blog post about Bernd. But for now he does not talk to us anymore and that feels very liberating. We discussed to leave the tour and just drive back on our own. But we have a awesome group and we really like the people here and they like us. They are supporting us in every way the can, so it is all good for now.
Uzbekistan is a difficult topic: The people are awesome: friendly and interested, the sights are breathtaking, more beautiful then anything I have seen in Iran, plus the food is terrific and there is alcohol: Half a litre vodka for 2 dollars. But it is obvious that Uzbekistan is a dictatorship and police state and that corruption kills the economy. People are poor here, they may have enough to eat because the land is good, but that’s about it. Once you enter Kyrgistan the scenery changes drastically: New cars, flourishing business, hectic and colourful. But that is another story.