25th – 30th July – Bye Bye Iran, Hello Turkey

Well, I’m in Turkey now at Goreme, Cappadocia…

Before leaving Iran, I had a scare with my Turkey Visa and could have been stuck in Iran for a few days!

I noticed when checking my papers the night before leaving Iran that my Visa for Turkey was incorrect….The Passport number was wrong!…..Oh dear !!!!

How did I manage to stuff it up?…

I had been patting myself on the back thinking how clever I had been navigating through the Visa maze without a hitch then I almost fell at the last and EASIEST hurdle!

Somehow, when applying for my Turkey visa over the internet from Australia, I had transposed my Passport number….Instead of 2675 I had put in 7526…My dyslexia again!

I thought I might be able to wriggle my way through the Border but you never know how the Customs Officer is feeling…

Then Stuart to the rescue! What would i do without him?….This is the SECOND
time he has come to the rescue! (The first time was when he recreated my GPS Maps)

It turned out that Stuart had just applied for his Turkey Visa. He said it took him just 15 minutes to get the Visa….I’m sure it took me about 3 days!….. Anyway, he simply applied for a NEW Visa for me and emailed it to me…I went to an Internet cafe and printed it off…Bingo!

Now, back to the adventure!

My last day in Iran I visited a mountain Village called Kandovan Village. It is a mini Cappadocia and is quite amazing. Have a look at these pictures and later those of Turkey’s Cappadocia

DSCN1215 DSCN1214 DSCN1210

DSCN1229

There are wall paintings of the Leaders everywhere

DSCN1230

Them again!

The Border was the usual drag. This time three hours

The ride in Turkey started off with a beautiful view of Mt Athos (Noah’s Ark fame) I’m sorry the photo is a bit hazy!

DSCN1237

I was REALLY looking forward to my first drink in nearly three weeks but shock horror, I found Eastern Turkey was as dry as Iran! NO ALCOHOL anywhere! I’m still on Chateau Fanta and Chateau L’Eau 2014

I’ll have to wait till I get to the “tourist belt’ which begins at Cappadocia (Central Turkey)

I meet Stuart in Fethiye on the Mediterranean Coast on 6th so I have a bit of time so I decided to go up to the Black Sea to Tranzon.

It was a lovely ride through the mountains….a bit like Switzerland with Mosques!

DSCN1244 DSCN1242

The Mosques are different here with narrow Minarets

DSCN1240

DSCN1263

Tranzon and this part of the Black Sea is very disappointing. Tranzon itself is a seedy Port The beaches are all rocks and not attractive.

I’ve heard that the Black Sea Coast is great….Just not here!

DSCN1246 DSCN1245

The redeeming feature is 45K away in the Mountains…The Sumela Monastery

Unfortunately  I got there on the Ramazan Bayrami Holiday (Celebrating the end of Ramadan) and it was closed till the afternoon. I couldn’t wait. A pity, but the view of the building is amazing. How did they build it way up there in the mountains

DSCN1250

DSCN1249

The Monastery is over 1500 years old and was built during the Byzantine era. It clings to the face of a cliff. Amazing

I treated myself to a 4 Star Hotel in Sivas…The Hotel cost about $65. (still no beer or wine available!)

DSCN1266

By the way…A TRAVEL TIP…DON’T VISIT IRAN OR TURKEY (certainly not East Turkey) in Ramadan!……Most Cafe’s and Restaurants are closed during the day and you can’t usually eat till sunset around 9.00 pm. I was unable even to get a cup of tea on the road!

Cappadocia, Turkey

I have to say Cappadocia one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever visited. The only way to describe it is through photos.

I feel reaching Cappadocia is a double landmark….Firstly, I’m now in the “tourist belt” and secondly….I SHOULD be able to have a drink here and some decent food! …………Correct on BOTH counts!

DSCN1272

“Selfie” First Beer. Felt quite tipsy after!

DSCN1335

I’ve also tried Cappadocia Wine….which is quite reasonable

I booked myself into a nice Hotel called “The Elysee Cave Hotel” for three nights! Luxury!

DSCN1284

Elysee Cave Hotel. Very nice!

I’ve done the “tour” and the mandatory “balloon flight” (which is spectacular) I’ve also done a three hour Horse ride which was fantastic.

Here are some photos…It’s a photographers paradise!

DSCN1321 DSCN1316 DSCN1307 DSCN1305 DSCN1287 DSCN1283 DSCN1282 DSCN1275 DSCN1329 DSCN1327 DSCN1268 DSCN1407

And now the balloon flight….i had to get up at 3.45 am but it was worth it!
DSCN1338DSCN1343 DSCN1346 DSCN1348

DSCN1359

 

 

DSCN1365

Now my horse riding…

DSCN1438

DSCN1394 DSCN1390 DSCN1379

DSCN1412

Churches are carved out of the rocks

DSCN1430 DSCN1422

DSCN1424

I must come back here with Merry as she would LOVE it!.

Actually the best way to see Cappadocia is either on foot or on a horse! I chose the horse!

Sadly tomorrow it’s back to business  and I head for Konya and the next day Antalya.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 – 24 July Discovering Iran

I’m now in Tabriz on my way to Turkey. I aim to cross into Turkey on 25th. I enjoyed my “side trip” but it’s good to be back on Azulo!

Now, as you know, I have not enjoyed the food anywhere on this trip and Iran is no different.

I’m pleased to say, however that my Guide, in Shiraz, Sanaz took me to a restaurant that was excellent….so good infact that we went there three times for lunch to get out of the heat. The coffee was excellent also.

DSCN1044

Sanaz and me enjoying lunch. Note the Aussie Flag!

The waiters had flair and as you see they brought the Aussie Flag to our table!

My last day in Shiraz we visited a ruin on top of the mountain….Sanaz made me climb to the top in 40 degree heat!

DSCN1035

DSCN1042 DSCN1038

My next stop was ISFAHAN some 500 kilometers North of Shiraz and probably Iran’s most famous City outside Tehran.

I flew to Isfahan from Shiraz but almost missed my flight. The Airport information was absolutely hopeless and I sat in the departure lounge completely confused. The flight was was 2 hours late. I presume they announced that but I couldn’t understand the announcements anyway. .

It was just luck that i caught the flight at all since the Departure Gate said “TEHRANNOT “ISFAHAN”  Luckily I asked whether the flight that was boarding to Tehran was actually going to Isfahan….It was!

My guide in Isfahan was Mr Hooshang. He is a retired English teacher. Very nice but lacks a certain something that Sanaz brought to the sights!

DSCN1103

Mr Hoosang, my Guide in Isfahan

He showed me the sights. The Palaces, Mosques and Gardens are all so beautiful but they all become a blur when you see so MANY beautiful Mosques and Palaces.

DSCN1070 DSCN1068 DSCN1065 DSCN1061 DSCN1059 DSCN1052

DSCN1049 DSCN1048 DSCN1047 DSCN1045

DSCN1079 DSCN1085 DSCN1078

The following photo is the MUSIC ROOM in the Palace. Look at the way they have decorated the wall so that the acoustics are perfect

DSCN1072

The main square in Isfahan is HUGE. According to Mr Hoosang it is second only in size to Tienanmen Square in Beijing. In the evening when it cools down everybody heads for the square where they kick footballs and have picnics.

It’s interesting because it’s Ramadan. Nobody eats or drinks between sunrise and sunset, whether or not they are religious.

I went to the square just before sunset and was amazed how disciplined they are. People were there with their Picnic baskets and plates etc but NOBODY was eating or drinking …Then, as the sun went down they all tucked in and had a right old feast!

DSCN1090 DSCN1093

DSCN1094

Main square just before sunset

There are several beautiful 400 year old bridges over the “River”….The river does have water in in during late autumn, winter and spring but is absolutely dry now.

DSCN1099 DSCN1102

DSCN1105

In the evening, in the centre of the bridge, underneath the arches, the men gather and laze about and take it in turns to sing local folk songs. It really is a terrible racket to my ears but special to hear them.

DSCN1111

I met my new Guide,  who will drive me tomorrow to Tehran.…He invited me to join him for dinner which I thought was nice. He took me to a very strange Hotel owned by an ex teacher of handicrafts.( He told me he had been offered a job at Melbourne University but declined!

He has painted all the doors and walls of the Hotel. It’s actually very beautiful

DSCN1133 DSCN1128 DSCN1125

We had dinner on the rooftop overlooking the Mosque which was beautiful.

DSCN1120

The next day we drove to Tehran. We visited a lovely little mountain village.called Abyanch

DSCN1145

The “supermarket”

DSCN1144 DSCN1143 DSCN1142

We reached Tehran and the next morning, I was reunited with Azulo the next day and he started without any problems, so off we went!.

En route I visited a huge Mosque which has the third largest brick Dome in the world.

DSCN1162

The countryside is fairly barren and dry but I  detoured off the main highway to Tabriz and  crossed the mountains. They are impressive and rugged.

DSCN1174

DSCN1202

I visited a Castle which was sacked by the Romans! It sits on an extinct volcano and surrounds a beautiful  lake.that is fed from underground springs. It is incredibly blue.

DSCN1172 DSCN1168

I also visited an amazing cave complex that must have housed hundreds of people. It literally has about six levels (I’ll add the name later!)

DSCN1181 DSCN1182 DSCN1198 DSCN1199 DSCN1201

I passed through many little villages with simple mud brick houses. Many had hay stacked on the roof!

DSCN1175

DSCN1205

Pleasant Countryside

I’m leaving Iran soon so here are some of my thoughts about Iran

As already said the people are incredibly hospitable and friendly. They really seem to enjoy helping out. Assisting a stranger is a pleasure not a chore or duty!

One amusing example of this happened when my guide got lost and needed directions. He simply stopped in the MIDDLE of a BUSY INTERSECTION and asked directions from the POLICEMAN on Point Duty! The traffic came to a standstill whilst the Policeman gave him directions. I couldn’t believe it! 

Iran certainly stands out because of it’s lovely people.

I regret to say i give the food a big thumbs down! I appreciate my restaurants haven’t been the most expensive but I’ve had a good sample now. Kebabs and stews and fairly ordinary salad’s and rice seem to be the staple foods…Obviously the lack of booze isn’t a big hit with me!

The sights are magnificent of course and Iran is a TREASURE HOUSE! 

The countryside I’ve seen has  been mostly desert and some rugged mountains. I’ve only seen a fraction of the country though.

The country is of course VERY religious. That can be a little irritating at times if you’re neither Muslim or religious…for example when you have to wait for your Guide whilst he says his prayers!

As for safety…I’ve felt 100% safe here

Overall I think Iran is a terrific destination!. 

 

 

.

10 – 17 July Surprising Iran

I’m now in Shiraz, Iran. I am on a “side trip” from Tehran to see some of Iran’s amazing historical sights.. Azulo is tucked away in the Tour Guide’s apartment!

I return to Tehran on 20th and then head for Turkey

I say “surprising Iran” because if you believe the Media then Iran is a place to be avoided. Quite the contrary.

It is a lovely country with friendly people who go out of their way to help.Maybe our Politicians don’t see eye to eye but the people are great! The roads are first class and so far the Police have not caused me any headaches!

So far I can’t say the food excites me too much and of course there is NO ALCOHOL which for me that’s a bit of a pain!…. It somehow seems incongruous sitting in a “nice” restaurant having dinner and having to drink water of orange juice. Quite ruins the effect!

DSCN0939

Dinner drinks! Now quite right somehow!

My journey from the Border at Bajgiran to Tehran was uneventful. it’s about 900k and I did it in an easy two days.

I stopped at the first town called Quchan for some water and besieged! Azulo and I are always an attraction and I’m always surrounded by people asking me where I’m from and hopping about like Kangaroos when they understand I’m from Australia

DSCN0920Here was different though…….. I literally caused a traffic jam! There were about 15 people all pushing to get near and take a photo. I was asked by one old bloke to come to his house for dinner!

Before I left home, I had booked a Private Tour from Tehran to Shiraz about 1000K south of Tehran to see some of Iran’s famous Historical places such as Persepolis and Isfahan. It’s a long detour so I thought Azulo could have another break!

My first two days however were spent touring Tehran. It’s a HUGE city of around 14 million people and seems to go on forever!

Tehran

Madhi, my “Driver” and Mojgan my “Guide” were terrific. Mojgan speaks excellent English.

DSCN0937

Moijan and me

.I think I saw everything and was exhausted by the evening!

My timing here is not the best since it’s mid summer and boiling hot but also it’s RAMADAN where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Not eating is one thing but not DRINKING in this heat is extraordinary!

Now Taxi drivers, as we know, are the font of all knowledge and wisdom, so the following is what I have been told, not from the Tour guide but a taxi driver……Apparently,only a small percentage of the Tehran population actually “fast” but this being the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC, the Mullahs insist that NOBODY is SEEN to be EATING OR DRINKING! So, just about all the Restaurants and Coffee shops are CLOSED!

Tehran has many Palaces and Mosques and the Crown Jewels of the Shah’s are amazing. Here are some pictures. Sorry I couldn’t photo the jewels!.

DSCN0935 DSCN0959 DSCN0956 DSCN0949 DSCN0946

In the Bazaar there was a man with a cage of dozens of sparrows. Now how’s this for enterprise….Nobody wants to eat or keep sparrows so what was his angle? Well, according to Moigan, people buy them and RELEASE THEM! I felt sorry for the poor little birds so i bought one and he immediately flew off to a tree. One lucky sparrow!

birds2

Selling sparrows…I bought one and off he flew!

Just some other photos for your perusal.

DSCN0970

Look at all the air-conditioners!

DSCN0968

DSCN0928 DSCN0925

In one of the Palaces there is an exhibition showing the adventures of two Iranian blokes that rode around the world for several years on two MATCHLESS Motorcycles from about 1953. Unlike me, they were met by Presidents and Royalty everywhere they went!

I suppose it was a little more unusual to ride a Motorbike around the world in 1954! Perhaps Mr Abbot will welcome me home?

DSCN0923

1954 Matchless – Ridden around world, Sorry for bad photo…wrong lighting!

DSCN0971

One of the tallest in World

DSCN0973

Shiraz and Persepolis

My tour guide in Shiraz was also excellent. Her name is Sanaz. She took me to all the Palaces Mosques and Gardens in Shiraz. It’s SO hot here that by 12.00 it is almost impossible to concentrate!

DSCN1010 DSCN1006 DSCN1004 DSCN1002 DSCN0994 DSCN0992

DSCN0975 DSCN0976 DSCN0984 DSCN0987 DSCN0988 DSCN0989

My dinner on my first evening was particularly unexciting. it was a soup come stew called Dizi. I was sitting alone in the restaurant when it arrived and I looked at it and had absolutely NO idea how to eat it! There was a bowl of stew and some bread and some salad leaves of some sort. There was this pot with a plunger and I simply had no idea what to do with it! I still don’t know why there was the plunger !

DSCN1011

I wasn’t sure how to eat this!

The second day we drove at 7.30 am to Persepolis. Persepolis was founded in 550 BC. It was destroyed by Alexander the Great. Sadly not as lot remains but you can see what an amazing place it must have been. The place is huge and was buried until 1930.

DSCN1017 DSCN1018 DSCN1020 DSCN1021

DSCN1022 DSCN1025

The mausoleums of the Kings is cut into the cliff

DSCN1028 DSCN1029

I fly it Isfahan tomorrow

 

 

 

 

 

6 – 10 July – Bizarre Turkmenistan

I’m now in Iran heading for Tehran…Frankly I’m delighted to have left Turkmenistan and as soon as I crossed the border I felt a curtain lifting! 

The last few days in Turkmenistan can only be described as bizarre….The country is still suffering (in my view) from the personality cult of it’s previous President and it is the most restricted and closed place I have visited.  .

President Saparmurat Niyazov took control of Turkmenistan after independence in 1991. He turned this oil rich country into his personal kingdom until his death in 2006.

He called it “The Golden Age” and spent most of the oil profits on the construction of his Capital Ashgabat …He built huge white marble buildings set in a “Disney like” version of Rome at the time of Julius Caesar! . He placed “golden” statues of himself everywhere.

DSCN0903

He named the “months of the year” after his relatives.!.He banned music in cars.!.He started to run out of money so he cut pensions and more. To placate the masses however,he gave everyone free gas and electricity and petrol prices were near zero.

He is, I think, to us Westerners, a total nut case …. but nobody speaks badly about him in Turkmenistan!

His successor has toned down much of the above stupidities and seems genuinely popular. He has increased pensions and spent money on Education but still Turkmenistan is extremely odd…..to say the least…. and very restrictive. It is tightly controlled and the Police are everywhere.

I was not allowed to take photos of many places including the Presidents residence and the main street so my photos don’t truly give a full picture of Ashgabat. Google Ashgabat to see better photos!

Acquiring a Visa is a challenge! You can get a Transit Visa for 3/5 days and can travel UN-escorted or you can get a Tourist Visa in which case you have to have a GUIDE.

I opted for the Tourist Visa as I mistakenly thought I could only get a 3 day transit visa which I thought gave me insufficient time..

My guide met me at the Customs.. I’m glad he was there because it was chaos. Even the guide was confused!…. Uzbekistan has been bumped to 3rd on the “awful customs” scale. Turkmenistan and Honduras are equal first!

I followed the Guide’s car to Mary about 250 k from the border. it is all desert and was stinking hot

DSCN0860

I checked into a Hotel which from the outside looked MAGNIFICENT but inside was cold and empty. It was all rather depressing……

DSCN0878

My Hotel in Mary…Magnificent? Just go inside! a big cavern!

Luckily a nice German couple on a KTM Motorbike arrived so we could commiserate together!

DSCN0890

Nice German Bikers…We were mutually dumbfounded by the place

The next day i visited “OLD MERV” which I enjoyed very much

Merv is just a ruin. It was once one of the great Cities of Islam alongside Damascus and Baghdad and a major centre on the Silk Road

The city was totally annihilated by the Mongols in 1221 for failure to pay tribute. Apparently, Tolui, Genghis Khan’s son arrived with 80,000 warriors and surrounded the City. He cut off the water supply and when the City surrendered he killed EVERYBODY, some 300,000 people. Imagine!

DSCN0879

DSCN0881

DSCN0887

Somehow knowing this, made walking around the city very sad. It’s unbelievable how tough times were.

The next day we set out for Ashgabat.

Before we went, I had a bit of a scare with Azulo. He developed a squeak in the front wheel. I thought it might be a bearing which would be nasty. Mohammad my guide took me to a car service place (there are NO motorbikes here) The man reckoned it was the brakes so we changed the pads but still the squeak persisted!

Anyway we set out with Azulo sounding like a frustrated mouse. About 20 k further along the speedo stopped working….The cable had snapped.  So now I have NO SQUEAK and NO SPEEDO! but my bearing is OK (touch wood!)

I spent the next day in Ashgabat. As said earlier it is bizarre.

As said earlier, the Guide insisted I DON’T take photos of many of the most “impressive” places. If you’re interested in seeing more, Google Ashgabat photos”

DSCN0900

 

DSCN0899

 

DSCN0871

HIM AGAIN!

The thing that makes it even MORE bizarre is that the squares and monuments are EMPTY and most places are closed. I was told that the Museum has photos of the President in just about every exhibit!

DSCN0902

DSCN0862

Mosque in Mary

There are big and impressive apartment blocks (in white marble of course) Most of them look empty to me as the windows all look the same.and are mostly blacked out

DSCN0910

DSCN0892

DSCN0918 DSCN0916

DSCN0905

DSCN0864

Really tacky statues – Mary

DSCN0867

Library Mary – Completely empty of people

 The next day I was very pleased to leave Turkmenistan!

Arriving in Iran was like returning to the “real world’ Suddenly there were no Police asking to see your Passport and a real life buzz in the towns!

It would be interesting to return to Turkmenistan in 10 years. Hopefully the legacy of Niyazov will be consigned to History.

 

 

 

.

 

.  .

2 – 5 July The wonderful Cities of Samarkand and Bukhara

I’m in Bukhara now.Tomorrow I leave for Turkmenistan where I have to have a Guide…I spend four nights there and then enter Iran.

I’m not sure when I will get WiFi again so I don’t know when the next post will be…If you want to know where I am…take a look at the “Live Map” on the Menu!

Since leaving Tashkent I have visited the wonderful Silk Road towns of Samarkand and Bukhara.

They are both sensational. As with travelling around Europe, you almost get drunk on the beautiful Cathedrals. It’s the same here with Mosques and Madressa’s (Schools)

The architecture is simply amazing and awe inspiring. I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

The 300k ride from Tashkent was easy except Azulo’s side case nearly fell off! It was lucky I noticed it otherwise it could have been nasty!

I pulled into an auto service place and about 10 young guys descended on me. After much laughter and the usual banter about where I come from…They always link Australia with kangaroos and think it’s a hell of a joke!

DSCN0724

Anyway once we had dispensed with that they fixed the case within about half an hour for the princely sum of $4.00!

Samarkand

My hotel, (Hotel Bibi-Khanym) was right next to the Mosque of the same name. It was excellent and Merry would approve! This part of my trip was arranged by a Travel Agent because of the Visa and Guide issues., hence the quality is a bit more up-market than my usual places!

DSCN0730

DSCN0727

The city dates from 5th Century BC but Genghis Khan destroyed it in 13th Century. It rose again under Emir Timur in 14th Century. Timur was quite a leader and created an Empire from Delhi to Turkey! His military adventures are estimated to have cost the lives of 17 Million people or 5% of the worlds population!

Timur’s Grandson Ulugbek was more famous for his interest in Astrology. He built a huge observatory to study the movement of the stars and his calculations are regarded as virtually perfect. Poor Ulugbek was bumped off by his son!

Timur and Ulugbek are buried in an impressive Mausoleum. In 1941 the graves were opened and the bodies sent to Moscow. They did facial reconstructions on them both.

Boy, Timur was a fearsome person. Enough to give one nightmares!

I hope you like the photos….They don’t do the buildings justice

DSCN0737

 

DSCN0782

Timur’sgrave is the dark jade one. The bodies aqre in the crypt below

DSCN0767 DSCN0766 DSCN0762 DSCN0759 DSCN0757 DSCN0756 DSCN0753 DSCN0747

DSCN0770 DSCN0773 DSCN0794 DSCN0799 DSCN0797 DSCN0800

That evening I met the two English bikers, John and Bev. We had a fairly OK dinner and ordered some local wine! We only ordered  one glass of red and one of white…That was plenty!

The money here is like monopoly money. $1 is worth 3000 Som and the LARGEST note is only 5000 som so it takes a truckload of paper to pay for anything!

DSCN0810 DSCN0813

DSCN0809

Bukhara

Both Bukhara and Samarkand are on crossroads of the Silk Road and were very wealthy. Bukhara is smaller then Samarkand and everything is less spread out,

My Hotel (Hotel Poyon) again is excellent. I’m the only guest! It’s very much hotter in Bukhara as it’s on an oasis in the desert!

DSCN0815

DSCN0833

Again, I’ll let the photos do the talking about Bukhara

DSCN0843 DSCN0845 DSCN0836

DSCN0818

DSCN0837

DSCN0844

DSCN0855 DSCN0856 DSCN0848

As said, tomorrow I leave for Turkmenistan. I’m meant to meet my Guide on the border. I do hope he turns up!!!!!

 

 

 

25 June -1 July – Visit to Aral Sea and Khiva

Azulo is having another rest whilst I take a side trip by Air to visit the Aral Sea and the wonderful Silk Road town of Khiva.

I said goodbye to Lada who runs a fantastic Guest House in Osh,

DSCN0603

Lada

then headed for the Uzbekistan border. I was there before it opened and was first across. That didn’t really help as the Uzbekistan border opens an hour later than the Kirghistan side!!

I eventually emerged unscathed but thoroughly grumpy after yet another terrible border crossing that took 3 hours.

I rank Uzbekistan second worst after Honduras!

They have a nonsensical system that sends you from one window to another and back again for one stamp after another. Forms are filled in in duplicate and photocopies of everything are required. There seems no logic on which window to go to next and I just had to look pathetic and plead for help!

I was given a form in Uzbek to fill in and annoyed everyone in the queue as some nice person helped me fill it in….Once completed I gave the form to someone and was given the same form again, this time in English, as the form I had filled in was totally incorrect!

Anyway I eventually hit the road but the Customs man told me I had to have insurance which could be purchased 5 k up the road at “the Post”. I assumed that was a Post Office but that was wrong. I was stopped at a “Post” about 5 k up the road and thought this must be it!

There were Police checking Passports and I asked them where I could get insurance. Nobody could understand me and I never did find out where to buy the insurance!

Later in Tashkent I asked the Travel Agent where to get insurance….She didn’t know and said just to show the Police my Australian Insurance, which of course is invalid here! Eventually however she made some phone calls and then took me by Taxi to somewhere where I got my insurance…Guess how much it cost?….TWO DOLLARS!

The ride to Tashkent was uneventful but hot and I discovered that Uzbekistan really is a Police State as the Police demanded to see everybody’s Passport every 50 k or so. It all seems so unnecessary. The roads are excellent however and I made good time and. I found my Hotel easily.

DSCN0605

My Hotel in Tashkent…Hotel Uzbekistan. A bit faded!

My trip to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan differs from the rest of my trip as I have arranged things through a Travel Agent, hence my Hotels are a distinct improvement! The reason for using a travel Agent is partly due to the fact I want to see the Aral Sea but also because Turkmenistan insists you have a Guide with you all the time!

My impression of Tashkent is that it is a vibrant modern city with fine buildings. beautiful squares and wide boulevards. I had thought (not that I did think much about Tashkent) that it was an ancient Silk Road town and probably very dusty. Totally wrong although apparently there is an old town which I will see after i return from the Aral Sea.

On 27th I flew to NUKUS about 1000k from Tashkent. Azulo has been left in the Hotel. I do hope he doesn’t have another hissy fit on my return and not start….

Nukus is quite a large town in the middle of the Desert. It is HOT HOT HOT …about 44 degrees! At least though it’s a dry heat and there was a good air conditioner in my room!

Nukus doesn’t have much to offer except it is the home of an OUTSTANDING Art Gallery called the SVETSKY Gallery. This Gallery is truly world class and huge.

DSCN0610

Thec amazing SVETSKY Gallery in Nukus

Igor Svitsky was a Russian Artist who collected Avant-Garde Paintings that were banned in Soviet era. He collected some 16,000 objects. He hid them away in this out of the way part of the old Soviet Union.

I could not really understand why these works were banned as they are harmless! There are no nudes or anti Soviet or propaganda paintings.

I spent nearly 3 hours here which is record for me in Art Galleries!  Merry would love it.

DSCN0613

Just look at these “counter weights”

At the Hotel, I met some ancient Swiss Bikers….aged about 66! There were also a nice couple of English bikers there called Bev and John. I later met them in Khiva and might meet them in Samarkand later

DSCN0614

Ancient Swiss bikers, Roland (smiling) Otto fixing bike

DSCN0615

English bikers, Bev and John…met them later in Khiva

The next day a Nissan Patrol picked me up and off i went to the Aral Sea about 400 k away

On the tour with me  was a French lady, Nichole, a Spanish man, Valencia and the Indian “Consul” for Uzbekistan, a lovely lady called Prachi and her assistant whose name I’ve forgotten.

DSCN0656The Aral Sea is of course a shadow of its former self and probably wont exist at all in 10 years

We drove at break neck speed along sandy tracks. We stopped at a fishing “village” which consisted of about three dilapidated houses. One interesting thing is the “Ice House”. In winter they cut ice from the Sea and store it underground for summer. We went into the ice house and it was so cool after the 44 degree heat.

DSCN0632

Ice House

DSCN0633

Fishing village…not much fish here

The scenery is quite rugged with canyons etc

DSCN0637

DSCN0668

DSCN0622

When we reached the Sea we all had swim. As you see from the pictures there is this horrible smelly mud that you have to wade through before you get on firmer ground. It’s like quicksand and before you know it you are stuck up to the knees.

DSCN0620

DSCN0638

DSCN0644

DSCN0650

Once in the sea though it is lovely. It is very salty and you just float. Apparently it is a bit like the Dead Sea but not quite as salty.

There are ships stranded as the Sea dried up

The problem for the Aral Sea is NOT pollution….it is over irrigation. Countries up stream have diverted the water so there is little water flowing into the Sea hence it is disappearing fast.

DSCN0670 DSCN0671 DSCN0672

That night we camped. We had the inevitable PLOV for dinner (Rice with meat and a few things and a gravy)…. I’m totally “Ploved” out as you get this meal everywhere

DSCN0658

DSCN0665

DSCN0659

Driver come Cook.Good driver but not sure about his cooking skills!

DSCN0655

Sunset at the Aral Sea

It was incredibly windy that night and I thought I was going to get blown away but the tent was still there in the morning

We were woken up at 5.00 to see the sunrise which was pretty spectacular

DSCN0664

I had a sit on this very old Russian bike. Azulo needn’t get jealous. Incidentally there are very few bikes in Uzbekistan and infact they are banned in Tashkent.

DSCN0634

Petrol is also a problem, particularly in the Desert area. All or most cars run on gas. Petrol is sold on a “Black Market” You get it from the Hotel or kids on the street who wave bottles at you. It is obviously a big problem for travelling bikers in this area.

The next day I was driven to Khiva which is quite amazing. It used to be a major slave trade centre on the Silk Road and it is beautifully preserved.

DSCN0682

Map of the Silk Road

DSCN0675

DSCN0678

DSCN0692

Kings Bedroom

DSCN0696 DSCN0697 DSCN0695 DSCN0694 DSCN0691 DSCN0688 DSCN0687 DSCN0685 DSCN0684

DSCN0708

DSCN0706

 

Today, 1 July, I flew back to Tashkent and had a brief City Tour. Actually it was a rip off…My driver was a Taxi driver and my Guide was his nephew…fine but neither spoke English or seemed to knew anything much about Tashkent. At the end of a hot drive they wanted $100!….It was a case of “come in spinner” I think!!!!…. Never mind, it’s all part of the travel experience

Here are a few pictures anyway. I didn’t actually get to the old town which I thought was the main attraction so there are no photos. You’ll have to visit here yourself!

DSCN0718

War Memorial with all those killed on the plates. Very moving

DSCN0709 - Copy DSCN0710 DSCN0714 DSCN0721 DSCN0722 DSCN0723

Tomorrow I leave for Samarkand. That is meant to be a wonderful place and an old Silk Road town