13th July 2015:
Our crossing into Uzbekistan was long slow challenging experience. The good Kazahak folks let us out no worries when we finally found the correct border crossing. That took 3 tries. It turned out we had to drive 100 km around to South of Tashekent ( Tashhkent the capital of Uzbekistan is quite close to the border of Kazakhstan ( only 100 km) – but we had done our homework. Any way we finally found the correct border crossing and getting out was no problem . But getting in to Uzbekistan took time and long process.
It’s the first time in many, many borders that the cars were searched. Almost every thing out of the car and some of it taken inside and put through the X-ray machine and some of that searched again. All the books looked at and a few other odd looks at various things.
One of the funniest was I have a silly little kids treasure chest with a few things inside ( manly plastic coins) that guys at home gave me . It lives on the back shelf of Leckie ( Pete’s 504) . When the senior border control officer looked inside the little plastic treasure chest I had to control my self from cracking up laughing. It would have been very difficult to explain what it was doing there ….. But that is where it lives.
Any way we made it to Tashkent and found our hotel; the Shodlik Palace ….. Maybe once it was a palace. Quite nice …a good rate worked out by our tour organiser Dilshod from Golden Steppes . ( you need a tour company to help you get your visa etc as you need a Letter of Invitation for some of the Stans ).
Next day Dilshod introduces us to finances , Uzbek style. Not a lot of ATMs …we find one but it does not take all cards and does not have much cash ether … So it’s of for a taxi ride … Which like Kazakhstan simply involves sticking your had out and an informal taxi will pick you up for ride at an agreed fee.
We go to his companies back where we can extract US $$$ from our various accounts and then head off in another taxi to big market where we visit a stall which is front for money exchange …. Black market money is part of the culture here ….the official rate for US $$ is $1:00 = 2500 Som …..but the black market is $1:00 = 4000 Som. So it’s very well worth while to change your $$$ this way. But you end up with a pile of cash, because the bulk of the currency used seem to be 1000 Som notes ( we have found some 5000 Som … But they seem to be rare ). You walk away feeling a little weird – a plastic bag full of cash ???
Toshkent was interesting …. Very formal gardens and amazing statues and nice meals at the hotel. Plus very helpful people at the supermarket when we went shopping for supplies.
We had two nights there … A little work on the cars again …Barry checked noises and figured out some and helped Pete check his steering in Leckie (the 504). It turned out that water had got into the place where grease was supposed to be in the Rack and Pinion. This has caused the steering to become stiff. This has now been resolved. Leckie has also had another little problem since Almati – the gear shift linkages have come adrift a couple of times . This is portably because when the clutch release bearing was replaced and the gear box re fitted the mechanisms where not re fitted 100% correct …or they’re just warn and the re assembly has made them loose. Anyway some tie wire, cable ties and now some nylon rope is holding it altogether just fine.
And we have now experienced two great examples of the spice road cities ….Sarmakent and Bukara … Amazing places .. And certainly part what part of the intention of this trip is all about . It’s hot here … Most of the tourist trade is not happening …. It is busy here in spring and autumn ….. We only have the die hard tourist here now …. Like us … A few overlander landers and a few tourist ….so walking around the old mosques and tourist sites is very plesent ….although hot …hot and dry dry like the Pilbara.
…..amazing site … If it ever figure out how to add photos …you sill see
but if not wiki Samarkand and Bukara ….they probably have better pictures anyway… Heading to Turkmenstan today.