Journey through Central Asia
• Central Asia Travel
A little less than a month back from a trip to Central Asia, our main goal was to pass through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to Afghanistan itself.
Our journey started from Uzbekistan and Tashkent city. Our original plan was to drive from Tashkent to Nukus, and from there along the southern part of the country through Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand get to Tajikistan.
itinerary turned out that way. Everyone who wants to repeat my advice to you is better to fly to Nukus, and from there along the southern part of the country to Tashkent, so you can save a decent amount of money.
In Tashkent, there is nothing, that's nothing at all - from the beautiful architecture is noteworthy only hotel "Uzbekistan", built during the Soviet era. So here we stayed just two days
In one of the main markets of the city stumbled upon this beauty, it turns out, this neglected part of the bazaar. By the way, the market can buy, common in Central Asia, and now in Russia nasvay. Here it is chewed everything from teenagers to the elderly, the price is hovering around $ 5-6 per kilogram.
So I planned this trip as budget we previously took a sleeping bag and a tent, that there is no need to use hotels and spend the night where we please.
Weather permitting, so we chose to stay overnight near the roof of the tower from the city, in my opinion, the only attraction of this city. At the top of the tower is an observation deck and a restaurant on the type Ostankino "7th heaven", to our regret, because of the replacement lift access to the tower was closed.
to climb on the roofs of the city is quite useless. First of all the buildings in an identical, second only tall building here - it is a hotel Uzbekistan, and even then, we do not even inside it missed. Tashkent circus.
In Tashkent, there are underground, consisting of 3 branches and 29 stations. Local Metro, we used only a few times, but when we found ourselves in a radius of some of the stations, the local police checked with us several times, and the documents examined by the entire contents of the backpacks. And most of them ask me and Vadim, where our visas. Employees who understand the Russian language each time were very surprised when they learned that a visa in their country for the majority of citizens of the CIS is not required.
Dialogues with local law enforcement in most cases looked like.
- Where a visa?
- For the citizens of Russia and Ukraine visa to your country is not required.
- It is not required? Do you need a visa, where the visa brother?
In the local subway shoot strictly prohibited, at each station at least 2 duty police officer. So we went to look for other ways to make photos the underground, get into existing tunnels we have failed, but in the abandoned part of the Metro construction is very easy, however, there is absolutely nothing to do.
After spending two days in Tashkent, we flew by plane to Nukus. We flew to IL-114, the world there are only 7 of these pieces in the civil aviation, 5 and 2 in Uzbekistan in Tajikistan. After landing in the afternoon in Nukus airport, we started to look for transport to Muinak.
Muinak the nearest town to the Aral Sea. Once it was an island, and until the 1980s there was a port city on the southern shore of the Aral Sea. Now, the port has become a graveyard of ships.
As of 2013 Muinak from about 150 km to the west (deep) of the Southern Aral Sea and about 180 km to the east (shallow) part. The eastern part of the sea (due to relatively shallow depths), the fastest retreating from Muinak: in the mid-1990s, it was at a distance of 45 km from the city, and in the early 2000s - at a distance of 100 km. Central street Muinak.
The town we arrived late in the evening, and found only in the county guest house, the price for two people was about 1000 (Russian rubles) at our disposal was the whole house and a free dinner and breakfast. Owners of the house were friendly, they told us about the Aral Sea, and how you can get to it.
The biggest challenge to reach the shores of the sea, is the lack of roads and remoteness, are needed not just a car, but it is an SUV-type "UAZ", as most of the way to be overcome on the former seabed. From local, we learned that in the city there is only one person who carries to the Aral Sea. It turned out to be a Russian man named Vladimir Zuev, who is over 60 years since he had no competition, bargaining, we were not able to. Tour price per person is $ 100.
Former Port Muinak.
The rate of withdrawal of water from the sea: 1960x - 1990x - 2009.
The path to the sea was not a short, off-road 150km overcome in the best case for 4-5 hours. The average speed of about 20-30 km. The bottom of the sea rich in minerals, the first 30-40km way our route ran past the gas towers, further already begun desert landscapes.
In the best of times, there was a depth of 20 to 30 meters. On the horizon you can see the Ustyurt plateau.
The Aral Sea drying up is the fourth area of the lake in the world. The degradation of the Aral Sea began in 1960, when most of the Syrdarya and Amudarya began to climb through the canal system for irrigation and household needs of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan. As a result, the sea retreated significantly from their shores, and stripping the bottom, covered with sea salt with a touch of pesticides and other chemicals.
The Aral Sea, we swam in it. Because of the strong concentration of salt in the sea to drown in it impossible.
When planning a visit to the Aral Sea, we also wanted to get to the former "Renaissance Island" - where top-secret biochemical testing ground "Dune" in effect for 50 years. On the island also has a closed military town of Aralsk-7 (Kantubek) - Floor area test site, where the population of 1, 5 thousand people. For fifty years, were tested microbiological (bacteriological) weapons in experimental animals (rats, horses, dogs, monkeys). Samples of products for biological tests were delivered to the island from all military biochemical laboratories of the USSR. In the northern part of the island in the early 1960s, the military airfield, consisting of four runways (originally ground) as the wind rose was built. In the 1980s, the airport runway was equipped with a coating of concrete slabs.
Landfill operated until 1992, then troops (and their families) was relocated in Russia, biolaboratoriya - dismantled, piece of equipment the military evacuated, and some remain buried on the island.
After the closure of the lab visited the island group of Pentagon experts, as well as numerous scientific expeditions.
We get to it was not possible, due to the fact that close to the island recently found oil and the area under the control of the military took Uzbekistan. Access to the island is limited, though, I do not exclude the possibility to get to it from the Kazakh side.
Seashore clay, feet fail. As well as at the Dead Sea, the clay is considered curative.
A strange feeling you're sitting by the sea, which may in 10 years will be no more.
The local scenery.
Next to the beach there are tents with workers, where miners settled brine shrimp eggs. Protein-rich shrimp used as fish feed or food supplement for livestock.
Men working in shifts of two weeks. Collecting bags copepod eggs that are smaller than sand, workers receive 100 to $ 300 depending on the catch.
Uncle Volodya and our new friends made us to drink local vodka, refuse this offer impossible perceive as disrespect.
Housing workers. Uncle Volodya in the evening, well napivshiysya vodka, took us back to Muinak.
So ended the Aral Sea.
From Muinak we had a goal to get to Khiva, as it turned out to do by bus or plane - it is practically impossible, at least so we claimed taxi drivers. Before turning to the local "fish is" we decided to ask local rates for one place to Khiva, the prices were more than reasonable, the price per person ranged from local to 15,000 amounts to 20 thousand, that is, for two will receive a maximum of 40 thousand.
On the optimistic we went to look for a vehicle with Muinak to Khiva or in extreme cases to Urgench, big nearest town which is only 20 kilometers away from the destination.
Our optimistic cleared immediately at the first questioning, it turned out to Khiva generally do not travel, and Urgench price per person will be a minimum of 100 thousand sums (!). Porazmyshliv bit, we decided to try to get to Nukus, and from there to seek more lucrative option of transport to Khiva.
The guy who picked us up from Muinak Nukus, was very good-natured and decided to help us negotiate the normal price for transport to Khiva. Our colleagues did not appreciate his initiative to "help visitors" and after a few minutes of casual conversation began to grow almost in a fight. As a result, it was over the fact that we were invited to go to Khiva for 60 thousand per person, for the local price is 2.5 times cheaper. Naturally such an option does not suit us, and we decided to get to Khiva us anything other than a taxi, it was decided to go to the bus station, and then get out on the bus.
It is said that the taxi drivers in Uzbekistan is the most disgusting people, not knowing the Uzbek language to go from city to city on the "local" prices almost impossible. The first - the local "fish is" do not like to travel long distances, so they usually offer a drop off to the nearest large city, but already there is your car. The trick is that they are actually re-sell your other taxi drivers and that have a good percentage, sometimes even more than your new driver. The second point - you pay only for their place, that is, that would leave you enough to find a car, you still have to wait for three people, and only then the car will go. Replacing several buses and even a trolley, almost 10 hours we arrived to Khiva. The city came late in the evening, the bus driver helped us with finding housing and around $ 4 per person per night, we settled into the guest house directly opposite the walls of the fortress.
Khiva - the city on the Silk Road. Khiva is located within the ancient city itself, surrounded by high mud walls - Ichan-Kala. In fact, this place is a museum city, because everything in it - from the streets to any of the building is historic. It is also surprising that in fact it is a closed city, which still lives of 4000 people, the descendants of a wealthy or famous people of the time.
One of the main attractions is a minaret 70 meters from there is a great view of the city.
Minaret Kalta Minar, which was supposed to become the tallest minaret in Uzbekistan, but these plans did not come true. After the death of the architect's construction was halted. Generally, there are a lot of legends on this subject. One of them says that when Bukhara Khan learned of the audacious plan to build the highest minaret (and at that time it was the highest in Bukhara), he ordered the killing of the architect, and it seemed he was thrown from that of the minaret.
Khiva is remarkable because all its major attractions are close by and you can get around them for a few hours, so we stayed in exactly one day. The next day, early in the morning we went to Bukhara through the desert.
Bukhara is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia. Bukhara Age over 2500 years. In ancient times Bukhara was part of one of the Central Asia - Sogd, where the urban fabric has been developed in the time of Alexander the Great. Bukhara ran through the Great Silk Road. There were more than 60 caravanserais, which housed merchants from India, China, Iran and other countries.
Bukhara Khiva I liked less. Probably due to the fact that a huge number of tourists here.
In Bukhara we also stayed only one day, after examining all the sights, we were supposed to meet with a familiar Uzbeks in Bukhara, which we were fortunate to meet at the airport of Tashkent. He promised us a ride to Samarkand, in fact, it was that he threw us. A whole day to feed us breakfast, and later all stopped taking the tube. Since because of the situation we missed the morning bus to Samarkand, and hang around another day in Bukhara do not like, we decided to try to get hitchhiking.
With hitchhiking in Uzbekistan everything is very good for the whole trip stop from Bukhara to Tajikistan border, we never stood for more than 5 minutes. Sometimes we do not even have time to raise his hand, as immediately we picked up the car.
In Uzbekistan, we spent more than a week, and time was running out to meet the 2 weeks, we had to cross the border immediately. What we actually do. Looking ahead, I want to say that the move of the Uzbek-Tajik border, it is perhaps one of the most difficult quests. To our misfortune the most convenient and fast border crossing "Panjakent" for several years now closed for renovations. Our main mistake was - it's arrogance, this time pogran passage is closed, so we will just move along the border. Hitchhiked to Yangiyer, we learned that there pogran transition only to the military and we need to go to Bekabad, it was 60km east.
With jokes, rhymes reaching Bekabad, we were disappointed again - this transition was only for residents of nearby cities. On it you can go through, but only in the presence of Uzbek or Tajik passports. We turned around and headed back to the 80 km north to qishlaq Chanak supposedly there right on the track is an international transport. Gritting his teeth, we went back on the road where the bus caught that we threw to the right pogran transition. The border crossing took less than an hour, during this time the border guards on the Uzbek side several times offered us hang out with them and throw nasvay. We kindly refused.
As we crossed the border.
People have changed, the air became cooler - we finally ended up in Tajikistan.
The Uzbeks do not like Tajiks, the mere fact that the entire border between the two countries mined perfectly confirms this fact. Uzbek authorities argue that such measures are necessary in order to from Tajikistan into Uzbekistan is not broke any radical movements of Islam. The funny thing is that even though Tajikistan, bordering Afghanistan, in the country for many years, there are no such groups.
After crossing the border to the nearest large city of Khujand (Leninabad) was about 150km of mountain roads, at first we hoped that we will get hitchhiking, but we were almost the only ones that day crossed the border. Therefore, we had to again use the services of taxi drivers. Reaching the Khujand, we started looking for transportation to Dushanbe, it turns out, because of the difficult mountain passes buses in the capital do not go, and the only transport - a taxi disliked us.
We had a choice to stay in the city or try to get to Dushanbe. For fun, we decided to ask at the local transport costs. To our great luck we met peregonschiki machines that regularly travel from Khujand to Dushanbe. The road to the capital is very difficult, and it was necessary to go at night, they charged us a small fee, with the condition that we will hold a conversation with the driver, to suddenly fall asleep. The money that they took from us was only for gas, gasoline, and pay your way. In Tajikistan, most of the roads are paid, cost from 20 to 100 rubles for the site. By the way, the road in Tajikistan is better than in Russia. Having arrived in Dushanbe late at night, we came to the fore the issue of housing. One peregonschikov named Hassan, kindly put us at for free. If you're reading this, thank you very much, my friend. In addition, he helped us find transportation to the border with Afghanistan and has shown the most beautiful lake in the back of the Fan Mountains Iskanderkul.
Impressions of Tajikistan and its people much nicer than their neighbors. Here we are not trying to cheat, they did not look askance and asked every 10 minutes, from where we are and what we do here. Tajiks love Russia and Russian, and with respect for this nation. Almost all the young people from villages and small towns always goes to work in Russia. Every second citizen of Tajikistan visited Russia.
Russia is not the only country that contributes to the development of Tajikistan. In this case, greatly excelled their neighbors, China. Now Tajikistan wherever you spit - you get into the Chinese builder. Workers from China, with China on the money, build roads, tunnels, bridges, factories, power lines, wholesale and small wholesale markets. For example, the Chinese company TBEA is already building on the northern outskirts of Dushanbe CHP, which will operate exclusively on local coal. Tajiks, importing natural gas from Uzbekistan and at the same time experiencing persistent difficulties, such facilities are essential. However, as the road.
In exchange, Tajikistan's independence gave China 1, 5 thousand square kilometers of disputed territories, the total area is 28, 5 thousand sq. M. km. It is also alleged that in the early years of Dushanbe on account of repayment of external debt to China is ready to transfer part of the Pamir highlands, which is considered to be unsuitable for life, but is rich in deposits of precious stones, rare minerals and even uranium. In Murghab already begun search operations, made maps and evaluation of deposits will begin in the near future. Roads of Tajikistan.
Let's move on to the main point of our journey and the final. The whole trip to Central Asia was started with the aim to penetrate into Afghanistan. Finished visa on hand, we did not, so in Tajikistan, there are two ways to get it: the first is to the Consulate in Dushanbe - where we have very quickly turned around and was told that we need a special permit from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of our country. Such permission of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will never give, because Afghanistan is a country of junk to visit. The second option - it is a bribe of $ 100 to get a visa at the border town of Khorog, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region.
The road to Khorog is one of the most difficult in the country, it passes through the Pamir Highway. You can get there only on SUVs, buses do not go, minibuses and taxis too. From one of the bus stations of Dushanbe through the Pamir Highway to Ishkoshim drive SUVs with food if advance to reserve a place, then you can safely go to this SUV. The fare depends on your eloquence, from Dushanbe to Khorog, we should have reached exactly 2,000 rubles per person. Reserve a seat in the car, we were still all day in Dushanbe, we decided to spend it usefully and went to the lake. Iskanderkul - that is in the Fan Mountains.
Waking up at 6 am the next day, we went to the bus station, where we were waiting for a car. The road to Khorog is very complex and at the present time the SUV to go about 17-20 hours, depending on your driver's mettle. In addition, together with you 5 more persons traveling in the cabin. But we do not really care, because very soon and we get to the cherished goal.
Driving up to the border of the Pamir region, the driver asked us if everything was okay with us with the documents? There if we had permission to enter the Pamir? It was, perhaps, the most important of all our traveling failure throughout the visit to Uzbekistan, we always had bad luck and unfortunately out of luck this time too. Pamir highway is bordered by Afghanistan and all the way to Khorog runs right along the border area, so you need to visit the Pamir permit, which can be done only in Dushanbe. We have such a permit was not, and at the first crossing we stopped the military post, we were not the only such "lucky to", as told to the military, over the past three days there have deployed more than 50 tourists, almost all were from Russia and Ukraine. Usually the absence of authorization to enter has not been a serious obstacle, and this issue could be solved on the spot, but not today. President of Tajikistan opened a new bridge in the Pamirs on the border with Afghanistan, so each post were KGB. The military explained to us that if it were not KGBsheniki, they are easily turned a blind eye to our problems with the documents and missed, explaining that it is very fond of Russian and always favor the tourists.
The military helped us to catch the car to the nearest big city - Kulyab. From the moment we got in the car, everything went wrong, the driver saw us an easy bait, we began offering their services to resolve the problems with the documents. Allegedly, he has a familiar cops who quickly solve the problem. About miracle familiar cops were almost within a few kilometers. After 15 minutes we went back to the city, accompanied by six people, three of them in our car and two in the next. At some point we realized that none of this is not the cops, and the most common bandits, who decided to have kidanut, so at the first convenient moment, we have decided to hide from them.
Next we went to an internet cafe to see if there are flights to Khorog, but nothing suitable found. Nearest tickets were only a few days, and in time we were limited. After weighing all the pros and cons, we decided to go home.
In the mountains of Afghanistan begins.
This tripping we made all the possible mistakes that could have been done, did not realize our main goal, we were almost robbed and by the end we even poisoned. But in spite of all these difficulties - it was a really cool trip, which I do not regret. In Afghanistan, we'll come back, but next time we will be ready visa, and we'll go through Iran and Turkmenistan.