August 2008 Archives

Manali

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Hi,

Aged Hippie here.   I am in an internet cafe in Manali  -  drums are beating outside (some festival in progress I think) and it is late at night.

Thanks Katie for your lovely comment, and yes I miss you loads.   I have often read your wonderful card and looked at the photo you gave me.  You desperately need to improve your spelling though!!

It seems a year since we left Wotton-u-Edge - so much has happened.   Every day brings fresh adventures.   Tomorrow we get up early and drive over two big Himalayan passes on our way to Spiti.   It will be a long and exhausting day, but spectacular.   Today we have been preparing for the trek in Spiti, and I went to visit an old friend of mine, Rinzing Ladakhi Sherpa, who lives in Manali.   He was the first Sherpa I ever used on my first Himalayan expedition in 1977.   He was in good form and looking fit and well.

I helped Jeremy write one or two of his blogs so am not sure of the latest news, however since leaving Pakistan we have been to Amritsar, Pragpur, Dharmasala, Palampur and now Manali.   We crossed into India at Wagah which was shown in the Michael Palin Himalaya series where they do the famous changing the guard ceremony every day.   We had to give 'presents' to one of the border officials to avoid having the cars searched top to bottom.   The Golden Temple was amazing and I went at night to see the end of day ceremony, and I went in the early morning too - fantastic!   The drive up into the Himalayan foothills was really beautiful and we overnighted in an old Judge's Court, and also in an old palace built by the Marharaja of Kashmir.

Well sorry Katie if I didn't mention in my last blog that I miss you - of course I do silly!   I miss you all loads and hope you are reading all the blogs that go up on the site, as it will give you something of the flavour of this amazing journey.   It has/is/continues to be amazing.   Congratulations by the way Katie on your exam results.   Glad you all had a brilliant holiday in the States.   Hope Tara's leg is OK now.

I will try to add some more when we get down to Shimla.   Bye for now......

Steve

Lat: 32.244 Long: 77.190

ISLAMABAD

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Crossed over from China into Pakistan via the Khunjerab Pass with no problem, despite our earlier fears that the Silver Land Cruiser might overheat (absence of this may be something to do with the mods that we introduced pre-China, removing the horns that obstructed the radiator airflow). Magnificent scenery on the way down, with nomad encampments - complete with Yurts - sporadically dotted around. Passed the two huge peaks of Kongur and Mustag Ata (both 7000m +), arriving at Karrimabad,  capital of Hunza (one-time kingdom - now part of Pakistan) that day. The Hunza Embassy Hotel was very comfortable, with a terrace offering magnificent views over the Karakoram.

Next day given a guided tour around the incredible 650 y/o Baltit Fort, captured by the Brtish in 1891, restored in recent years to give a very clear idea of what it must have been like to live in this former palace of the local Mir. By chance, I happened to buy a book by an American soldier who'd lived there as a guest of the Mir shortly after WW11 as part of a personal experiment to bring US ideas and initiatives to (what he described as) 'a primitive people', at a time when the Russians and the Chinese were busy spreading there own forms of communism anongst the peoples of Central Asia. In the end he was beaten by local politics, but a fascinating insight into a 'westerner' trying to adapt to such a tough and rugged lifestyle, where - at the time - starvation and disease were a very real issue for many people.

Trying to leave the next day we were forced to turn back after finding that there had been at least 5 landslides on the road ahead overnight. Checked into the stunning Eagle's Nest Hotel, some 2000' above the Baltit Fort and at the end of a very 'challenging' unmade road! (Signs that this is to be metalled during the coming year) It was a breeze in the Landcruisers..

Carried on the next day towards Gilgit, but again had to retrace our steps for 15k when we found that the central section of the very substantial bridge crossing the Gilgit (Indus) had been completely washed away! Driving through the small towns and villages here we noticed a significant change in the characterof the communities, with very few of any women or girls being evident, whereas in the Hunza valley there were many brightly clothed women mixing socially. The local population ha als been particularly friendly. Then 2 days drive through the stunning Karakoram Highway, eventually arriving at Besham.

Uneventful start to the following day until we came across a (our second!) motorbike accident. At (Dr) Dave's suggetsion we had, in fact, practiced in the Forest of Dean for just such an eventuality (with Debs having a very realistic thigh bone protruding through her bloodsained trousers!) and this worked perfectly in practice: roping off the accident, fluorescent jackets for the people managing the traffic (whiuch was inclined to pause & 'rubberneck' at the scene - very annoying - I now sympathise fully with the police! - so holding up traffic on the narrow mountain pass), emergency medical kite, improvised strecher etc.. The biker (who had broken his leg in two places) was, ironically, a Guide who were leading two British bikers, Mungo and Az (aka the 'Sultan of Sunderland'!), in their attempt to reach the highest point ever on a motor bike (appx 5,700m, I believe) for charity. After waiting for an ambulance for around 1 hour Dave splinted his leg and we took him down to the nearset hospital, 100 km south, at Abbottabad, 'Unfortunately' (!) that meant that there was a third 'bike to be transported down so (after much arm-twisting, Mary - I was very reluctant to do this..) I was persuaded to take it down Although only a Honda 125 the ride through the sweeping roads and towns and villages was certainly one of the most 'interesting' that I have ever experinced - the local Rule of the Road sems to be that there is none! Cars and trucks were overtaking each other on the inside , on the outside - and simulateneaously - around blind bends!

Arrived at the Hotel Margala ("Where Time Sleeps and Dreams Whisper") early evening. Despite the Presidents's resignation yesterday and rumours about what might happen, all seems to be relatively quiet in the capital at the moment..


Lat: 33.708 Long: 73.054

On Top of the World

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Kashgar - a bustling Chinses city full of minivans and electric scooters and very busy - a bit of a shock after Kyrgistan pastoral scenes. But fun for a dya.
 
Our liaison officer, Abdul, a mild and pleasant Uygur (they make up 15% of the popultation in the Uygur region, Kyrgis - 80% and chinese only 5%) had the unenviable task of trying to keep track of 8 headstrong and differently minded people as he gave us a tour of the bazaars and old town of Kashgar. 'Herding cats' is I think the phrase. However, he accomplished it with real gentleness and politeness and I think even enjoyed the experience. During the course of the day, more carpets/rugs were purchased, along with other interesting items because, after all, we had just had 5 days of genuine deprivation in Kyrgistan where the most exciting purchase was some bottles of beer and a swiss roll.

We had our tastebuds re-awakened be authentic and excellent chinese food on several occasions - my stomach didn't know what to do with all the fresh vegetables - after weeks where the speciality was shashlik (kebabs) when they had any, that is, it was wonderful.
 
Our second night we ate in a restaurant in the former British embassy - now a hotel, but not as nice as the one we stayed in - in the old part, which is over the top Edwardian splendour and was where Shipton - mountaineers may know - lived and worked in between trips up mountains.
 
Then off to the border vis the start of the Karakorum highway.
 
On the chinese side, the highway runs through a flat plain bordered by high mountains. There is pastureland all around and all the way along, groups of yurts and families pasturing their animals, all Kyrkis. We stopped at Kara Kol Lake, about halfway to the border town, for lunch and had fresh baked nan, clotted cream and salt tea in the house of a local family, watching the mother sew one of the traditional felt rugs.
 
Our last night was in Tashgurgan, where we were to leave Abdul once he had seen us through the customs formalities. At dinner, he produced 2 bottles of Tibetan wine, which he had purchased for us, because he knew we were interested in trying anything local and he had asked a friend to recommend something - we were really touched. The wine, which Roger intends to introduce to the Wine Society, proclaimed itself to be 'Tibetan Barley Ice wine" and was very interesting and very drinkable.
 
Chinese customs wasn't too bad - Abdul smoothed it all through, though there were mutterings about us having to stay with a bus because of border troubles, which in the end came to nothing - though they again checked us all with a machine to see if we were harbouring any deadly diseases, or lice!
 
Then on with the road and wound our way gently up, through some check points and suddenly we were at the top of the pass and saying hello to some well spoken Pakistani border police. And no-one down with altitude sickness and no vehicle over heated or with brakes failure.
 
Then the descent and how amazingly different on the other side. On the chinese side, the mountains remained still at a polite and awesome distance right to the top. Once over the pass, they crowded in and we were in precipitous gorges, water roaring by, the very image of the Karakoram. The road surface deteriorated immediately and though I'm sure this is partly due to chinese efficiency and industry, it has to be said they have the easier job. This side rock falls affect the road all the way down and they have teams constantly working to clear them Apparently a 2 year project to upgrade the road is due to start soon, bringing in 10,000 chinese workers.
 
Through Pakistan corder control and customs with the help of Ali, a rep from Walji's, the company HK has links with here - including a medical from to complete confirming we don't have AIDS, bird flu, SARS etc and not suffering from a headache, cough, snivels (!) etc. The got to Karimabad, a town perched on the side of the valley, with green terraces reaching down to the thundering river below and views of snow capped peaks.
 
Today, one way and another we've all been to see the 13th century Hunza fort at the top of the town - some of you will no doubt be getting a postcard of it - it forms part of the entrance ticket. The guide who took me round with Sally, Dave and Ann-Clare was brilliant - an economics student in his summer vacation doing the job for love of it, a local guy, with an absolute passion for the area and its development. I learned more about Pakistan in an hour than I've ever known.
 
After that, strolling around town, into the surrounding fields and - yes, I'm afraid. yet more carpet buying - couldn't possibly say who or what, but there had better not be too many more buying opportunities, or I'll have to get a bank loan.
 
We continue on down tomorrow, passing by Gilgit - we haven't made a decision about stopping there yet - apparently there has been trouble at times and it's not recommended. I wouldn't mind a look just to say I've been there - it was a major name in 'The Great Game'. but we'll see.
 

Lat: 36.307 Long: 74.632

Oh Dear!

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The Road to Hell .., as they say, is paved with good intentions - and I did have such intentions to keep an up-to-date record online of our journey, but what with travelling, sightseeing, keeping a journal, working on the machines, the (very!) odd bit of painting, writing (by snail mail - probably quite literally from this distance..), etc.. it just hasn't happened. Sorry folks! I'm afraid you'll just have to rely on Debs no doubt very comprehensive and accurate (unless it says anything adverse about me - in which case I fully reserve my right of reply!)

As will no doubt have been recorded elsewhere, we have had so many incidents / happenings that it would fill a modest book already. I look forward to sharing these with everyone when I (eventually) return home - some may be on a Pay-per-Tell basis - to be negotiated!

Anyway, for me the real highlights of the trip so far (since Mariupol, when I last did a comprehensive blog), have to be (and again, perhaps not in order, as I don't have my journal to hand!):

  • Astrakhan - the faded gentility/mysticism of 19th Century Russia - sadly fast disappearing beneath some possibly over-enthusiastic 'restoration' work
  • Camping in the desert once into Kazakhstan underneath a jet black planetarium of stars, having off-roaded over the dunes to put a sufficinet distance between ourselves and the former Silk Road to China
  • Aral Sea - witnessing the catastrophic consequences ascribed to Stalin's project to create a cotton growing industry to compete with that of the US, resulting in the desertification of vast areas of Kazakhstan and meaning that the former shore of the Aral (once the worlds' 4th largest Sea) is now 100k distant from what remains. As a consequence the fishing industry that had existed for centuries (if not millennia) in that area, has completely ceased to exist, along with entire communities. Horrible and very depressing..
  • Nukis - where we saw the amazing Museum of Modern Art, which was established during the era of Soviet occupation and formed a haven for those avant-garde artists of the 20' and 30's in aprticular who found their works declared 'un-Soviet' and counter-revolutionary. Indeed, even as recently as 1960 one well-known painting - 'The Blue Bull' - so enraged the newly appointed Museum Head that she ordered it's removal on precisely these grounds! (The artist, incidentally, was imprisoned in a mental asylum for 18 years shortly after its production).
  • Khiva -a World Heritage city which has been restored to pristine condition (ok, again, there might be a degree of over-restoration in places), but overall it gives the uninformed - like me - a very good idea of the development of this former slaving centre ( a trade which incidentally extended here well into the last century) over the past 2,500 years. The feeling of tranquility which existed throughout the City, which extended all day and night, was truly magical and a very striking contrast, I'm sad to say, to so many of our town and city centres back home..
  • Bukhara - further along the desert road and again a regional centre which in former times contained a separate (and competing) Kahnate. Larger than Khiva and more vibrant, but still containing some amazing mosques and madressas (universities). Had a massage here in vaults that had been used for such a purpose since the 16th Century.
  • Samarkand - larger still. Here we spent some time sorting out the vehicles. Purely by chance I was invited by a young Uzbek (who had been living in Bristol for the past 7 years who his wife and two young girls, gaining a postgraduate degree in molecular physics) to join him and his large family - there were seventeen of them in all - for lunch in their courtyard garden. It was a wonderful experience and, again, another reminder of the genuine hospitality that is the rule, rather than the exception, in this part of the world.
  • Osh - staying at the Osh Guest House, which is just over the border in Kyrgistan. Lovely place, set up principally to help an NGO develop a scheme to help local farmesr diversify and modernise their businesses. Lovely place with every facility & modcon (unlike the horrific Hotel Khokand in the town of the same name, where we stayed the night before. Too grisly to put down in print, but I have the pictures!)
  • Sary-Tash - up at about 11,500 ft, where we again stayed at a Guest House, although this time one with rather fewer facilities and a Yurt thrown in! Nonetheless, it was expertly run by Elizabeth, a native of this remote Kyrgh mountain village, who spoke 6 languages fluently and was just about to depart for Germany (Hamburg) on a years 'exchange'. Sadly, the UK (where she would have much prefered to come) does not offer such an arrangement, which I can't help feeling is a huge mistake given the very evident commercial opportunities that exist in this part of the world.
  • Kashgar - the first major town over the Chinese border, where we spent the day today. I have to admit that I was staggered (entirely due to my own ignorance, I concede!) by the vibrancy and modernity of the city, which boasts every convenience that one would expect to find in the West, but combined with the informality and cheerful chaos of the East - e.g. 3 or 4 adults/children astride (or even 'side-saddle!) a motor scooter - without helmets, of course! The Old City was magnificent, with each street being given over to some trade or craft. In one, for example, every open-fronted workshop revelead a balcksmith's forge & bellows, with men hammering furiously to create some axe or knife. Other streets contained shop after shop offering spices and herbs that one would never see in the West. This evening 7 of us dined in the private dining room of the former British Consulate where Eric Shipton, the great explorer and one of Steve's all-time heroes, was Consul General early in the last century. In the courtyard was a 124 year old elm tree, planted during the construction of the building, that brought it home to me how very few (if any) elm trees we see nowadays back home. Presumably this one is sufficiently far distant from any others to escape the dreaded Dutch disease?

As we approach the halfway point of our trip, with India and Pakistan (both entirely unknown to me) still to come, I cannot believe how much I have learned. I already have a 'books to be read' list as long as my arm and can only begin to imagine how the journey that we have underrtaken will change my views on the various regions through which we have travelled. Certainly I hope I will be slightly better informed (and more inclined to seek out additional information) if nothing else.

Finally - should anyone read this - I must confess that I am missing Mary, Laura, Tobs, Jo, Rachel (aka Bleut) & Addy (aka - no - I'll spare his blushes!), The Pips (with all its animals/reptile/invertabrates & birds) as well as family, friends and colleagues, more than I can say. The expedition has and will continue (I hope) to be incredible - but so will the homecoming..

Love and very best wishes to one and all

Jeremy / Dad


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Kashgar

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Finally, at last, we have arrived in Kashgar!  We were stopped at the border for three days because of politcal troubles and the Beijing Olympics.   There had been a bomb in Kashgar, but in any case the Chinese authorities in their wisdom, we were told, had closed all the borders into China on 8th August.  So we rented a house in a village near the border for $150 for three days for the 8 of us.  We cooked our own food and hung out.   It was simple and basic but actually fine and we read books, worked on the vehicles, and played with the local kids.  There were some very nice people in the village - old men with Asiatic beards and the round hats so common here.  On Monday we got up early to get a good place in the queue at the border, but by the time we got there the line of lorries was already quite long.   However with our vehicles we managed to get near the front and then the officials thankfully gave us a fast track on the Kyrgys side.   The Chinese border was all smart uniforms and efficient officialdom.   They searched pretty thoroughly the lead vehicle going through all the bags and looking into the engine compartment and interior.   Even then they did not spot the safes built into the floors or the other hidden storage areas, not that we had anything to hide anyway.  Three hours which was great.   At the Chinese side we met our Liason Officer, Abdul, a nice young man who came on the train from Urumqui, 22 hours to Kashgar, then by bus to the border.   He had all the permits and having been photographed and scanned for SARS, we then drove 255kms to Kashgar.   What a journey!   It was like being on the moon - vast rocky mountains, desert, erroded landscapes, puntuated by mud built villages surrounded by slender poplar trees.   We stopped at a roadside cafe for noodles - delicious.   We were all in great spirits having succeeded in crossing the most difficult border.   Arriving in Kashgar the impression was of another large Chinese town - brash, modern, busy and crowded with a mixture of ethnic minorities and Han Chinese.   We saw for the first time hordes of green taxis, electric scooters, amongst the usual donkey carts, bicycles and even people on horses.   We headed for the centre and looked at two hotels before deciding to go for a bit of luxury at the International Hotel.   Only a year old and four star.  700 Yuan for a room per night (about 30 pounds per person including breakfast).

In the evening we went out for a meal in a local Chinese resteraunt - wonderful real Chinese food sat around a round table.   Local red wine and rice beer.   Outside there was a huge square full of people enjoying themselves, dominated by a massive statue of Chairman Mao, and everywhere flashy neon.   People are amused by us - a group of young elderly one time hippies still sporting long silver hair (Roger even wears his as a pony tail sometimes!).

 

Today we had a great day visiting the old British Consulate where Eric Shipton lived and worked.   In fact we went back in the evening and had a great meal in one of the old rooms.   The best bit of the day was in fact wandering around the old town.   Fascinating remnant of the real central Asia - narrow streets with people selling everything under the sun.   So many impressions and sights crowding in upon each other.   We watched a man shoeing a horse, bought freshly baked circular breads, haggled for carpets, and took photos non stop.

 

We were told in the late morning that there may be a further problem with travel through to Pakistan, and that extra permits might be needed.   A British group though, having been stopped at a police check post, did in fact get through, so we are hopeful for tomorrow.   We also have connections that we may be able to use in Urumqui - we will see.

 

Off the bed now  -  already places like Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand seem a long time in the past.   We are all well, getting along fine, and loving the trip.   Bye from now from the Aged Hippie!!


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So long Uzbekistan and thanks for all the melon

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We left Uzbekistan last wednesday with many fond memories of the openess and generosity of the people. I've never been anywhere where I have been made to feel so welcome. Time after after time people came up to us or hooted or waved to greet us. As we went through the mountains towards the Kygistan border, we were passed time and again by cars full of beaming Uzbeks, almost shouting with joy to see us. Then, they started wanting to give us things - as we were driving down the mountain passes - and insisted - first a string of nuts and fruit - then an Uzbek hat a, for which we gave them a double decker bus rubber from London and then, to our amazement - a melon - all handed through the window between cars as we sped side by side down the road. They roared with laughter as we accepted the gifts - we passed back some cigarettes - and accompnaied us this way down into the valley.
 
The following day, setting off for the border, we experienced more of this behaviour - this time it was bunches of grapes. Then, stopping for a late breakfast at a roadside chai stall, the locals gathered round us, insisting on us taking photos of them with us, as excited as anything that we were English. Then one of them insisted that we go to his house across the way, meet his family and be treated to more melon as well as grapes plucked from their own vine before our very eyes. The mother then insisted on baking us bread before we could go - the local bread is flat and delicious like nan bread. They brought all the family in to have photos with us and even the babushka made an appearacne, which I think is the ultimate honour. She had her photo taken too. Then, they packed up all the leftover fruit and bread for us to take with us. What amazing people - the impression only slightly spoilt by a set of very officious border guards who lost it with us because the border guards where we entered Uzbekistan hadn't stamped our customs forms or done any for the vehicles.
 
Still, they let us out and we got to Osh and stayed at one of the  nicest places we've yet been to - the Tes Guesthouse. The previous night in Uzbekistan (can't remember the name of the town - began with K) we'd had the worst hotel of the trip or possibly ever - even the most experienced travellers amongst us were horrified, so the Tes Guest house felt like we'd reached heaven.
 
Then off over the mountains towards Sarey Tash the following day.
 
Kyrgistan is so different to Uzbekistan - more varied countryside - mountainous, cooler and much poorer. We passed all the things you think you'll never see - Yurts, Kyrgis horsemen in tall felt hatts and boots, herds of Zows - all much more wry and less smiling than in Uzbekistan.
 
At Sarey Tash, instead of camping we stayed at the sarey Tash geust house - a traditional building with mattresses on the floors and where they took a goat off for slaughter to make our supper - goat soup followed by goat stew and then (you've guessed it -) melon.
 
I should mention that both vehicles have continued to have hiccups - the green had a brake failure on the way to Sarey Tash - we think it was due to not using the gearing properly and is OK; the silver continues to overheat on the ups. this may prove interesting on the Karakorum highway - if we ever get there.

So, last Friday, we got to the border to enter China to be told that all border into China were closed till Monday due to the local problems and the Olympics. Whatever the logic, we found ourselves having to stop in the nearest village for three days - considering quite justifiably that the border 'hotel' was going to be worse than the one in Uzbekistan. We ended up 'renting' a local house for the duration, which was a carbon copy of the guest house at Sarey Tash, though this time with the owners popping back to look at us every few minutes, along with most of the village.
 
Three days of doing almost nothing except wash our clothes in the stream and we set off to tackle the border. Well, they've let us in and we have our very nice liaison officer, Abdul, and we're staying in the best hotel in town, we've had some delicious chinese food - which makes a great change - and now we are told that due to the restrictions they are bringing in daily, sue to the difficulties we (a) can't camp tomorrow night as planned but must be in a town and in a hotel an d(b) we can't travel on the Karakorum Highwway without a special traveller's permit - announced as necessary today - which we must now try to obtain. So, who knows when we'll move on and to where. The International Hotel is feeling something of a guilded cage!


Lat: 39.466 Long: 75.974

China Entry Delayed

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Just had a call from Himalayan Kingdoms who've just had a call on the sat-phone from Steve to say that they've not been allowed into China and on to Kashgar today as planned. They may be allowed in on Monday but nothing is clear. I'd guess this is a reflection of the problems in Kashgar earlier in the week and the opening of the Olympics :- (

(and ironic seeming as I'm sat here watching the opening ceremony and wondering if they are all crowded into a bar in Kashgar watching it with the locals. )

And it doesn't look like there's much to do around Irketsham - and about 50 miles back to Sary Tash - which doesn't have much more. Perhaps they could knock off Pik Lenin whilst they're waiting!

Lat: 39.679 Long: 73.900

Stairway to heaven.... (partially carpeted)

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Carpets took up a substantial part of the rest of our stay in Bukhara - 3 bought so far and a few others mused over. Then set off across more desert followed by a green plain between rocky hills as we neared Samarkand. The plain was hazy with sand being blown across - the hills barely distinguishable. And then reached the dizzy heights of Samarkand - all of 800 feet but already cooler (tho still extremely hot). The Green didn't like the dust again and when we arrived, Steve was anxious to find a mechanic who could do a service and change the oil filters. Looks like that's been achieved today. The car seat covers have even been washed ready for the next leg.

 

Samarkand is where the famous Stairway to Heaven is to be found - linking a number of beautiful mauseleums dating from 13th century onwards and dedicated to members of the Timur dynasty. Timur the Lame, or Tamberlane as we know him, was responsible for much of what was started here  and his successors kept on adding to it. There is too much to see in even 2 days but you get a good feel for the wealth and power that he must have commanded. The monuments are to be found right across the city, which has wide leafy avenues joined by twisty narrow lanes. The monuments themselves ahve been heavily restored and some restoration is still going on. Roger came in the Nineties and says the difference is enormous. Hard to say if it's a good or bd thing, although the museum at the Registan, a centre of 3 madrassahs in the centre, has photos of the buildings from the 19th an early 20th century, when they were being left to rot. The reconstruction has been done at an incredible pace and the buildings are magnificent. In one or two places a little of the decoration has been left as it was to compare. Whilst authenticity is great, there is little doubt that the cit wouldn't aattract the level of tourism it does if they hadn't reconstructed. And it must give a pretty good idea of what the place was like when the Timur empire was in full swing.

It's been really good to have these last 7 days staying in only 3 places. We have all needed to rest - I think everyone has had a tummy bug now and some are still recovering. I wouldn't fancy the next part of the journey without the rest beforehand.

We have seen more tourists here than anywhere and also lots of Mongolian Rally vehicles. One group, with Explore, we encountered at the roadside cafe in the desert and they are stayng in our hotel.But even with so many tourists, the money changing doesn't get quicker tho there are more places to change cash for suma, the local currency. If you want to change travellers cheques, it's the National Bank of Uzbekistan and their many forms (which differ from branch to branch). You can also change dollar cheques for Suma at the President Hotel. The presidnet hotel (which we are NOT staying at) is apparently owned by the president's 2 daughters. along with the biggests hotels in Khiva and Bukhara (which funnily enough we didn't stay in,either) and Maro Polo Travel Company. Hmm, wonder why there is less and less tourist hassle by the police, these days?.....

Off for a swim in our hotel's pool (a roomy oval of 5m x 4m - but lovely and cool!)

 

See you in Kashgar I hope)


Lat: 39.655 Long: 66.976

Hotel Omar Khayam

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bukhara_hotel.jpg

Steve and Jeremy tried to email me a first set of photos, but uploaded the Hotel's publicity shots by mistake. Hopefully they'll have better luck next time!


Lat: 39.772 Long: 64.419

How Bazaar..

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Brief notes, just record main impressions since last entry (without my notes, so may well be out of sequence etc..) - think it must have been Astrakhan. What a wonderful romantic place! Shortly after leaving there ploughed through various rather dilapidated Russian manufacturing sites (not very lovely) until we finally reached the border. Standard experience - 4 - 5 hour delay to get through. Bit of a pain in the heatof the day (we seem to arrive at each broder just about the time when the guards are about to start their lunch!)

After that the landscape changed immediately & it was apparent we were entering a far poorer country overall, with small rectangular, single storey flat roofed houses, generally with two windows on the main facade & constructed of a sepia brown mud/straw/dung compound?

Camped the firstnight in the desert, which was my first tented night on the trip, having missed the adventures in the Czech, Slovak & Ukraine Republics. Sky was inky black and stars bright through the roof of my one-man tent (I decide to leave the flysheet off as there was no wind & it was dry). Very comfortable - now that I had my air-matress (not at all like our practice in the Forest of Dean. How long ago that all seems..)

Change of plan! Too difficult to remember exact sequence of events - they all tend to roll into one.. I want to do it justice as we have had some amazing experiences and seen many wonderful places. More than anything, the people have become friendlier and friendlier as we have travelled further east, through Kazakstan and Uzbekistan. Intend to try to update at next stop (Samarkand).

In the meantime, love to all back home..

Jeremy


Lat: 39.774 Long: 64.415

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Virtual Blog

Follow the virtual photo blog based on Google Earth/Flickr photos.

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