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!

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This page contains a single entry by Deborah published on August 12, 2008 10:08 AM.

China Entry Delayed was the previous entry in this blog.

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