Entering Uzbekistan was easier then expected. We had read in some blogs that the guards at the border we checking every personal item, including the photos and pictures into cameras and laptops. For us it wasn’t that bad as they only checked one or two luggage and then just asked if we were carrying narcotics and weapons. No narcotics, 4 Kalashnikov, I replied. The man laughed and let us through.
Once we set foot in the Uzbek territory we immediately headed north to Moynaq, still in company of Ricky. The road to Moynaq was a hard challenge because it led us to get lost in the middle of the desert and to drive in bumpy roads for all the day and well into the night. At midnight, tired of driving and frustrated by our choice of “shortcut”, we laid tents and went to sleep. Actually, only my teammate and Ricky laid tents because my tent was disappeared. Neither of us can’t explain how, but it was just not there. It was fixed to the roof rack with elastic strings and it was under the other tent and under a 10 Lt bag of water, so we really could not understand how it could have flown away. Also, we kept an eye on the car all the time so even the stealing possibility seems not plausible. Any way, fuck it. I was too tired to bother about it so I just slept in the car.
The next morning we finally made it to Moynaq and we witnessed to the environmental disaster that hit the Aral sea over the past 4 decades. The course of majority of the rivers that were bringing water to the huge lake were changed, in most cases to water cotton plantations or in favor of other kinds of agriculture. The result was a drastic reduction of the amount of water in the Aral sea, which dried out almost completely. Today, the old fisherman’s town of Moynaq is inhabited only by old men and children, with over three quarters of the population that have left the city to find work elsewhere. The main resource of income and food of Moynaq was fish. Now, the remains of old and rusty ships lay on the ground that once was the bed of the sea, about 35 meters below the harbor. No other words needed.
The next stop was Nukus, but there we just wanted to refill out tanks of benzine and continue our journey to Khiva. I remember that I have literally just finished to say to my teammate “Let’s fill tank and Jerry cans, buy some water and get back on the road immediately” when we felt a big hit under the car and the noise form the exhaust becoming loud as hell. Here we were, lost the silencer once again. Luckily enough, Ricky was few meters behind us and saw the silencer rolling on the road and falling into a little stream of water. So we had to find it in the muddy water and “fish” it out. It was fun after all. We drove to a mechanic and got the silencer welded back to the exhaust, then we had some little trouble finding petrol because apparently in Uzbekistan 95% of vehicles run on gas. Benzine is sold at the black market and you can buy it from people who expose a bottle of it outside their homes, along the road. From that moment we knew that we would have problems with benzine for all of our stay in Uzbekistan.
Nukus behind our back, it was time to visit Khiva. The city that once hosted the biggest slave market of the way of silk is now a massive tourist attraction with lots of madrases and buildings that in my opinion are too much renovated to be able to deliver the magic of some “original” structure. In Khiva (and any other place in Uzbekistan) we had to sleep in a guesthouse because we became aware that we would have to provide recipes of staying at the border when exiting the country. That was a bit of a hit for our planned low budget trip, but it had the upside of allowing us to have internet connection and also to wash our clothes. We were left with maybe one pair of underwear each and had already been wearing the same tees and pants for days upon days, making us stink like goats on a summer day.
Let’s now talk about some food, namely Plov and Somsa. Plov is a dish of rice cooked with vegetables and topped with meat. We did not understand if the original recipe calls for beef or lamb meat, as we saw it and tried it in both this variants. It is one of the national dishes and it is considered to be extremely good for fertility. Somsa is also very popular, especially on the streets, and it is a pastry meal filled up with onions and minced beef meat. In my opinion it is a very good solution to kill hunger on the go, but I id not really enjoyed the taste of it, and even less the “smells” that came after digesting it. Hiroshima mushrooms from behind that could kill whoever is around you!