Things get hairy again approaching Afghanistan
Bukhara to Samarqand, Uzbekistan..onwards and upwards!
The next day, we woke up to explore the Bukhara plaza, seeing all the old history there. The buildings were extremely ornate and have mosaic tiling. It was quite impressive to imagine ancient people building these super structures. After a bit of meandering we headed off to Samarqand.
More endless driving, though the scenery did provide some epic structures and statues along the way and the alway present stares, confused looks, and friendly waves. We arrive around dinner time and are looking for a place to stay…without any inter webs… This is kinda an issue whenever we get to a city and want to stay there. Most restaurants will have WIFI and so we decide to find something to eat…
We succeed in the eating regards, and have the most amazing kebabs at McSchwarma (No joke, thats where we ate), but they didn’t have WIFI like all the other McDonalds. Ollie ends up calling his mom, I think, who points us in the right direction to Hostel Abdu, which has been hosting Mongol Rally teams since 2010. They have stickers from all the previous years. It’s quite impressive. We got served tea and melons in the patio while the rooms were being prepared.
We even met some more of the travelers that were on the crazy ferry we were on. They were some Italians traveling the silk road. Also a professor and his wife from near Oxford, England that were seeing the history in Samarqand. After a short while, some more exhausted Mongol Rally teams arrived and we shared our war stories then headed off to bed.
The next morning, we explored Samarqand. It is quite a beautiful city. Crazy big mosques and buildings.
We headed towards the Bazaar and Marshal, Patrick and Josiah were surrounded by these old ladies that wanted to take pictures with them. I’m not sure why…. :P This went one for a good 20 minutes as each one was adamant about getting her picture with them. It was quite the scene.
After a journey around the market, we headed back to the hostel to pack up and get out. We parted ways with Ollie and Will whom were headed up to Tashkent while we were headed to Dushanbe, Tajikistan. We stopped for lunch/dinner, (not really sure which it was) and had some pilaf and manti (Uzbekistan dumplings, think asian style with middle eastern flavors). They were absolutely delicious and then a new adventure would start as we were in search of gas.
The thing about gas/petrol/benzine in Uzbekistan is… there is none. Its very scarce and only near the major cities. We knew we had to find some near Samarqand or were would never find any. So the journey to get gas started. We went to a gazillion stations and finally were rewarded with one guy that knew where to find some. He started to drive his car in the direction of the gas station… when his car died… it ran out of gas.
No worries, he grabs a bottle from his trunk, then without warning hops into our car. Yay for five people in the car… We drive a few kilometers down the road to what seems to look like an empty gas station. Our new Uzbekistan friend assures us there is gas there. So we pull in and realize we have no more Uzbekistani som. We would have to pay in dollars…
When we mention this to the gas station attendees, there eyes lit up and get extremely giddy. I guess the US dollar is somewhat of a hot commodity out there. We negotiate an exchange rate of 4500 som to 1 US dollar (which is almost double the going rate, 2595 som to 1 US), but the gas station peeps seemed to be overly excited about this exchange rate. It seems they were getting a good deal, we had heard of stories of some teams getting double or triple the going rate on “money street.”
We filled up our car and dropped off our gas buddy at his car and were off to the border. We don’t quite make it that far as the light dwindles away and the road conditions get worse and worse. These roads are crazy bad reminiscent of the gravel potholes of the Georgian mountains roads. Dust is flying up along with who knows what else. Our headlines are garbage pointing in directions that are helpful to no one.. :( But this road choice was pretty much forced. ..
You see, we had to take the southern route toward Afghanistan then up, because the border nearest to Samarqand was closed. We end up driving and driving to find a good place to camp and end up at this widen shoulder and are too tired at this point to go any further. We put up the tent in the dirts and go to sleep…
Hello! Hello! (Flash lights, car lights flickering)
A few hours into some restless sleep, we are awaken by military looking fellows asking for our papers. What the... not again... I've had enough dealings with border peoples... ughhhhhhh.. Josiah puts on his sleepy diplomatic hat and somehow ushers them away. Tells them we are stupid Americans.. I dunnoo. Sleep would eventually fall upon us.. Tomorrow is a new day...right?