August 1st, Swiss Day
Last night in Turkmenabat we stayed in one of the worst hotels I’ve ever seen and that is saying a lot. They wanted $30 for the room which although it was a large 2 room suite, it was in terrible condition with a bathroom you would rather avoid. I managed to talk them down to $20 and took the room. Being covered in sand from the evening’s adventure, I was really looking forward to a shower but in this bathroom was a large steel tub with a small hose attached to the faucet and the water just trickeled out. Fortunately there was some warm water so by climbing into the tub and hosing myself down I was able to wash off most of the sand. In the morning we made a hasty exit and headed off for the border. It took us about one and half hours to clear the Turkmenistan side and get clearance to leave the country and about the same amount of time to get through the entrance requirements for Uzbekistan. We were shuffled through several offices but surprisingly we didn’t have to visit any banks so it didn’t cost anything to get into the country. Right after clearing customs and driving away we were approached by several money changers at the side of the road. We exchanged $20 for 30,000 soms, the local currency. As they were 500 som notes we received quite a large wad of bills. Forget trying to use a wallet in Uzbekistan, I carry my money in a sack.
We drove on through the morning stopping for meat and eggs and chi at a roadside restaurant and arrived in Boukurah in the afternoon. Bookurah is an ancient city which was an important stop on the silk road. The city is an outdoor museum. Everywhere you look are ancient walls, fortresses, mosques and madrasses. We spent time visiting some of the sites and stopped at a bazaar to purchase a fur hat for me and a police captain’s hat for Calen. Later we jumped in the car and headed for Samarkand an other historical location on the silk road. This place is amazing for its history and architecture but most of all for its people. We pulled the car over onto a curb to raise the front right wheel enough for me to repair some minor damage underneath and a crowd of 6 or 8 young guys gathered immediately to see if they could help. They were eager to talk to us and give us directions to some of the best sights in the area. It was the same last night when we were stuck, the first car we flagged down came to our assistance and he flagged down another person eager to help and so on until were out of the sand. At gas stations the attendants pull out their camera phones and want to take pictures of us with them. The people we have met at every stop have been incredibly friendly and hospitable. What a great way to travel. Tonight we found what looks like the construction site of a new mosque, We pulled in off the highway and cooked up some rice for supper and we are just waiting for the caretaker to come by so we can ask if we can sleep on the porch. Tomorrow we head for Samarkand.