Only two hours by bicycle away from Samarkand we were already at the border to Tajikistan. The first impressions of the new country were great: good roads, the wonderful view of the Fann Mountains, English speaking young women who talked to us at the tea stop, two fresh breads from the baker’s family who took selfies with us… We were excited, felt comfortable and welcome!
Along the historic Silk Road in Uzbekistan
From Nukus it was not far to Khiva, the first historic city on our route along the ancient Silk Road. We crossed the Amudarya River on a wobbly pontoon bridge and rumbled for two days on potholed roads through the Khoresm Oasis. The roads were lined with mulberry trees, (cotton) fields were tended by hand, and many children waved cheerfully at us.
By the whim of the wind
No timetable exists for the ferry across the Caspian Sea from Alat (Azerbaijan) to Kuryk (Kazakhstan): the ship sails when the deck is full and the wind conditions permit. The duration of the crossing varies from a day to a week, as the ferries can only dock in good weather and the Caspian Sea is notorious for strong winds and rough seas. We accordingly braced ourselves for a long wait at the port as well as seasickness, filthy toilet facilities and poor food on the ship.
Azerbaijan round trip
The fact that other ideals apply in other countries could not be overlooked on the plane from Dubai to Baku. The botoxed lips of some female passengers were remarkable – the aesthetic ideal is called “Russian Lips” (examples can be found here 😀) … and became less common once we left the airport.
United Arab Emirates, visas and travel plans
Entering Abu Dhabi, everything was dressed up: the superlative shining Sheikh Zayed Mosque (90000T white Macedonian marble, largest hand-knotted carpet, largest marble mosaic and third largest chandelier (11T) in the world), the shopping mall in front and the crowds of tourists in shorts or miniskirts. After two weeks on the dusty road, these were unfamiliar views.