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15th May 2011: Khiva excursion

July 12, 2011

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Mubinjon was being funny about letting us stash our bikes in his place, but his only employee and savour to his business kindly let us keep our bikes at his aunties place for a few days while we went to check out Khiva.

This would be a taxi excursion, all because of the arsehole at the Turkmen embassy in Mashhad. If he had let us pass out of Turkmenistan at Nukus instead of insisting for Farap in the East, we wouldn’t have had to take the train to Merv, or have to do this round trip to Khiva. Bastard. But here we are. Trying to haggle a decent price as a tourist is no easy feat in this country. We waited at the KaravonBazar for maybe 1 hour, trying to get a savari taxi price down to 30 dollars. They were insisting 50, and there was nothing we could do. We took the hit and bundled into the car, and the next 8 hours were the most excruitiating ever. The road to Khiva on the map is marked as a highway, but its more of a half constructeddirt road – unsealed and bumpy all the way, with heavy traffic. The Uzbek style of driving depicts that the best way over the potholes is to blitz right over them, and we sat cramped in the back of the car in total agony all day.

We stayed in Khiva two nights – the first to recover from the aweful journey and the second to enjoy what the small citadel had to offer. We found a cheap hotel and endured a savage nightly attack of mosquito onslaughts, rose early in the morning and wandered around the groomed city to check out another example of sterilised, over restored Uzbek architecture.

Khiva was like a giant open air museum. The Minarets here were truly stunning, my particular favourite being bright blue and unfinished, hence the chopped shape that it had, completely dominating the city. Every attraction had a price tag to enter, so I was reduced to just walking around the streets and trying to take a picture without a french tourist inhabiting the shot. The best time was at night, where the modest lighting, the full moon and the lack of people created quite a special atmosphere, and made the city incredibly photogenic.

Before we knew it we were negotiating a way to get back to Bukhara, this time by bus which was a far cheaper option than a Savari. It was just as uncomfortable though, and even longer. We didnt arrive in Bukhara until 8pm, after departing Khiva at 10 in the morning. I was sweaty and exhausted, but we had to get on the bikes and get out of town to find somewhere to camp – not so easy as the dodgy Uzbekistan water was starting to take its toll on Julian and we weren’t feeling at our strongest. On the way out we stopped at KingBurger for a grease bomb and headed out to camp rather conspicuously next to a electricity transformer in some farmland.

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