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Summer in Samarkand

No problems finding petrol for the journey thankfully. Uzbekistan is known for petrol shortages as it tries to push everyone to LPG, which it produces, in shedloads.

The city has a population of just over half a million. It is very much Silk-Road-Central with a large number of tourists, ranging from coach trippers, those on an organised tour in smaller groups to cyclists and backpackers. I’m very much the oddity. Hotel staff seem a little shocked when I explain I’ve travelled by car from France. Taxi drivers nod approvingly as if the journey is a macho challenge of some sort.

Samarkand was also chosen as a meet up with friend Pat, who was flying into to Tashkent via Moscow and then taking the express train to Samarkand. Sadly, Aeroflot, or at least the baggage handling company they have recently appointed, have decided to cut the salaries of their staff by 30-40%. Not surprisingly, as a consequence, bags are arriving all over the place or, as in Pat’s case, not at all. Pat will be writing a ‘guest blog’ shortly and will doubtless explain his side of the story.

I used the time waiting for Pat in the hotel, slightly chilling out. I had the car washed, swam/cooled off in the hotel pool and bought a cheap SIM so I could be in voice/data contact (a failed purchase which worked for one day only). I even ordered an evening salad there so I could have some time in one place. This was a mistake. I let my guard down on the food safety front. I’d booked a Caesar salad for 6:30 and when I arrived at 6:40, it was just sitting there, on my table. It was uncovered and there were flies about. When I tasted it, it was warm. I shan’t be specific, but Genghis Khan mounted a surprise attack later. Fortunately, the medical kit put up a valiant defence and repelled the worst.

The historical sites are a little more scattered in Samarkand than Bukhara or Khiva.

But they are simply stunning.

Extraordinary examples of ceramics and stonework. There was a huge statue of Timor, some lovely formal gardens and the Registan. The turquoise domes of the Madrasa there were very fab indeed.

Pat was delayed sitting, as it were, at the end of the runway for a second day, hoping his bag would arrive on the next day’s flight from Moscow, I visited a highly rated restaurant in the city, called Platan. I chose the interior table option and was led into a large room with wooden panelling and books on shelves. All very plush. Good food and service. And I could even read a book from the Bard himself, albeit it in Uzbek, were I able.

I met Pat the next morning. He was looking half Stephen Fry and half Man from Del Monte. Not surprisingly, he was a little jaded. He checked in at the hotel, he had some sleep and we then set off sightseeing and a visit to the bazaar to buy a new wardrobe for him

. Haggling was fun although really, one is haggling over a paltry sum. We had a very good meal that evening and a couple of vodkas in the bar later (when in Rome etc).

The next day involved passing through the border and into Tajikistan to Dushanbe – the start of the Pamir Highway adventure. Stay tuned for that.

Pat’s luggage eventually arrived in Tashkent but too late. So it’s going to stay there until his departure back to London.

PS Although we’ve been able to get wi-fi every day, it is far too slow for me to load the blog, and the pictures. So I’m afraid I have a bit of catching up to do. But I am writing them and as soon as technology permits, I’ll get them live. As they say, “Thank you for your understanding”.

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