August 25: Bukhara, Uzbekistan
7:37 The road between Bukhara and Khiva is said to be very inconsistent — from nice two and even four-lane highway to rutted cowpath and everything in between. This long drive is the price we are paying for three nights in a very nice hotel. Had we only stayed two nights in Bukhara we could have broken up the drive into two shorter drives with an extra night of camping.
9:53 We’ve been driving through the Kyzl-Kum desert for two hours and we haven’t passed anything larger than a yurt. What you do see a lot of is sand and scrub brush. This won’t end anytime soon either as the Kyzl-Kum is larger than England and Ireland combined.
10:30 The Trans-Afghan Highway is about 50% complete but most of the time the two-way traffic is limited to the shoulder and one or two of the four lanes. Work is progressing at a questionable rate. There seem to be a lot of construction workers lounging around in the sun. Occasionally a worker will pick up a shovel as we pass, but mostly they just stand (or sit) and stare at the big orange truck.
12:10 We’re finally driving on a completed section of the highway. The highway may be better but the scenery is just the same (minus the road crews).
12:30. At last something other than sand and brush! We pass a natural gas plant that was built about four years ago by the Chinese. It’s absolutely massive and they built it in less than six months.
12:50 We have stopped at a roadhouse to prepare our own lunch. A large group of locals are sitting inside, eating fresh-baked somsas (lamb in pastry) but we sit outside and eat our own tuna and pasta salad. The owner didn’t seem to mind as he was selling his somsas as fast as he could make them in a wood fired oven.
17:17 We were able to drive at the limit for the last few hours and now pull into the parking lot of the Hayat Hotel at least an hour ahead of schedule. This place will never be confused with a Hyatt Hotel, although to be honest it isn’t too bad. The rooms are large, the air-conditioning works, and they have western style toilets and a shower with warm water.
18:30 The hotel’s best feature is it’s proximity to the ancient walled city. After a shower and some bathtub laundry, we set out for a restaurant located just inside the western gates. We’re there in six minutes. That’s very close to the world herding record for this group of cats.
20:30 Dinner consists of four cold salads, warm bread, pumpkin soup, stuffed peppers, and big plates of chilled watermelon. This is pretty typical fare in Uzbekistan but the atmosphere at this place makes it even more special. I’m looking forward to exploring the walled city and the adjacent bazaar in the morning.