Friday, 15 October 2010

Bukhara (Uzbek) to Tashkent (Uzbek)

We leave Bukhara, perhaps a little sorry that we didn’t have more time to explore what looks like a very interesting little town.

Approaching the city of Samarkand we begin to run low on gas, the yellow warning lamp flickers into life with each sharp corner. We’ve timed it about right, we should easily be able to make it into the town, and we still have a can of 91 Octane strapped to the roof, just in case…

We pass a garage but it appears to be shut, then another and another…Each one is either closed or is dispensing LPG gas only .We pull into an open looking garage and proceed to execute our now well rehearsed charade - I ask the attendant for “Benzine” and Bex scribes 96 in the thick dust layering the screen. Hah! 96 Octane…?..Those were the days, no chance...

The attendant speaks a few words of English and says "no fuel, Sunday" - Is it really Sunday already? Our days have long since merged into an endless cycle of refuelling the car, checking into and out of hotels and talking about the state of roads, the local police and all things toilet related.

We never did find out why garages would only dispense LPG on a Sunday - Uzbekistan is a deeply religious country which may have something to do with it, or the city may simply have run out of fuel. But one thing was clear, and that was that we were running out of fuel and fast. Why is it that the little needle on the fuel gage always takes ages to move from full to nearly full, but drops like a stone from ¼ full to empty!?

I pull over and pour the reserve 4 Litre can into the car, we plan to use this to find fuel in the city - It won’t make much of a dent in the vast desert that surrounds us, so if we cant find fuel we’re here for the night.

We pull into another garage, fortunately for us the manager is there and he takes a keen interest in our car. “You have Benzine?” I ask. He laughs and says not until tomorrow. I ask why, but its lost in translation and he begins to talk about the old favourite “Mancheta Uniteee”. Just as I’d resigned myself to staying in what looks like a pretty dull city, he suddenly says “OK….For you, maximum 20 Litre”

We snap up the offer, and with 20 Litres on board (Just under a half tank) we venture out of town. By this time we’re both starving and decide to stop at a small restaurant at the side of the road - From the outside it’s a fairly unassuming place, but inside the tables are lavishly decorated with bows, flowers and finery - A little odd, but in a good way.

The owner proves to be extremely helpful and in no time his staff have whipped up a gourmet meal of our central Asian favourites : Mantee (Meat filled dumplings) Chai,(tea) nan (Flat bread) and Pomodoro (Chopped tomato salad). Bex glances outside and spots a large crowd of around fifty people gathered around Jerry - We’ve inadvertently gate crashed a local wedding reception, and the guests have just arrived. We pay the bill and make our way outside.

Everyone is all absolutely fascinated by the car and its countless handshakes and mutterings of “Assalamu aleykum” (Peace be with you). One of the faces in the crowd speaks English & explains that us arriving at their wedding reception is good luck, he asks us to stay. I spot the guy in the next car unloading dozens of cases of local Vodka, its starting to sounds like a good idea…But we still have a way to go so we make our excuses and hit the road once again.

Later than evening we arrive in the glitzy capital of Tashkent - A very smart city with towering buildings and monuments galore. We spend an hour or so trying to track down our chosen hotel. Eventually we find the location, only to find that its been closed down… Arriving in a town or city is always a headache for us, the Garmin GPS Worldmap shows only major highways and cities, so once we reach a large built up area we tend to get lost fairly quickly.

Exhausted and tired of driving, I chose the next nearest hotel and we retired for the evening. Unfortunately this turned out to be a 5 star joint, but the budget has long since been smashed so it didn’t really matter as much. Did it?! Ask me in 5 weeks time when we’ve run out of money in Laos..!

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