Monday, April 6, 2015

Road Trip to Shakhrisabz.



We're back on the road today. By day's end, we'll be in Samarkand! Very excited about that.

Last night, Pat read, out loud, a bit about Shakhrisabz and what we would see. I was puttering about as Pat read the words from Lonely Planet. I have to admit, I was catching a word here and a word there until she started to talk about a magnificent palace. A really grand palace. Splendor beyond belief. Okay, I might be exaggerating on the words but what she was reading out loud got my full attention. It's a place worth seeing. She then ended by reading the words that effectively said that there's nothing left of this palace but ruins. I looked at Pat and basically said, "What?" What's the point about me about a grand place - getting my hopes up and then dashing them by telling me the place no longer exists. I don't know what had gotten into us. Maybe it was the fact that we had skipped dinner and were a bit light headed but we just cracked up laughing. We laughed so hard, we literally had tears in our eyes - my stomach muscles hurt.


So, today, I am looking forward to seeing ruins of some grand palace.   We had a long drive today so Shavkat wanted to get a good start.  We met back up with him at 8a after having breakfast and checking out of the hotel.

I sat in the back today and so I spread out all my stuff and settled in for the road trip.  It would be at least 5 hours before we would reach Shakhrisabz and from there, another 2 hours before we arrive into Samarkand.

The first part of our drive took us through the flat, arid landscape in this southern part of Uzbekistan.  The roads were okay and while there was traffic, it wasn't bad.


We passed some ruins.  Kirk Kiz, perhaps?

An hour in to the drive and the landscape was back to the agricultural landscape we had grown so accustomed to seeing.  Pat and I are both pretty quiet by nature so the car rides are generally pretty quiet.  On our ride from the Tajik border to Termez, Shavkat played a couple of his music CDs so there was some ambient noise inside our car.  But today, it was all quiet.  I felt a bit sorry for Shavkat.  We weren't much help to breaking up the monotony of a boring drive.


A short while later, flat gave way to hills. I perked up.  Mountains were ahead!


We drove through a valley with a river running at the foothills of the mountains.  Small villages clustered near the banks of the flowing water.  It looked very idyllic here.


Dark spots dotted the landscape - they were animals happily grazing. 




While this mountain landscape is nowhere as dramatic as what we saw in Tajikistan, it's still very pretty.  Red clay dominates the soil.  But where grass can grow, it does - carpeting the craggy rocks.  It was a beautiful day - bright blue sky with fluffy clouds dangling in in.  Taking in the view, I started to really relax.  There's something very calming about beautiful vistas.

Our first stop was at a security checkpoint.  Pat and I actually had to take our passports and have our information registered with the police.  We headed towards the security building and took our spots in the line of people that was waiting to go inside.  Shavkat also had to do the same but he was somewhere behind us or so I thought.  An officer spotted us and waved us to follow him inside.  There, he looked at our passports and in very simple English, e.g., born? which I interpreted as "is this your birthdate?", he recorded our passport information into a book.  We also had to show him our hotel registration forms.  I'm going to do a separate posting on Uzbek security checks and border crossings because they were adventures unto themselves.

After registration, we made our way to the car.  Shavkat was there waiting for us.  But then, he had to go off and do something.   Who knows what but he said he would be back shortly.  While we waited for him in the car, a van pulled up next to us.  I had to take a photo of it - the entire back was filled with cabbages! :-)


Back on the road and to the spectacular mountain scenery of Uzbekistan.


For the most part, we hads an easy ride on paved roads but that wasn't always the case. Shavkat is an experienced driver and fortunately, both Pat and I are accustomed to off roading trips - we all easily take these moments in stride!



We passed by a lot of small villages. I was able to snap a couple of photos as we drove through one place.  The images show how simple and basic life is for the folks in this place.  There's no electricity or running water.  It's not an easy life here.


I also caught an image of a small butcher shop in some small village. Such a place would never exist in the US - the FDA would be fining the owner for hanging up the meat out in the open.  Notice the yellow car.  It's an old Lada - I don't think they make this model any more.


Our second stop was also at a security checkpoint.  This time Shavkat entered on his own but he had our passports with us.  It's puzzling how the process is not the same across all the checkpoints.  I guess Shavkat been on this road enough times that he knows how each checkpoint works.  We just follow orders.


Back on the road. More open lands.  This part of the country is pretty sparsely populated.  Lots of small villages and lots of sheep, goats and cows.  Very rural.


Our last stop was for lunch!  Shavkat was as hungry as we were - I could tell from the look on his face when he asked if we were ready to eat.  Of course, we were!

As Shavkat pulled into the parking lot of a small roadside restaurant, I noticed the name - it's similar to the word *yıldız* which means *star* in Turkish. Turns out *yulduz* means *star* in Uzbek.  Another reminder of the influences on this part of the world!


Before we entered, we all decided to use the facilities. I lagged behind Pat and Shavkat as I was taking photos.  I followed them and then got to this intersection.  Hmmm.....which way to go??


It took a few seconds to figure it out but I managed to find the ladies room :-)

The restaurant was a pretty big place.  Every table that was occupied and I mean EVERY table was occupied by men.  My observation that women eat at home is hard to deny.

The Uzbek meal typically has two courses - the starter with is usually a soup or a salad and the main which there are always several choices of.  We've yet to be served a dessert of any sort.


It was clear that English was not spoken here and with Shavkat so-so command of English, it was going to be a bit of a challenge ordering.  We'd just have to stick to the basic Uzbek offerings which Pat and I knew well by now.

For our starters, the waiter just came by with a try and we picked off what we wanted.  Pat and I just got a couple of salads to share.  We desperately need some fiber to get our bodily systems back in good working order, if you know what I mean!

I wasn't all that hungry and so I didn't opt for the shashlyk....plus it takes at least 20 minutes to cook so it's not exactly a quick meal.  I wanted to get back on the road as soon as we could so I went with the manti.  Pat decided to do the same so we again, shared a plate.  We all shared a pot of tea.

Which one do I take?  All of them?

It was a very simple lunch of lamb and onion manti and salad.  Shavkat helped polish off the manti so we left a clean table.


Our bellies are now full. Onward we continue to Shakhrisabz!