Farewell KyrgyzstanJune 12 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C
Today was the day we would cross the Kyrgyzstan border into Uzbekistan. It also happened to be Richard's birthday. In her usual thoughtful manner, Nastacia gave Richard a little piece of Kyrgyzstan - 2 embroidered cloths, each framed and packed snugly in an equally beautiful Intrepid Kyrgyzstan bag. With the formalities completed we took the short journey to the border, stopping first to change currencies. Our 2000 Kyrgyzstan som bought us 244,000 Uzbekistan som - crazy numbers and equivalent to about $44 NZ. But that can buy you a lot in both countries.
With big hugs and promises to see her in New Zealand when she started her own travel adventures, we farewelled Nastacia. It was surprisingly easy to cross both the Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan borders. Whenever we appeared in a queue we were beckoned to come forward by both the border guard and non-Western tourists. It seemed unfair to us, as clearly many had been waiting some time. But it seemed like a common courtesy we couldn't avoid.
As we stepped across the final doorway into the bright sun, the contrast between the 2 countries was immediately evident. As our guide book put it, "landscapes are not Uzbekistan's strong point". To be fair, it was not much different from Osh, but a world away from the fabulous mountains and lush pastures we'd experienced over the last week or so.
Once we'd located our guide, Khursid, we boarded our excessively large bus. First stop was a local park in the city of Andijan. The park is a memorial to Babur, who was the founder and first Emperor of the Mughal dynasty in India, as well as a poet and writer (and who was born in Andijan). The buildings were certainly very striking, with ornate blue and green tiling. The park was packed with visitors and we created quite a stir, especially our younger group members who were much in demand to be photographed. We hung around for quite some time without any real sense of purpose, before wandering through a nearby amusement park, where Les and I both got accosted by a giant bear. Local women dancing provided some light relief.
Finally departing we headed for the infinitely more interesting local market. Buzzing with activity and super generous folk, Richard and I were stopped by a pair of 60-something local women. Turns out they were retired English teachers. A delightful pair who were keen to chat, though I found the mouthful of gold teeth that seemed a mark of wealth here a bit daunting. Futher wanderings amongst the rows of fruit, vegetables, spices, bread, meat and all manner of other paraphernalia. Offered wonderful melon to sample, followed by a freebie! Time to find a knife to replace Richard's Leatherman taken at a Chinese railway station.
Another stop for lunch and then a long wait at the train station. Seems like we'd basically been filling in time. Once aboard, we settled in to our 5 hour trip, although a blasting TV made things a challenge. My recently acquired noise cancelling headphones helped. To our surprise our guide had purchased a birthday cake for Richard and we enjoyed a delicious treat, washed down with local beer (which was actually not a bad combination).
Arriving at our hotel in Tashkent at 9.30pm, we were ready for bed (we'd lost an hour between countries). From our brief views of the city it was clear Uzbekistan has a lot more monetary wealth than Kyrgyzstan. I certainly felt like we'd well and truly farewelled Kyrgyzstan.Read more