Thursday, 5 June 2014

N 40.23.05 E 71.47.15 Taxi Convoy to Fergana

If you look at a map of Uzbekistan you will see that the south east bit is joined by a very tiny neck of land. Odyssey's description of the Fergana valley is "lush and beautiful but the local inhabitants don't always agree with the central authorities in Tashkent". Consequently, the government doesn't allow busses or vehicles with more than five passengers over the pass into the valley.

So, Calypso, with Nico and Mikkel, slipped out of Tashkent last night doing her best to look like a truck. We left this morning in a convoy of taxis for the adventure. The plan was that the front car, with Bec and Theresa would start the explanations at any roadblocks.

First a word about drivers in central Asia. The lane markings are merely suggestions and usually the best place to drive is straddling the center line. Waiting patiently doesn't happen and passing with oncoming traffic is expected. Drivers communicate with taps of the horn - c'mon, get going, hey I'm at your corner and about to pass... Also to contend with on the roads are pedestrians, bicycles, donkey carts, tractors, scooters.

Driving in Calypso, you hardly notice this because we are the slow object everybody is passing. However, today we got the full benefit of the action on a very busy windy road with lots of truck traffic in both directions. I think our driver was a little frustrated because he was required to keep formation (as the last car, there were five cars ahead of him that he couldn't pass).

We only had to stop at one checkpoint and register our passports. It was a gorgeous drive over a pass at 1800 meters through the Pamir mountains (which are leading toward the Himalayas). Then down into this huge valley of prosperous(for the area) farms. Fergana produces most of the cotton, silk, and rice in Uzbekistan.

Along the way, we stopped for a lunch of pilov at a local tea house.

Last stop before our hotel was at a silk factory. They still use all hand methods and we got to see the process in detail (too much detail for some, but absolutely fascinating for me). And a piece of ikat silk (hand spun, hand died with natural dyes, hand woven) is coming home, too. Also a wee bit of the raw silk fiber and a piece of hand woven Iranian wool used to make carpets. One more piece of trivia is that the bright yellow is the Acacia flower.

Our hotel in Fergana is very decadent. And it's off to Kyrgyzstan in the morning.

Calypso made it over the pass like the trooper she is. Of course she's a truck. Just a wee bit of a problem with her driver going the wrong way down a street in Tashkent, apparently.

More on our time in Uzbekistan soon.

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