We had just three days in Kazakhstan en-route to Uzbekistan. The scenery changed and the mountains turned into the flat plains that run all the way north up to Siberia. It was a couple of long days driving with a day in the middle where we stayed in a homestay and camped near a national park. The camping spot was another gem with beautiful views out over the plains and an incredible sunset. It was my group's turn to cook and we made Moroccan tagine (the winning dish of course!), which was difficult in windy conditions with the gas constantly going out...so we ended up putting the cooker partially inside the truck's hold with a variety of cunningly positioned pot lids to act as wind barriers. It was a little late but totally delicious, even with millet (which we thought was cous-cous!).
To break up the driving we had picnic lunches along the way with food from the local markets, which are always an absolute treat with so much amazing fresh fruit and veges on offer. Yesterday's lunch spot was in a hot and dusty village near the Uzbek border, where we had most of the children in the village come out to watch us eat. It's always fascinating being in those kind of small off the beaten track places where you get to see a small slice of how the locals live.
The border crossings were interesting, as we left the truck and walked through the check points, collecting stamps, filling out forms and through no-mans-land to the next country, all a bit of a novelty, but there were long waits as the truck had to clear customs, get x-rayed and have insurance purchased. We made friends with one of the Kazakh border guards at the Kyrgyz/Kazakh border, who was more interested in the Olympics than our passports and kept telling us how many medals Kazakhstan had won in London. We played a lot of cards waiting for the truck to come through at each crossing, and there were cheers when we finally saw our tour leader Al driving it through the border four hours after us!
After leaving our campsite in Kazakhstan at 6.45am we have just arrived in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, 14 hours later (its only 350km but some of the most crazy, bumpy roads I've ever experienced and the border made for slow going). Here we pick up a few new passengers and say goodbye to some others. We now spend two weeks travelling through Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan...
|Tents in the campsite with beautiful view and sunset|
|Loading up the lada with apples at the farmer's market|
|Donky and cart used by local villagers for transport|
|Local children enjoying the picnic lunch show|
|Playing cards at the local boarder crossing "cafe"(actually just a family home which sold bottles of drink)|
|The truck made it through at last!|