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Through the Desert to Khiva

View Central Asia 2019 on Bob Brink's travel map.

May 21

I opened my door at 7 am and found a huge line of tourists going down the hall. I walked past them to the dining room and sat down. Even though they were all stopping at every item, and I was just going to grab my crepes and some coffee, I waited. They were like army ants on the march. Eventually they worked their way through. They did not eat everything, although most of the strawberries were gone.

After checking out we gathered in the lobby to wait for our eight-hour ride to Khiva. Everyone used their phones for their last internet connection, at least everyone except for Thomas. He was calmly drinking his breakfast beer.

We headed down the “highway” through Kyzylkum Desert. It was quite rough at the beginning.

We discussed a bit of politics, specifically Putin. Sasha said that he treats them (Uzbekistan) well. We agreed that he is smart, much smarter than a certain president, an orange guy.

I was hot. We were not even using the fan. I could not seem to get the concept across of using just the fan to get some air moving. It seemed to be air conditioning or nothing. That meant open windows and dust.

Eventually we passed through the bad section of road. We came to our lunch stop, a few buildings in the middle of nowhere. All the tourists stop here. There is no other choice.

There was a dirty looking grill against a wall and several tables set up under a shade netting. Sasha directed us to our table and brought out some tomatoes and cucumbers. Michael and Silvio volunteered to chop. The flies were terrible, covering everything within seconds. When my kebab came out undercooked, I decided to pass on lunch. I made do with my potato chips and some of the local brandy that was on our menu.

I have a video of the flies. I decided to spare everyone by not posting it.

After we finished, I took a walk to the back of the complex. There was a lot of junk including an old Russian bus. There was also a big garbage dump. It was no wonder that there were flies.


We left our little oasis and headed back down the highway. We finally had some air conditioning. But that meant there were complaints about it being too cold. It was eventually turned down so that everyone was equally unhappy. I managed to get some air by fiddling with the vents. Count air conditioning conflict as a negative for group tours.

A few hours later we pulled into a parking lot next to some stores. Sasha directed us to the other side of the road where we found several camels and horses. They are part of a future tourist attraction.


Who's a pretty camel?

We crossed the Amu Darya River. There were many irrigated fields, all part of the great diversion of water that has destroyed the Aral Sea.

We could soon see the walls of the Ichan Qala citadel in Khiva. Our hotel for the next two nights is called the Orient Star and inside the citadel, a former Mukhamed Aminkhan madrassa which dates from 1851. At check in we did the now routine handing in of passports and waiting to get our assigned rooms. I was the last to get my key. Others were sent down the hall or around the corner to some stairs. I was sent up a different set of stairs. It was quite narrow and dark. The handrail was broken. When I got to the top, I saw lots of number signs, but nothing referenced my room. I wandered up and down before finally finding my door down the middle of a corridor.

I would describe the room as quite interesting. It is reasonably comfortable but has the feeling of a basement apartment. My only window is a tiny recessed portal to the courtyard. It is more than an arm’s length to the outside. Little light gets through.


I was actually given a small suite. There is a second bedroom which I decided would be good for hanging my laundry.

The plumbing appears to date from the student days at the madrassa. Water from both the basin and shower shoot out sideways, soaking the room.

After doing my laundry duties I went out to check out the town. I looked to see if there was a better way to get downstairs and ended up taking the stairs that led to the other side of the reception. Although equally as steep, there was a light and a functional handrail. There was even a sign pointing to my room. I had no idea why the desk clerk sent me to the other stairs.

In my early posts I mentioned my decision to do carry on bag only for this trip. All of the tour group members except one are using somewhat large to absolutely huge backpacks. None would qualify as carry on luggage. At one point, someone noted that almost everyone was using a backpack and that showed what experienced travellers they were. I think that my little bag shows what a good traveller I am. There are been many times that I was happy to have such a small bag, such as today when I had to carry it up the steep stairs.

Once outside I took a few photos of the walls and our hotel. It is an impressive place.

I passed a couple of camels. You can take their photo but there is a price to stand next to them or sit on top.

The citadel is full of tourists and people selling to tourists. The walls are lined with vendors.

I wanted to find a café with Wi-Fi. I had no luck on the Wi-Fi part so went back to the hotel where it seemed that the Wi-Fi was limited to the courtyard. I went to the bar and asked about coffee, but they only had Americano. I messaged Po. WhatsApp seemed to be working so we had a quick talk. I sent her a photo of the courtyard.

Dinner was a short walk away. We were on a roof again.

Sasha had promised us a green pasta, a Uighur dish. Then they served everyone a plate of dumplings. We knew that was not right, so no one touched their food. Begaim ran to get Sasha who was off having a smoke and talking on his phone. Sasha summoned a waiter and the dumplings were quickly whisked away and replaced by our pasta, which I found quite bland. I had noticed that Thomas was shaking what I thought was pepper on all his meals. I tried it and found out that it was red pepper. It really helped.

Just like last night, we got some sunset photos from the rooftop.

Everyone was headed their separate ways. I was quite sleepy so decided to just go back to the hotel. I noticed that the camel was still in the same place. It seems that he spends the night in the courtyard. I took a couple of sunset shots from in front of the hotel.

Back in my room, I found out that I could get Wi-Fi as long as I sat on my bed and stayed close to the wall, right under the window. That gave me a chance to talk to Po before having my nightly coughing spell.

There will be no buses tomorrow morning for our tour. Everything is within the walls. I plan to go out on my own before breakfast and get some photos before things get crowded.

Posted by Bob Brink 05:01 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged uzbekistan khiva central_asia kalpak_travel

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I remember that long hot drive, although we did it in the opposite direction, Khiva to Bukhara. It was July when we visited and the thermometer topped 50 degrees C outside in the middle of the day!

I think I sent you a photo of our room in that hotel back then? I can assure you that the previous plumbing has been replaced as ours was nothing like as 'luxurious' as yours ;)

by ToonSarah

Sarah, You are so insistent that you had it tougher than me! I think the temperature would have been the worse thing, not the plumbing. Did you have AC in your vehicle?

by Bob Brink

AC? You have to be kidding! I'm honestly not trying to play a game of one-upmanship (or should that be one-downmanship?!), just commenting on how much has changed in terms of the tourism infrastructure and also the numbers visiting :)

by ToonSarah

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