Monday, June 22, 2009
DAY 205-'THE GOLDEN ROAD TO SAMARKAND'
The road to Samarkand would be more accurately described as 'pot-holed' rather than 'golden', but it is a gentle increase in altitude. Never has an uphill run been more welcome. An increase in altitude is a decrease in temperature. So 'may the road rise to meet me' and may it rise high.Uzbekistan has been a difficult leg of the trip, but for all its faults, its architecture is just mind-blowing. Really, really just breath-taking. Its been a bit of an architectural famine since Istanbul so Uzbekistan has been a very welcome architectural wonderland. Khiva followed by Bukhara and now Samarkand has been a collection of some of the greatest sights of GCR. These blue tiled mosques have it all from their massive size to intricate detail. Centuries old and leaning in directions depended upon previous earthquakes. Even the Kolan Minaret in Bukhara stopped Jenghiz Khan in his tracks. "Hang on lads; Lets leave this one standing, but we'll burn everything else." But of all the sights, the Registan, in central Samarkand has been the single greatest.A great little guesthouse in Samarkand was recommended to me. And the welcome sight of touring bicycles parked everywhere ensured I was to have plenty of good company and reliable advice on the road heading east. The good news is there is one land border open to foreigners between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. This means I stay in the mountains. It means I don't have to worry about a Kazak visa, and best of all, I'll never get to experience the Muyunkum desert. This is all great, great news.I had the company of Bea and Maxime from France for the road out of Samarkand. We are presently just 400KMs from Afghanistan but this is not our route. We plan to travel 350KMs north east to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent.