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Old Town Khiva

Entering Uzbekistan took a couple of hours but was pretty straight forward. I had to fill out entry forms and declarations and then went through a few hoops. Fortunately there was a guard that spoke good English and he personally took me through the process. When it came to the search of the car they were particularly interested in the drugs I was carrying. I was prepared for this and has removed any traces of codeine and paracetamol from my medical supplies. These products have elements from the opiate family which Uzbekistan treats harshly given its border with Afghanistan. Eventually they were just interested in checking out Boris and the kit. The border guards wished me well and even gave me directions to Khiva. I was in Uzbekistan.

50m out the gate I was stopped and stated chatting to a guy about something. I thought it could be the car insurance but wasn’t sure as the chap spoken no English and I spoke so little Russian. Eventually with some help and the language guide we agreed it was insurance. So 45 mins later I left for Khiva $15 lighter but with my car insurance sorted.

It was about 50kms to Khiva. I drove into the old town looking for a place to stay. It was a very cool as the fortress walls were still in great condition. I ended up parking Boris and walking to find a place in the lonely planet. Lali-Opa fitted the bill and the hosts were friendly. They even let me park Boris in their yard. I had a big dinner and a couple of beers as reward for a hard day. The day had gone pretty smoothly without any problems. So I patted myself on the back and crashed looking forward to having a look around Khiva in the morning.

Lali-Opa with Khiva Old Town wall in the background

Lali-Opa with Khiva Old Town wall in the background

The following morning I was up around 9.30 for a leisurely breakfast. Today was a great day for investigating the old town and the great history. Afterward breakfast I thought I’d better give Boris a quick check and found diesel leaking from the main tank. Oh feek!!!!

The hostel owner Nodir offered to help, which kind given the mess Boris had left on his courtyard. We headed off to see his mechanic mate (via a stop at this new house that is being built. It was an awesome place they are building. It had taken nearly 3 years as they were self funding the build). We got a recommendation for a mechanic and headed off to discuss. It took about 30 mins to explain the problem with Nodir translating, but the mechanic got the message and said he could help. 100k som and it would be done by 7pm tonight. Wow. Only $40!! Rather cautiously I drove Boris with diesel still leaking around to the mechanic and he set about fixing the problem.

The Master inspecting the troublesome fuel tank

The Master inspecting the troublesome fuel tank

Will nothing else better to do I went for a stroll around the old town while I waited for Boris to be repaired. Nodir and I went back around 9pm and the job was done. 2 cracks were welded on the fuel tank and he cleaned up transmission box again as well. Total cost 130k som ($63). Nice one!! I drove home feeling relived that the problem had been resolved and thankful that Nodir was around to help me out.

The following morning I did my now customary inspection of Boris. I looked under Boris and found that diesel was leaking worse than yesterday!! Arghhh!! I was going through a range of emotions. Angry, annoyed, frustrated, while trying to relax and accept this is part of the challenge. How nice it would be not to have car problems for a week or two!! I hate to think how it’s going to cope with 35 days on an itinerary in China!! I had breakfast and then set about getting it sorted again.

Nodir and I once again headed back to the mechanic called Master. Quick diagnosis was made. Piping and jubilee clip needed to be replaced. Once adjusted old parts degrade beyond repair. This appears to be the case. So 20 mins later all was fixed. I was even able to contribute some tools to the occasion. The master eyed up my WD40 and wanted it. I asked for 100k som. He laughed and declined.

While I waited for Nodir to return Master and his mates invited me into his home for food and chi. Then they brought out the vodka. At 10.30am!! 15 mins later I’d had 3 shots and was trying to eat as much bread and drink as much tea as possible. I said my farewell’s and drive off at 11am. Time for another rest. What a crazy morning!!

Vodka with your breakfast, anyone?

Vodka with your breakfast, anyone?

I performed another check of the car at 12.30pm. Still leaking!! Feek Feek Feek!!!! So after lunch it was back to the Master to drain the tank and check for further holes. It was a crazy situation that wasn’t helped by the mechanics all wandering around under Boris smoking cigarettes while checking out a leaking fuel problem. I kept my distance.

At 8pm Nodir and I went to pick up Boris. He had been waiting for 2hrs and hadn’t leaked. 3 holes have been sealed and piping replaced. We said our farewell’s again and Nodir and I went for a drive. This is when I found out that Nodir loves his trance music so we fired up the stereo and took the long way home. He loves Tiesto and Paul Van Dyk, so we have a right little dance along in the car. Who would have thought!

Nodir - Local Legend

Nodir – Local Legend

The next day it was time to depart for Bukhara. It felt like I’d spent most of my time in Khiva getting Boris fixed. Nodir was an absolute legend in helping me resolve the problems. In the end I felt like part of the family at Lali-Opa as they had all shown great interest in getting Boris back on the road. I’d even managed to do a little sightseeing and meet a few new friends. I said my farewells and headed for Bukhara hoping my fuel tank issues were behind me.

The road south was horrendous in parts and brilliant in others. Rumour has it that the German section was top notch and Chinese section was not. I stopped for lunch at a truck stop and the owner came out to say hello. A friendly chap who came back with a postcard of New Zealand after I told him where I was from. How he got a hold of it god only knows.

I arrived in Bukhara around 5pm and began the searched for accommodation. I ended up staying in the first place I found (after checking a bunch of others) called Komil Boutique Hotel, which was very nice. I bargained them down to $30 per night which is high end cost but still a good deal.

It was great to be in Bukhara. This is a city of mystery and fame due to deaths of British Officers Stoddart and Connelly by the last Emir of Bukhara. The Emir was a particularly nasty chap, who had them interned in a bug infested pit for 2 years before chopping their heads off. A great example of how dangerous and treacherousCentral Asia could be in the 1800′s.

Try not to lose you head now

Try not to lose you head now

While searching the streets I ran into Gareth who I’d last seen in Stavropol in Russia. We agreed to meet up for dinner, so I showered and headed back to their hotel. Here I was introduced to Pete and Alice. They left England after a Royal Geographic Society event last September that I was at. They were the ones cycling to New Zealand for their honeymoon. Madness if you ask me!! We had a nice dinner out and ended up hanging out with some other travellers who were on motorbikes. A fun day out and nice to spend it with some other travellers for the change.

Breakfast the next day was legendary. Fruits, cheese, eggs, pancakes, coffee, and bread. A very nice treat.

Yum Yum, breakfast at Komil Boutique Hotel

Yum Yum, breakfast at Komil Boutique Hotel

After checking Boris I was pleasantly surprised to see he had no issues. So I was able to met up with Alice, Pete and Lisa to go check out the sights of Bukhara. Headed off to visit the Pit and the Arc. It was interesting to finally check out the locations that are famous for the deaths of Stoddart and Connelly.

Lisa, Alice and Peter meet the locals

Lisa, Alice and Peter meet the locals

Sightseeing in the heat of the day finally got to us and we stopped for lunch in the shade. After meat and beers I ended up heading home for a siesta in the afternoon as the sun had warn me out. I caught up with everybody at 8pm for dinner and crashed early.

A rather large minaret

A rather large minaret

The day before I realised I’d left my towel in Khiva. Nodir emailed and said he would send it down with a fellow tourist. I’d been fortunate enough to find the Japanese tourist he had sent it to Bukhara with. Top man!!

During my stay at the Komil hotel I had become friendly with one of the workers. A chap called Nozim. Nozim offered to help me buy some diesel. Diesel is rare in Uzbekistan and expensive if you don’t know where to find it. Nozim made a couple of calls and found the best place to buy was at one of the international truck stops on the outskirts of the city. We headed off in Boris to find a spot. It was definitely the place to go. I managed to purchase 100 litres @ 2400 som per litre and paid in US dollars at 2800 som per $1. All round it was a great deal as the diesel was well priced (others I’d heard had paid up to 2800 som per litre) and 2800 som per $1 was the best exchange rate on the black market.

Nozim and I had got to chatting and it turned out he had studied in London for 5 years before he was deported by the UK authorities. Nozim appears to have been caught up in the crack down on student visa applications that occurred 1-2 years ago. Upon listening to his case over dinner at his house it appeared to me he had been harshly treated. Nozim was held in detention for 23 days with no outside support allowed. I don’t think he helped himself with some of his actions but still seemed tough. I can’t help thinking that the authorities must have some other reasons for kicking him out of the country. To me he was a pretty friendly chap and not the sort of person that would be causing any problems. We were speculating whether or not somebody else had reason to cause problems with the authorities to save their own skin. I felt for him as he wanted to stay complete his studies. Now he was even struggling to get his results formally issued.

Later that evening we went for a few beers and he showed my around town to places the locals go. While I enjoyed the evening I politely declined his offer to hit the town as I was driving to Samarkand the following morning. If I didn’t have a car I probably would have been a starter. It was a wise move though as the next morning I saw him in a sorry state at the front desk. He had got in at 3am.

I was glad I passed. Samarkand was calling and I had another day of driving in front of me.

Summary
Khiva has a great old town area. Perfect for wandering around in the afternoon. I spend a fair portion of my time fixing Boris which meant I didn’t see much more. However I don’t think there was much more to see and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with the locals, even if it was to fix Boris. Bukhara was a splendid stop for a few days. Plenty of history and well catered to tourism. It was nice to wander around and meet a few other travellers. Both places are definitely must see if you are ever in Uzbekistan.