16th May 2018
National houses operate in Uzbekistan as family restaurants, these have started to open up around the cities and offer the diner a unique dining experience offering high quality, local produce usually cooked by the family. We drive to Mr Ilhoms, who is Iranian, house in Samarkhand, all 12 of us ready and willing to try the delights on offer. It is one of my favourite night's of the tour.
We sit in his cosy courtyard, Mr Ilhom has prepared the table, fulfill of fresh carrot and beetroot salads, huge juicy roasted tomatoes, beans and various styles of bread. Beer and wine flows as we tuck in. Homemade Zucchini/courgette and lamb samosas follow and this is all before we are presented with a delicious homemade plov, followed by cheesecake that is out of this world.
And of course, as Mr Ilhom insists, it would be rude to leave without an aperitif, in true Uzbek style huge shots of local vodka appear...needless to say we left, contended and slightly fuzzy headed.
Border days are always early mornings, trying to get to the first entry point before hoards of truckers pile across, along with the locals carrying all of their wares, blankets, carpets, Tupperware, tomatoes.
Policies and processes are forever changing. Fortunately the change as for the better this time. The Uzbek Side of the border gleamed and sparkled, shiny new roads and walkways...and the best thing...a new scanner machine, this made the initial part of the crossing pretty painless. A tiny jeep, fit for about 4 people transfers people to and from the Uzbek side, fortunately another new addition of a tiny trailer so we can throw our luggage in without having to do 20 runs to get all 13 of us across.
The Turkmen side is always relatively slow, the need for officials to slowly check everything, and I mean slowly. Locals sit and watch us in fascination. Thankfully we get through the Turkmenistan side before they shut for lunch. Phew! We celebrate that evening in our fancy but quiet hotel in Mary, sipping on Georgian wine. Another relatively pain free crossing accomplished.
May is such a beautiful time travel across Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The weather is warm with fresh mornings and blue skies, heating up later in the day. Sweating wasn't a problem and we weren't craving Air conditioning whilst enjoying the sights. Although this was to change as we headed into Turkmenistan, it seemed that an unexpected storm front had started to work it's way across the country. From our hotel in Mary we could see the dust and wind pick up and.a huge fascinating electric storm followed.
The mornings were still delightful and the temperature remained cool, seeing sights such as Margush and Nissa were peaceful and cool.
As we headed for lunch at the underground lake to enjoy our kebabs outside the clouds and rain came rolling in so we had to take cover in a tiny room to make do for our lunch of Samosa's.
Again the next day heading out towards Darvaza we drove straight through a hailstorm. I think we were all pretty excited by it all, our competent drivers hadn't seen anything quite like it before. Fortunately it all cleared so we could enjoy a beautiful evening at our campsite.