Tashkent to Fergana - Day 16
Today we transferred from our bus to a fleet of vehicles. There were three six seater vans and three sedans. Cavan and I managed to secure seats in one of the comfortable cars which was a pleasant change from the bouncy bus. A couple of years ago a bus crashed on the Kamchuk pass, with some loss of life. Subsequently the government passed a law forbidding large vehicles from carrying passengers over the pass. The road was wide, open and of easy contour, bearing no resemblance to some of the more challenging routes we are used to in New Zealand – but there you go. One country’s normal is another nations challenge. We climbed out of the city over the pass. There was a magnificent view of the high mountains from the top of the pass. Across the other side, the country was much drier and protected from the prevailing rainfall. We descended into the Fergana Valley. Away from the mountains, and presumably well-watered, the earth was fertile and intensively farmed. This valley is a magnificent, wide fertile plain and distantly surrounded by high snow-covered mountains. This vast valley is shared by three nations – Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It was disappointing to see coal fired furnaces belching smoke into the pristine air. By mid-morning the view of the mountains was occluded by brown smog. Late in the morning we stopped at Kokund to see the Khan’s palace. This was a magnificently decorated building – not, for a change a mosque or massadah, but the palace of the last Khan. The walls were rich with mosaics, but the most stunning features were the brilliantly decorated high ceilings. Apparently the spaces formed between the beams creates a sort of air conditioning. Whatever the purpose, they were richly and elegantly decorated in beautiful rich colours and probably the best we’ve seen so far. We stopped at a rather bizarre roadside café for late lunch. For reasons unbeknown a stream runs through the middle of it, and even more confusingly, placed within the stream were waterwheels which displaced a lot of water but to no apparent purpose. We had plov – but it was rather greasy and not a patch on the one we had in Bukhara. Later still we stopped at a silk factory where we were given a tour and bought scarves and material. Our hotel was nice, and a great day to find after a long day travelling.