The total trip from Bukhara to our camp for the night took some six hours.
Our first stop was at a ceramics factory where we had a demonstration of the ancient processes of Uzbeki clay work. I was tempted by some of the stuff they had for sale, but common sense dictated a bouncy lorry wasn’t the best way to carry delicate items back to New Zealand.
Mid morning we stopped at an ancient caravanserai and explored it's camping facilities and the old roofed water storage pit. Imagine the number of camels, donkeys, horses and sheep not to mention humans, that all need water on any given night. The logistics of providing this in the desert is amazing.
Lunch was at Norata, an unexpected outpost of civilisation in the midst of a fairly arid desert. Between Bukhara and the Norata hills we'd had a continuation of the type of country we’d had since leaving Ashgabat – flat, arid with scrubby vegetation. Once we’d climbed over the hills, the plains before us were gently rolling, the scrub receded and although there wasn’t much green on the ground, the short dry grass at least looked as if it might provide some nutrition and we saw herds of horses, cattle and goats wandering freely across the unfenced land.
Norata was rather lovely – not just for the excellent lunch provided by the restaurant, but also because there is a charming mosque complex with carp in the pond. (A nearby Hotel development is tastefully mirroring the architecture and colour so that it blends into the landscape).
Above the town stands the ruins of a fortress constructed as part of Alexander the Great’s conquest. It’s dilapidated of course, but I felt a real thrill at the evidence of how much territory he’d claimed for Macedonia. It would be centuries before Genghis Khan matched and exceeded his territorial grab.
In the late afternoon we arrived at a lake where we all piled out of the truck for a swim. The lake owes its existence to Russian engineering which may or may not have got things wrong. Opinion seemed divided, but it was lovely to swim in the clear cool water although the water had a disturbing tendency to foam when disturbed. Theories ranged from Uranium disposal to natural salt deposits in the soil. I declined to put my head in, splashed about for a while and climbed out unscathed.
The yurt camp was fun and a pleasant way to camp. There were four of us to a tent. I was so tired I crashed out immediately, and so did Tania and Shirley the two Australian women who bunked in with us. Cavan has picked up a lousy cold and claims to have snivelled and sneezed all night long. As the rest of us were out for the count we will never know how much he suffered.
Tomorrow we head for Samarkand, which is probably the most evocative name of all the Silk Route towns.
Swimmers by the lake
The lake - is it toxic?
Inside our yurt
Songs and dancing around the campsite
Inside the yurt
Structure of the yurt
Our yurt for the night
On the potter's wheel
Water storage at the caravanserai
Mosque at Norata
Cavan at Norata