The road from Bukhara to Khiva was an interesting one. For the first hour out of Bukhara, we were travelling through more farmland, once again playing with potholes and making slow progress. Then, as soon as the green fields and ubiquitous civilization suddenly gave way to the Kyzylkum desert, the road magically transformed into a 4-lane, absolutely smooth, super-highway!
For the next few hours, we drove at maximum speed along this amazing road in the middle of absolutely nowhere through scenery that could have been lifted straight out of Australia, if it had been tinged with a little more red.
I actually really enjoy being in the truck moving from place to place and just watching the scenery go by. It is incredibly relaxing, and it allows me to retreat into my own thoughts – though this is not always a good thing. The cool thing I discovered along this stretch of road was if I stared out of the window at the passing desert for a while, then looked inside at the front of the truck, it looked like the whole thing was shearing apart! I love optical illusions, and this was a doozy! The first time I saw it, I was worried I’d done something to my eyes/brain – perhaps as over-exposure to sunlight having lost my sunnies out the window to the desert (the wind whipped them off my face ☹). So I had fun playing with this for a while 😊
However, as with all good things, our incredible road didn’t last all the way to Khiva – in fact, it reverted back to a single-lane, potholed, bouncy crap-fest as soon as we emerged from the other side of the arid region into farmland again. What is with that? We also couldn’t find a petrol station with any diesel, despite asking in at least half a dozen places. Turns out that most diesel is found at people’s homes in a thriving black market – you have to take your jerry cans to fill up. Quite an operation to fill an overland truck!
Once again, our hotel in Khiva was right in the thick of things in a wonderful location in the walled Old City (location, location, location)! I’d read in an ancient Lonely Planet that “the historic heart of Khiva has been so well preserved that it’s often criticized as lifeless”, and I have to admit I thought I may have been the only survivor of the zombie apocalypse as I walked around the completely deserted streets at 7pm the first evening. Where is everybody? In Bukhara – 7pm was the time that everyone emerged from the coolness of their hotels!
It did allow me one of my favourite moments in Uzbekistan though. I was walking along one of the main streets towards the Kalta Minor Minaret (short minaret) and there was what sounded like traditional local music playing. For just a moment, I could so perfectly imagine what this place must have been like back in its heyday – with camels and market traders selling everything under the sun – my romantic vision of the Silk Road. It was such a powerful feeling that I even took a video of it … even though the same feeling can’t be transmitted in such a format.
The first part of the next morning was spent doing a “truck clean” – the first since I joined the trip. This involves taking everything out of the truck and cleaning it, and the truck itself. Most of the group helped out with this activity, and we were done in a little over 2 hours – not a bad effort. The funny thing was that the locals were asking the hotel manager whether we were selling things, given that we had everything scattered out on the street (drying in the sun).
Spent the next couple of days wandering around the Old City of Khiva as well as exploring the local market located just outside its walls.
It was a pretty chilled couple of days where I’d walk around for a while, then head back to the hotel for a while, then go out for another walk, etc. Again, I decided not to actually enter any of the buildings/museums (none of them have information in English and there is limited information on them online) but just to wander and observe from the outside.
The most famous structure in Khiva is the unfinished Kalta Minor Minaret, which is truly spectacular given it is covered in tiles.
But tiles are not all that Uzbekistan has. The highly intricate carved doors are also fascinating!
And the city wall itself was quite impressive! I was very curious to find what looked like tombs built next to, and into the wall.
Khiva, not surprisingly, is also very touristy, but somehow not quite as “Disneyland” as Bukhara. In efforts to get rid of my remaining Som, I ended up buying 2 more scarves (can never have too many) and a ceramic tile to finish off the souvenirs. I need to leave Uzbekistan so I stop buying things!!