Thursday, 23 May 2013

Day 26 - Along the Oxus Valley

The ancient Oxus River (now called the Amu Darya) flows from the Pamir Mountains to the Aral Sea. Watering the oases of the Silk Road cities and dividing the Kara Kum (Black Sand) Desert from the Kyzyl Kum (Red Sand) Desert.

These days water extraction for cotton and the resulting shrinking of the Aral Sea means that the once mighty river peters out in the sands.

We crossed the Oxus on a new bridge, part of the new highway being built by the Uzbek government. The river flowed wide and slow leaving great mud banks exposed. The road tracked it's course South East for 460km to our next great city Bukhara.

The challenge today was fuel. There is a shortage in Uzbekistan and we headed out of the city with empty tanks and hope in our hearts. Dusty pumps looked forlorn with their pump handles lying on the ground; the sign for "no benzine" in these parts.

We found fuel after 70km or so and religiously topped up every time we found an open service station. It was not clear when the pumps had last been calibrated as some of the litres seemed a bit light. With no price on display, the further into the desert and the more desperate you looked the higher the price.

There are 3000 Uzbek Som to the Pound at the moment. Filling up was costing 50,000 Som. The only note in circulation seems to be 1000 Som, so that is an impressive wedge of notes.

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