Saturday 25th February 2017

We had a last look at the old city of Khiva and managed to get to some sights that we had missed on yesterday’s visit. In particular we saw a timber and mud brick minaret by the west gate which gave us great views across the old city and along the western section of the walls with their crenellated tops and supporting buttresses. It is also thought that the minaret was originally the watchtower as it commands views over what was the desert towards today’s Turkmenistan.


Spring has certainly sprung today as we were able to sit outside in the sunshine overlooking the west gate with a cold drink and watch the world go by. Later we witnessed farmers hoeing and ploughing the fields, applying manure and bringing animals outdoors for the first time since last autumn. A taxi journey to Urgench enabled us to catch train 056 to Samarkand. This will be a 12 hour journey and we should arrive at 02:45 tomorrow morning.

As we write we are onboard the train and have crossed the Amu-Darya River and the Tyuamayin Reservoir on a new bridge and railway line that will enable the high speed trains from Tashkent to reach Urgench.

So proud is the railway company of this venture that glossy brochures were available at the station in Urgench as well as a multiscreen presentation of the new trains. We are now in the desert heading east to Uchkuduk 304km from Urgench and expected to arrive at 19:22. We are likely to have had dinner by then and hope that there is more than plov (mutton pilaff style) as the last restaurant car had only that!
Guess what?! It was Plov!!
Our journey continued across the Mingholog Depression part of the Great Central Asian Desert to the remote town of Uchquduq.

From there although we couldn’t see anything it was more desert until the early hours of Sunday morning we reached the mountains that extend from The Pamirs, Karakorem and Himalayan Mountains. Here the peaks are about 2000m high but the ice and river formed valley provides easy access for the railway to Samarkand. One could hear from the noise of the wheels and track that we were crossing many bridges as the major river was fed by small ones from the surrounding mountains. We arrived in Samarkand at 02:45.


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