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The Big Year Out-Tha Abandoned ships at Moynaq

One of the most profound journeys I took was from Nukus to Moynaq in Uzbekistan. To the last port on the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan, which is a sea no more. The desolation caused by the overfishing and redirection of the "inland sea" left this desert of a town like something from the wild west movies. And still even more stark it has happened in as many years as I have been on the planet. After visiting the ships graveyard, I was able to visit the "Cannery" where the fish was processed on mass for export mainly to the Ukraine.

Posted by TheJohnsons 22:54 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged sea desert boat nature landscape ship cemetery lake soviet ecology waste panorama sand port ships dead bark graveyard change warming shipwreck dry asia environmental salt wreck global rust environment climate ruin arid disaster rusty uzbekistan abandoned kazakhstan ecological carcass apocalypse wreckage catastrophe desolation moynaq devastation aral rusting desertification dryness Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-The Registan

After having travelled through Turkey, Iran, and Turkmenistan, we entered our fourth country on our journey along the Silk Route, Uzbekistan. I recall it being a very dry and dusty country, or maybe that’s because most of my destinations in Uzbekistan were like this. It just seemed that Tashkent (the capitol) was the only place to have full and free flowing water and grass and trees. Outside of Tashkent it seemed like time had stood still and you could still get a feel of the days of the Caravansary that used to dot the country along the Silk route. Here a slide show of one of the most beautiful and iconic places in Uzbekistan, The Registan, in Samarkand. Yes it really is that blue. Thankfully the Russians although supressing any kind of Religion during their occupation, did have the foresight of restoring after many earthquakes much of the Registan as you see it today. Working as recently as 1987, twenty years of hard work and money and people with patience and the eye for the historical detail have made The Registan great again!

Posted by TheJohnsons 21:11 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged art sky night architecture mosque sunset monument culture temple religion history traditional travel square eastern city building heritage dusk mosaic old road muslim medieval central asia ancient tourism historic dome landmark decoration pattern silk islam ceramic illuminated ornament tile exterior facade uzbekistan minaret samarkand complex islamic madrasa registan madrasah samarqand sher-dor Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Samarkand

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large_1842667_13408175728411.jpgThis was for me the original driving force for me to come to Central Asia, how little I knew then! Hah! The Architecture of the Rejistan I had dreamed about when researching this trip and in many of my pictorial Architecture books at home, Lived up to all my expectations and more. Stunning, Stunning & Stunning. I was worried after seeing so many stunning Mosques in Iran that I would find the Rejistan an anti climax, nope, not one bit. Along with the Sha h-i-Zinda (the avenue of Mausoleums) which some consider an abomination of restoration, really do not know what they are talking about. Here I would rather see tasteful restoration than crumbled ruins, and overdone lego style fixes. These were stunningly beautiful. (Pictures will follow).large_1842667_13408175733880.jpg We stayed at Antica B&B (see review) and felt we were well placed for most of the sites and the Bazaar. We did just about all the sites around the Rejistan, and we hit Ulubeks Observatory early enough to miss the crowds and the heat of the day. Fabulous views can be had from here across the city and some of the other major sites (Rejistan, and old city walls). We also visited the “Tomb of Daniel” which was set beautifully next to a small river, and high up and the Afrosiab Museumwhich houses some stunning frescos inside along with some exhibits charting the eleven layers of civilisation. Pity the current residents are not so civilised! We were hassled all the way round by sellers that were allowed to sell some books and trinkets. They seemed to think that we didn’t know our way round or that when we finally got to the best bit(the frescos) that we couldn’t look at them without having demands for money for Photography(not Necessary, photography is free) and to buy some utter rubbish! We did feel that you have to give if you want to save something from the ravages of time.


Posted by TheJohnsons 00:04 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Train from Nukus to Tashkent

View The Big Year Out & Photos of us & Visas & Transport and bookings on TheJohnsons's travel map.

Whilst were staying at Khiva [Khiva-travel-guide-1309125] we decided that after going to Nukus [Nukus-travel-guide-1200956] to see the Art museum and the desert (moynaq) which was once the edge of the Aral sea, we asked Jaladdin at Meros B&B (see review) to help us with train bokings to Tashkent [Tashkent-travel-guide-1201252] for our visa run.

We went with Jaladdins brother who showed us to the Train booking office which is about a ten minute walk from Meros . We had to leave our passports as the main computer system was down. We were offered 92,000soumme tickets which are four berth air con compartments. 61,000 soumme tickets were also available. We went for the 91,000 each ticket per person, as this was also part of our overnight accommadation budget. These were kindly collected by Jaladdin for us at 10.00a.m. the next day(this seems usual practice so allow time).

The train was due to leave on Tuesday evening from Nukus at 7.10 and arrive at Tashkent around 5pm on Weds. It's about a 22hr journey(No Sharq train speed here). Bed linen packs included two sheets, pillow case, and worth a mention, towel! The beds were seat conversions, but unlike others we have been on, they were wide, and comfy and easy to assemble. Shame about the air con we had heard so much about on other travel web sites! When we got on the train it was nothing short of a sauna! OK, we thought, we will wait till the train gets going, nope, it took many people complaining to the conduuctor before the air con was switched on. Once on, it worked well, not overly chilly, just cool, but enough to make sitting in the compartments a little more comfortable.

NOTE: There is NO buffet car, and there are no food vendors on the train. Most of the stations it stops at don't even have any station stalls. So take provisions with you enough for evening meal, breakfast and lunch the next day. We ate before boarding and thought some of the stations would be better equiped for this train. We managed to get a loaf of bread and ice cold large coke at one station only the next day. We were ok, just pleased we had eaten the night before. There is however a hot water urn at the end of each carriage with free hot water for tea and coffee, assuming you have your own cups!

Last note; The toilets were truly "VILE" and we have travelled on all sorts of trains in lots of dire places! These take the award for the worst ever! So take wet wipes and plenty of your own toilet paper and sani-gel, as there is little or no running water, and guess who can't hit the toilet bowl?

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:29 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Moynaq

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We arranged through the hotel a car driver to take us to Moynaq, the town that used to be a huge fishing port on the Aral Sea. It took us about 2.5-3 hours to drive from Nukus [Nukus-travel-guide-1200956] to Moynaq, this cost $90 for the driver for the day. He was very experienced driver and did not rush us at anytime, the trip also included a side trip to the Mizdakhan, an ancient city of Mauseliums and mosques, but we didn’t feel like we could manage it as Angela was still recovering from her back injury and had already done a great deal of walking in Moynaq. It is quite hilly too and would be better done in the morning.

When we arrived in Moynaq we went to the Museum, which is a must do and great place to get a real idea of how much impact the shrinking of the Aral Sea has had on the people of the town and the surrounding geography of the land. We had a young woman show us round and there is no official entrance fee for the museum, but we paid 5000 for each of us as she was very informative and answered questions about the history of the area. It was a very poignant moment. Especially for me to realise that such a huge catastrophe has happened within my life time and the massive impact it has had on the people.

Our driver then took us down to the edge of the desert which was the edge of theAral Sea; you really need to see the pictures and photos of before the shrinking to understand how much it has gone! We saw two largish ships from the road, but there is a proper memorial point where there are steps down to a collection of about 9-10 boats. We eagerly made our way down to them, mindful of the fact it was midday-ish and was going to get hotter and hotter. I have to say the excitement of seeing these boats stranded in so much sand overcame my sense of heat and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring all of the boats and taking many photos (a photographer’s dream location). Equally I was mindful of where I was and how sad I also felt at the same time. Actually gutted was closer. Dust/sand tornadoes danced around areas of the now desert and from the view point back at the top of the steps we could see other boats in the distance, looking like toys in a sandy sea.

After this sobering visit we then were taken to the old cannery complex/factory. Like the old factories from oop north in the twenties, this old gated complex is also worth the visit. The huge rusting sliding gate is left slightly ajar and you can still walk round the huge complex, all of which is locked but I managed to get some great pics of inside the factory and all its abandoned machinery through some of the broken windows. It is a very eerie place, and again very sad when you realise 10,000 people lost their jobs when this factory was closed down 1984. It did have a huge impact on the local economy and although there have been efforts to create another lake nearby this is still a dying town, but I loved it.

If you can find the few extra dollars to go there do, you will not regret it; my only regret is that we did not take extra time to drive to the edge of theAral Seaas is now, and camp. That would have made it complete and I would have felt that I was giving something back to a struggling local economy.

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:29 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Canon 1100D update

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Well we have been on the road now for two months and covered quite a lot of shooting ground. Mosques and mauseliums in Iran, Desert and bright white buildings in Turkmenistan! and now here in Uzbekistan (just started at Khiva). The 1100d has proved itself so far a tough customer. It has it\\\'s scratches underneath now from where I have set it down during extreme heat for a rest in some pretty extreme temps. Or even when doing self timer shots at the Kaluts in Southern Iran. (one of my favourite scratches).

As far as Heat goes it doesn\\\'t seem to drain the battery(like extreme cold), and as far as running and taking pictures go, it\\\'s not had any problems whatsoever. Yes it has felt very warm at times, but I have made sure that when that has been noticed I try and keep the camera under shade when not in use, just to reduce any adverse would be side effects.

Pictures have been the same solid faithful reproduction as in normal conditions. I will be posting some soon of Davarza Gas craters, daytime and night time shots, which I was very pleased with. The night time video was a real bonus at Darvarza. I really didn\\\'t think it was going to work very well at all.

I have adjusted user settings too take into account the bright light(sunshine) glaring down on various buildings etc. There have been some \\\"on the hoof\\\" adjustments that have needed to be made as I have gone along, but on the whole the camera has performed as I wanted it too. Colours and contrast are still holding out well, and I have been extremely impressed by the no flash auto, which has been used a lot inside buildings and museums, again the all important exposures have ben pretty spot on, making some pictures look better than they would have by naked eye.

I have as always taken care to clean my camera at the end of everydays shoot, paying particular attention to the lens filter and removing it and brushing out gently tiny specs of dust which no matter how hard you try, still manage to worm their way through to the lens! I have brought with me a small spray bottle of lens clens soloution which I use sparingly and spray directly onto the cloth after brushing.

The Tamron 70-300mm zoom has come out a few times, but not as many as I thought I would! It has handled well too, and pictures from it without any IS have come out very well even though it does feel a bit heavy once on. good hand positioning does stabilise it, but I do wonder wether i should have bought the 18-200mm lens sometimes.

The neoprene case cover has been a life saver, both weight wise and protecting the camera, it has been a godsend for jeep dashboards, and backseats of cars, and of course the daypack. It is also brill at keeping excess sand and dust off the camera.

I know all of this may sound boring to some of you, but I think I would have liked to know how my camera was going to hold up whilst on heavy travelling. One tip I did get from Angela, if in the desert and you are very worried about getting sand in your camera, cover it in cling film and this should reduce the amount of sand/dust that could possibly enter the camera body, along with protecting it from sand blasting during storms!

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:29 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

The Big Year Out-Khiva

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Beautiful restored living citadel town which is so refreshing after seeing so many abandoned ones in Turkmenistan. First thing that struck me about the Uzbeks here is how relaxed and laid back they are. Meros (see review) was a good place to start, even the border guards at the Uzbek border knew about Meros!

In Khiva, it was the first time we had seen bus loads of tourists sinceTurkey! You can by a two day ticket for all the sites within the citadel, pay in soumme as it works out cheaper than paying in dollars, as the official rate is less than the black-market rate. We found the official rate was just under 1900 to the dollar and the unofficial was 2800(exceptSamarkandwhere we got 2700). So you see it pays to pay in Soumme. There were two sites within Khiva which were not included on the ticket, the Kuha Ark; you have to pay extra to go up onto the bastion where you get magnificent views of Khiva. The Pahlavon Mahmud Mausoleum and all minarets have additional charges (albeit small ones). Another particular site within the citadel we really enjoyed was the Juma mosque which was cool and peaceful and beautiful when we went there.

The eateries were more expensive inside the citadel, but the one café we frequented for two or three nights also had a wifi spot, which was very reliable, right next to the unfinished minaret. Food was cheaper outside the citadel walls and we even found more than one great supermarket right opposite The Isfandiyar Palace which is also well worth a visit. The prices at the supermarkets were a fraction of those in the cafes etc.

Water pressure is not great in the Old town, not sure but can’t imagine that its any better outside as Khiva does suffer with this. We managed to get a bumblebee sim card through our hosts at Meros, and is well worth getting for calls and texts around Uzbekistan. ATM can be found at the Outside south Gate, Hotel Asia, which only takes MasterCard and Maestro, no visa

Posted by TheJohnsons 23:26 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged art architecture mosque tower culture religion history traditional travel town urban city building heritage mosaic old road muslim unesco central religious wall east asia antique ancient tourism historic dome fortress gate landmark oriental decoration silk persian islam arabic exterior uzbekistan minaret bukhara kala islamic khiva uzbek majolica madrasah khorezm itchan Comments (0)

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