Bob Perry, one of ElderTreks Country Directors, will be blogging from the road as he sets off on an epic 25 days across central Asia as part of ElderTreks The Stans tour. Keep your eyes on the blog as Bob will be posting updates throughout his tour.
Today it is a side trip from Taskent in Uzbekistan to Khojand in Tajikistan. Early morning start as it is 2 hours plus to the border, but that gives us just amount of time to complete the forms needed for exiting Uzbekistan and re-entering later in the day. Gosh do these people love paperwork. We arrive at the border that you would think is straight out of the cold war. Barbed wire, soldiers and the inevitable line up. The locals have to wait for us and it still takes 90 minutes to process us out of Uzbekistan! Now our forms indicate not only how much money we arrived with but how much we are leaving with (remember we have to do this all again when we return). It also includes how many bags we have so even though we don't have our suitcases we have to put them on the form. Talk about a stupid waste of time. 3 Customs officers process us; one checks the forms, one checks our passports (we have already been checked at immigration) and one enters it into the ledger that should be renamed the doomsday book its so big. At last we take our walk across no mans land ( about 500 metres) to Tajikistan where they say Tourists? come on in. A perfunctory glance at our passports, a quick stamp and we are in Tajikistan.
We have also travelled back 200 years in doing so. It's about an hour from the border to Khojand and when we arrive it's just us tourists and the locals. A guided tour of the local museum by a woman whose English is remarkable but I'm sure she didn't take a breath the whole time.They have spent a ton of money on this museum but not sure who is going to visit it. Lunch is served in I think the only air conditioned restaurant in town (it's hot 37 Celcius) then onto the local bazaar for some Retail Therapy.
This is a local bazaar, no stuff from China here. Fruit, vegetables, nuts and to please the women a visit to the section where they make local dresses. It's remarkable that here the locals are as interested in us as much as we are in them. When we take a picture we have to show them the digital result which brings much laughter. The day soon comes to an end then it's back to the border where we are almost waved through on the Tajikistan side, walk the 500 metres and then, yes you got it, back to them looking at forms, scanning bags etc on the Uzbek side before walking to our bus some 90 minutes later.
Back to the hotel but tired.