Thursday, 31 July 2014

planning started in earnest

Winston Churchill once said 'Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential' so I've decided not to have a plan but to start planning.  Not sure whether this make sense but if someone like Winston said this then you have to listen, don't you?

Anyway, before finding Albert and making the decision to actually drive to Mongolia and back I was looking at routes and going through what other people had done in previous years and decided that Uzbekistan sounded like a good place to visit on holiday as I hadn't been there and if Steve Davey thought it was worth running a photographic trip there then that was good enough for me.  So holiday booked and promptly forgotten about until I actually took the plunge, bought Albert and started to take the whole adventure a little more seriously at which time I decided to change the whole holiday thing into a recce for things to come and start planning (obviously not to create a plan) how to get from Turkmenistan to the start of the Pamir Highway in Dunshenbe, Tajikistan.

The Uzbekistan itinery was to fly from Tashkent to Urgench then travel by road to Khiva, Urgench, Bokhara, Nurata, Samarkand and back to Tashkent.  Since my mate Nick of Endeavour Overland also follows this route on his Silk Road overland trip and this looks pretty much the route Steve is taking on his photographic tour it seemed to me that this was the way to go.

Uzbekistan Holiday Route
When looking at this route it was clear that including Tashkent in the route for our trip to Mongolia was going to add significant travel to get back to Dushanbe to pick up the Pamir Highway also Tashkent is a major city and the most interesting historical sites are on the rest of the route so while including Smarkand does increase the distance travelled I think Sarah would want to visit and so the proposed route for next year would be to go to Dushanbe from Samarkand.  So am planning the following route through Uzbekistan.

Proposed Uzbekistan Route
All looks straight forward I hear you say and I suppose on the face of it it is.  But whilst for the most part the roads were reasonably OK with one or two rough parts there seem to be a number of 'challenges' that need to be overcome which I have a feeling will be common to most of Central Asia.  These are;
  1. There seems to be a distinct lack of road signs both on the motorways linking cities but even in the cities these seem to be missing for the most part.  I didn't see any in Khiva or Urgench!
  2. Where there were signs most of them were in Cyrillic and as such couldn't be read so may as well not actually be there.  Uzbekistan is moving to the Latin alphabet so some signs were readable but my the time you worked out what the sign said and you needed to turn right you had already missed the turning.
  3. Petrol stations were few and far between and whilst there was a choice of; Dizel, Gaz (LPG), Benzin (Petrol) or all of the above most of the stations outside of the cities seemed to be shut most of the time.
A seemingly unused Gaz station
A filling station of some sort definitely looks shut

Definitely closed petrol station there were cobwebs on the petrol pumps!
Anyway what I have learnt is that I need to make sure Sarah learns Russian before we go, we need to fill up in cities and to make sure we know where we are going before we get there.  So still a little more work to do in the planning area but off to a good start I think.