Ping-pong at the borders
“What are you doing here, guys? How come they (the Turkmen border officials) did let you in? This is an infringement and a big problem for you” we heard from a strict Uzbek border official. “You better head back to Turkmenistan and go the border crossing which is stated in your visa. Only in case the Turkmens don’t let you back in, come back here”” he continued.
We did not have any other chance then to accept the role of a ping-pong ball in the game of the two teams of border officials. Although only few dozen metres far away from each other, they clearly do not communicate with each other.
Our smile started to fade away as we heard from the Turkmen officials saying to us “well guys, we could let you in but if you don’t make till tomorrow over the desert to the other border, your visas expire and the only solution is deportation.” To make it in time meant we would have to drive approximately 1200 kilometres through the whole Turkmenistan, or 400 kilometres along the Karakum Desert on the road which (according to some people we spoke to) doesn’t exist. “And what about sending us back to Uzbekistan?” we tried to save ourselves. And it was a successful try. Of course, on the Uzbek side we had to listen to a lecture on “The Necessity of following the itinerary prescribed in your visas”. During the lecture we also learned that according to this itinerary we will have to leave Uzbekistan to Kazachstan. Although we definitely did not intend to go to Kazakhstan, for the moment we didn’t express any disagreement. Also, from the Uzbek borders officials we learnt another key phrase for solving of border issues – “to consult via telephone the superior management on the issue”.
Buchara and Samarkand – gems of the Silk Road
In today´s Uzbekistan some of the most important Islamic empires of the Middle Ages used to have their Capitals. And they left a lot to see. Definitely more then we could make in two days which remained from our transit visa after crossing of the borders. After a night ride along the Kyzylkum Desert we headed to Buchara. The pictures in guidebooks do not lie – the buildings here are very impressive. Importantly, although there is quite a number of tourists the town has still its own atmosphere.
After seeing a few sights in Buchara our sight-seeing rush continued in Samarkand. We checked quickly our filming notes in OneNote and tried to catch at least some nice light. It´s definitely a good idea to come to the Registan complex earlier then 40 minutes before the closing time. In this way you save money for bribing the guards to let you in and you have more time to enjoy the courtyards of one of the madrasas here. However, one thing for which it is worth to pay a bribe is the “permission” to climb to the top of the minaret. As darkness was setting over Samarkand another person – a nice doctor from Tashkent – climbed to the top too. To our surprise, we learnt that the Czech Republic has “a very good president which pay visits to this region”.
On the way to the green land
After another night on bumpy roads to the north we passed the Capital – Taskent. Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit the city. We entered the Fergana Valley – a wide fertile valley between Tian Šan and the foothills of Pamir. This is an area rich with culture and ethnics and is located in three countries – Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The Eastern part of the Uzbek Fergana was repeatedly the epi-centre of opposition and small riots against the autocratic Uzbek regime. That is why police check points are more frequent here. At every check point we handed over our passports little bit worried that the policemen would notice that according to the itinerary on our visas we were not allowed to drive here and we should be heading to Kazachstan instead. This mistake was made by the Uzbek embassy which issued our visas. We tried to consult the Czech embassy on the issue. Although we did not get any solution from the Czech embassy at least we would not lie when we will say that “superior management has been consulted via telephone on this issue”. Therefore, after arriving to the borders, we remained calm when hearing “this is an infringement and a big problem for you” for a couple of times. The sun was setting, our visas expiring in a few hours and the border closing in a while and we kept on repeating the new phrase. “I hope they won’t send us back to Taskent, dude”. They did not. We were even able to persuade them that our Green Insurance Card is simply “international” although, as follows from its back side, Uzbekistan clearly isn’t among the countries covered by it.
During a thorough check of our smart Lumias and Tough Book Panasonic the border guards did not identify any harmful content, i.e. in particular any radical-left political stuff or any pornographic content. Hence, the only seized thing was a tasty German “wurst” eaten by one of the border officials.
Glad that the border crossing hassles are behind us for the moment we entered Kyrgyzstan. In this country of mountains and horses we should spend the next couple of weeks.
You can find further news from our journey here https://instagram.com/microsoftcz