The end of the road
The morning of the 15th of June was spent with our new student/teacher friends buying the ingredients for a traditional "plov" meal. This involved a trip to the food market and very careful selection of just the right type of rice and meat. At 15:00 our escort of students (in a hired mini-van) arrived to leads us, all in Kon-Tiki, out of town to a mountain "resort" called Ata Imam. Here we rented a "pitch" (an eating platform under the trees) and gave our ingredients to a cook who prepared the plov in a large metal cauldron over a wood fire. The result was a splendid meal and evening's entertainment. Recommended (ask Alex).
The 16th was spent with visits to markets and general mechanical tidying up. A week ago Kon-Tiki's windscreen had become cracked (don't ask) and one of the students mentioned that in Andijan there was at least one company that specialized in "fixing" cracked windscreens. In spite of considerable skepticism all round Les decided to give it a try. The result was impressive! The treatment consisted of drilling a small (2mm?) hole at the end of each crack and injecting a UV curing resin into the crack. The result (so far) is that the crack has stopped spreading and is far less visible.
The 17th was devoted to an official tour of Andijan lead by a retired ex-Intourist guide (done largely to placate the hotel tourist office). Not a great success.
If our visas for Kyrgyzstan had been valid before the 20th of June we would not have spent so long in Andijan. If Andijan had been more interesting we would have stayed in town. If our Intourist guide had been more creative we might have found more to do in Andijan. But, scraping the bottom of the barrel, we decided that rather than stay in the calm but boring car park of our hotel for one more day we would go on a short excursion to the 8th century mud fort of Mug Tepe.
The decision was neither unanimous nor very enthusiastic. Because the manager of the hotel was late we set off late. It was hot. We got stopped by the police for an hour and a half for no discernible reason (but I blame...). The mud fort was, as expected, a fortress made of mud. Some of us examined it for 20 minutes. It was made of hot mud. We decided to wild camp early. We decided to take the minor roads back towards Andijan. We got lost. There was nowhere to camp. It got later, but not cooler. There was still nowhere to camp. Eventually we confirmed that we were lost by coming to the literal end of the road. It first grew narrow, then turned to dirt and finally stopped at a metal gate leading to a cemetery. We stopped and camped at "the end of the road" (by a village that was quite unprepared for the landing of five alien spaceships.)
The children (around 40 of them) sat in a circle and stared at us. We sat in our deck chairs and ignored the children. The adults were mostly very friendly but as our Russian is very limited and their English, French and German was non-existent very little was communicated. The Village was only a few kilometers from the Kyrgyzstan border. It remained hot till it got dark. The children drifted away.
At midnight a couple of policemen arrived and asked for papers. Les placated them and they left telling us to go to sleep. We did. At 02:00 they returned in force. Several cars, three or more police, lots of local elders, many hangers-on, and this time an English speaking interpreter. They selected Womble's door to bang on. Maureen was definitely not amused.
This time Les (in his pajamas) did not placate them. He told them off! He explained the difference between "terrorists" and "tourists". He told them we were tourists. He told them to go away and let us sleep. As a small concession he agreed to let them look at his passport (but not have it) at 07:00 in five hours time. Very unexpectedly they agreed and left.
They actually returned at about 05:30 (before Les was up) and calm was restored. The police copied our passport and vehicle information into a book and most of them left. The interpreter, who turned out to be an English teacher at Cartak Special Secondary school (a local "grammar" school) and one policeman remained to guide us back to the main road. The teacher agreed to show us his school, but the tour had to be very quick as today (at 08:00) was examination day (they were taking the "eleven plus" - the top 10% will get into the Special School.). The school was clean, well equipped and recently painted. The courtyard was full of nervous, would-be, pupils waiting to sit the examination (and some parents providing moral support).
We decide to by-pass Andijan and camp at a wine factory near the border ready for an early start. Unfortunately the wine factory turned out not to allow visits, not to allow wine tasting, and not to sell wine.
We decided to return to a large fuel station (alas without diesel) and asked to park there for the night. This turned out to be a good decision. The fuel station is about 30km from Osh at Khojaabad on the main Andijan to Osh road (still in Uzbekistan at N40°42.1804' E072°31.8907') and is called "AS Servis". The manager is Baterhof Delsod (Phone +998 712 24-88-66). The fuel station has extensive parking round the sides, with water and toilets. There is also a small cafe/restaurant (not yet open). They are very keen to become a modern day "caravanserai" on the overland route to China. To compensate for the lack of a restaurant the manager arranged a free meal in the open with large quantities of wine, champagne, beer and vodka. Carl danced. Even a couple of police from the neighboring checkpoint turned up and were duly introduced, thus obviating the need for a 02:00 visit! Expect to pay around $5USA per van per night, without free meals. Recommended.
We left for the border at 06:00 in order to meet "Victor" (Jenishbek Ajimamatov) from Kyrgyzstan Tourism at the Kyrgyzstan side of the border at 09:00. However the border formalities were so quick and friendly that we were through by 08:10! However the border formalities were so quick and friendly that we were through by 08:10 (in case you missed it)! The only expense being a "pollution" tax on entering Kyrgyzstan of $10USA for diesel vehicles. It seemed important to stress that we were tourists and intended to export our vehicles.
We met "Victor" at 08:50 and were taken to a choice of parking places, of which more later.
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