With its toughest border crossing behind it the Journey of Discovery rolled into Uzbekistan at 2.30am with the need for sleep at the top of everyone’s agenda. Underlining the warm hospitality that’s been obvious to the Journey of Discovery team over the entire trip, a Uzbekistan family allowed the crew to sleep in their home. The cosy awakening and warm tea was not echoed outside though, where blizzards made for a chilling start to the Uzbekistan leg of the Journey of Discovery.
With the Discoverys’ climate control system turned up to full heat and the heated seats and steering wheels switched to on, the Journey of Discovery team weren’t cold for long as they set off on their route through Uzbekistan. Livestock has been a familiar roadside view, but the Journey of Discovery did find the sight of camels running along the road an unusual one, noting via the Discovery’s speedometer that they were maintaining a fair pace at 42km/h (26mph).
Like those camels the Discoverys are well equipped to go long distances between fuel stops, though even with additional fuel cans Uzbekistan did create some fuel woes. It seems you can buy everything at a Uzbek truck stop, including fresh fish, though fuel is something of a premium. Ask the right questions though and it’s possible to get some petrol, even if the 80 octane fuel isn’t exactly the finest brew.
Fully fuelled the Journey of Discovery crew set off for the Aral Sea, a gargantuan seabed that was created 50 years ago when a network of irrigation canals diverted river water that fed the sea into surrounding cotton fields. Long abandoned rusting boats, with their hulls resting on sand rather than water now remain stranded on what was once the world’s fourth largest inland sea. Camping out under the stars, the Journey of Discovery would have its second cold awakening in as many days, as frost covered the windscreens and iced the insides of the tents.
Sunrise brought reprieve from the chill, the Land Rover team heading for an unlikely cultural destination in the town of Nukus. Within it is the Savitsky Art Gallery, a cultural jewel in the Uzbekistan desert. Containing one of the world’s largest collections of avant-garde Soviet art this fascinating collection would previously have attracted the wrong attention from the KGB due to its subversive nature. With 90,000 artworks, the Savitsky Art Gallery is a fascinating diversion from the Journey of Discovery drive and a huge surprise in such a remote part of the world.
Exquisite Islamic architecture and widescreen desert panoramas fused together as the Journey of Discovery pushed relentlessly into central Uzbekistan to join one of the world’s most famous trails. Khiva, one of Asia’s greatest cities, revealed a gloriously preserved labyrinth of mosques, palaces and bazaars, frescoed with dazzling tiles.
From Khiva and after 6,250 miles the Journey of Discovery picked up one of the world’s most famous routes – the Silk Road. For 150km (93 miles) the original Silk Road’s route changes from freshly re-surfaced road to cavernous potholes and steep sandy banks; terrain that’s effortlessly shrugged off by the Discoverys on the way to Bukhara.
This portion of the Journey of Discovery is one that’s been defined by some stunning and ancient cities. In Bukhara, one of the main trading hubs on the Silk Road, the Journey of Discovery stopped to visit a spice shop with over 600 years of trading. Remaining family-owned, Silk Road Spices is filled with exotic herbs and spices from India, China and Sri Lanka. The secrets of its speciality health teas have been passed down through generations by word of mouth. Mirfayz, â€˜the spice master’, created a bespoke blend for the drivers, to help them remain alert and safe for the remainder of the drive to Beijing.
Leaving Bukhara the Journey of Discovery headed to its third amazing city in as many days. Samarkand represented something of a turning point in the journey; the temperature rising, the terrain changing from flat to mountainous and desert to grass.
After that the two-lane highway towards Tashkent proved a pleasant change, the team taking an unusual tour of the Uzbek capital with a local celebrity, one-time boy band member and musician, Karen Gafurdjanov. At his Elvis cafÃ© he serenaded the Journey of Discovery team, giving renditions of old favourites. The Journey of Discovery now rolls on towards the Kazakhstan border as Beijing looms ever closer on the horizon.
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