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The 5 Stans of the Silk Road

OZDUCK

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Re dragging bags around. We were warned by the trip notes that there would be one border crossing that would involve a long walk through a 'neutral zone', and it may be hot at the same time.

The long walk came to pass (about a km), but it wasn't hot, although it could have been. Fortunately in this case the surface was pretty smooth. All border crossings involved some walking across neutral zones, and nearly always this involved some rough and uneven surfaces (as in multi-patched bitumen-paved surfaces, potholes, cracks, gutters, cobbles etc) and some steps (up and down into checkpoint buildings). A couple of times we had to contend with stretches of gravel.

The lady I helped a couple of times had a four-wheeler, which I definitely wouldn't recommend and it was pretty heavy. No-one else had this combination and I don't think there was much drama elsewhere. Its a group of 16 and someone will always help.

I had a large, heavy bag AND a carry-on sized bag :oops:

Re being on your own occasionally. On the transport, except for a couple of days in the 4WDs, you'll always be able to sit by yourself - there are plenty of spare seats. All of the 'singles', and occasionally the couples did this on this tour. But at lunches, and many dinners, its a group thing. Many dinners are 'do your own thing' though and I know John and I sometimes skipped lunch to wander about either by ourselves or separately. And you can get a single room of course. After a couple of days, everyone got to know each other and if at that point you said 'I may not be sociable today', I reckon people will understand. Like I said, the participants are mainly experienced group travelers and will know what you are about.
One thing that I have never quite got right in my mind (with my mind that is easy) is why is there such a large desolate strip on these borders. Does the road just end short of the border on both sides? Were there enough "wars" between the various 'Stans" after the demise of the USSR that relations are still very frosty? Or is it some sort of leftover from the Soviet days?
 

JohnM

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Good question. I wondered the same myself. Rooy may have an idea.

It may have just been the result of where they could most easily build and they were thinking more about vehicles (especially trucks) crossing.
 

cgichard

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It's not just the distance and road surface but the lack of facilities. The group I was with some years ago crossed from Turkmenistan into Iran at the crossing nearest to the "Holy City" of Mashad. We arrived on the Iranian side just as the border staff went to lunch for a couple of hours. Nowhere to sit down, no shade, no toilets (except behind a meagre bush for those who were desperate)!
 
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RooFlyer

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Good question. I wondered the same myself. Rooy may have an idea.
Yes, good question. Both sides of Uzbekistan were the ones with long 'no man's land' (abt a km). Between Turkmenistan and Uz, there were little shuttle vans to take pax and luggage to the actual border half-way and the respective control points. Between Uz and Tajikistan, it was a walk. The other borders were maybe 50-100m of no mans land. Still longer and more formal (fences and gates) than other land borders I've done recently, which were also former Soviet Union - Albania/Macedonia, Macedonia/Kosovo, Macedonia/Bulgaria.

I wonder if, during the Soviet Union days, there was a hard border or not? if not, the current border lay-outs around Uzbekistan might have just have been what was thrown up at the time. Uzbek has had bad relations with Tajikistan over the years, so maybe they reflexively put a large no-mans land in to minimise the opportunity to catch baddies between the stations.
 

OZDUCK

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Yes, good question. Both sides of Uzbekistan were the ones with long 'no man's land' (abt a km). Between Turkmenistan and Uz, there were little shuttle vans to take pax and luggage to the actual border half-way and the respective control points. Between Uz and Tajikistan, it was a walk. The other borders were maybe 50-100m of no mans land. Still longer and more formal (fences and gates) than other land borders I've done recently, which were also former Soviet Union - Albania/Macedonia, Macedonia/Kosovo, Macedonia/Bulgaria.

I wonder if, during the Soviet Union days, there was a hard border or not? if not, the current border lay-outs around Uzbekistan might have just have been what was thrown up at the time. Uzbek has had bad relations with Tajikistan over the years, so maybe they reflexively put a large no-mans land in to minimise the opportunity to catch baddies between the stations.

Thanks for the thoughts - the reasons for these border crossings still seems to be a bit of a mystery.
 

Mr H

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I'd love to go back. This is my dream itinerary, but in reality I'd be happy with Ashgabat to Tashkent, to see NW Uzbekistan, which was a major omission from the '5 Stans' tour. See you there!

View attachment 190681
Great TR.

I did a 47 day tour of Central Asia with Dragoman from July-September this year. Your dream itinerary looks good, but you make a major omission in not going along the Pamir Highway along the Tajik-Afghan border and up into Sary Tash in the Kyrgyz Republic. If you thought the places you were felt remote, the Pamir Highway takes it to the next level.
 

JohnM

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Great TR.

I did a 47 day tour of Central Asia with Dragoman from July-September this year. Your dream itinerary looks good, but you make a major omission in not going along the Pamir Highway along the Tajik-Afghan border and up into Sary Tash in the Kyrgyz Republic. If you thought the places you were felt remote, the Pamir Highway takes it to the next level.
The Pamir Highway sounds the goods, but it's not possible to do everything. This trip was 23 days; you had 47. That's a big difference.

We crossed paths with the Dragoman truck at Lake Iskanderkul and had a chat with the peeps and a look in the vehicle.
 

RooFlyer

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Great TR.

I did a 47 day tour of Central Asia with Dragoman from July-September this year. Your dream itinerary looks good, but you make a major omission in not going along the Pamir Highway along the Tajik-Afghan border and up into Sary Tash in the Kyrgyz Republic. If you thought the places you were felt remote, the Pamir Highway takes it to the next level.
I agree, but I'm afraid I need a bit more comfort than Dragoman - as JohnM said, we checked them over at one common stop we had. But if I could organise a private driver for maybe a week, I'd be there in a flash.
 

Mr H

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I agree, but I'm afraid I need a bit more comfort than Dragoman - as JohnM said, we checked them over at one common stop we had. But if I could organise a private driver for maybe a week, I'd be there in a flash.
I remember your group looking over the truck; not sure whether I spoke to you and/or John but I remember talking about how much I had enjoyed the trip and the itinerary. But I agree that the overland truck is the Achilles heel. They may be great for off-road safaris in Africa, but they are not comfortable, not air conditioned, not heated and are very bad at dealing with poor roads. Our truck bounced at the slightest bump and when we had to go at walking speed (or so it felt), the people carriers were able to zip by. And when the road got really bad, we had to switch to UAZ Bukhankas anyway. I'd still do the whole thing again in a heartbeat.
 

RooFlyer

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I remember your group looking over the truck;
This was on about the 28 or 29 of August at Lake Isanderkul? :) JohnM was the taller, thinner guy - I was the, er, other who held back a bit. You obviously weren't following my TR then ;). Would love to see some pics of that part of Tajikistan, and elsewhere, if you can (mini TR??)
 

Mr H

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This was on about the 28 or 29 of August at Lake Isanderkul? :) JohnM was the taller, thinner guy - I was the, er, other who held back a bit. You obviously weren't following my TR then ;). Would love to see some pics of that part of Tajikistan, and elsewhere, if you can (mini TR??)
Maybe one day. Meanwhile here's me on the main road from the Kyrgyz Republic to the Gorno-Badakhshan Oblast in Tajikistan.

69599433_10158656202239348_4735001586126815232_n.jpg
 

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