October 22, 2012
The journey along the A-380 highway from Bukhara to Khiva was one of the longest stretches of driving we did on this trip. The distance between the two cities is only 285 miles, but the journey took us a grueling 9.5 hours due to the state of the highway, which wasn’t quite a highway at the time, but rather a packed sand and gravel road through the Kyzyl Kum desert. The highway was undergoing a major reconstruction project at the time (and probably still is, since the vast majority of workers spent their time waving at all the passing vehicles!) and so was in a particularly sorry state. A German company had won the contract to rebuild the road, and the portions of the road they had completed allowed us to quickly pass through the desert. Once we reached the under construction part, however, it was a slow, bumpy ride for hour upon hour. Despite the air-conditioned bus and tinted windows, the heat from the midday sun seeped through. The landscape was similar to the desert I had grown up in, with the exception that civilization in the Kyzyl Kum seemed non-existent, with the exception of the occasional construction crews and stray dogs that lazed in the shade of concrete barriers.
Aside from the desert landscape, signs of the New Great Game abounded along this highway through the desert. We passed dozens of large Willi Betz tractor trailers driven by Eastern Europeans, transporting supplies for over 3,000 miles from Riga, Latvia to the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Supposedly these trucks only transport “non-lethal” supplies to Afghanistan, so I wondered what they were bringing to my military friends serving there. Bars of soap? Boxes of Frosted Flakes? Cases of Red Bull?
In other areas we passed huge fields of new pipeline that, once installed, will transport Turkmen and Uzbek natural gas to Europeans. While to many this is merely steel pipe, it was of great interest to me. I wrote my graduate school dissertation on these “New Great Game” pipelines and briefly worked in the oil and gas industry afterward, so to see this in action, outside the confines of boring technical journal articles, was fascinating.
Where the good road ends and the bad begins.
Over the Amu Darya River
Cemetery with tombs above the ground due to the high water table of this river valley
We arrived in Khiva in the early evening, with enough time for a quick walk before dinner.
One of the city gates of Khiva’s “Itchan Kala”, the walled inner town.
Cutting boards for sale
As the sun began to set we climbed up to a viewpoint for a panorama of the city. It was beautiful.
This little kid asked me to take a photo, so I obliged.
Just goofing around
Goodnight, Khiva. See you in the morning.