From the Sea to the Mountains

After a rushed week of visa hassles, decrepit Soviet cargo ships, and a series of overnight trains across Turkmenistan (our visa only gave us 5 days to cross the country), we crossed into Uzbekistan and rattled northeast to Bukhara, a beautiful and gritty Silk Road waypoint. The Caspian was our last tenuous connection to obvious representatives of the hydrologic cycle, and leaving the ferry terminal we were staring east into the planet’s largest mass of land untouched by the water of the sea. From the sea, we now trace a line across endless desert and oasis to the base of the next great range, the Tien Shan.

The Soviet-era cargo ship Dagestan took us safely across the Caspian in 15 hours, a record crossing for the rusty train ferry.
The Soviet-era cargo ship Dagestan took us safely across the Caspian in 15 hours, a record crossing for the rusty train ferry.
Our canvas backgammon board proved its worth once again in the cramped cabin of the Turkmenabat to Ashgabat overnight train.  The crusty gray-haired Red Army paratrooper we shared our cabin with didn't speak a word of English, but he sure could roll a pair of dice.
Our canvas backgammon board proved its worth once again in the cramped cabin of the Turkmenabat to Ashgabat overnight train. The crusty gray-haired Red Army paratrooper we shared our cabin with didn’t speak a word of English, but he sure could roll a pair of dice.
Uzbek single-track.
Uzbek single-track.
Bukhara has a gritty, inhabited feel to it: people walk freely through occasionally crumbling medieval monuments, groceries in hand, while shop keepers hawk wares from under the domes of ancient bazaars.  With no tourists about in mid-winter, we were able to wander undistracted through the madrases, mausoleums, and mosques.  Here, the Po-i Kaylan ("Foot of the Great") complex, showing the minaret of the Kaylan mosque and the turquoise dome of the Mir-i Arab Madrasah.
Bukhara has a gritty, inhabited feel to it: people walk freely through occasionally crumbling medieval monuments, groceries in hand, while shop keepers hawk wares from under the domes of ancient bazaars. With no tourists about in mid-winter, we were able to wander undistracted through the madrases, mausoleums, and mosques. Here, the Po-i Kaylan (“Foot of the Great”) complex, showing the minaret of the Kaylan mosque and the turquoise dome of the Mir-i Arab Madrasah.
Leaving Bukhara, we pedaled by the Ark, or central fortress, stopping for our photo op close to the spot the scheming Stoddard and Connolly were executed by the Emir a century and a half ago.
Leaving Bukhara, we pedaled by the Ark, or central fortress, stopping for our photo op close to the spot the scheming Stoddard and Connolly were executed by the Emir a century and a half ago.

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