May 2, 2013
It’s not often that one gets such good news first thing in the morning. But I did that day. Just as I was about to start trolling the streets looking for backpackers to share the taxi ride to 1000 year old fortresses, Max walked in. He explained when he met up with the Czech women, he felt very unwelcome and didn’t want to spend several days with them. So, rather than put his things in the taxi, he picked up his bags, said goodbye (to which there was no response), and came back. Having to people look for two other tourist, seemed much more likely now, so we went out and started looking. Nothing. We went to other hotels and the tourist office, nothing. It seemed that everyone had either already been, not interested, or planning on going tomorrow. Wasting another day in Khiva just to see the fortresses wasn’t worth it to me. The one fortunate outcome was that I met the first American backpackers on this trip. Boyfriend and girlfriend from NYC. Somehow, meeting them made me feel validated.
I also ended up having a conversation with Wendy, a Kiwi pushing 70 who lives and works part time in London doing financial advising. She had seen most of Central Asia in the late 60’s and 70’s, including Afghanistan in ’72, and was back to see the changes. Once a backpacker herself, she says that she has given over to the tour bus the pas
t few years. Who can blame her at that age? Backpacking is hard work, and I tip my hat to the fact that she did it for so long. Another inspirational figure.
With neither of us having success trying to network ourselves to a full taxi, we had lunch and went to Urgench to get transportation to our next cities. Max was headed to Nukus to see what little there is left of the Aral Sea. I had a terrible time getting a train ticket. I argued with the woman about the cost because the ticket to Bukhara was nearly as expensive as traveling twice the distance to get there. I went to another line, got quoted the same thing, went back to apologize to the woman, paid, and got out of there. I now had 4 hours to kill in a town with really nothing to offer, so I wandered into town and parked myself in an internet cafe until it was time to go.
This time, my cabin mates were a mother and her two small children. I had bought chocolate covered biscuits to share with them and they offered some summer sausage and bread in return. It was hot and stuffy in the cabin, but once the train started it felt better inside. Despite eating and drinking water my heart was still racing and I was exhausted, so I passed out before sundown. I woke up that night to go to the bathroom and realized that my legs were achy.