I had a very good sleep in the yurt. When I got up at 8:15am everybody was already sitting at the breakfast table although there was more than one hour time until departure. Some people simple like to get up early but I’m definitely not one of them. Most mornings I need to fight myself out of bed after being woken up by either my alarm clock or fellow travelers. It’s rare I wake up by myself also because I’m usually one of the last ones going to bed. Therefore, I’m very efficient at breakfast and you often will find me arriving at the breakfast table 10min before departure quickly eating a tiny bit more because of rationality than of actual appetite.
At 9:30am we left for the Aydar Lake which is approx. 12 km away from the yurt camp. The lake was man-made during Soviet times when the Syr Darya River was dammed up. During the flooding it turned out the dam didn’t have a sufficient capacity and therefore the water flow was drained into lowlands and unintentionally formed the 250 km long and 15 km wide Aydar Lake, one of the largest in Uzbekistan. The country has no direct access to the sea and is dependent on crossing the territory of two countries on rivers before hitting the ocean. Therefore, seeing a huge lake and swimming in it is especially enjoyable.
For the drive to the lake we used the posh air-conditioned coach we hired for our journey from Bukhara to Samarkand. It feels really strange to see that huge coach in the middle of a basic yurt camp. While traveling overland I’m not used to so much comfort such as air-conditioning and spacious seats but in this heat it’s actually quite enjoyable. However, travelling by coach only works because we aren’t camping during our stay in Uzbekistan. But as soon as we enter Kyrgyzstan we will camp most of the nights for which we need our truck and its camping equipment. Therefore, we hope our driver / mechanic Sam and our truck are re-joining us no later than Tashkent.
Speaking of our truck named Archie, she used to be a 1983 cement mixer before being bought and re-constructed by the British overland company Dragoman I’m currently travelling with. The company operates approx. 30 of these trucks in Africa, South America and Asia. Each truck is equipped with camping gear, cooking equipment, a fridge, a large tank for drinking water which enables us to stay for a long time in the middle of nowhere. For me it’s the best choice when travelling large distances overland because we are independent from public transportation and can go to remote places.
When leaving the yurt camp this morning, I didn’t plan to go for a swim in the Aydar Lake since my neck is kind of cracked from sleeping without a pillow during our two nights camping in Turkmenistan. But when I saw the water and felt the heat of the day I couldn’t resist. Due to the change of plan I had no bikini with me so I walked a few meters to a more private beach where I went for a skinny-dip which was simply awesome. After returning from my swim I was chilling out with Kurt a fellow traveler from the US and our local guide Jelol. He and the bus driver had even set-up a sun-shield and so we could enjoy the heat without getting sunburned.
Around 12pm we returned to the yurt camp where we had fresh fish from the lake and rice for lunch. The fish, I think it was carp, was very delicious and only my mother can prepare it better. After lunch we continued our journey towards Samarkand where we arrived around 6pm. Our hotel was very centrally located not far away from the Registan Square, the heart of the city. Lauren, a fellow traveler from Australia, used the rare opportunity to go skating with the blinking roller-skates she has bought in Ashgabat which attracted the attention of the locals. My body was still fighting against the cracked neck so I had an early night to catch up on sleep.