Hitchhiking in Uzbekistan: road stories #17 – from Bukhara to Shahrisabz

Jon and Uzbek men in Bukhara, Uzbekistan - header

Staying in Bukhara: the emergency couchsurfing host and enjoying Uzbekistan’s most beautiful city

Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah, Bukhara, UzbekistanThe first thing to do was to take stock. We had been left hostless and it was dark, so we sought out a restaurant with wifi, had some food and sent out emergency couchsurfing requests in the slim hope somebody would be able to help us at least for the night. Whilst we were waiting, the place filled up with Spanish speakers so we passed the time trying to remember how to speak Spanish without throwing in Russian words all the time.

Just as we were about to give up hope our phone rang. Ruslan, an Uzbek by passport but a Ruslan's appartment, BukharaRussian by everything else, offered to put us up for the night in his abandoned apartment on the edge of town. He had just returned to the city of his birth after spending the last few years living in Moscow and only then so he could reapply for his passport ready to leave again. He was a super nice guy and was to prove a real help during our stay in the city. We spent the night on a single bed in a cold, run down flat but at least we had a roof over our heads and hot water on tap.

The next day we searched for a hostel, which disappointed us greatly as couchsurfing is always more fun, but it was cheap, centrally located and had everything you would expect. Plus we needed to get registered again (damn law!) so perhaps it was for the best.

We spent our time in Bukhara walking around and soaking up what was soon to become our favourite city in Uzbekistan. It didn’t take us long to agree that architecturally it was the most beautiful city we had visited on our trip so far. Similar to Khiva but more lived in, the city centre seemed like something out of a picture book and we were especially impressed with Char Minar, a gem that for some reason we fell in love with despite it being one of the lesser renowned attractions.

Hitchhiking to Shahrisabz: being gifted money, a sleepy tuck driver and a man with two wives

It had been lovely to relax in the surrounds of Bukhara but as always what lay in front of us beckoned us forth.

After negotiating a local bus to the city limits our first ride was one of those that reaffirms your faith in humanity. Two men and a women who were driving to the next village stopped and in we climbed. It was a pretty uneventful ride but when we got out we found bread and money being thrust into our hands. Being gifted money does happen to us occasionally but we always reject it, truthfully saying that we don’t need it, but this time they refused to take it back. We tried and tried but they were having none of it and drove off.

This is not the end, however, as 10 minutes later the driver was back, having dropped off his friends, and took us a little further along the road. Our driver, a Turkmen by ethnicity, also insisted in filling up our now depleted water bottles before eventually departing, this time for good. What a lovely bloke!

Next up, an Uzbek man listening to Uzbek and Russian music, he wasn’t really in the mood to chat. The next lift took us a long way and was with a truck transporting 7 tonnes of rice so as you can imagine that progress wasn’t fast. His Russian was worse than ours (and that’s saying something) and he kept calling his daughter to translate words. He had been driving for 15 hours straight and it did concern us a little that his head kept drooping but he was a nice guy though and we bade a friendly farewell.

We had been dropped off next to a roadside cafe that was teeming with people. We, feeling a bit peckish, popped in and we were soon surrounded by waiters who looked like they’d never seen a tourist before. Literally, 8 of them serving us at once!

Watered and fed we were on the road again. Two guys took us a little further on before we scored our final lift with a truck driver. The truck driver was a bit of an arse if truth be told. He refused to speak to Ania and he was quite proud of himself for having two wives, neither of which knew about the other one. Poor women! He did take us to the edge of Shahrisabz though so probably best not to moan too much.

Now, we had been unable to find a host in Shahrisabz, despite it being a UNESCO listed city, so we had done a bit of research before and found a cheap hostel that looked pretty central. Driving in though something was wrong, but that is a story for another day …

written by: Jon


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3 comments

  • Bukhara is one of the world’s more remarkable cities

  • Amazing, you’re right about this being one of less highlighted places to travel to among those constantly in the spotlight which are no longer gems for they have lost the glitter in the rise of commercialization.
    The glitter is all about the uniqueness of the culture and also that very part which forms their identity, in that very local way. It is sad to see how commercialization is robbing them of that very element which used to push them to fame :-(
    Love your articles and glad I found your site! :-)

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