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Panoramas of the remaining Stans (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan)

Posted on 23 Nov 2013 | 6 comments

We’ve already shown you our favourite panoramas of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and below are the author’s selection from the remaining Stans on our trip. They are all very different, so the contrast between the panoramas of these neighbouring countries might surprise you as much as it did us.

Tajikistan is a country of rugged mountains, deserted valleys and roads, snow-covered peaks, crystal-clear raging mountain streams and incredible, often overwhelming hospitality.

Uzbekistan stands out with its famous trio of ancient silk road towns full of mosques, minarets, medrassas and mausoleums decorated with beautiful blue mosaic tiles. It also stood out with consistently serving the the worst food of the trip (somebody had to say it) even though we had our best breakfasts here, pretty decent drops of wine, fantastic handicrafts and is unfortunately the home of the biggest recent environmental disaster in the world. It was also the only country where we stayed in hotels more than we camped due to the old USSR registration rules.

Turkmenistan of all the former USSR states retains the strongest feel of a police state. You are not allowed to take photos of the brand new white marbled buildings in the capital and people are forced to leave their homes to make space for shiny, new apartment buildings, all of white marble of course. It is also home to the biggest campfire in the world, one of the world’s biggest deserts, the forefathers of the thoroughbreds of today and some seriously amazing carpets. It also knows how to make people feel incredibly welcome and people are genuinely friendly, generous and helpful.

Enjoy the contrasts!

Tajikistan – Lake Kara-kul

Tajikistan – Lake Kara-kul

A beautiful lake created by a meteor impact 10 million years ago, situated at 4000m altitude just across the border from Kyrgyzstan. Whilst we had beautiful weather everything froze overnight.

Tajikistan – Lake Kara-kul

Tajikistan – Lake Kara-kul

As it was a beautiful, sunny and wind still day at Lake Kara-kul, we couldn’t resist going out for a quick paddle enjoying the silence and snow capped peaks.

Tajikistan – Shor-kul lake

Tajikistan – Shor-kul lake

Another beautiful lake along the Pamir Highway. The snow covered peaks in the distance are in China. We set up camp right on its shores, amazed to see mosquitos at 3,750m. Later we were treated to a spectacular moon rise.

Tajikistan – Lake Yashil Kul

Tajikistan – Lake Yashil Kul

Yashil-Kul means ‘green lake’ and the contrast with the desert of the central Pamirs is striking. An exciting 4WD track leads to two ancient stone circles, estimated to be 4000 years old, where we had morning tea for Jude’s birthday.

Tajikistan – Zong

Tajikistan – Zong

After hiking up the hill to see the fortress (built in the 12th century to guard this branch of the Silk Road from Afghan and Chinese invaders) we were rewarded with this view across the Wakhan Valley. The mountains on the far side of the river are in Afghanistan.

Tajikistan – Khaaka Fortress

Tajikistan – Khaaka Fortress

The track to the impressive Khaaka Fortress went through this apricot orchard in beautiful autumn colours.

Tajikistan – Bartang Valley

Tajikistan – Bartang Valley

View upriver from the pulley bridge where we crossed to start our hike up the Gisev Valley, visible on the far right of the panorama. The clear waters of the Gisev stream are still visible before they mix in with the milky white waters in the Bartang Valley.

Tajikistan – Gisev Valley

Tajikistan – Gisev Valley

Our host village was hard at work in preparation for the coming winter months.

Tajikistan – Iskander Kul Lake

Tajikistan – Iskander Kul Lake

We sat on this tiny beach for a few hours, enjoying our lunch, the views, a wash and a good book. The President’s dacha (holiday house) is just along the shoreline.

Tajikistan – Penjakent

Tajikistan – Penjakent

This is ancient Penjakent, which made for an atmospheric campsite. New Penjakent, where we had Lara’s fuel tank welded, is located at the foot of this hill, invisible from the historic site.

Tajikistan – Seven Lakes

Tajikistan – Seven Lakes

This is the 7th lake of the chain of seven lakes in the eastern Fan Mountains, located furthest up the valley at the end of the steep 4WD track. From here only a small walking trail continues past the lake and into the next stunning valley.

Tajikistan – Alauddin Pass

Tajikistan – Alauddin Pass

The stunning blue Alauddin Lakes in the Fan Mountains are just visible from the pass (3850m) located a 1000m above. We had lunch at the pass before descending into the Kulikalon Valley.

Uzbekistan – Samarkand

Uzbekistan – Samarkand

The stunning Gur-e-Amir mausoleum in Samarkand is the final resting place of Timur the Great (also kown as Tamerlane), whose empire stretched from India to Turkey. He died in 1405 whilst invading China. This was our first blue mosaic tiled building and we fell in love with it.

Uzbekistan – Samarkand

Uzbekistan – Samarkand

The famous Registan in Samarkand, a beautiful square with 3 medrassas (Islamic schools) built around it between 1400 and 1600. The proportions of the buildings and overload of beautiful blue tiles make for a fitting centerpiece for such a famous city.

Uzbekistan – Ellis Qala (50 forts)

Uzbekistan – Ellis Qala (50 forts)

We only visited 5 or 6 of the 50 forts. Ayaz Qala, from the 6th century was one of the most impressive ones. Amazing that, after 1500 years, the mud brick walls are still standing.

Uzbekistan – Khiva

Uzbekistan – Khiva

This historic silk road town, completely surrounded by fortified mud brick walls, reached its heyday in the 16th century. It was a delight to walk around in the inner area of the town filled with old houses, mosques, medrassas, museums and shops.

Uzbekistan – Khiva

Uzbekistan – Khiva

The Juma mosque in Khiva is unusual because its roof is supported by 218 wooden pillars, in a design more often seen in the Middle East, but not in Central Asia. Around 7 or so original wooden pillars are still standing after 1000 years.

Uzbekistan – Aral Sea

Uzbekistan – Aral Sea

Cows now venture into what once was a sea to find their food.

Uzbekistan – Aral Sea

Uzbekistan – Aral Sea

The wrong kind of ships of the desert…

Turkmenistan – Ashgabat

Turkmenistan – Ashgabat

Unfortunately we didn’t take many panoramas in Turkmenistan, but this one shows the new grandiose style of Ashgabat. Taken from the front steps of an enormous mosque, which can hold 10.000 people, you can see the tomb of Turkmenbasi (self-proclaimed father of the Turkmens) on the left. He was a mad dictator whose priority appeared to be renaming the months of the year and days of the week after members of his family. He built much of extravagant white marbled Ashgabat using precious gas revenues. Fortunately, his successor appears slightly less flamboyant.

6 Comments

  1. Photos of my dreams…. I want to visit the stans so much!

    • You should go! It’s amazing, we loved it and I’m sure you will too.

  2. Fraaie beelden! Welkom in Europa!

    • Dank jullie wel, nog een paar weken onderweg. Nu in Turkije, bijna in Pamukale. Binnenkort kunnen we ‘We zijn er bijna, we zijn er bijna, maar nog niet helemaal, helemaal’ weer uit het vet halen!

  3. Love your work Jon and Jude, great pics. I’m glad to see the Sevvy is still getting the occasional run though I would have like to see it out on the Aral too ;-). Speaking of which, did I mention that we managed to pop ours in Kununurra… apparently you shouldn’t leave it out of the water, fully inflated and in full sun on a 44 degree day. Who would have known?

    Hope you are both well. I can’t believe the year is almost over, but I’m sure you are both feeling the same. Enjoy the relatively easy run through Europe.

    • Oh noo!! Bugger. Did it explode big time or can you fix it? All very well here and still loving it. Hopefully see you in a few months when we get back to Oz at some point… Did you have a good birthday? We didn’t have access to FB so had to send an ‘old fashioned’ email 🙂 Big hug, J&Jx

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