Tashkent to Turkistan

Leaving the brothel/hostel/whatever the fuck that place was actually, turned out to be a little dramatic. We’d grown attached to it in a way, to the point where going down to the receptionist office to ask for hot water for coffee, resulted in an ass slap from the middle-aged babushka administrator. That being said, it was time to board the “sweat train” to Turkistan, Kazakhstan – our last border crossing. If you remember back to the earlier post about the bus ride from Bukhara to Samarkand; that wasn‘t shit compared to this.

Tashkent is very near the border with Kazakhstan, so that meant immediately (10 minutes) following our departure we would be approached by Uzbek customs and then subsequently Kazakh passport control. The checking began. Yes, hot and humid like before, only no one was allowed to use the bathroom, smoke or really move inside the train. Jon and I drank beers. Our train left at 8:05 pm from Tashkent and cleared Kazakh passport control around 11:00 pm. Half-naked and sweating, I would have pissed in a plastic bottle and thrown it out the window had I thought they wouldn’t shoot me. They checked every square inch of that thing; from the conductor to the caboose – including a large Uzbek border control woman who groped every female passenger. Tip: if you just so happen to be smuggling contraband through Central Asia to Europe and/or the United States – at least at that border crossing – three dogs are brought on to check stuff: 2 German shepards and a cocker spaniel. I dispose this information freely so that no one else has to sit through that kind of pain, hoping they may reduce this amount of time, because really are Uzbek and Kazak law enforcement going to slow down the drug trade?

The rest of the train was quite pleasant. Actually I slept great. We woke up the next morning at 5:00 am in Turkistan. Why didn’t we just take the train directly to Almaty – because we had some time to kill and wanted to see the mosque in Turkistan which turned out to be well worth a short stopover. It was refreshing to see they hadn’t tricked out the place for tourists – yet.

Decidedly a few hours was sufficient. Boarding a bus from Turkistan to Shymkent at 11:30 am – can’t really remember why/how we came to that conclusion – we walked around that city after getting in at 3:00 pm and having our habitually coffee at a café and decided how to proceed from there. Feeling it would be in our best financial interest at this point to save on lodging and take an overnight bus to Almaty. Walking from 3:30 pm to 8:00 pm, among the sites most prevalent among former-Soviet states, such as but not limited to: furniture stores (emphasizing European-style windows), bridal dress window displays, Chinese-made plastic everything and booze stores, we were happy to be leaving so that night.

At 8:00 pm we ate, or really I did – Jon had sunk pretty low at this point. Opening his can of green olives and timidly placing them on a “peroshki” (fried bread) realized that was the worst, but at that time, the only thing he might have been able to eat, and now feels more than ever ready for Europe. Please understand, Jon is a vegan and I applaud him for coming out here and knowing full well that rural Sudanese have more options than he would have, he still came.

That being said, as far as hot and humid containers of transport are concerned, we thought that our 8:30 pm departure time would be cooler, nope. The ironic thing was spray painted on the window shield was “KOMFORT”. Thus goes travel in South/Central Kazakhstan in summer. The previous bus and train had windows. This one, nothing – and it would be the longest distance traveled by land so far. I popped a couple Benadryl thinking that would help knock me out. Nope. At 8:30 am the next morning, we peeled our selves off the seats and had arrived in Almaty with no water left in bodies. We remained true to ourselves and got our coffee.

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