On the road again, 300 km to Tashkent. First a stop at a silk carpet manufacture where all silk threads are dyed with natural colors: Yellow with asparagus flowers or saffron for the rich, Red with madder root (Krappwurzel), Blue with indigo, Grey/Brown with nutshells, Pink/Orange with pomegranate. It needs 600-800 threads from silkworms to make one thread of carpet yarn. We refrained from buying another carpet although they were tempting... I only bought three thin silk shawls which take no space in our already overload luggage.
The four-lane road was bumpy and led through steppes in soft yellow and ocher colors and through agricultural fields. We could see rivers and canals filled with water, which is surprising for such a hot and dry land. But there seems to be more diversification than in Soviet time, when cotton was the only cultivation. The amount of water used is tremendous and causing big ecological problems, drying out the Aral Sea. Forecasts predict a completely dry state as early as 2025 !!! It is urgent to act.
We saw apple and melon plantations, onions and stubble fields, horses, camels and cattle. The many storks are certainly enjoying the abundantly watered fields. They built their nests on the high voltage masts. We overtook many small picturesque chariots pulled by donkeys which were loaded with kids, goods and whole families racing along the road. The roads are full of recent Chevrolet cars, but also old cars from bye-gone Soviet times. Although some pictures remind us of our childhood, the people in general seem to get on well.
Tashkent is our mid-term destination, both in terms of distance and of time. Tomorrow morning, two new members will join the expedition through the Fergana valley, through the mountains to the Chinese desert, starting in Kashgar. Laura and Stephan did the route from Tashkent to Switzerland in a previous return expedition coming from Mongolia and Russia, so that they skipped the first 4 weeks of this year's expedition in order to focus on the for them new Chinese section of the Great Silk Road. We will complete the expedition with 16 members and 2 guides, split in the 5 Pajeros. Tomorrow will also be a car service day at mid-term.