For many years now, Uzbekistan has been top on travel agenda for adventurous people interested in exotic destinations. As we have seen, the rich cultural, architectural and natural wonders of this land will only ever succeed in satisfying this wanderlust and no tour of this land is complete without a camel ride.
So on the outskirts of the village, Yangikazgan, hired trucks stocked with supplies of petrol and water wait ready to take you to the Kyzylkum Desert. Heading out from Yangikazgan, a majestic view unfolds as sand dunes roll ahead into the distance, as far as the eye can see. No water springs can be found in this remote location. In early spring thanks to the life-giving rains, the desert is covered with purple poppies and emerald carpet of grass - sadly, these colors fade quickly. Our first stop is the Hudoybergan Shaltiyev camel farm. Beyond this location, travel by car or truck is impossible as vehicles just sink into the sea of sand. The ‘ship of the desert’, the camel, is the only suitable form of transport.
At the farm, Hudoybergan-aka and his family greet guests with a broad smile. After exchanging greetings, hostesses serve large cups of kumis, a special beverage made of fermented camels’ milk. In the crisp air, the kumis restores your vigor after the tiring journey.
Young camels frisking in the adjacent paddock catch your attention; these cute, fluffy animals are irresistible. Standing nearby, the Karakalpak guides wearing shaggy caps and bekasam overcoats, hold your camels by the reins. The guides tight tug of the reins, signals the beast to kneel. The camel riders, in linen suits and wearing helmets, sit on the front saddles and the caravan-bashi will lead the caravan along the narrow path into the ear о the desert. A bell around the neck of the s camel will ring sonorously. Yellow-grey sand dunes and thorn bushes will enfold the caravan as it journeys into timelessness.
The ambience of the legendary Silk Road of our distant past pervades the air and leaves travelers awe struck by the beauty around them; the rhythms and colors, the silence and the distances. As the sun begins to set, the caravan reaches Usen well. Desert life emerges from the shadows.
After bidding farewell to the hospitable shepherds at the well, the caravan-bashi cautions the group that Usen is the last well of drinking- water on this route to the north; the gorge where the group would stop for the night is still several ours away. Water is priceless in these regions. As the caravan sets off across the sandy hills, the came s heads bob between the waves of sand and are, at times, the only visible sign of the tour group.
A beautiful gorge covered with Karakulpak yurts unfolds beyond the next ridge. The camel quicken their pace knowing there is a settlement nearby. Iskander Sarimov, one of the resident.- welcomes the caravan with fresh brewed tea and an offer of rest beside a crackling campfire.
With the exotic flavours of fried meat, shurpa (vegetable soup), flat cakes and vegetables followed by local wines and the host’s further insistence to consume more kumis, heads become lighter and lighter. Legends are shared and songs sung late into the night; stars hang low overhead, completing a magical, unforgettable night! Each one in the caravan nestles into their soft blanket, mesmerized by the fire, and enchanted by Sarimov’s Karakalpak songs - incomprehensible yet familiar; heartening vet awesome tones. With the canopy of the starlit Asian sky, minds waft to worlds and times long passed.
Early morning arrives with the bleat of Karakul sheep in nearby pastures. Sunrise spills over a glade of splendid desert flowers. After picking a floral keepsake from this treasure trove, each person climbs his or her beast and the caravan begins its second day of travel. The desert road ahead to Aydarkul Lake beckons with promises o! great splendor.