News item

Border crossing with Uzbekistan - by Jules Frints

Buchara, September 2, 2016

Today, it was again time to cross a border. Of course we had some practice entering Turkey, Iran, and Turkmenistan, but still this was going to be an interesting one, we thought.

The day started early at our hotel in Turkmenabat, as we wanted to have as much time as possible for the border crossing. Lucky us, a bridge we had to cross in Turkmenistan opened not earlier than 9 o'clock, so we could not depart earlier than half past 8. After paying a small fee for the construction of a new bridge, we were allowed on the current one. This was a pontoon bridge, with a speed limit of 5 km/h. We drove a few cars behind a large truck and you could see the bridge lowering at the point where it was!

After the bridge, we drove the remaining part of the 50 Turkmen kilometers to the Uzbek border. The Turkmen part of the crossing went surprisingly quick, although every single personal bag was scanned and opened as a check. Our guide trusted us saying they had to open them all, to show their president they were working.

After another passport check, and another one, and another one, the Turkmens handed us over to their Uzbek colleagues. After the young, unarmed Turkmen soldiers with their green uniform and large hat, we now saw soldiers with grey camouflage uniform, small hats, some of them with very large guns and helmets.

One Uzbek passport check done, we had to pass through a bath to disinfect the vehicles and a picture of them was taken. We had to take our motorcycles out of the vans as well and walk them through. When it was time to take the picture though, all Uzbeks were gone for lunch, so we had to wait in the burning sun to proceed. Many checks later, the total border crossing was done, a mere 5 hours after the start at the Turkmen side.

Uzbekistan showed to be a bit greener than the Turkmen desert, there were more people at the roadside, many with donkey and cart. Most striking of all, the roads here are worse than we have seen before. We had to dodge many holes, and hoped many times nothing broke due to all the vibrations.

End of the day, we arrived in Buchara, in a lovely small hotel with a courtyard, in old Uzbek style, although completely renovated or newly built. During the night we discovered the town, which looked as nice as the hotel. When we walked up to a roof terrace for a drink, a nice surprise awaited us: our Dutch motorcycling friends from Turkmenistan sat just there for dinner! We closed the day by having a drink with our fellow Dutch in Central Asia.

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