An important day for Uzbekistan: their late president, in function for 25 years, was being buried today. The funeral took place in Samarqand, which also was our destination. Leaders of many (Central-Asian) countries came to show their respect. We felt sorry for the Uzbeks, and wish the best for their future.
For us, the funeral also had practical consequences that kept us busy. The city of Samarqand was closed for traffic by police and military. Leaving Bukhara after a presentation and demonstration, we had no certainty we could enter Samarqand upon arrival. Worst case we would have to wait outside the city until it would re-open at about 9 o'clock in the evening (estimation).
The drive to went well, Uzbek roads being a bit bumpy as always, but some kilometers before Samarqand we stopped at a teahouse. Our guide said Samarqand was still closed, so we had to wait. Inpatient westerners we were, the media vehicle was sent ahead with a mix of team members. If they could get in, the rest would follow within one hour. During this hour, rest of the team had the opportunity to drink some tea, rest, or visit the Bazar nearby.
A bit earlier than expected, the message came: our vehicle successfully entered the city! We gathered rest of the team and drove off, including Wave. When we saw the road block, it was quite impressive: they put some large trucks on the road, accompanied by police and military, with large fire arms. An armored vehicle was parked at the side. Daan, together with our guide, negotiated with the police about our passage. Unfortunately, they refused letting us through.
We had to turn our vans, and went off for another police post, to test our luck there. A bit back, we took a road that connected two main roads to the city. I say we took a road – but it nearly was one. There were more holes, loose stones and dirt than asphalt, so we slowly navigated our convoy zigzag between the obstacles. After tens of minutes of slow, bumpy riding, we finally got to the other main road, of much better quality. That main road ended at a roundabout, where we found the next road block. Again, we negotiated with the person in charge. Better luck here: one of the parked trucks belched a lot of smoke and started to move aside. Our vans' engines roared, but then suddenly another official stopped us: they decided we couldn't get through.
From the roundabout we drove a bit more around the city to a third police post. Again, we negotiated. Again, our attempt was futile. It was allowed to pass by foot, though, so we walked, leaving part of the team to watch our vans until the city reopened. The van that was already at the hotel would pick us up, but was stopped by another ring of road blocks, securing the city center. After some time walking, a small bus appeared: our guide had arranged a lift!
After dinner, at the hotel, good news came our way: the group waiting at the vans had gotten half of the vehicles through the first post! Unfortunately, they didn't have enough people there to drive all cars in.
At 23:30, we sent a group of three with a local in his car to go and help driving the vans in. We drove to the nearest police post of the inner ring of road blocks, where some buses blocked the road. Our local friend negotiated, but without success. Our driver made some calls. We moved to another post. No passage. Phone calls again. Another post. No passage. Then, we drove through some alleys, a smaller neighborhood, roads flanked by trees, to end at a small building. The car drove past the building, turned, and – another road block. Two trucks were parked to form an impenetrable wall. Our driver told us there was no way to get out but by foot. We asked if there was a possibility to get our vehicles in if we walked, but that of course was no option either. The city would reopen next morning, probably between 5 and 6. We returned to the hotel. The euphoria of the group that got some vans through the first road block changed into disillusionment, when they heard they had to head back to the rest of the vans and spend the night there. Our reunion had to wait until the next morning, when the hotel bus would bring us back to the parked vans.