Uzbekistan (now all of us).

We (Mog and Bigfoot) had arranged to meet Kon-Tiki, Womble and K-Nine at 18:00 on the 27th at the Old Bukhara Hotel (at the time this arrangement was made "group one" were expecting "group two" to travel via Iran).

At 18:02 we received a call from Les asking where we were! Although SMS (text) messages seem to work in Uzbekistan they are, alas, delivered totally garbled so none of "group two" had received our messages giving our alternative camp site. However within 45 minutes Womble and Kon-Tiki joined Mog and Bigfoot at the bus garage and the saga of the Iranian detour was told.

The information that a transit visa for Iran could be obtained quickly and without problem turned out to be untrue. The minimum time to get an Iranian visa was 5 days. As a result of this information "group two" decided to follow "group one" on the Baki to Turkmenbashi ferry. Their crossing was very similar to "group one's" but with a considerably longer wait to disembark at Turkmenbashi.

Because "group two" was more than a day behind "group one" but with the same visa expiry date of the 26th there was great pressure on them to get to the Uzbekistan border and as a result they failed to contact Ayan travel in Ashgabat and were not told about the vital "registration" that had so delayed "group one".

By the time "group two" was approaching the border both Clive and Ann were suffering from acute food poisoning and in considerable distress. (Both required emergency medical treatment.) With Clive and Ann incapacitated, Womble with a leaking radiator and Kon-Tiki making strange noises from the transmission they fought their way through the utterly intransigent Turkmenistan border. (It is said that Les lost his cool, but to no avail.) Rules are rules and everything must be written down very slowly in triplicate even if you are too sick to stand up! The only bright note being that the missing "vital" registration in Ashgabat was not even mentioned!

The Uzbekistan border was a complete contrast with things speeded up and assistance in getting medical treatment provided at the border.

Clive and Ann are much recovered and currently awaiting the result of medical tests at a clinic just over the border in Uzbekistan.

Womble and Kon-Tiki are currently being serviced by a mechanic brought in by the extremely helpful manager of the "bus garage". Womble's radiator has been removed, re-soldered and seems OK. Kon-Tiki's transmission noise has turned out to be a badly damaged universal joint on the prop shaft near the differential. The search is on for a replacement joint.

The tourist office in Bukhara, is as mentioned in Lonely Planet, both helpful and friendly!

Stephen Stewart.

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