North to the Art Museum.

Once again the Anglophone group are divided. This time Bigfoot, Womble and Mog have gone north and K-Nine and Kon-Tiki have stayed in the delightful Bukhara Hotel bus garage. K-Nine to allow the Barkers to recover from their recent illness and Kon-Tiki to get his prop-shaft repaired (because Kon-Tiki's rear universal joint was damaged, and no replacement was available, the local mechanic has cut out the offending joint and welded a "new" one in from an old truck!)

We initially thought that the main attraction of the trip north would be Khiva, which we reached on the morning of the 2nd. Khiva was indeed impressive but was (IMHO) eclipsed by three unexpected "finds".

The first was our camp site on the night of the 2nd. Whilst driving north from Khiva about 45km(?) short of Nukus we saw, a few kilometers to the west, what appeared to be a spectacular mud castle on top of a butte. We camped (N42.267783 E060.070858 ) in splendid isolation beneath it and explored it in the morning.

Marinika Bobonazarova.The second "find" was the Karakalpakstan Art Museum" in Nukus. In a very dilapidated building with a leaking roof was a stunning collection of Russian and Uzbek art mostly from the period between 1900 and 1930. The collection was assembled by Igor Savitsky in defiance of Soviet policy (protected by the remoteness of Nukus). We were very lucky to be shown round the 1500 pictures on view by the curator Marinika Bobonazarova. (There are another 80,000 items in storage!) Strongly recommended.

The third "find" was the Badai-Tugai nature reserve or more precisely the old fortress of Janpyq-Qala. According to Lonely Planet the reserve "welcomes visitors". Well they don't! In fact they do not seem to recognize the concept of a "visitor". On our first visit (going north) we were unable to persuade any of the people present to let us look round. On our return visit (going south) and armed with a translation of "we are tourists and would like to look round your world famous nature reserve and see your tugai forest and animals" it took over an hour for the reserve to assemble a total of eight "staff" to read and re-read our translation. After much incomprehensible discussion and with the aid of $15USA we were finally issued with a receipt and a "guide" to take us into the reserve to see the tugai forest and Bukhara deer. With the guide directing Bigfoot we set off on a 10km cross country drive getting farther away from the reserve until we came to the spectacular mud fortress of Janpyq-Qala (N42.025567 E060.327832) Not what we were expecting but its sheer isolation added to the grandeur. After exploring for a couple of hours we returned our guide to the reserve and camped on the edge of the tugai forest. I suspect they have eaten the Bukhara deer.

Whilst we were in Nukus were received an SMS (text) message from Les, it read "Spoke 2 Rstm. Sam stop H Zfshn. Will sort Frgna prmts in Sam. Us off pm. Will mail u re new rvous. L". From which we conclude that K-Nine and Kon-Tiki have left Bukhara for Samarkand.

On our return to Bukhara we received a second SMS (text) message from Les, it read "We r 10kW Sakand going SW. Propose rvous in Shakhrisabz 16:00 7th Hotel Shak. We cld rvous b4 if u want. Comments? Les et al."

Stephen Stewart.

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