We’ve alluded to our time in Bukhara in the Rattles and Gurgles Posts, now we have some time I thought I’d wax a bit more lyrical about this extraordinary town.
We were starting to get the hang of Uzbekistan. Fuel was tricky to find but do-able, the desert was beautiful and manageable and the cities (Nukus and Xhiva) were, so far, just as stunning and different as we’d hoped for. We had crossed the Oxus (Amu Darya) and now we were knocking on the door of history itself- Bukhara was the first “Big One”, a city renowned for its learning, architecture and the brutality of leaders during the era of the Great Game.
And then the Beaut said no.
It began quite innocently with an increase in the rattle (see mechanics log for the full run down), then she just refused to actually stop – we had to stall her every time. So it was with a heavy sense of impending work that we entered into this city of hallowed antiquity. We parked up in the Hotel Asia car park (gated and with a security guard no less) and checked in to our glorious hostel down the road: The Sarafon B and B. This large family house has rooms facing the beautiful courtyard and serves up a mighty breakfast every morning. All checked in, the ladies set about getting supplies and scouting, and the boys started doing our damnedest to break the Beaut…
We wanted to do a basic service, fix the speedo, check and clean the brakes and make sure that the rattle wasn’t coming from the front prop shaft. In that first day we managed most of this, except that during our attempt at investigating the prop shaft (found to not be the problem at all, but the crown nut was definitely very, very loose) we replaced a non leaking pinion oil seal badly, leading it to being shredded the day after when we attempted to leave town. Cue frantic panic, a huge haemorrhage of EP 90, messages to Dave and further investigation: showing that we have a large hole on the inside of the pinion housing of the front diff. We now only had one oil seal left so we very carefully replaced this and called a mechanic to fix the rattle problem. As Kat mentioned, The Master (Dilshod) and his entrepreneurial brother Inoyat achieved this in rapid time (dodgy fuel buggering up the timing) refused to exept payment and instead took us out for lunch and watermelons.
That, in a nutshell, is the mechanical side of things. We left with the rattle abated and the running on slightly cured, but with apprehension as to whether or not the diff might explode at any moment. Now for Bukhara itself…
This is the Kalon Minaret and Madrassa, it is awe inspiring. So much so that when that famous defiler of beauty, Chinggis Khan, arrived (having sacked and destroyed everything else in his path from Mongolia to here) he looked at it and said; “Cor Blimey, leave that one alone lads… ” or words to that effect. Unfortunately this didn’t stop the Red army from using it for artillery practice in the 1920s. Bukhara is a true Silk Road city, all desert and winding bazaars with more Madrassas than you can shake a camera at. In the short time available to us for sight seeing (I.e when we weren’t working or on the lavatory- it was a gastrointestinaly difficult few days) we visited: The Ark (a magnificent royal palace of biblical proportions, dating from the 5th century – and again bombed by the soviets); the Lyabi Hauz pool (the heart of the Sarrafon and Jewish quarter and cause of many a plague); the old caravanserais and a 9th century mosque; numerous bazaars and the fabulous Silk Road Tea House. We saw the chilling Zindon, which is the old gaol house of the Khans and the place where Brittish officers Stoddart and Connelly met their grisly end at the height of the Great Game (Stoddart spent three years in the aptly named “Bug Pit”- a ten foot hole in the ground filled periodically with all kinds of nasties).
We ate lavishly at various places including Old Bukhara restaurant (seriously good plov/ Osh) and generally soaked up the unique atmosphere of this place, which I find to be half way between the museum like status of Xhiva and the working town aspects of Samarkand. I absolutely loved it and it remains for me the quintessential Silk Road destination. A very special place indeed.