Uzbekistan – To the Aral Sea and back on the Silk Road

After four days in Turkmenistan, we are now able to slow down a bit again. So our first point of interest here in Uzbekistan is the famous Aral Sea, or at least what is left (less than 10% of the original size). Clearly the major disaster and tragedy for the region; unfortunately caused by us humans.

Using basically all the water from the two main rivers feeding the Aral Sea in the past has not been the wisest idea, one could think. Still they started doing so in the 1960s, redirecting the water into the irrigation channel systems. There is still a debate on-going if there might have been also geological changes impacting on it, but it is at least a combination of both and the question remains if the geological changes happened because of the reduced water pressure on the ground.

I read an article stating that a) during the former Soviet Union times it was basically an accepted fact that the Aral Sea will dry out because of it and b) in the 1960s they counted still hundreds of tigers in the region which is now the Aralkum desert. And when you get into Moynaq, earlier a large harbour and fishing town, you can easily see the magnitude of the disaster – the lake is simply none-existent anymore and the remaining are about 90 kilometers away!

Just a couple of rusty old boats in the previous lake.

There are some places that show us how dramatic we humans can influence our own environment, and this is clearly one of them. So if you come to Uzbekistan, don’t focus solely on the historic old Silk Road, get also out here and see yourself.

Still we managed to find some water and it might give you at least a glimpse into the past, so you can envision how it must have looked like thirty years back. And still a wonderful opportunity to setup camp in the shade and relax in the hammock during the heat of the day.

From here we are heading back to the old Silk Road again, already excited to see places like Chiwa and Bukhara or Samarkand, but prior to that, we had a stop for the night a bit East of Nukus, by the river Amudarja (that forms in parts the border to Turkmenistan).

Beautiful spot by the river and a lot of wildlife in the area during the cool morning ours.

And before diving into the culture and the Silk Road history, what a place to enjoy the sunset and relax prior exploring lively, old cities.

After couple of weeks in rather dry areas, we are surprised how much water we can find on our way through Uzbekistan so far. Sure, there is a lot of desert in-between, but nearly ever night we were able to find a small channel or a river for a camp. Something we did not expect to find, but a nice situation for us, even though many of them irrigation channels taking water away from the Aral Sea.