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Posts Tagged ‘yurt’


September 16-17, 2016: Reading the itinerary for the MIR tour, I figured the two days involving the Kyzyl Kum desert, a night in a yurt and a camel ride were the price I would pay for three days in Samarkand and Bukhara and for Khiva and the Ferghana Valley. I did make sure that the camel ride was optional, which was not clear from the detailed itinerary. I didn’t expect to enjoy those two days, and my expectations were met. So, what did I have against what MIR obviously thought should be highlights?

First, camels. I have ridden camels three times, and failed to enjoy the experience at least twice. The first time, over the (silent) “singing sands” outside Dunhuang in western China, the poles holding the ropes for the stirrups dug painfully into my thighs. The second, on the edge of the Sahara in Morocco, was somewhat more comfortable, but the third in Wadi Rum in Jordan lasted longer and I was soon eager for it to be over. That time it appeared that the camel was no keener on me than I was on him. You “board” a camel as it kneels on the ground, and then it gets to its feet in two stages. This camel got halfway up and then fell sideways, apparently hoping to fall on top of me. Fortunately I realized what was happening and threw myself off, and on the second attempt we made it all the way up. Since it turned out that the camel ride in Uzbekistan only involved fifteen minutes or so walking round the yurt camp I was happy to opt out.


I have also slept in yurts three times: at Heavenly Lake and Karakol in China, and in Mongolia. In each case the yurt failed to retain heat, and we were so cold at Karakol we skipped the second night by the lake in favor of warmth and hot water in Tashkurgan. MIR’s yurts were a superior version, if unlike those I had seen elsewhere. Instead of sleeping on benches round the perimeter, we slept on pads on the floor, and no heat escaped through a central hole in the roof. The facilities, however, were still primitive. I wouldn’t have minded so much except that we didn’t reach our next hotel, and hot water, until five in the afternoon.


Then, I have to confess I am not a fan of deserts, and the part of Kyzyl Kum we saw was mostly flat with low, scrub growth. The first time I crossed a desert, the formidable Taklamaklan in China, I was excited, but after a couple of hours boredom set in. True, if it is the right kind of desert sand dunes can offer some interest with changing light, but only for so long.
So, we had a long drive across not very interesting country to reach the yurt camp, where those who chose could take a brief ride on a camel. Those of us who chose not to ride passed the time watching a heroic dung beetle at work… The next morning we visited Lake Aidarkul, which was nice enough, but none of us wanted to swim and there was little shade. We had to stay until lunchtime as the yurt camp was providing food for a picnic. The we had another long drive before finally arriving at a wonderful B&B in Bukhara.

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