Max had insisted on a strict schedule. Three alarms went off around 5:30 as we prepared for a big day on the road. Our Kungrad host brought us breakfast and bottled water as we prepped the 3 BMWs in his dusty “back yard”. By 7:45 we were on the road. By 9am we had left Karakapakia and entered Khwarezm. Khwarezm is the lush green oversized oasis created by the Amu Darya river splintering into a bunch of different branches that over centuries have acted as irrigation canals. This Oasis in the desert is 300 km long and 100 km wide and is densely populated with several large cities crammed into it. Its also green. I hadnt seen grass or trees since the Ural river and Atyrau 1000 km ago. It made a nice change and a refreshing burst of colour to see rice paddies, poplar trees lining the highway, as they do so often in central asia
Khwarezm also plays a key part in the whole Genghis Khan story, that this trip (and frankly any trip to Central Asia) bumps into again and again. It was the then Shah of Khwarezm that brought Genghis into Central Asia. In those days Khwarezm was an enormous empire, covering most of central asia and much of Iran as well. It was one of the richest Muslim states in a time when the muslims and Chinese were really the only “wealthy” or even “educated”people on earth. The Shah didnt so much as ask Genghis to pop by next time he was in the area; rather he captured a Mongol trade caravan and then executed the 3 ambassadors Genghis had personally selected and sent to investigate the seizure. Genghis responded as only he knew how, and took on an army over twice the size of the Mongols’ 100,000 strong force.
You can guess who won … Genghis Khan is a household name, but the Shah of Khwarezm is not, and he died a hunted man, from exhaustion and cold on a nameless Caspian sea Island, after he had earlier fled to Urgench (now todays Konye-urgench).
Max took us to the best preserved old city in Khwarezm, Khiva, where we stopped for 5 hours for lunch and sightseeing … I will let the pictures tell the story. Max left early. He needed to get to Tashkent and sort out his sprocket, while Andrei and I enjoyed Khiva.
We hit the road a 5pm and rode for 5 hours to get to Bukhara, where we met up with some of Andrei’s biker friends from Samara, who had started a couple of days before us. We met up at 11pm at the hotel Max recommended but it was full, so we found another place on the outskirts of town and got 3 rooms for the night.
It was the longest day on the road so far and racked up well over 700 kms. I am now over 64 degrees east, and have racked up almost 11,500 kms.