DAY 27 – The empty sea

286 miles
#Nukus to #Munyak (and back)

The way a panda rest after two troubled days like the ones we had is to drive 286 miles to the Aral sea (or what is left of it) to see a couple of rusty shipwrecks in the middle of the desert.

Before leaving, we have to sort out two things: changing money and getting petrol. There is a common factor between the two things: the black market. For the money in Uzbekistan, you have to go to the butcher. Yeah, the guy that seel pieces of cow in the bazar. You can clearly say that he probably owns or commands the entire bazar in the way he speaks with you. For the petrol, it works like that: you spot a mini-market or restaurant with many cars outside. You enter asking for petrol (benzin), and they ask you how much do you need. Then you park the car in a hidden and dodgy spot behind the building. A man puts his head out of a door (whose color is most of the time blue – we arrived at this conclusion after some days in Uzbekistan), looks around in a suspicious way, then he comes out carrying multiple 5 liter bottles filled with a yellow liquid. It can be sunflower oil, it can be beer, it can be piss. We hope is petrol. Beer would have been good as well, but that’s not our priority now. We need Jelly Belly going. Fortunately, it was petrol. Not bad as a first impact.

This time the road is great. It is basically a straight line without a single turning for 143 miles to Munyak, the ghost town that once was a main harbor on the sea. The desolation we find when we arrive is just the prelude to the show that stands in front of our eyes when we reach the small concrete platform, on top of a sandy cliff. Some panels telling the story of the Aral Sea explains what happened in the last 40-50 years (if you don’t know, have a read about it – it’s something that has to do with Russian \and cotton). Lent on the fence, we stare at the vastity of nothing reaching the horizon. Sand an bushes, for kilometers, down to where the eyes can’t reach. And silence. Unsetting silence which shuts our mouths as well for some minutes, probably because two signs of the human stupidity in two days is too much also for us. Down the cliff, seven wrecks of small ships seem to look at you, asking “sorry sir, did you see the sea somewhere around?”.

Fortunately, the arrival of two Polish tourists and of some Uzbek kids breaks the silence. We start chatting with the tourists, while the kids ask for the ball they saw in the car. No problem. We’ll never prevent anybody to play football, you know. Well, that is the last time we saw our ball. Or better, we exactly know that the kids hid the ball in one of the wrecks, pretending the lost it. But the last thing we want is starting an argument with a 7 years old Uzbek kid living in a ghost town of Munyak. Maybe, somehow, we owe him something. Or let’s say that this is the excuse we told ourselves.

Number of countries crossed: 12
Days without accidents: (let’s say) 2
Number of times the counter has been reset: 1