Termez is the southern-most city in Uzbekistan and is the main border crossing to Afghanistan, I had wanted to go as there are some old ruins that are supposed to be interesting and I just wanted to see Afghanistan, even if only from across the border.
I had decided a while back that I wouldn’t have time but my guide from yesterday was willing and able to set me up with a driver for cheap for the day.
Met Timur the Driver (all men here appear to be named Timur) extremely early and we headed out, I have a train tonight back to Tashkent so we won’t have much more than an hour in Termez but I got no other plans today so let’s do this!
The road isn’t bad compared to streets in Samakand and Timur drives in the Uzbek style so we got to Termez in what I can only assume was record time. We stopped at a slightly scary looking place for lunch that turned out to have a lovely garden out back where Timur and I and a friend of his we picked up along the way ate big plates of plov, the standard central Asian dish of rice and yellow carrots and chunks of meat, and lamb shashlik (kebab), food was all good. Uzbek food is simple and basic and always good or at worst fine.
My guide yesterday informed me that because the day I arrived was a national holiday (it was Fountains Day, celebrating fountains, not sure if I mentioned that already but it was a great time) the reason so many people were asking to take a picture with me is that they are likely from smaller villages and don’t see Europeans (sic) that often.
This theory makes sense as after lunch in little remote Termez I was swamped by about 15 kids age 7-14, they encircled me outside the tea house and were achingly sweet, asking every question they could or just yelling random english words they knew. Highlight was the leader of the pack, the boy with the best english, pointing to one of the girls and telling me her name is “Gazar”, I said “Hello, Gazar” she blushed a bit, the boy then added “She is the most beautiful I think” (she was a cutie for sure), one of her friends translated that to her and she turned crimson and started slapping him, it was bliss and if the two of them aren’t married in five years I will eat a loaf of non.
I explained that I was from Vancouver, Canada and one kid yelled “Vancouver! NHL hockey team!” maybe kid, some years, maybe…
After lunch we stopped just long enough to see the Friendship Bridge that joins Uzbekistan to Afghanistan and is the major importing point for NATO supplies for the Afghan missions. The city has a large NATO base (currently Dutch and US soldiers I think) and I thought we might run into some staff but never saw anything.
I had heard that the border was unsafe and that the other side was Taliban controlled but apparently that is not even remotely correct and crossing is no big deal, didn’t cross though as nowhere near enough time to get through the border and back again.
Timur and I stopped for literally 5 minutes at the ruins of the Kit Kat (ok, it is not the Kit Kat fortress but I am writing this later on the train with no internet and can’t remember, lousy tourist) and then started the long drive back.
I wondered if Timur the Driver thought this Canadian is crazy hiring him to drive all over the place for such a short stop but he seemed happy as a clam all day, no english, same with his friend, we did out best and actually had a pretty great time.
Made it to the train station in Samarkand with half an hour to spare, on the four hour ride back to Tashent now and my back really hurts, doesn’t usually happen to me and it sucks.
Fun Fact: Termez is where we get the word Thermos, because it is always hot there.
Fun Fact #2: When Alexander the Great came through he described a magnificent city, today not so much, and he ended up marrying an Afghan woman from Bactria, not that far from Termez.
Fun Fact #3: For a time Termez was a Greek city and marked the absolute eastern limit of the Greek empire.
Fun Fact #4 (aka no one is reading this far): In a little shop near the ruins I found the most awesome momento for Uzbekistan and I will show and tell when I get home, you will be enthralled.