Central Asia Overland – booked

Next trip: Beijing to Tashkent, September/October 2008, courtesy of Explore …. I know, breaking the Wild Frontiers habit… but their Silk Road Odyssey is full, doesn’t include the Western China overland element or an overnight journey on the Uzbek train system plus autumn is better time of year than the summer for getting four (4!) weeks off work….

Happy Birthday to me!

Itinerary: Central Asia Overland

Day 1 Fly London/Beijing
Day 2 Arrive Beijing
Day 3 Visit Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City; fly Urumqi
Day 4 Visit museum; Drive Korla
Day 5 Drive to Kuqa
Day 6 In Kuqa; visit ancient sites
Day 7 Drive to Aksu; visit virgin forest
Day 8 Drive across Taklamakan Desert to Hotan
Day 9 In Hotan; visit Cottage Industries
Day 10 Drive Yarkand
Day 11 Drive via Uighur knife factory; drive to Kashgar
Day 12 & 13 In Kashgar; visit famous Sunday market; optional full day excursion through the Pamir mountains to Karakul Lake
Day 14 Drive via Kyrgyzstan border to Tash Rabat
Day 15 Drive Song Kul Lake
Day 16 Drive Bishkek; via Lake Issy Kul
Day 17 In Bishkek; optional visit Ala Archa gorge
Day 18 Drive via Kazakhstan to Tashkent
Day 19 In Tashkent; city tour
Day 20 In Tashkent; overnight train Urgench
Day 21 Arrive Urgench; drive Khiva; sightseeing in the Old City
Day 22 Drive Bokhara
Day 23 In Bokhara; tour
Day 24 Drive Karmana; continue to Yangikasgan; 4WD to camp, optional camel riding in desert
Day 25 Morning at Lake Aydarkul; drive to Samarkand
Day 26 In Samarkand; visit Gur Emir Mausoleum and Registan Square
Day 27 In Samarkand; visit Ulug-Beg observatory and museum; afternoon optional visit to Marakanda
Day 28 Drive Tashkent; fly London

I’d originally gone for the Secrets of Central Asia organised by Peregrine Adventures, which looked brilliant – lots of time camping/hiking in Kyrgyzstan, travel through the Fergana Valley and crossing into China via the Irkeshtam Pass. Got lots of info from them and an invoice…. only to get an email saying they’d mucked up and there weren’t spaces after all. To be fair, the trip was a combo of two separate trips, and it was only one that was already full booked, but they were advertising the combined trip as a single tour.

Anyway, foiled on that front, I had a good look at what else was available, and as WF’s Silk Road Odyssey was fully booked I’ve ended up on Explore’s Central Asia Overland trip, September/October this year. What sets is apart from all the other Central Asia trips is the 10 days in the far west of China, another place that’s been on my wishlist for a while…. plus that overnight train journey in Uzbekistan (I might see that in a more negative light after the event!!).

My main reservations are about going with Explore, given that they’re more mainstream and the group size is relatively large. But then again, I would have thought anyone booking for 28 days in Sept/Oct to go to that part of the world isn’t going to be that mainstream.