Gurlan to Khiva

With a headache anchoring him firmly to his mat, our host tugged Alex a couple of times before we attacked breakfast post-engagement party. A particular highlight of this family’s habits for me is adding condensed milk to their tea – try it! Having collected our bikes and possessions from their shop, we headed off toward Khiva, our first dedicated tourist town out of three in Uzbekistan.

We rode nearly without stopping – keen to extend our time visiting the walled city – and stopped directly at B&B Alibek, rightly recommended to us a week ago. We were invited to join the family for lunchtime Plov and then went exploring among the ruins and restorations of one of the most formidable Silk Road stations that ever existed. Distraught by the high tourist population relative to the desert, however, we quickly made our way up onto the outer wall thanks to a dusty scraggly slope and scrambled around half of the city where most never go.

When the East gate stopped us, we delved back in to find, on a Sunday, a vast former madrassa which much to my delight had a solitary key left in a ground floor door. I climbed up three flights of progressively crumblier stairs and emerged with just the edge of a tiled wall to scale to make it to the best viewpoint in town (look closely in the photos!). We walked around for a couple more hours and hid away from the heat before trying to catch the sunset as it fell. Dinner was followed by Skype for Alex as I chatted to our neighbours, three Slovakian students loving Khiva for its lack of tourists… We all have different experiences!

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