I headed out with the three Slovaks on Monday morning to watch the sun rise over the walls and minarets of Khiva while Alex enjoyed a comfy bed for another hour. The stillness of the town in the morning was superb and in stark contrast to the national 22nd Independence Day celebrations of the previous afternoon. A couple of days earlier than predicted, we hoped today to meet up with a friend we had made (one of four other passengers!) on the ferry with whom we shared no language but some sea-bound experiences and Pictionary skills.
He had given us a text, which we could not read, to send to a number, whose owner we did not know, while we waited on a day which we could not predict. Put simply, we did not rate our chances of meeting up too highly. Undeterred, we cycled toward our meeting point 80km away which he had shown us a picture of two weeks ago. We stopped off en route in Urgench where a few kind ladies in the market gave us sweets and a devil eye broach as well as trying to help us find Uzbek flags. The journey was otherwise uneventful as we reached our destination, sent the text and waited…
After a while dozing by the side of the road, a local showed us into his garden where we had a proper nap before Yuldash arrived, as promised, a few hours later. Deported from Russia while looking for a job, Yuldash lives near Törtkul with his extended family. Undoubtedly from memories of our groans at the lack of food onboard ship, he knew to take us straight to a restaurant where we bought fresh samosas and shashlik!
We spent the evening meeting various family members and friends, each with food, tea and beer at the ready before confusingly landing in the middle of a local wedding. Initially uncomfortable at our presence, we tried not to be too intrusive on the special occasion but were pleased to find the opposite was desired as we were thrust forward, subjected to multiple photoshoots and each asked to make speeches over the loudspeakers which no one could understand! Dancing and mixing with the locals was great fun and a very surreal way to find out a bit more about the local culture!