Friday, July 11, 2014

The drive to Nukus was quite uneventful. We made the journey in just over 3 hours. The fuel we picked up in Khiva was working, but, Sterlin was grumbling a little under heavy acceleration. So, we went lightly on the gas pedal.

We arrived at our hotel to find that they did not accept US dollars and this our last stay in Uzbekistan almost wiped us out of our supply of local currency. The order of events for the day was set, 1) get lunch with remaining local currency, 2) get some more local currency on the black market before 3) get some gasoline on the black market with new money. We went in search of the ‘Sheraton Cafe’, which is a hard place to find, even if you are looking in the right place. We walked past it three times before the locals made it clear which unmarked door we had to enter. Once inside we were treated to a pretty good lunch. The fuel buying was not so successful. Our hotel staff advised that Nukus was currently “lacking” in fuel and they weren’t sure when new supplies would arrive. But, if we wanted, we could get fuel “off the street”, but we should be very careful of the fuel quality. This lack of fuel was really quite frustrating.

Armed with a map drawn on the back of a paper napkin, Stephen went off in search of these street merchants. Surprisingly enough they are not hard to find. Just look for someone selling coca cola, cigarettes and ice-cream and say “Benzin”. Before you know it a dozen or so kids are around trying to get into your car and negotiate the deal. Then an adult will turn-up and you pay the asking price. Next, fuel in recycled water containers emerges from behind walls and is funneled into your fuel tank or jerry cans. Very hard to tell the quality of the fuel or if it is even 91 octane. 40 litres was purchased from one vendor for USD $50 and another 20 litres from another vendor for USD $20 and some local som. We hoped it would be enough to make it to Kazakhstan where we could get the good stuff.

Once back at our hotel a review of our local cash reserves showed we had the equivalent of $3 USD left. So, we broke out the emergency pot-noodles for dinner. Caroline convinced the hotel to sell us 3 beers for USD $5. We think they took pity on us.

Early to bed.