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Mannerheimin tie*

Mannerheim's way

sunny 33 °C


In Central Asia the Silk Road connects not only East and West but also South and North. Amir Timur's empire (14./15. century AD) included a large part of present day India and from India Buddhism spread along the Silk Road into China and other parts of Eastern Asia as far as Japan. The area has been the object of the Great Game between Russia and Great Britain in the 19th century and once their respective spheres of influence had become delimited (and after Russia's defeat in the Japanese War 1905), focus shifted to the northwestern parts of China. In 1906 C.G. Mannerheim from Finland was commissioned by the Russian General Staff to explore the military potential of this area in an allegedly scientific expedition. The scientific part of Mannerheim's journey conducted together with French archeologist Paul Pelliot started in July 1906 in Andizhan and continued from Osh across the Irqesh Tam pass to Kashgar where it arrived in October the same year. After Kashgar Mannerheim continued until Beijing (old spelling in Mannerheim's travel account: Peiping), collecting a large number of ancient Buddhist manuscripts and artefacts mainly from the Xinjiang province that now form the Mannerheim collection of the Finnish National Museum. Commemorating the 100th anniversary of this great Asia expedition on horseback, Tony Ilmoni and Kristian Nyman rerode the entire route on horse from Osh to Beijing in 2007 and it is from their highly interesting website (http://www.mannerheim1906.com/en/The_Route/) that I adapted the title* for this blog entry.

Near Andizhan/Uzbekistan

For short description of the Mannerheim expedition: http://idp.nlc.gov.cn/archives/news15/idpnews_15.a4d

GPS and photos: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25267

Posted by Lent 06:53 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

Ferghana valley

sunny 32 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

After our difficulties encountered when entering the Ferghana valley of Eastern Uzbekistan, my impression of the area (others may disagree) are quite positive: a very fertile agrarian area with large villages and short distances between them, farm houses decorated with traditional wood carvings, rose and vine arcades for kilometeres along village streets and a view of the mountains in the distance. Ferghana (region named after the town) could be the Bavaria of Uzbekistan. More correctly one should speak of the river plain of the Syrdarya - Oxus for the ancient Greeks - which has been settled ever since neolithic times. A look at the excavations of Kuva had to be skipped because of the time pressure. Anyway, an oasis on this side of the knot formed by the Tien-Shan and Pamir fold mountain systems, while to the east of it the Silk Road will continue through (or along) the vast desert of Taklimakan.

Crossing the Syrdarya

GPS track and photos: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25287

Posted by Lent 06:27 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

Uzbekistan continued

sunny 31 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

With the lost day we now try to increase the daily mileage to make it around the northern tip of Tajikistan as quickly as possible. On Friday Almalyk, Soviet coal mining and heavy industry centre, Angren and finally up the Ohongaron valley into the mountains that separate the Ferghana valley from the rest of Uzbekistan. Its good to be back in the mountains. It adds a third dimension to the view and the camera is reactivated after days in monotonous flat terrain.

Elevation profile Kamchik pass

More than us it is the lorries struggling uphill and after a camping nightstay near the bottom of the river gorge the journey continues up to the Kamchik pass marked with 2267 m on the map but shortcut by a new tunnel construction at slightly over 2000 m altitude. Passport checks by armed troops at the tunnel indicate the difficult situation of the Ferghana region in its relation to the central government. Destination on Saturday: Qoqand, one day behind time schedule.

Camping in the Ohangaron valley

Beating the trucks - and trying to escape their exhaust fumes

For GPS and photos around Tajikistan: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25284

Posted by Lent 09:10 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (1)

No entry to Tajikistan

Route and schedule change

sunny 30 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

Thursday May 15. Preparing to cross the border to Tajikistan and take the ultimate shortcut into the Ferghana valley in eastern Uzbekistan. Four-day visas for the tour along the the Syrdarya valley and the Tajik city of Khujand purchased months ago.
At 9 am at border checkpoint Bekobod. Border closed for citizens other than Uzbek or Tajik. Ex tempore rerouting to Chanak 50 km northwards along the Uzbek-Tajik border. Arrival at 12 am. All land borders with Tajikistan closed for two days for security reasons in connection with Tajik-Kirgyz summit meeting in Dushanbe. Phone calls to diplomatic missions. Special arrangements possible for group entry before evening? Waiting. More waiting. No satisfactory solution possible. At 6 pm tour management decides to continue travelling northwards along the border and go around Tajikistan.
One day and 70 EUR for Tajik visas lost. Detour necessary. Is it possible to catch up with the original time schedule and reach Kyrgizstan before Tuesday May 20 and then make it to the Chinese border before it closes for the weekend?

Waiting for news at Chanak border checkpoint Uzbekistan-Tajikistan

GPS and photos: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25292

Posted by Lent 08:44 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

Map meeting

rain 29 °C
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.

Map meetings are part of the daily routine on our tour. Normally held early in the morning (the earliest on record so far at 5.30 am) to describe route, possible sights and meeting point(s), we can also have them in the evening to allow for more flexibility the following morning. Some people really are early birds, others prefer to sleep a little longer and spend more time on breakfast etc.
Yesterday's route would have been a really easy and straight one, but that is when things can go wrong terribly easily. Four of us (including me, the geographer) got out the wrong exit cycling out of Djizzak in the direction of Tashkent - and noticed only after 17 km! Well, with a detour of appr. 25 km we made it well in time to the meeting point, but sometimes orientation is really difficult when there is no (or little) signposting even along the main roads. Asking local people does not always help either. Occasionally two people (locals) get into an argument about the right way and very frequently we get contradicting information about the distances (32 km? No, 15!). And often people are not able to locate themselves on the map, do not know the name of the nearest town etc.
Anyway, a proper map and some language skill (including the skill to communicate with gestures) indispenible, but sometimes compass and GPS prove their usefullness.

Today is day 86, half time between Olympia and Beijing

GPS track and phtos Djizzak to Bekobod, including our little detour: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=25302

Posted by Lent 07:19 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (1)

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