From the information that we had gathered earlier from online sources and travel forums, the Uzbek-Tajik border crossing at Oybek was expected to be painless expect for the fact that there is no direct transport going across the two countries. Our guidebook indicated that share-taxis leaving Tashkent at Qoylok Bazaar for the town of Bekebod could drop passengers on the Uzbek side of the border and one would have to deal with arranging onward travel on the Tajik side separately.
A helpful store owner on the main street close to our hotel gave us some critical information that we were unable to find from any online resource - the marshrutka (shared van) number that plies on the route to Qoylok which we intended to take the next day. Qoylok was far enough from central Tashkent that a taxi ride would have been prohibitively expensive. After learning the bus number (which the store owner typed into his cell phone to show us due to us having no common language), we waited on the street for a few minutes and were happy to see one pass by which confirmed that we had not misunderstood. But we were taken aback by the bystanders (who had curiously watched the sign language/cell phone exchange) who were yelling at the marshrutka to stop for us. We had to make a whole dance to convey "not now, tomorrow, tomorrow" to them to quieten them down and let them get on with their busy lives.
Early next morning we trudged to the main road with our backpacks and flagged the marshrutka down. Despite our big packs blocking the aisle, the other passengers were non-complaining and were eager to help. On reaching Ooylok we discovered that there was a bus scheduled to leave for Bekebod, a more comfortable option for the 1.5 hours it was expected to take to get to the border.
The bus dropped us off by the side of the road within sight of the border post. M quickly whipped out her camera and took a few long distance photos of the Uzbek side of the border before walking the 100 meter or so distance to the buildings. The only people besides us waiting to cross the border at the same time was a (Tajik?) family of four with a large number of bags. On approaching the Immigration official, he thrust into our hands a blank copy of the exact same Customs form that we had earlier filled out on our arrival at the airport. except that this time we had to fill out everything we were taking out of the country! He carefully compared every line of the earlier stamped form with what we had filed out now including how much difference there was in the currencies. We had been careful not to convert or withdraw too much money in Tashkent as large discrepancies have known to cause confiscation or further inquiries.
The bags were opened and checked again and they displayed a lot of curiosity over the electronics we were carrying. The GPS and the Macbook Air got a lot of attention with one of the guards looking for a crash course on navigating through the Mac. M's camera was turned on and recent photos scanned. Unfortunately for us they did not take kindly to photos of the border post and ordered that they be deleted in their presence. While we were a little peeved about losing those pictures, we were relieved they did not make a bigger fuss about it. Fortunately V had taken one on a different camera that they did not ask to scan, so we have one photo for the record.
Having got the departure stamp from the next official, we made our way on foot through a longish no-man's land between the two countries which to our delight was rich in bird-life.
In contrast to the Uzbek side, the Tajik immigration official was totally laid-back and seemed more interested in making small talk (he warmed to our mentioning Hindustan) than conducting official business. Maybe he was lonely or just bored! We discovered he was less than competent when it took several attempts to explain which country we were citizens of despite handing him our passports and filled out applications forms!
He eventually stamped our passports and waved us through and as we exited the gates of the border post war were mobbed by a group of taxi drivers, all offering to take us to Khujand. There is nothing for miles around this border crossing on the Tajik side and negotiating the cost of the ride was a delicate dance involving typing offers and counter offers on phone calculators and a lot of vigorous head shaking. Our initial plan that involved taking a taxi to nearby Buston and then hopping on to a minibus to Khujand. What was in our favor was that we were the only customers around. What was in their favor was that we really had no backup option as there was no other form of transport available. The drivers wanted to ride all the way to Khujand. The haggling got extremely complicated with two currencies, two destinations, many drivers and the two of us all speaking and gesturing. Eventually we settled on what we considered a fair price, we were off down a lonely stretch of road with distant mountains all around us.
The adventure continues. No man's land between two countries is always a strange place. Crossing the border on land and standing on the other side and trying to find transport without getting fleeced and not speaking the language - aha, that's always a special experience.
V - following up on the comment in your earlier post. An expert opinion on the beauty or otherwise of various "stan" women would be much appreciated. maybe a full post ........ M is requested not to yell at me :) From , on Sep 11, 2012 at 03:53AM
It gets stranger still. Our next border crossing was totally wild. We will post details soon :-)
They were not strikingly so, did not think of it till you mentioned it. But we were there only 2 days. Will have to wait till we spend more time there. M is not a bad judge of these matters herself From , on Sep 18, 2012 at 03:24AM