Osh – civilisation!

As much as anything Osh is a functional stop to give us chance to regather before we head off on the next leg – we need a couple of consecutive hot showers to steam the dust off, good internet so we can get some of the videos uploaded, to do the laundry that has been backing up since we left the heat of the Wakhan Valley, and to switch the alarm clock off for a day.

We also haven’t got past the stage of only having a very loose plan for the rest of our trip because our pre-trip reading/planning focussed mainly on the Pamir Highway and we were too social at the homestays to have got any more reading done.

IMG_5367With a bit of internet at the hotel in Sary-Tash we’d looked up and found a place to stay in Osh, it’s easier here to stay at the places that other travellers do as they are used to helping out with everything you need and it just makes it faster and easier. It also means we meet lots of other people doing their variation of the same thing, and there is a really broad range of people; hostels here are not for the young and shoestring they are traveller haunts that everyone goes to.

At the top of our list of things to see in Osh was World Heritage listed Suleiman Too, and the bazaar, which is reputed to be one of Central Asia’s biggest. We’d put together our shopping list in anticipation.

On arriving before midday and finding our room was ready already we cracked on with the practical priorities first and were stoked to discover we could pay the guesthouse to do a load of laundry, saving us a lot of time and effort.

Showered, clothes on the line and internet caned while it was quiet, we set off in the late afternoon sun to get the lie of the land. Our guesthouse was apparently a couple of kilometres from the city centre and while there are marshrutkas (they are high roofed Mercedes Sprinter vans mainly converted into minibuses) that we could catch from outside our guesthouse we decided to walk so we could get our bearings and a sense of the place.

We passed by an ATM that delivered the goods so that was the first tick quickly on our list, but then we promptly equalled things out by getting lost. While trying to get back on the right track we found the rug street and amazing pistachio nuts down a dirt backstreet. Eventually we found the bazaar. We had a small explore and Emma bought some kind of fried flat doughnut with sugar on top from an old woman.

IMG_5336We headed back under threat of evening rain, which didn’t progress past a few spots. We scored a bunch of Somsas for dinner having lived very happily on them at the end of our Uzbekistan trip last year, but the meat in them was so fatty and tough they were inedible for us so we ate a bit of pastry and binned them. Chocolate and fizzy drinks made it better.

Tajikistan is supposed to be the most conservative country we’re visiting, and women are usually covered wrist to ankle. Men don’t wear shorts or less than a tshirt either. From what we’d read once we left Tajikistan we’d be ok to wear shorts. Rather than take this as a given we checked out what women were wearing as we entered Osh; surprisingly there is a broad range from more conservative full Muslim dress to women wearing skirts and occasionally shorts. We wasted no time getting our shorts out; gotta try and get those legs a little less white.

The next morning we caught a marshrutka from outside the guesthouse to the bazaar. They cost around 20 NZ cents a ride. We set about getting the things on our list, but first up I made Emma buy some ankle socks as it transpires she only brought 1 pair with her so she was eyeing up mine. She got another 2 pairs for around NZ$1.20.

IMG_5362We’ve caved from our low tech approach and bought a local SIM card. It cost us 120 Som (approx NZ$2.53) for the SIM and 10 GB of data, 200 minutes and 200 texts… And the guy in the shop fitted it and registered it all for us for free…

We made the decision because the guidebook is saying that like in Tajikistan, a lot of places aren’t manned such as some of the CBT (Community Based Tourism) offices which help you to sort out accomodation, and provide advice on anything you might need, so you need to call them. For the first time on a trip we’re carrying an old phone to make videos with. So we figured why make it harder for ourselves; better to have the option to use it if we need to.

We failed to find hand sanitiser anywhere, not only in the bazaar but also in the heaps of pharmacies around our guesthouse (there is a childrens hospital down the road). We haven’t ran out yet so we’ll just have to ration what we have until Bishkek and hope we score some there.

IMG_5359The bazaar is long and thin, set around the river. We followed it down to the end as we shopped our way towards Suleiman Too. It’s easy to navigate to as it is a rocky hill. Prophet Mohammed apparently prayed there which makes it a Muslim site of pilgrimage. Being near the top of the hill it also offers great views of the city. We had a walk part way round it’s base to the mosque where we discovered the path up on that side was more gradual so we cut through the graveyard and made our way up before descending down the steep other side. On our way back we finally found a towel in the bazaar for Emma, no longer will she get second use of my wet towel…

We’d been out all day so after sussing out how to get to where we wanted to go to next we headed to a nearby local restaurant for dinner, who it turned out did great food.

It was hard to leave all the modern conveniences, the legs are long past being fresh and much more sleep is required – but time is short and there is a lot to see and experience, so after a day and a half in Osh we tore ourselves away and went to find a bus or 3.

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