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Zarafshan

June 12 2003 at 2:06 AM
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When I complain about Gulistan, I don't think it even compares to this. Another volunteer, Jon, wrote this about his site Zarafshan.

>So, you want to travel to Zarafshan. There is no real reason to ask why you want to come to Zarafshan. There can be no logical reason to do this.
Therefore, any attempt to ask “why” will only be futile. Therefore, we will skip the “why” and go to the other basic interrogatives of travel.
Zarafshan is a small city (population: 70,000) about 200 kilometers (miles?) North/Northwest of Navoi city. The history of Zarafshan can be summed up quite simply: before 1965, it simply wasn’t—didn’t exist.
Maybe the local shrub brush and flowers had formed there own convenient society, but humans had no dwellings on this land. Then, someone found gold and
a city was built by the Soviets. The Soviets got most of the gold, but a lot of shale or some such thing was left in the ground, and in 1992 a U.S.-based company, Newmont Gold set up business in Zarafshan and
nearby Murantau (work settlement, population 2,000.) to refine gold using mercury leaching. We have been assured that the mercury won’t reach ground water for some thousands of years. This actually makes sense, because the ground water in this area is so very, um, not present. All water is piped in from the Amu Darya on the Turkmen border—about 250 kilometers (miles?).
Similarly, all produce and dry food items are imported from Bukhara and Navoi, as nothing really grows naturally in town.
The sheep are local, but there are no cows. Milk comes in a Nestle box or from Navoi. There are no houses in Zarafshan, only apartment buildings.
There is a very nice map of the city, but you probably won’t need it. A fit person can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes.
Zarafshan can be reached by all normal means of transportation, though some are spottier than others. Airplanes are quickest and easiest from
>Tashkent/Ferghana, though the schedule changes frequently. Generally
there
>is one flight in and one flight out every day, around mid-day. The
airport
>is within walking distance of the town (45 minutes—through desert), or
by
>taxi (500-700 soums: be firm, they may ask for about 5000). Train
service
>exists, but in no clear time-table, and only comes to Yangi-Zarafshan,
>about 10 kilometers out of town. Bus service is common and reliable.
From
>Navoi, it is about 1500 soum—though the ride is a grueling 4 hours
from
>Navoi, especially if you are not lucky enough to get a seat. For 2000
>soums, you can come from Bukhara on bus: trip time 6 hours, seat note
above
>about seats. The next step up are marshruka taxis. These begin running
from
>Navoi or Gidjdovan (sp?) to Zarafshan at about 7 in the morning, and
>continue into the early evening, though by
> mid afternoon, service becomes a little splotchy and you will have
to
>wait longer and pay more. Generally, from either Gijdavon or Navoi,
2000
>soums is the price—after 3pm, 2500. Marshrukas leave from the
avto-voksal
>in both cities. The fancy way to travel is by car. The same pricing
rules
>apply as marshrukas, except daytime prices for cars usually begin at
3000
>soums. Marshrukas and taxis make the trip at about the same speed—2
˝-3
>hours.
>As far as connecting to other cities, well, you’ve about hit
rock-bottom in
>Zarafshan. There are marshrukas and buses to the last city on the
>line—Uch-Kuduk (another 100 kilometers), and I suppose the really
brave
>might try to continue on to Nukus (400 kilometers).
>
>There is, as far as we know, one hotel in Zarafshan. The word from
Maruf—PC
>driver—is that this is a pretty seedy joint. Rooms begin at 2000
>soums/night. There is a dormitory at the Academic Lyceum that is free
for
>guests of said institution. All in all, your best bet is to make nice
with
>the local volunteers and crash at their place. Remember: they like
>chocolate and beer.
>
>Dining is pretty limited to the cafes with the big five uzbek dishes,
plus
>borsht. There is one restaurant that serves low-end Tashkent
food—we’re
>talking beef-steak here. Most cafes are located in the big or little
>bazars, and the restaurant is across the street from the Trade Center,
>where the post-office is. We also have the “Elegant Supermarket:” but
while
>it’s called a supermarket, it’s more like a giant air-conditioned
magazine
>than a good-ole’ home-grown Piggly-Wiggly.
>
>While the buildings represent the height of Soviet architectural
design,
>the most striking thing to see in Zarafshan is actually outside of the
>city: nothing. Well, there are plants and some quite pleasant
hills—but
>these are your run-of-the-mill plants, and your standard issue hills.
I
>share this reported anecdote about Fred Gregory, upon returning to
Tashkent
>from a Zarafshan site-visit.
>
>PCV: So, how was Zarafshan?
>Fred: Whew. Well, the word Desolate comes to mind.
>

 
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