Day 22 – Angels of Fire, Tashkent to Kokand

22rdwrks.gifBack on the Silk road. I travel across a mountain pass into the Fergana Valley. This area has been producing silk since the fourth century. It remains a cottage industry despite producing 30 000 metric tonnes per annum. Ironically this is also the most densely populated area in Central Asia and heavily industrialized. From the window of the vehicle I see Dickensian mills churning out black smoke. Cooling towers and open cast mining add to the industrial skyline. Each small town we pass through has its heroic Soviet monuments – arms reaching for the sky, sword wielding soldiers, ‘angels of fire.’
22dombra.gifEach town also has its police checkpoint where the men in red hats peer at us in disbelief and say ‘niet’ quite a lot. Along the road motorists picnic in the petrol queues, this being a rare commodity. As in the Welsh valleys the rather bleak foreground is made worse by the majestic beauty of the surrounding mountains. Roadwork’s delay us for several hours and I eventually arrive in Kokand after dark..

Tourism has not happened yet in Kokand and we find ourselves attracting more curious looks than anywhere we have been so far. We arrived at our accommodation (Soviet style apartment block) somewhat shattered and suffering from the dramatic increase in humidity.

22mat.gifThe hospitality is as warm as anywhere but today it seems more difficult to be good company as we are all so tired. Gary has had a 24 hour flu bug, perhaps three weeks of 16 hour days has taken it’s toll. My new guide is Matluba a member of the Business Women Association of Kokand (BWAK), we will be their guests tomorrow night.

Join us over the next three days when we will be meeting Otin-Oy women – female Sufi singers and a Kokand TV Director will be introducing us to some leading musicians in the area.

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