Need a short respite from the searing heat and visa collecting of Tashkent? Take a short venture up into the mountains to nearby Chimgan. Doing it the cheap way will take a lot longer than taking a private taxi from Tashkent (see below), though once you’re there and the heat is left behind you soon start to feel the shackles of the city slip off, leaving them clinking on the ground in your wake.
The village at the bottom of the ski lift is nothing more than a collective of shops and restaurants though we did visit the shaded patio of a little green restaurant twice as its setting off the main road is a pleasant spot for lunch and a jug of compote. Yes shock horror we didn’t drink beer (mainly due to the hangover from last night’s partying in Tashkent).
Only having time for an overnight jaunt with the intention of climbing to the top of one of the nearby peaks we were unfortunately soon faced with a steep path up with plenty of snow cover still around. As we walked higher we watched people descend past us with full setups of crampons, ice axes, full cold weather gear and even snowboards. The final straw which brought to a head the impossibility of our planned adventure was an old gentleman passing us on the snow on skis which soon had us coming to a halt.
Instead we found a small waterfall within reasonable distance up the snowy slope that still challenged us enough that we felt satisfied with our small trek. At least half of the two hour hike was spent negotiating our way up the snow, a much harder task than sliding back down it. Though Sarah did try sliding on her arse before realising the slope was too steep, she picked up too much speed and she was wearing shorts resulting in some awesome ice burn. Total fail. It was a nice break for the city with wild tulips, bumble bees and buttercups though there’s no shade along the way.
Back in town we stayed at the Hotel Asia (USD$20 for a private) which was the closet to the ski lifts. It’s a basic place with twin beds, private bathroom and a restaurant with a bar showing a selection of top shelf spirits, all empty, but with the original boxes on display. Sitting down for dinner Matt got talking with some young local lads from Tashkent who filled him with Russian style dumplings. The owner then moved him onto our own table which had been perfectly laid with table ware and fine crystal glasses, which remained empty as the only thing available to drink was tea. Still, it was a nice touch!
With the right gear or at the right time of the year you could spend a few days up in the Chimgan area to escape the scorching heat of the capital.
The following morning we rose early to head back to Tashkent and on the walk back to the ski lift we passed a minivan parked on the side of the road. A half dozen old local men had spread a blanket on the ground and were enjoying a breakfast of bread, tea, a pot of boiled meat and vodka at the grand hour of 9am. Offering us some meat straight from the pot Matt dove in but Sarah politely declined and was instead handed an entire loaf of traditional Uzbek bread. After trying politely to decline this we took it with us and tried to enjoy it, unfortunately Uzbek bread is the worst bread in the world.
Next up crossing the border to Kyrgyzstan.
For more photos of out two year odyssey around the world click here to see our Flickr page.
Thanks for reading and please come again.
From Tashkent to Chimgan
- Leaving Art Hostel at 9am we took the metro to Buyuk Ipak Yuli station then a marshutka (UZS5,000 each) a few kms to meet another marshutka (UZS3,000 each) to Chirchiq. From here we took a marshutka to Gazalkent (UZS1,500 each) where we bargained with a taxi driver to take us the remainder of the way to Chimgan (UZS7,000 each or UZS20,000 for the whole car to leave immediately). The whole journey took around three hours.
From Chimgan to Tashkent
- From the bottom of the chairlift in Chimgan take a taxi back to the town of Gazalkent (UZS7,000 per person or UZS20,000 for the whole taxi to leave immediately).
- Next reverse the above or take a marshutka directly to the TT3 bus terminal past Chirchiq (UZS3,000 each). Many taxi drivers will tell you that you can’t get back by public transport. Don’t listen to them.
- From TT3 it’s another marshutka to Buyuk Ipak Yuli metro station (UZS1,500 each) which will take you directly back into the centre of Tashkent.