Monday, 13 July 2009

Silk Route saga

In 2007 I travelled through Central Asia along part of the Silk Route but working for a living meant that I could only afford a month's time. I would like to complete the Western end of the journey ending up at Istanbul. There was no single route from Uzbekistan, where I ended my first segment, but was delighted to see that Dragoman were running a trip that runs South of the Caspian Sea through Iran. I was due to depart for the start point this week.

Some weeks ago Turkmenistan stopped issuing "invitation letters", without which you cannot get a visa, due to the swine flu pandemic. There are very few ways to get from Uzbekistan to Iran if you cannot travel through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan being the only other way and that is not viable. While waiting to see if Turkmenistan was going to change its position Dragoman started to look at an alternative route via Kazakhstan and a crossing of the Caspian Sea. Meanwhile, the Iranian presidential election takes place and is followed by protests at the result. The UK Government FCO response is to "advise against all but essential travel to Iran".

Time runs out to make the necessary arrangements to travel on the original date. There are just too few days available to arrange "invitation letters" and obtain visas for Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Georgia. And just to round things off nicely, Russia started Caucasus 2009 a military exercise that includes South Ossetia (Georgia) which was the scene of the 2008 South Ossetia war. When my wife saw this in the newspapers she "questioned my sanity".

I am now planning to take the trip starting in late September, the weather, if nothing else, should be a little cooler.

In the mean time I'm going to Cornwall with my wife to walk a section of the South West Coast Path, "630 miles of superb coastal walking".