I’m going on an adventure. We are going on an adventure. We’ve chosen a country that’s not easy to spell and is as far from the oceans as you can get. It has a sea but the Russians used it all to water the cotton fields and provide electricity. Fancy, they used a complete sea before changing their minds and leaving the country, raped and corrupted by industrialisation, but that is what the Russians do.
And what do we do? Two middle aged ladies, if seventies is middle aged. We squeal about the loos we’re likely to find, buy purses we can carry next to our waists, shoes that will clamber over ruins, trek in the mountains and a torch for night time in a yurt. We’ve had our jabs, persuaded the doctors to let us have mega strong antibiotics for unknown horrors and have read, and how, novels, travel books, books on Lapis lazuli, some basic vocabulary and in a few days we’re off to Osh.
“You are brave” murmur those who visit the lakes some thirty miles away. “You are rich” accuse others who see glossy travel magazines and notice cosseted tours for many thousands of pounds. “You are dotty at your age” observe the jealous and “You would” moan the children who make it clear that they aren’t raising the ransom if we’re kidnapped. Few bandits choose to kidnap elderly ladies, of that I’m pretty certain.
We don’t really know each other but already I perceive Sophie’s alpha status. That’s fine by me, I’m happy to play second fiddle. I’m a lousy linguist and as for bargaining, I just don’t understand the rules. In the end I usually buy nothing and the vendor’s are the losers. The popular national dish is Plov, as it sounds it’s a mixture of fatty mutton, rice and seasonal veg. This is not a gastronomic trip, the books say avoid all street vendors, local water, fresh salads and fruit unless it’s been treated with purifying pills. Wine is a rarity. It’s bottled water with knobs on.
But why go? To see mosques and artefacts that reveal a history lost in the mists of ignorance. The Silk Route, We’ll see the vast deserts and high mountain passes the old trade routes followed, we’ll follow the silk, the gems and tales and the dramas, the history of Ghengis Khan. Timur the terrible, the tracks followed by nineteenth travellers – some of them women. And we’ll return with new perceptions, new ideas, our imaginations polished and our lives enriched. I don’t suppose it will make any difference, but keep your fingers crossed.