Xayr O’zbekiston, yakshi qo’ling

Tashkent, I will miss you and your inexplicable quantity of ferris wheels.

Tomorrow morning I’m leaving on what I hope will be a six month trip through Turkmenistan, Iran, Pakistan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and back to Uzbekistan. Getting the visas was such a performance that it became an end in itself, and now I have a passport full of stickers it’s begnning to sink in that oh crap, I’m leaving tomorrow. Now the thought is almost overwhelming: I have Persepolis and Isfahan and Kashgar and the Hindu Kush all before of me, and I am so excited and terrified that I can hardly breathe.

I’ve no idea what it’s going to be like; I’ve never travelled alone for such a long period before, and although I’m reasonably confident of my ability to handle most things these places may throw at me, I’m a little worried I may find it all too mentally exhausting and crash after a month or two. Except this is what I’ve been dreaming of for years, and I’ve lived on my own for a year in one of the most frustrating and ridiculous countries in the world (I love you, Uzbekistan, but good Lord, you don’t make it easy), and I’ve just spent a week in Afghanistan (this did seem like a sensible idea at the time), and now is not the time to wuss out. I can do this.

It is, however, a great shame that the buildup to epic journeys has to be ruined by bloody packing. Marco Polo was strangely silent on this point (mind you, things would be a lot easier if I had my own caravan of camels). My backpack capacity seems to decrease every time I use it.

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Unwise and curiously planned

So. I am leaving for Uzbekistan in under a week. I am visa’d up (complete with bonus “You want to stay for how long? Are you nuts?” reaction from visa guy, which is mildly offputting when you’re forking over nearly two hundred quid for a piece of paper), in possession of an air ticket (trickier than it sounds) and have memorised the Russian for “I don’t speak Russian” and “I don’t understand”, which may or may not get me through the airport safely.

The fact that I probably wont be back home for a good eighteen months is only just beginning to sink in, which is probably why I waited until yesterday to begin sorting out various crucial bits and pieces that a more efficient person might have attended to at several weeks ago. Things that have made me yell “Shiiiiiit!” in the past 24 hours include, but are not limited to: a), discovering that 75% of my travel vaccinations expired last year, thus leaving me defenceless against any combination of hepatitis, typhoid and rabies that Uzbekistan cares to thow at me; b), realising my contact lens prescription expires next month, precluding me from ordering any more online; and c), being informed that foreign ATM cards don’t work anywhere in Tashkent and that I need at least $2000 to cover my expenses during the first couple of months. WHY AM I SUCH AN IDIOT.

Consequently, today has been full of needles and opticians and travellers cheques, so I am now alleviating the ache in both my upper arms (stupid intramuscular injections) with fudge (I have rationalised all of my junk food decisions over the past month with the refrain “But I won’t be able to get that in Uzbekistan!”, and it has worked out very well for me) and thinking about making a list of all of the other stuff I need to do before Sunday. This includes packing at some point, I suppose. Organisation really, really sucks.