Bad transport in the holiday

16 people plus all our baggage had to fit into this

This is central Asia, and we were traveling with a group, so one was not expecting chauffeur driven Rolls-Royces. However we did have to spend a lot of time travelling, on occasions 14 hours in a day, so transport if it was bad (ie clapped out in Uzbekistan) or inappropriate (a jeep and 2 mini-buses with not enough space in Tajikistan), then became like something between uncomfortable and unbearable. Let me take each of these two problems separately

1. The Jeep and 2 mini-buses in Tajikistan. With the tour leader and the guide installing themselves in the lead jeep, there was room for one punter in that, then the 2 mini-buses had to take 5 punters (ie 1 spare seat) and 6 punters (ie no spare seats). Our mini-bus was the full one with 6 punters and no rotation of our extra person into the other bus was offered. Given Chris, Marie-Christine and I had the shorted legs, we had to sit crammed on the back seat for 5 days over long, bumpy, difficult roads. The other 3 men in the bus had longer legs and needed to sit where they could at least put their legs out sideways. The other mini-bus did not have the problem as they only needed 2 on the back seat. I was not privy to the jeep's seating, but from my perspective, it looked much better than my space. I do not recall the tour leader checking out our problems

2. The buses in Uzbekistan on the last leg. We had these buses :-

3. Air Conditioning. The was an ongoing problem with drivers in all countries turning off the air-conditioning. We were told at first that it was to save power when going up mountains, but one later found in happening even when driving for miles on the flat. My own feeling is that the root of the problem is in how the drivers are paid. They are freelance owner drivers, and get paid for supplying the bus and a mileage fee. If they have the air-con on they use 10% more fuel, so they cut it off whenever they can to make the financial saving. The result was that many of our journeys which were uncomfortable anyway because of inappropriate transport, became even worse when air conditioning was "rationed" by the driver - with whom we could not commicate in Tajikistan, as there was no guide in our bus.

4. Drivers. These were difficult roads to drive, and working standards in this part of the world are not linked to the taco graph and regular breaks. I was concerned by the number of hours a driver logged up, in particular on two 10 hour days on the road. In addition we did have, and I jest not, one driver who was 80 years old, in Tajikistan. He was apparently fasting during daylight hours and that was apparently the reason for his suicidal driving on our trip down from Lenin Base camp. He drove far too fast and the bus did not have the brakes to stop within his field of vision - the result being 3 near misses with oncoming traffic.

Our Silk Road Holiday