Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Uzbekistan, and Man's Destruction

There are many times in my life that I have visited a place for it's ambiance or it's natural beauty.  However, many of us have spent significant time wandering the globe, looking at ancient ruins and wondering how things came to that.  Here in the U.S. where I live, we have gone overboard to protect and preserve some really weird things in the name of not destroying them.  There's a busted bell in Philly that exemplifies that.  But, some other cultures, in the name of progress have done some odd things with some amazing repercussions.
This one is for Soviet buffs like me.  This is the Aral Sea.  No, you're not seeing things.  It looks like a desert, but see the ships.  They used to be sitting in water.

Here you can see the sea as it is and the dotted lines show where it used to be.  The two rivers that were running into it, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, were dammed up in the 1960's to provide irrigation for cotton and rice fields.  With these two rivers being the only supply of water to the foremost inland salt water sea, the water has simply gone away.  The ships have sat right there in the water until it went away.  The town of Muynak has gone by the way too.

There's not much left.  This is the local hotel.

There's not much left.  There aren't very many people either.  This place used to be a big fisherman's port on a thriving sea.  Now, it's a desert ghost town.  Welcome to a modern ecological disaster.
But yet, it's something that is amazing to see.


It's amazing, isn't it?  There's nothing on Earth quite like it.  Here's the thing.  If you like to look at ruins in Rome or Athens, then think about this.  In a thousand years, people could be coming to look at these ruins in the same way that we go to look at the others.  This is something you don't see every day.

Uzbekistan is a fascinating and beautiful country with wonderful steppe cultures to learn about.  You can take a tour that includes living in a Yurt with locals that teach you about the ancient nomadic lifestyle and the foods that they eat.  You can come and spend your time in Tashkent where there's a modern lifestyle emerging.  It's an amazing country.  It's an amazing journey.  Just take that side trip up to Muynak and the Aral Sea.  It's a side trip you'll never forget.
And take that side trip soon.  The people in the area are starting to clean it up, so to speak.  Some of the locals have been making deals to sell the remains of some of the ships for scrap.  That means simply that as time goes on, there will be less of a ship graveyard to see.  As time goes on, there may also be less of a remaining sea to look at.  As it stands, you can still go to parts of the sea where you can get in the water if you like that much salt.
There are also areas in Kazakhstan where they have salt flats from the dried up sea and mine that salt for sale.  It's the other part of the Aral Sea that's definitely worth a look.

It's amazing that the world's fourth largest sea has come to this.  There are efforts in place to reverse the effects of this disaster.  Hopefully they will succeed.  But in the meantime, come and take a look at what the Soviets did in the name of cotton and rice.
 So, if you like to look at really different things, I can't think of much that would be more different than the Aral Sea.  If you want to see something that will stick with you forever, like Auschwitz, this could well be it.
Take a look and be amazed.  It's the trip to a graveyard of a lifetime.

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