• Josh Bulpin

Camels. Delirium. Toilets

Uzbekistan 2016

At 5.30am, mildly delirious and in a state of wasted exhaustion, I stumbled through the desert camp toward the unnecessarily large toilet block for the umpteenth time that night, amazed my wrung out innards had anything remaining they felt it necessary to expunge. I hobbled up to the door, bent double with whole body cramps and spasms, feeling like I was just coming round from a general anaesthetic. I got a surprise when I opened it; in front of me was a massive dromedary! It was stood nonchalantly by the sinks, shitting all over the floor. Of course it was!?

I put it down to my hallucinatory state, did my pathetic business and slowly and without much balance, made my way back to the Ger.

The previous day had in no way foretold the oddities of the night. We were travelling through Uzbekistan, on route to Bukhara from the Nuratau Mountains and were breaking the journey at a Ger camp in the blistering desert. Now, I love a Ger, or a yurt as some may know them; At night, when the desert temperature plummets, or on the cold plains of the steppe, they are a warm, cosy sanctuary. But in the rampant heat of the desert sun they become close, oppressive infernos. No sooner had we arrived than we escaped the over-sized ovens and were ferried twenty minutes to a spectacular display of the reach of the old USSR; a man-made lake so large you can't see the other side. They made it just because they could. Stepping onto the deserted sandy beach, one could almost believe you were stood on the edge of the Mediterranean.

We spent a blissful afternoon mucking about in the calm cool waters and hiding from the sun in the shade. It was a bizarre, yet blissful experience in direct contrast to the barren, harsh desert environment we found ourselves in.

Returning to the Ger camp as the temperature dropped to something almost comfortable, we climbed the nearest dune and watched as the sky showed off its chameleon-esque display of colour change. Pink clouds were illuminated by a Sun slipping from orange to deep red as it headed on to brighten the day of the other half of the world.

In the cool darkness we ate sat on Uzbek carpets, and were treated to some local music around the fire, all the while being silently watched by a million stars in the clear desert sky.

We returned to our Gers with the warmth that comes from a beautiful day of travel and adventure, and fell asleep smiling.

Just after midnight I woke shivering and spasming so severely my joints and muscles were screaming in pain. Pretty quickly after that I began what became an unbelievably regular pilgrimage to the aforementioned, unnecessarily large and ineffectual (no running water) toilet block. My Ger mate plied me with medicine and water throughout the night and into the early morning. But, by 5.30, when I made the last of my shuffling’s to commune with the Loo, I was a mumbling mess. I made no mention of the hallucinatory camel to my buddy as I re-entered the Ger for the twentieth time - I'm pretty sure he already thought I'd gone bananas by this stage and had no desire to confirm his suspicions.

Not long after that I was dumped on the back seat of our transport to Bukhara, given a double dose of Imodium, and covered in a blanket. The next thing I knew we had arrived in the ancient Silk Road city, a place I had dreamt of seeing since reading the adventures of Marco Polo when I was around 12. On arrival I passed out for another few hours, waking as the sun was setting and the temperature dropping again. Feeling markedly better I headed up to the terrace to check in on the team. As I sat on one table, sipping a delicious ice cold coke, I overheard a couple of the guys on another table laughing about a photo on one of their cameras. It was of a camel, shitting all over the floor of a toilet block in the desert.


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