Kumushkhan, April 20th 2017

We sleep well on our bedding rolls – it’s warm enough even at night to have the window open and we are snug beneath our quilts.  In a throwback to Jos, we surface to the sound of the veranda being swept. After breakfast, I get to watch Nazokat baking bread in the Tandoor oven, though I don’t get to see the dough making and proving process, unfortunately, so don’t know quite what’s involved.

The baking part is fascinating enough.  First the clay oven is lit, using kindling and then larger pieces of wood.  The fire is allowed to blaze for almost an hour before the embers are ready for baking.

When Nazokat brings the bread it has already been rolled flat and marked with the traditional patterns.

She wears a long padded sleeve to protect her from the heat and scatters water inside the walls and roof of the oven before wetting the back of the bread and sticking it to the oven wall using a thing like a baseball glove without fingers.

The bread takes about 10 minutes to rise and turn a beautiful golden brown.  Sometimes the bread dries out before Nazokat expects it to and falls off onto the embers – she has to rescue it quickly and polish off the ash with some water.  Other times it is nearly done but not quite brown enough so she has to hold it in tongs and toast it a little more over the embers.

The end product looks, and tastes, delicious, especially when still warm!  Nazokat gives me something which I think is apple butter to eat with the bread and I have to remind myself it will be lunchtime in a couple of hours.

I’d really like to see some tulips in the wild so we get in touch with Aliya to act as translator to ask whether Jasur can show us somewhere but apparently it’s early for tulips at this altitude (about 1400 m) and this would mean a long drive.  Instead we ask him to drop us at the bridge across the river so that we can walk up the far side.  It’s about 3 km down the road, so not surprising we didn’t find it yesterday.  It turns out that walking up a side valley looks a better bet so we spend a couple of pleasant hours meandering our way up a valley which runs SE from the main river.  There is a small village where the tributary joins the main river but after that we see no one all morning.

It’s a delightful walk and, with spring blossom and hawthorn trees just coming into leaf the landscape looks very familiar.

Some of the plants we see are very familiar too – banks of violets in the shade and garlic mustard (see Jack by the hedge).

There are less familiar plants too – Ferula assa-foetida and Corydalis ledebouriana.

Ferula assa-foetida

We saw Ferula growing on hillsides in the Indian Himalayas last year but I hadn’t realised its roots are the source of the spice asafoetida or hing.

Corydalis ledebouriana

I find a wonderful crop of morel mushrooms growing on one shady bank and we nearly step on a snake with adder like markings basking near the path. It’s so still we are not sure whether it’s alive but decide discretion is the better part of valour.  When we return, it has gone, so looks like that was a wise choice!

We don’t see tulips or irises today but there is the promise of wonderfully diverse spring flowers to come – Verbascum, geraniums, and either tulips or orchids – and we see a beautiful butterfly, sadly on its last legs.

Jasur picks us up where he dropped us at 1 pm and we are very glad of the lift up the hill, though it’s cooler than yesterday.  We lunch on pasta and minced meat – what I had the first night in Tashkent, though I don’t know the name for it.  I enjoy the dried apricots for desert too.

After lunch it rains quite hard so we stay indoors.  We venture out for another walk in the direction of the shrine, only to be caught out in the next downpour – a variation on the theme of mad dogs and Englishmen!  Nazokat has made moder somsa for dinner with wild garlic leaves I saw her daughter bring back earlier.  She has also made plov, but we both stuggle to finish our bowls after the somsa.  It is wet again in the evening and we sit reading and wait for a gap in the rain to dash to the outside toilet – definitely a less attractive option when it is dark and wet!

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