Most Inspirational Moment
I absolutely loved swimming in Aidarkul Lake and the desert scenery on the way to and from the yurt. I also loved Samarkand and particularly Shah-i-Zinda.
Thoughts on Group Leader
Our group leader Shakh appeared to be inexperienced, he lacked friendliness at times and he showed a complete lack of interest in the fact that I was very badly ill twice. I had arrived a few days earlier (as a solo female traveller) and the day before I met the group I suffered sickness and diarhoea. On first meeting Shakh at the group meeting I mentioned this to him and I could not believe the almost complete lack of interest. In fact, I thought this so unusual, that I repeated myself in case he had not heard. We later went on our tour of Tashkent and I very nearly fainted (as I had not eaten due to the bug). Again Shakh was barely interested, pointed to a door where I could reach the outside and left me to it. Only when the other members of the group asked me if I was OK did Shakh very briefly check on me. A few days after that the bug returned and I was up all night with the worst illness I have ever encountered. The next day I again mentioned this to the guide and he was still uninterested (and no offers of pharmacy stops were made).
Other problems with Shakh were:-
not having sufficient water for our group in the first few days of the trip (at the desert fortresses we had run out of water completely in the heat and we also run out of water in the morning at Khiva). In fact, at the desert fortresses, I asked Shakh where the water was and he snapped back that he had not picked up the 10 litre bottle yet. As we had driven from the airport at Nukus there had been plenty of opportunity to pick up water. After that I no longer trusted Shakh to provide water and just bought my own to make sure I always had a supply.
I have been on 5 other Exodus trips and on all those trips the guide has eaten with the group and the guides have been good/fantastic. This guide did not eat with us on the first night in Tashkent nor the first night in Samarkand and on around 4 or 5 other occasions.
He was not always very friendly or smiley, which I think is the requirement of a guide. In fact one time we passed him in the street during our free time and he did not even smile or acknowledge us.
The restaurant chosen for our final lunch in Samarkand was appalling in terms of service and again Shakh sat at a neighbouring table. Some of our food took an hour and a quarter or more to arrive and no complaints were made by him, to my knowledge. Then when the bill came the prices had changed markedly, for example the soup price had increased by over 50% and all the other prices had changed. This situation was awful and was handled very badly by the guide.
The coach was not always asked to collect us, e.g from right outside the airport, so we were left with quite long distances to drag our cases. This was not really a problem for me as I had a rucksack (albeit a heavy one) but some of the other travellers were in their 70's and I am sure they would have benefited from being picked up.
Shakh gave out his mobile number in case of emergency, with instructions NOT to ring him at night. Whilst I am sure most people would not ring the guide at night, emergencies can of course happen at night.
On a more positive note Shakh was very knowledgeable about the history and geography of Uzbekistan and I very much enjoyed his commentaries, especially when he told us about his wedding. He also improved as the 11 days progressed (except for the final lunch incident). However I think being completely uninterested in the health of your travellers is completely unacceptable.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Sadly a number of people in our group were ill. Take plenty of rehydration salts. The bread is at least delicious, so you can survive on that!
Do get out for a walk in the area around the yurt. I had a couple of little walks and it was so peaceful and the wildlife great.
The itinerary is great for this trip with a lovely combination of nature and cities. I would however definitely check on who is the guide.
Reply from Exodus
We would like to thank Ann for her review; we were pleased to read she enjoyed the itinerary and found it to have a good combination of nature and cities, as we feel this is something that makes Uzbekistan such a special country to visit. We were, however, very sorry to read that she was disappointed with her tour leader, Shahrukh. Having discussed this with a member of the Exodus team who has also travelled with Shahrukh, who is an experienced guide, we feel that he has potential to be a great tour leader for us, so we have asked the local team to carry out some additional training regarding what is expected by Exodus and our clients. While we are sorry that this cannot alter Ann’s experience, we hope that this shows we have taken her review on board. Jennifer Cox – Product Manager