We are now in 3rd/4th class social mix. The only difference is that 3rdclass get to choose their seats and the 4th take the remaining seats.
Border pass formalities were smooth and easy with the immigration and customs officers joking to us naming all the French celebrities. Zidane always comes first.
The landscape is dry, barren till the horizon with a few horses and wild camels. These are sometimes domestic animals. There is no tarred road to Uzbekistan and all the goods trucks and cars ride on sand tracks with a long dust trail behind. Paris-Texas film scenes and landscapes.
The real action starts at the Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan border at Karakalpakstan. All the vendors jump on board the train and start selling their wares. I have only seen that before on a bus between Douala and Yaoundé in Cameroon. The vendors are young, and old children, women, men shouting and advertising their products. You can be fed – Pilmieni, Samsa, Shashlik. You can drink, coke, water, tea, beer. You can smoke – cigarettes. You can wash yourself after – Kleenex, soap, razor blades and toothpaste. You can get dressed and/or dress your kin – girls’ dresses, t-shirts, trousers, shawls. You can go home loaded with gifts – toys, napkins, DVD, loudspeakers, perfumes or play the music yourself – Musical instruments. You can call/write home – mobile phones and sim cards, pens and notebooks. And if you don’t have local currency, the black market exchange comes to you; 50 US$ gets you a book thick of 1000 som notes (biggest note = 0,25 US$) . It is an uninterrupted flow of vendors up and down the corridor.