The first week in September our project offered two days of seminars at a retreat center in Saylik, one hour outside of Tashkent. After we finished on Friday afternoon, I stayed on with a dozen of the particiants to enjoy the fresh air and mountain scenery. The retreat center is operated by the Center for Effective Economic Policy and includes sixteen simple cottages surrounded by gardens, paths, a swimming pool and a tennis court.
It was built for employees of the Ministry of Economics, but now anyone who wants an inexpensive holiday can stay there. Some vacationers choose to cook their own meals, but we opted to let the cooks there do the work.
Saturday morning I convinced one economist who knows the area well to show us up a canyon near the retreat center. After a short drive we followed a brook upstream until we came to a large pool.
There we stopped for to eat. Our refreshment included a huge melon we carried up then cooled in the brook. Uzbeks are proud of their melons, and with good reason -- it was delicious.
Some in our party chose to relax by this pool while three of us charged upstream. We had been told there was a large waterfall, though nobody had actually seen it. We saw a few other hikers, but then the trail turned up more steeply. Finally we saw an Uzbek man sitting on a rock on top of the world, next to a shelter he had built where he could put a cloth and make some shade for himself.
He told us that he had seen a wolf earlier in the morning. He also pointed to the border with Kazakhstan at the top of the mountains. Then he gave us directions to find the waterfall on a tributary a short distance downstream.
We clambered down the trail, then turned up a small path heading up a side canyon. Before long we came around a corner and there was a twenty meter waterfall in front of us.
We knew others were waiting for us, but we stayed long enough for a quick shower and some pictures. Then we hurried back down, found the rest of our group and returned to the retreat center. Since the director of the center was with us, we were confident that even though we had all missed the scheduled hour for lunch someone would find us some food.
I enjoyed a lazy afternoon, reading a book in the shade outside my cottage and swimming in the large pool.
Sunday morning I took the bicycle out of the trunk of my car and set off to explore. I followed a small road, winding through the countryside on the edge of the mountains. My legs wished for more gradual hills, but the scenery was beautiful. I appreciated the complete lack of traffic as too much of my bike riding has been in Tashkent. There I can find back streets with little traffic, but here I saw only one car the whole morning.
I returned to the retreat center for a swim before lunch. A friendly family invited me to share their lunch by the side of the pool while their twelve year old boy rode around on my bike.
After a leisurely lunch it was time to drive back to Tashkent -- Monday was a work day!