Ship Graveyard - Muynak - former fishing port on the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once, one of the world's largest lakes in size after The Caspian Sea, Lake Superior and Lake Victoria.
The surface area of the Aral Sea before 1961 was 68,000km2 and the water salinity was 10-11 mg per litre. The marine and fishing industry used to have more than 500 ships.
During the Soviet times, irrigation channels were dug from the 2 main rivers that flowed into the lake, to provide water for cotton plantations.
The lake shrank rapidly and the Aral Sea Fishing Industry was killed off. Since 1979 there has been no maritime industry. By 1984 the Aral Sea had lost its industrial importance. Fish farms, fish factories and shipyards were closed down. More than 10,000 people become unemployed.
As of January 2010, the Aral sea was only 28,687km2 and water salinity was up to 110g per litre. Salt sand storms throw out a massive 75 million tons of sand and salt which cause health problems of those who remain here, not to mention the longer, colder winters, shorter and hotter summers. In short, an environmental disaster on a horrendous scale.
Muynak, a town that 50 years ago was a thriving fishing port, a town that is now more the 150km from the lakeshore, a town that somehow still has people living here. Grandparents look after grandchildren. Parents have upped sticks and gone to work elsewhere.
I travelled there with Sj, my Korean lover.
On the edge of town, where there was once water, there are the rusting skeletons of abandoned ships. A ship graveyard.
From Nukus, take a bus or shared taxi from the bus stand on the Kungrad road to Muynak. 10,000sum. The only hotel in town, the Oybek Hotel was very closed. No idea if this is just a temporary thing but it kinda looked like it, broken windows, rooms filled with rubble. A taxi driver called the homestay number in the Lonely Planet and after a few calls, we were driven to a house in a street parallel to the main street. 10$ per night, lunch, dinner and breakfasts are 5$ a piece extra. Aircon and quiet.
The ship graveyard is at the north end of town, 3km from the bus stand, follow the bend to the left and turn right after the first building. Then 200m more.
No registration possible at the home-stay, in summer it's VERY HOT. 40-50deg C. Thank God the home-stay had AC. Avoid dust storms. Eat at the home-stay. We wandered the backstreets and bought the usual Central Asian snacks, bread, salami, cheese, tomatoes and of course beer and vodka.
Notes: This post first appeared on my other, now-defunct travel blog and is based on my travels in July 2015.
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Travelling the world solo, since 1992, as a low-budget backpacker.