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A trip to the very edge of Uzbekistan: Cape Urga, Lake Sudochye and the dried-up shore of the Aral Sea


More than fifty years ago, the Aral Sea began to dry up, leaving behind a lifeless desert. Along with the sea, people began to leave, leaving their native places.

Before reaching the retreating Aral Sea, we will see the Sudochye Lake, which is located 80-85 km from the Aral Sea, and with it the ruins of once-existing fishing settlements.Before the drying of the Aral Sea, Lake Sudochye was connected to it by a narrow arm. In the 1960s, the water level in the sea began to decrease, as a result, the channel of the Raushan River, which had previously fed Sudochye with river water, was blocked. The lake began to dry up, and by the 70s it broke up into separate reservoirs.Before the ecological disaster, Lake Sudochye was a real oasis in the middle of the desert. The Urga settlement was located here, where fish production and a fishing port flourished. Tourists came to the village to relax, swim in the lake, go fishing and taste delicious fish. Now the village is abandoned, and only the ruins of old houses, abandoned boats and the ruins of a fish factory remind of its former glory.The village is located near Cape Urga. According to legend, the settlement was founded by runaway Cossacks who took part in the Pugachev uprising. The winters here were always cold with piercing winds, and the summers were hot and dry, so the housing was built using reeds. In winter, it more or less kept warm and sheltered from the winds, and in summer it saved from the heat. It is noteworthy that such reed dwellings are found not only in the Sudochye area, but also in other places of the Ustyurt plateau.

Cape Urga captures with its majesty. More than half a century ago, it was part of the lake. It is known that in ancient times, the Massaget tribes lived on the shores of Sudochye. On the top of the cape, the ruins of an old settlement have been preserved, there was a citadel and a watchtower located there. Not far from the ruins, you can see an old Orthodox cemetery and more ancient burials. Archaeological excavations have shown that people lived in the village in the IX-X centuries of our era.

In ancient times, Urga was a busy place, but today you can only see the ruins. The shore is overgrown with reeds, and the water is moving further away from the old place. Now Sudochye has become a home for numerous birds. More than 230 species of birds have been recorded here, including swans, pelicans, flamingos, herons, golden eagles, cormorants and many others. A large population of flamingos was included in the Red Book of Uzbekistan, and the lake itself received the status of "The Most Important ornithological territory".

Fishermen often come to Sudochye, especially a lot during the fishing season. Near the lake, you can stay for the night near the signal tower, pitching a tent. And then you will see unique views of the lake with many reed islands. It is an indescribable pleasure to see off the sunset and meet the dawn at this place under the cries of birds and the flapping wings of large birds.

Leaving Sudochye, we head to the once-existing shore of the Aral Sea. And here you can see: in the west, the boundless expanse of the Ustyurt plateau, and in the east along the sea-ledges and adyrs, which were once washed by the stormy waves of the real sea.

From the south-western side, the Aral Sea has moved more than 150 kilometers away. Now this place is the endless Aralkum desert, covered with takyrs and salt marshes, reminiscent of the unearthly life from science fiction films!

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