Karakalpakstan is an autonomous region of Uzbekistan, spectacular in its beauty but blighted. It is the home of the disappearing Aral Sea, one of the twentieth century's worst ecological disasters, caused by a tragically mis-planned Soviet project to divert the water sources for irrigation.
The Aral Sea is shrinking and leaving behind a desert that you can taste all around you. What remains for hundreds of kilometers around is the memory of a sea: salt crusting over cracking ground.
Amid this vast emptiness, however, you cannot ignore the truly spectacular landscape tumbling around the Ustyurt plateau: deep canyons; sparkling lakes; salt flats and the constant smell of wild sage in the air.