The first question everyone wants answered is how many kilometres will you ride. There are many questions that should proceed that. Lets start with …..1.How much are you carrying?
About 30kg (we think we bought too much food). On the first day we were given lunch and dinner so the chance to eat what we bought is minimal especially as we are often not only fed but also often given food to take on our way, so we seem to have even more food than we started with! (Plus the fuel we had to buy burns black and dinner can smell a bit like it was cooked by a diesel mechanic who is doing a bit of painting on the side – so it’s fine when you are really hungry but not otherwise!
2. What are the roads like?
We started initially on small back road with potholes the size of bathtubs and sections like a riverbed, lots of loose flat stones. Then we finished the day on an expressway, with cars and trucks zooming by. (If there is a speed limit here it certainly isn’t obvious!). While the roads are very busy the traffic does have a feel of well organised chaos. The road is shared by all those on it with equal respect shown to all vehicles truck and bicycles and donkey drawn carts and shiny new cars all have the same value. I was carefully shepherded across a very busy intersection by a thoughtful truck driver. That would never happen in Sydney!
3. What will the weather be like?
Hot mid 30s, not much shade and much heat coming off the road. There’s an occasional sandstorm thrown in just to keep you focussed. But then there’s rivers and waterways to cool off in or have lunch by. Then there’s the wind – how strong is it? Is it a tail wind or a headwind? So far we’ve been lucky – not much wind either way though one afternoon a very hot dry headwind did feel like it was scorching the tonsils.
4. What’s the terrain like? We’ve done our first big hill – it wasn’t a mountain but did take a couple of hours. Apart from the weather, the other benefit of starting in Uzbekistan is it is relatively flat – especially compared to Kyrgystan and Tajikistan.
5. How many times a day will you be invited in for tea, for meals, to stop for selfies, to chat and make real this vision of two women with loaded bikes in Uzbekistan. Many many times. It was very hot riding so we were constantly looking for shade to take a short break. We stopped under a big shady tree 🌳, nodded hello to a local and were invited in for Chai. Israh – (well actually his daughter in law) made us a feast fit for queens). Two different types of freshly baked homemade bread! We were also invited to stay for the night – but it was too early in the day.
6. What will you see along the way that will make you stop? Multi story stork apartments, donkeys at work, mulberry trees.
The back roads were a mulberry fest – every kilometre or so we could stop and feast, staining our lips and hands with sweet, ripe, mulberries- ours for the picking.
Having stopped late on our first night to make camp we decided to started looking for somewhere to camp by 5pm. We asked a few people – with our newly acquired, extremely limited Russian.
Maria and Boris to the rescue. We were briefly invited to put up our tent in their garden but almost before we could answer we were taken inside given a room. Then more treats – a sauna and wash, food and then lots of chatting each in our own tongue but with warmth and laughter we somehow understood each other.
Boris gave us “spirit”as we had politely refused the vodka – mental note – next time accept the vodka!
It seems many people grow their own food both our lunch and dinner were from the garden.
After a few days riding we have finally figured out the 4 types of horn blowing. 1. A short blow – for awareness only 2. Two short beeps – wow its people on Bikes. 3. One – two longer beeps – you are in my way and you dont seem to realise you shouldn’t be doing that. 4. Four – six frantic beeps oh my god I just saw two woman riding bikes oh my good they waved oh my god!!
Of course every journey has its challenges too – we have had to learn to say no – there are so many offers of chai, food, somewhere to rest, we could easily not move very far at all. There was also the snapped seat post screw (for the non bikers amongst you – a seat that swivels as you ride and that can’t be adjusted for the right height!). Adrienne was whisked away in a car by locals with almost no English only to return a while later with not one but two screws, one of which was promptly tested and put in place before they disappeared as quickly and quietly as they had appeared.
It’s so hot in the day we start early then take a break for a few hours in the middle of day before continuing in the afternoon.
Even politely saying no – people go out of their way to help. After explaining we didn’t have time to go to his house (via a very helpful app) we were asked to wait for a short moment while a friend brought cold water to us!
There are usually little roadside stalls popping up regularly .. except of course when you need it and water is running low…. late in the afternoon we turned off the main road in the search for water. I asked if they was a shop close by? At that the garage door opened and there was a shop 🙂 After buying water we then given Airon – a cooling yoghurt, pickle and dill soup and also a jar of kefir to help us on our way. Such warmth and generosity can at times be overwhelming.
After an early start – packing up our campsite under the walnut trees – we were on a mission to reach Samarkand. We weren’t exactly sure how far it was but thought it was within reach.
Many many hours later, with stops and gifts along the way, we rolled into Samarkand, though the old stone streets at 9pm. 102km – big day and we felt it.
Friends we met along the road.. first leg
Now to explore Samarkand…here’s a taster