It was a much easier route out of town and we were moving well. Within an hour we got invited in for chai and by then we were ready for a stop. Another wonderful stop Azusa, Laziza, Rahmad and their family. Adrienne was whipped in a game of draughts with Fazinli the 6 year old.
After the over stimulation that was Samarkand- despite how wonderful is was – it was great to be on the road again. Feeling relaxed and refreshed with a bag of clean clothes we headed off.
Back on the road again and we saw the black clouds rolling in. At first small drops, then more and more. As it slowed we stopped for lunch but then it started again so we moved on. We eventually found shelter in a bus stop and sat watching the clay fields turn to lakes and the potholes turn into very full bathtubs.
Setting off riding again we where then riding on roads that looked like lakes – so we crossed our fingers at rode slowly – hopeful we wouldn’t end up in any invisible bathtub. If you were looking on at a distance you would have seen to very bedraggled cyclists occasionally having big brown muddy showers as cars sped by through the lake.
Looking for a place to put our tents was challenging- it was a choice between setting up on clay/mud or setting up on water. So no choice really. We then started looking for a garage or shed or something. Unlike every other day, the streets didn’t feel as welcoming. There were only men on the streets for the first time. The air was full of testosterone- just like some places at home. So we didn’t feel like stopping. When we did we were again blessed. Enter Feruza.
In addition to being a teacher, she also runs a small breakfast bar. One of the regulars is Doctor Oktom who runs a medical clinic around the corner. (And they just happen to have rooms and beds!!!) so we not only found somewhere dry, but a room, beds , shower and toilet!)
The cost of being rescued was being kidnapped agAin. Despite our plan – We did not go anywhere – Feruza wanted to have us come to stay, show us her village, make us vegetarian plov and then bring us back tomorrow. So we’re going with the flow – though it took me a while to just relax into that 😊 We did initially politely decline, several times (though considering the offer who knows why) though it seemed no was not going to be an acceptable answer not matter how politely we declined.
It was a very slow day, which yes despite being on holidays was still a little challenging for us both, lots of sitting and drinking tea, chatting via a translation app and more tea and more tea.
The morning rolled into the afternoon which rolled us into a stroll to see the sites of Ishtyxon (pronounced Ishtickhon – we are slowly getting our head around the Russian alphabet :)). Wandering the bazaar, assaulted by colour and the smells of spices, it was a treat for many senses. Then the park – which was more like a sad fairground.
As the day wore on, we were both just a little bit concerned that our kind host didn’t seem to have any sense of urgency at all – about going home or about bringing us back for an early morning departure. Lesson number 103 – just relax, be in the moment.
It was of course all worth it. A warm welcoming family, an opportunity to try a home cooked vegetarian version of the national dish plov, and time with Bobochon – a gorgeous 6 year old that stole my 💔.
The babies room was an amazing thing – from 0-3 they eat and sleep here. They are lain down strapped in and then have either of two wooden pipes pressed on their genitals pending gender. You can see Bobochon holding them in the photo! We were given a demonstration which Bobochon thought hilarious.
So no Disposable nappies at least. It did seem strange but also amazing and clearly it was a place Bobochon had very happy memories of, of being rocked to sleep with a full belly.
It was a very late night and an early morning but the wander through the village to the local taxi was a great way to end a very special stay.
Back on the road again, we committed to getting a good few kilometres in before we think about another stop. That means saying no quite a few times but finally a car pulls up next to us and a very polite well spoken young man asks us to stop and chat. We do so in the shade, standing alongside a large group of women who are trimming the grass.
And so yes we say yes to visiting his home – his English is good he’s about to go to the UK on a three year scholarship to study law. He and his family are delightful – and we do not undervalue the chance to chat and ask questions
It’s another hot day but we cover good ground then take a long afternoon break laying down in a tea house.
Yet another day or being overwhelmed with hospitality and kindness. We often need to stop and buy more water and sometimes even milk if that’s available. I went into a shop and was greeted by an old man – long white beard, long tunic. He looked much like the Muslim clerics so often negatively portrayed in the Australian media. When I went to pay – he wouldn’t accept – he motioned that It was hot and I was riding so to please just take them. Despite my initial protestations I went on my way with the gifts.
Finding a campsite in the regions we’ve been in is pretty challenging – 30 million people and they all seem to be right where we are. It didn’t help we had been on the expressway so very built up areas. We took a stony side road full of pot holes, and bounced our way along. Tried a few smaller roads and eventually thought we’ve found somewhere but the local farmer suggested somewhere else a little further away.
We eventually settled in a paddock with a few cows and plenty of grass.
10.30 at night we are woken by another farmer – perhaps this is his field. He seems upset by something but thankfully we are not moved on!
At last we are off the expressway on the back roads again. With early starts we need breakfast at least twice😎 then sometimes lunch twice too!
Up into more beautiful country, some much like Australia though browner rather than red hues.
As the afternoon wore on we choose our destination – Qizilitepa
It was hot and dry and absolutely spectacular.
As the afternoon wore on we chose our destination Qizilitepa – though we needed a second lunch stop be then.
More overwhelming generosity- this time we were give. an explanation – “because it is Ramadan – Allah is pleased when we feed others and help them” “it is good for us”. So I’m not sure if it’s all been about that – I don’t think so but it has probably contributed to it.
We hit Qizilitepa late afternoon – looking for a Hotel given the challenge of finding camp spots in built up areas. Even finding a hotel was challenging- though as always we landed on our feet. Our dusty dirty gritty selves were shown the presidential suite. Too hot and tired to ask much we said yes straight away!
After a glass or ice cold sparkling mineral water (I dont think there’s a better drink after a hot ride) I was bursting and very keen to use the bathroom.
I went up and was just about to go when I head a knock at the door. A young woman came in – asked me for a photo, took a selfie with me and left. It didn’t end there… After a shower and a meal we were ready for bed – it’s now 9.30pm. Another knock at the door – enter two young women (who work here). They take turns checking themselves in the mirror, take selfies with me then leave. Such is life in Uzbekistan 🇺🇿! Next stop Bukhara!