Well nearly. We arrived at the beginning of Ramadan and we leave just a day before the big parties. In true fashion we are eking our the adventure to the very end. Our visa expires tomorrow midnight. We’ve spent the afternoon in search of a camp stove – assisted by the incredibly helpful Akbar – who will be opening an AirBNB next year and we can already highly recommend his services! It’s been raining torrentially, flooding has already started on the roads.
We met him at 3pm it’s nearly 7 – he has postponed his work twice – and we not only have what we need, we also found an Asian shop so now have dried shiitake mushrooms and seaweed (which when you struggle to get vegetarian food is very very very exciting! Small things I know. So one more sleep and then the next adventure begins…
Last Friday, we were in Nukus and knew we had to be out of the country by Tuesday via TashKent which was 858km away. There weren’t enough days to ride and anyway a train journey sounds relaxing after all that mud, dust, potholes and headwinds right? Not exactly.
It’s 1am Friday night – I am laying – very still on my narrow top berth afraid of rolling over a landing 5 feet below. There are 6 beds in each section, 4 long and wide, two short and narrow. No guessing which ones we ended up with. I have a chance to experience what many of my taller family and friends do regularly – head and toes touching the end of the shelf – I’ve decided calling it a bed is stretching it.
I’m lucky though I am by an open window. Fresh air is the upside. The down sides – the window opens in and so reduces my already narrow shelf by a few inches and of course there’s the noise. No gentle rhythm just the percussion section of an orchestra warming up and the sweet pungent perfume of burning diesel.
The train ride will be 20 hours – we are just over 5 hours in. Patience grasshopper. Patience.
And at least we have great travelling companions An Ni from China and Nic from Malaysia as well as Michel and of course a whole warm friendly Uzbek family sharing our section of the train and an English teacher next door.
We arrive at about 3pm – and with help unload, then reload our bikes and we’re off into Tashkent traffic and heading back to what has quickly become our home base, Sebzhor district.
Arrival is often about cleaning ourselves and our clothes and this time our bikes as well. The muddy roads have taken their toll and the clean up takes a while (as does the clean up of ourselves). So we do little else – just settle in to home. And of course chat with Nargiza, Hilola, Alesha and Makhsuda – our Tashkent family.
The next day we are back on the amazing subways of Tashkent. Approaching each station I feel the excitement and delight of a 5 year old – where everything is new and wonderful – wondering what visual delight we will be treated to. We have a destination – we are meeting Firdavs – our guide from Samarkand. We made a small pottery purchase while in Samarkand but of course couldn’t take it on the bikes so he has offered to make the 600+km round trek by bus to deliver it for us.
It’s wonderful to see Firdavs and we wander through places we haven’t yet seen in Tashkent, Amir Temur park, and find somewhere to eat. It isn’t long before we hear raucous laughter, an Australian accent and the slow drawl of USA’s south (North Carolina). We all sit together sharing stories and laughter until it is time to go.
So Tashkent- so Uzbekistan it’s been wonderful- people of Uzbekistan you’ve been amazing. We’ll be back in August. For now we’re off to Kazakhstan and the adventures that lie beyond the border.
Kazakhstan is about a third the size of Australia though its population is almost 20 million – so not quite as sparsely populated as Aus – but still much more sparse than Uzbekistan.
25km and a border crossing and we’ll be there. So perhaps no wifi for a while and no comms till we can get SIM cards and money and that sort of thing, so until then, love and much joy from us both. Thanks for all your messages – we love getting them, keep up the good work!