02.10. - 13.10.2012 Bukhara & Samarkand

In the footsteps of 1001 Nights


Upon reaching the border of Uzbekistan, we were very excited to see what bureaucratic procedure would await us here. Surprisingly, everything went pretty fast: completing the customs declaration, measuring our temperature (no idea why, or what would have happened, if we would have had fever) and random checking on the contents of our bags. Of course, the officer opened my medicine bag and looked very confused when he saw my loads of tablets. When Olli then showed him very vividly the purpose of our diarrhea pills, to the amusement of everybody, he was content and let us enter. Unfortunately, the military declined our request for taking our traditional border photo, but we risked it anyway.

When we crossed the border there was a surprise waiting for us. We could not believe it when we saw two other crazy cyclists: Jan and Marius from Bielefeld, on their way to volunteer in a Kyrgyz orphanage. We immediately wondered about their meager luggage until they told us that most of their equipment had been stolen in Iran. Finally, the four of us set off together to raid Uzbekistan, not yet knowing that we would cycle together for the next 12 days. We immediately understood each other perfectly.

(Here you can read their funny reports about our time together and have a look at their photos.)

A very difficult daily task from now on was to raise vegetarian food, because all 4 of us are vegetarians. But that's not so easy in Uzbekistan, since the main food is "gusht" (meat), which is very important for the health because of "vitamina ". Especially in rural areas it is very difficult to get cheese.  Except for small smoked cheese sticks and salty-sour rock-hard cheese balls. If you look for milk, oatmeal or canned goods in the small shops you're also badly off, which is why our meals from now on mainly consisted of white bread, which tastes delicious fresh out of the oven, noodles and biscuits, from time to time refined with fresh vegetables and eggs. But after a while you get pretty sick and tired from all the white bread and Jan was sure he would die soon from white bread poisoning, if he couldn't find chocolate muesli. The only culinary bright spots were the delicious pomegranates, which you are offered everywhere.

Bad news for coffee drinkers in this country. The coffee tastes like a lot of things but not like coffee and main ingredient is sugar. The highlight is if you get hold of expensive instant Nescafe in a shop.

The roads in Uzbekistan are uniformly poor, with few freshly paved sites, and we were very pleased with our off-road tires. You have to share the road wih creaking donkey carts, fully loaded cotton tractors and old, rickety Lada and Shiguli, roofs often laden with complete furnishings or the harvest and also the whole family within
the car and then they race full speed through the nasty potholes. We always wondered how these old Russian junkers are able to endure. At this point a little riddle for you: How many Uzbeks fit into a Lada (trunk not included)? Tip: The required number is two digits.

The October weather in Uzbekistan is very pleasant and sunny with temperatures between 20 and 30°C. But once the sun goes down, it gets pretty chilly with temperatures below 10°C. The climate was very dry and sometimes we were plagued by annoying headwind. The trees are really beautiful this time of year, already autumn colored, and everywhere the cotton harvest is in full swing.

To the Uzbeks in the villages we had very little contact, except when shopping. Also during breaks or when putting up the tent in the evening now and then a few curious people tried to get in contact with us, but unfortunately the vast majority can only speak Russian and Uzbek. Once we had a very nice meeting with the military, when a few soldiers stopped their vehicle right beside us, to give us a bag full of apples and grapes. Also the police let us willingly take their photo upon request. However, when we stopped for a break next to a road control post, for the first time our passports, visas and registrations were checked and we had to give the suspicious plainclothes officer precise informations about our whereabouts since entering - a foretaste of the surveillance state.

During our trip along the Silk Road, we had the pleasure to experience ancient Silk Road cities like Bukhara and Samarkand. Especially in the old town of Bukhara you feel like in a fairy tale of 1001 Nights and you are downright waiting for a flying carpet coming around the corner any moment. Small, cozy and quiet Bukhara with its pleasant atmosphere and the few tourists was for us by far the most beautiful city in Uzbekistan. The old town of Samarkand, which is much bigger than Bukhara, is also quite nice and worth seeing, but not nearly as pleasant and welcoming as the smaller town. Here you meet various German and French tour groups everywhere.

If you look for fast internet access, you're totally wrong in Uzbekistan and we found Wifi only in expensive hotels and at the airport of Tashkent. In the numerous small internet cafes in the city, you have to endure not only the extremely slow internet but also hordes of children who play loudly screaming Warcraft and various shooters from morning to evening.

Olli freaked out, when only a few days after leaving the desert it was clear that he again had a broken rim on his rear tire. This was the third one in six months: two for Olli and one for me. After a lot of pondering and discussing, whether we cycle the remaining 700 km or to take the train, we opted for cycling and the rim actually held so far. The only problem: Olli couldn't use the rear brake.

Savely arrived in Tashkent after almost two very funny weeks together with the two likeable guys, we unfortunately had to separate, since they had to continue to Kyrgyzstan and we had to take care of applying for visas for India and to book a flight there. The original plan to cycle all the way to India, we unfortunately had to cancel, since it was now already middle of October and some very high passes, which would soon be closed due to snow, lay in our path.


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