BORDERS, HORNS, ROCKS & POTHOLES
The emotional wedding of my sister came to an end and I have to say that Im glad its over. I’ve been thinking about it for such a long time on the bike. Now it was time for my second part of Uzbekistan from Bukhara to Samarkand and finally time to cross into a long waiting Tajikistan.
My time I’ve spend in the absolute amazing city of Bukhara was very nice and I met some very cool people from Netherlands, Australia, Taiwan, Croatia and Germany. The funniest one was the girl from Germany, Nuralia. About three or four months ago she replied on a post I wrote on Lonely Planet about getting an Iranian Visa. She was also heading that way and was in the process of getting her visa. So… now in Uzbekistan, I sat talking to other travelers when this girl came up to me and said “you are not maybe the guy cycling through all the continents for five years?” I looked at her smiling and said “no frikkin way… Are you he girl from Germany?” We had a good laugh and later spend the day with Landa and Lisa from Netherlands. It was her birthday and all of us enjoyed it by talking, walking through the city, taking photos, playing with local kids, enjoying dinner and ending it by sleeping outside in the courtyard under the stars.
I had good talks with Thien about photography and my last night enjoyed beers with Lando, Lisa, Gordan and Ana. Lando and I had awesome talks on what we still want to do in life and enjoy the time we have on this beautiful blue planet. Lando and his girlfriend have been traveling throughout the world the last year… What an awesome couple!
It was time to hit the road again but I woke up with something that does not go well with cycling…. Diaree! By 13:00 I decided to start cycling, as my Tajikistan visa is almost starting and I want to spend all the time I can in that beautiful country, but also need to apply for my Kyrgyzstan visa. This was not a good day on the bike. I don’t know why, but I was extremely frustrated and the diaree did not make things better. Halfway into the day I was nicely in rhythm when I heard a rock came bouncing past me and before I could look around, one hit me solid on my ankle and another my frame. I slammed the brakes, as the fire blasted out of my ears of anger. Throw me with eggs but not with rocks!! This is just ridiculous. There was a huge barrier between the lanes and the children was on the other side. I turned my bike around and they ran as fast as they could. I stopped as I knew there was no chance of catching them. Man, this was just enough for one day after nearly shitting my pants on various occasions and not being in a good mood at all. I then just continued cycling with an enormous pain in my ankle.
With my painful ankle and my diaree episode (which got better after two days), I still made good km’s towards Samarkand. The locals in Uzbekistan is difficult to describe. They are friendly, but cocky! You can see they are riding the wave of tourists and this is not nice. The way they scream out of the windows of their cars, or as I cycle by was irritating. Their horns was even worse. At times I wanted to rip it out of the cars and stuck it up their exhaust pipes! The normal cars had horns dated back to the 19 hundreds, truck hors, train horns, police sirens and so much more. In general people use their horns to greet you, but you also get to know which ones are friendly, angry or just being plain out of spite. The horns continued throughout Uzbekistan, but the second part the locals became better… But will get to “the second part ” later.
I had to stay in a hostel at Samarkand, to do my registration in Uzbekistan. While you travel through Uzbekistan you must stay in a hotel every third night and have proof that you did, if you don’t, you can end up with huge fines.
Samarkand was a beautiful city and wish I could stay one more day, but I need to continue. My Tajikistan visa already started, but now only 40km from “the border”. I went to a market in Samarkand the day I arrived and spend all my remaining Uzbek money on food I could eat that night, 2kg of sugar counted peanuts, 2min noodles, bread, tomatoes and cucumbers. This would be my food for three days and hopefully make it to Dushanbe where I could draw money again. At this point I only had 6000 Som left (about $2), but was not too worried as I was only about 320km from Dushanbe.
The next morning I was on the road at 6:30 heading to “the border”. It was a miserable day. The wind blew at around 55km/h, which picked up every little grain of sand and dust, throwing it in all directions. My buffs came in handy like every other day, but then the weather made another quick change as it started to rain… and it really pissed down. This was the first rain I had on the bike since the Balkans, 5 – 6 months ago. I was freezing but kept at it. Then…. 2km from the border local people stopped me, as they ran in the rain trying to get my attention. They crossed their arms in the air and pointed to the border. I pulled off and my mood sunk deeper than it could actually goes. “Border Closed, Border closed, Tajikistan No”. I just stood their and could not believe what I heard. I got out my iPad and they indicated on my maps that I need to go to Bekabot, which is about 320km from where we were at this point. I wanted to shout out of anger, but I just started to laugh. I pulled off the road and stood under a restaurant shelter to get out of the rain. The restaurant owners gave me coffee and some local food, which I could not eat or enjoy. A thousand things went through my head at this point.
After sitting there for 45minutes, waiting for the rain to stop, but did not, so, I jumped back on the bike and headed back to Samarkand, 40km back. As I cycled back I thought about the people that told me this border is open, but its my own fault as I did not ask more people about it. This meant I was now losing three more days on my Tajikistan visa.
I got back the the B&B where I slept the night before and started to plan my trip to the next border. I had three more days left on my current visa, so it should not be a problem to get there in time. Only 280km away… Only 280km away… I tried to smile, get in beast mode and I set off around 13:00 after I have already done 80km’s.
The wind turned in my favor after 30km’s and then I was flying!! I managed another 100km for the day, which brought my daily total to 180km. I felt better and was in the mood for another big one the next day!!
I started just after sunrise and was pushing hard. I was very focused on my goal, which was to get to the freakin border and get there today! Getting to Bekabot is not so easy as I did not see one sign. I stopped around 10 times during the day asking for directions and making sure that this border is open. My last 40km’s was total madness as I was zig zagging through little villages as the people carry water in buckets to their houses. The sun was sinking low, but I was determined to get to the border. One guy told me the border is open 24h and for a while I was thinking to cross it this night. But when it got dark I tried once again to cycle with my headlamp, which was yet again a miserable failure. 2km from the border I decided to pull off. Firstly, this night cycling is not working at all and secondly I don’t really want to cross the border at this time after a very long day in the saddle. Borders can take time and this is not what I needed at this point. I was hoping to do my second 200km on this adventure, but fell short yet again only 6km’s. This was the second time with only 6km’s short. I was still extremely proud of my 194km day.
The next morning I was up even earlier to get to the border and do a nice stretch in Tajikistan. I was at the border, just when the sun stuck its head over the orange horizon… and then… The guys with massive guns stopped me… And then next thing I hear was the last thing I expected… “Border closed, border closed”. I actually asked the guy if he was joking but apparently he was dead serious. I had no words, so I just listened with a very pathetic look on my face. “If you turn back, go 4km and turn right (at this point I was hoping maybe Im just at the wrong point in Bekobat) and then… You go another 40km. There is a big international border”. I just stood there with my head on my handlebars and the guy asked if I heard him. I replied yes, and then made 100% sure there is not trick or joke being made. Maybe its a prank show and Im being punked, and I wish it was the case.
I took a few huge breaths, talking to myself, turned the bike around and started to head north. As I cycled north I could see the road where I will be on the other side of the fence in 90km’s. I blasted my music on full volume, trying to get in a better mood… again. Luckily I still had a day on my visa and now even better I left earlier at Bukhara and Samarkand which basically paid off now. I was in a good mood again after an hour and around 9am made it to the border… and guess what… THEY WERE OPEN!
Tajikistan here I come!
Cheers for now…