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10th – 11th May 2011: Frontier to Bukhara – lazy days and rain

July 12, 2011

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After our Turkmenistan dash it was time to wind down – we had made it to Uzbekistan, and with a month on the visa and only 450km to the Tajikistan border, it was time to relax.

Having crossed quite late in the day and not having a decent shop at the border itself meant i was without breakfast this morning. Cycling on an empty stomach is a slow and arduous affair, as if you are still half asleep. We pedalled lathargically through green countryside until we found our first shop. The owner knew she was the first shop over the border, and gave us a crap rate on dollar conversion and ripped us off for food. I didn’t care though, as i was ravenous. I sat down to eat bread and cheese and cheap cold meat (nothing like being back in the former Soviets) and it started to piss it down. The crowd that had encircled us beckoned us into the shop to take shelter from the rain, where we remained for maybe two hours just eating and looking up dirty words in the Russian phrasebook (it has a sex section, including such phrases as ‘use your tongue’, ‘touch me there’, ‘harder’ and ‘deeper’ – these phrases were not in the Farsi phrasebook for some reason) until the rain passed.

We had cycled a grand total of 35km by the time night fell. We were in themiddle of a Khal’fa as it was getting dark with limited camping opportunities. We were heading down the street in the dark and a car pulled up, and 6 very drunk guys got out to see what we were up to,. They spoke in heavy russian and didnt understand that we didnt speak it. They kept flicking their necks to signify that they were drunk. They took photos of us on their camera phones, waved goodbye and drove off. We were not really in the best position to have a conversation with 6 drunk Russian’s in the dark, but there’s not a lot we could have done to avoid it. I guess it’s something we have to watch out for now – there is alcohol back in every day society, and particularly where the Russian’s are concerned- alcohol abuse. A simple social transaction can turn ugly at any moment, and we have to reintroduce our guards, which were totally dropped in Iran.

Safe to say we found a good camp hidden from the road in a quarry and drank a few beers, relaxed and enjoying being in flatter and greener pastures. The next day was a good day, and we took our time cycling the aweful road into Bukhara. We could have been in South East Asia – green fields and tree lined streets, with very Asian faces and heavy subsistence farming. It was a beautiful day, and we arrived in spotless Bukhara late afternoon and took our time to take it in. It instantly dawned on us when we were by the Ark of the heavy touristic nature of the place – people offering to guide us to a hotel for a small fee, kids selling postcards everywhere, people shouting at you to buy some such or drink something somewhere. There were also plenty of French around. We found a cheap hotel, run by the eccentrically mannered former Soviet 100m olympic sprinter Mubinjon, who didnt like having any lights on, didnt let us use the cold shower for more than 4 minutes and gave us a measly breakfast of small bits of bread and a pot of tea. The room was fantastic though, and he was an entertaining character enough for it not to be such a hassle. Can you really complain for $5 a night anyway? Not really.

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