Category: Uzbekistan

From cotton fields to madrasahs in one day

How wonderful riding a bicycle can be! And what a change: from the high altitude Pamir mountains to the flat cotton fields in Uzbekistan. I never knew the stan’s would be that diverse and different! The Uzbek-people are really friendly, waving and inviting me for a small talk all the time! There were 5 cycling days through the country side, two rest days in Samarkand and one in Bukhara.

I noticed that now that we’re in Uzbekistan, I’m quite often one of the last ones to leave camp. I’m relaxed and not in a hurry and I enjoy the day as much as I can. There is no rush to get into camp early so I take my time and make a short stop every hour or so. There is always something to see: a small village, people selling water melons or a bucket full of tomato’s, children playing along the road, a coca cola stop where traditional bread is made in a clay oven or just the view of a cotton field!

I have been wearing cotton all my life, seen some pictures of raw cotton in school but never in real. It felt like a big discovery when walking through a cotton field! Looking at the flowers, how they develop into a green hard bulb before they explode into cotton! There are fields after fields. And irrigation channel after irrigation channel! Which, by the way, are great channels for a swim to cool down!

Entering Samarkand was a bit challenging since we had to ‘circle in’ due to one-way streets and difficult intersections. Before reaching the hotel, I noticed some great and impressive madrasahs already! And there were two rest days ahead! In addition, I was thinking of a late birthday present while riding into town, and after seeing checking the bed and shower, and hearing of a poor internet connection, I decided to check into a luxurious hotel 😉

Samarkand is one of the oldest cities in the world, prospering from the Silk Road in ancient times. Between 1365 and 1405, Samarkand was the capital of Amir Temur’s empire, stretching from Turkey well into India and Iran. During his ruling he forced craftsmen (from all the places he had conquered) to build amazing and architectural innovative buildings: madrasahs (most famous is the Registan), mausoleums and mosques.

I spend a full day, from early in the morning till late in the evening walking around this amazing city. I took many and many pictures. Here are just a view of them:

 

It’s hard to believe that Samarkand, nowadays in the middle of nowhere, was one of the largest cities in Central Asia; with what I’ve seen in China, I’m sure that’s not the case anymore. Tomorrow we’re off to Bukhara, a city with even more madrasahs. What a life!

The first 10 kilometers in Uzbekistan

It took 11 days, but here we are again! The first 10 kilometers in Uzbekistan! Never thought a border crossing could be that well organized and challenging. And I knew there are mosquito’s in Uzbekistan; it was a warm welcome indeed!

Apparently the border crossing Panjikent, close to Dushanbe, is closed for more than 2 years, and that was not in the Tour d’ Afrique plan. So we had to cross the border more than 300 kilometer up north by bus. We left Dushanbe at 05:45 hours in the morning; 45 minutes later than scheduled. Staff told us that we should arrive at the border at approximately 13:00 hours (7 hour ride) due to the bad road condition, a 3378 meter mountain pass and a 6 kilometer tunnel under construction. We arrived just before 17:00 hours at the border, just over 11 hours!

Leaving Tajikistan went actually quickly. Entering Uzbekistan as well: the X-Ray machine didn’t work as it didn’t have any electricity so all riders and their daily and hotel bags were allowed to walk through. Just like that! We all waited until staff and equipment came through… nothing happened… After more than one hour we noticed the Uzbek support vehicle leaving so we assumed it went to camp and as we were anxious to ride and local support told us to ride to camp, we happily were back in the saddle. Camp wasn’t at 5 kilometer as told by staff, but at 10 kilometer from the border crossing. And our bags, including tents, were not there! There were however, hundreds of mosquitos!  They had a good meal! And since there is malaria in Uzbekistan this was another dangerous situation no one wanted to be in as this could have easily been prevented if organized properly by Tour d’ Afrique. The support vehicle finally arrived after one hour waiting. It turned out that when they wanted to move the equipment through customs, the X-Ray worked again and everything had to go through the machine! And with everything they meant everything: pots, pans, stoves, tables, chairs, peanut butter and even the wind screens for the gas burners!

A local family, living next to camp, made us a great dinner late in the evening. Everyone enjoyed that so much that there was no talking, and we went straight to bed afterwards. Anyway, we made it into Uzbekistan! And I cycled the first 10 kilometer after my Khorog experience. The night was surprisingly cold and I had to get into my sleeping back to stay warm. But as always, I slept really well!

The next morning, the kids were a bit shy but were proud to hang around. Ingrid made a delicious oatmeal breakfast and I was ready for another bicycling day in Uzbekistan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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