Dry Mountain Pass to Karashina 111km
To Qarshi 108km
The Uzbek Som is officially 2500 to the US dollar. Tonight I got 4700 for $100, from a young guy standing outside the Bazaar, with a black plastic bag filled with money at his feet. The problem is that the biggest common note is 1000 Som, so 470 gives me quite a wad, and what am I meant to do with it now....bulging pockets or what?
Uzbekistan seems a little wealthier than the other Central Asian countries. Maybe it's the oil refineries I cycled past today? The roads are better, as are the cars, and there is obviously more sport being played, more stadiums and gymnasiums. The women dress more western than anywhere else I've been. But it seems most still live in the scruffy looking Soviet Era housing blocks, with the ugly exposed heating pipes.
School is back, and the kids are all tarted up in school uniforms. Boys, even five year olds, wear black suits, white shirts and tie. Girls wear a black skirt, with startling white tops, with a white apron. The young girls also have huge white rosettes in their hair.
Mushukas here are small Daewoo vans, that at a push seat six, but here they cram 10 to 12 in them, and they buzz around like big fat bumble bees.
Yesterday I climbed, supposedly, my last big hill in Central Asia. 35km uphill... tough in the heat, but I did have a pleasant cooling breeze on my back. A Belgium cyclist told me the hill was coming, but he forgot about the second rise, and with tired legs, that bit hurt. The downhill, 28km, was pretty good, although rough at times. Road works meant that at times both lanes of traffic were on the same side of the medium strip. It's a little disconcerting cycling next to the medium, knowing there is no escape route, and as in India, drivers here don't always obey signage, so you never know when someone will be coming towards you on the wrong side of the road.... also disconcerting.
I would have liked to camp in the mountains again, but the law here says I have to stay in a hotel every third night, and produce receipts on demand. A Police Check Point where everyone, even locals had to have their bags x-rayed, except me.... the cop reckoned unpacking Fiona was "too hard basket" material, but another cop wanted to see my accommodation receipts. I pointed out I had only been in country two nights..... He wasn't happy.
In the heat, I'm having trouble producing saliva. My mouth just goes completely dry, and the tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I'm drinking heaps, including electrolytes, so it's a bit of a worry. Thankfully, the dryness has been relieved several times by cars stopping and giving me grapes.... and they're yummy.
Uzbekistan has trains, really long ones. But it seems locals don't always obey railway stop signs. As a consequence, policemen control railway crossings, lowering the arms, blowing their whistles, and waving their batons. It works.
Uzbekistan also has an airforce. Today I was buzzed by a Skyhawk. I think once upon a time we had some in NZ. Uzbekistan has at least one more than us. It also has 40ish military vehicles. They all passed me today, in convoy, escorted by police cars, and followed by at least 100 other vehicles who weren't allowed to pass the convoy.
Today my thoughts went out to my mate Bill Nossiter, a long time adventurer, and great supporter of all things Boyle. Being away like I am, makes the passing of a longtime friend pretty difficult. I will miss you and your wonderful smile Bill.