Qarshi to Muborak 116km
Muborak to Bokara 91km
I deliberately took a minor road today. It added about 10km to my route, but I wanted to get away from the main road traffic. I've got to say, that I'm really enjoying cycling on mostly, smooth, flat roads. The very few cyclists I've met going the other way are sick of the flat "boring" desert, and are craving the mountains. Today I had a small taste of what they've been experiencing, 28km of dead straight flat road, into a head wind. Reminds me of the Nullabor. They've done it for 500km across Turkmenistan. I've heard stories of cyclists collapsing from heat and exhaustion, ambulance rides, very expensive taxis, and trains, and getting a maximum speed of 8 kph. (Another good reason to start this trip in Almaty or Bishkek and head west towards Istanbul). Today I still managed 15 to 18 kph. I just hope the equinox doesn't sneak in before next week. I'd dearly love a tail wind.
I'm cycling to see the world, but some days, alot of them, it seems I'm the attraction. Wherever I go, I attract crowds. Here in Uzbekistan, where very few speak English, I've just started ignoring them, and eat my icecream, but that doesn't thwart their interest. They stand around in a group, and discus Fiona's merits. Occasionally, one of them will ask me a question, and they chat about my answer. I don't really know what they're talking about. When I see a bike, I register two wheels, a handle bar and four panniers. On a second look, I might acknowledge that the bike is dirty, it is a Surly, and has 26 inch wheels. A third look and I might see a Rhoeloff hub, a dirty chain, and the width of the tyres. These guys will not loose interest until well after I've eaten two icecream and drunk a coke. Sort of like "Petrolheads" and stockcar racers, drooling over a piston block.....
Yes, I'm drinking coke. I've drunk more coke in the last twelve months than in the last thirty years. It's just that when you are cycling in this heat, a cold coke , just occasionally, begins to look pretty damn attractive. But be warned. Don't be tempted into trying the local brands. They are nasty. I'm sure one of them kicked off my diarrhea just before Dushanbe.
Twice in the last two days I've thought I've been totally alone in the desert, and have sat down for a break. Both times people have appeared, from out of nowhere, some riding donkeys. They are out in the desert harvesting some sort of brush that they feed their stock. You just have to accept that you are never alone.
I cycled over 600km in six days, and I've really enjoyed it. I'm now in Bokara, it's spelt Boxoro on some maps. First impressions are of a very modern, western like city. Clean, neat and orderly, unlike any other city I've seen in Central Asia. Just behind my hostel, is the old city, a maze of alleys and hidden shops. I'm looking forward to exploring there tomorrow. I've got a couple of days to rest before I tackle tge "mad desert dash", 500km across Turkmenistan in five days. And to my delight, this evening, Steve Faber (Cyclingthe6), Charlie and Kay arrived from Samakand. I will gave some familiar faces to keep me company before we part ways again. Who knows whom you will meet on an adventure like this?