I'm having an enforced rest, and to be honest I needed it. When I arrived in Dushanbe I was sick, suffering from heat stroke, had lost even more weight, and was exhausted. But that was three weeks ago. Now, I'm very much the opposite....bouncing with energy and raring to get back on the bicycle. So I've been ticking some boxes.
I met Gerrit on the Japanese road as I was heading up the hill towards Kathmandu from the Terai. He was heading from Kathmandu to Bangladesh. Gerrit is cycling the world, one month at a time. He flys from The Netherlands and cycles for a month, then returns home to plan his next leg. We spoke for about five minutes. Then I needed some bike parts, and put out a plea. Gerrit answered it. His next ride was Dushanbe to Osh. He was arriving in Dushanbe on the 20th, and would purchase and transport the parts for me...... amazing. I love this adventure cycling community.
Gerrit arrived with the parts, and started his preparations for his cycling. He left here on Saturday, heading towards the Pamir. Unfortunately, he had a bit of a health scare, so returned to Dushanbe, and has been advised not to continue. This morning, he flew back to Holland, after unloading all his food upon a few of us very lucky cyclists. Thank you very much Gerrit, for your generosity. Get well quickly my friend, and perhaps we will meet again soon on the road.....how about Southern France in March?
So I had my parts, but in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, there is not one bike shop or registered bike mechanic. However, the Warmshowers and Adventure Cycling community came up trumps again. I found a young man willing to come to the hostel and work on Fiona. And he was great. The bottom bracket took only a short time to replace, and he rebuilt my front wheel in super quick time. I asked him why he doesn't open a shop......"It's complicated". Apparently there are all sorts of undercurrents (mafia), that make starting a business very difficult. These undercurrents certainly seem to undermine any enthusiasm for people to use their initiative to improve their lot. Most are content to just let things flow....it saves alot of unwanted attention and hassle. There certainly is not the same "vitality" in the small business sector that we get at home, as tradesmen, and small business owners strive to better themselves. Yet another reminder that this is an ex Soviet state.
So Fiona was looking good, and I tarted her up a bit more by changing her brake pads, and cleaning her up. Another boxed ticked, and she is running so smoothly, I didn't realise how rough she was beforehand. Can't wait to get going....
But Visas........ YAHOOOOO. I can't believe it. I have an Iran visa in my passport. Dan and Stephanie(Dutch couple) and I received them on Friday. We celebrated with street dancing and an icecream. It's been two months since I made my application in Bishkek. This area really is a Visa Lottery. Now I can finally apply for my Turkmenistan visa. That takes about five days, but they have been refusing some applications lately, so who knows. I've got seven more days on my Tajik visa. Today I need to go and sort my dates mix up as well. Here's hoping.
We've been hearing lots of Border Crossing stories. The Uzbeks are pretty fussy. They often empty all bags totally, searching for medications and porn. You're not permitted to take anything with Codeine across the border. You have to declare all your valuable goods, cameras, laptops, phones. They check all your photos and videos on you laptops. They check all your books. You have to tell and show them exactly how much cash you're carrying. Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Iran have very unreliable ATMs, so you need quite a bit of cash. One guy here at the hostel was detained for five days, because he hadn't declared one of his prescription medicines. Another guy is still in custody, two weeks later. I'm being very thorough in my preparations for this border crossing.
I've met a lovely young lady, Kay. She's cycling 5000 miles for 5000 smiles, along the Silk Road to Istanbul. Along the way, she met Charlie, who I'd met in Osh. They've hit it off. But they've got problems. Visas are running out, time is short, and options keep disappearing. This Central Asia region is certainly a jigsaw, a labyrinth of regulations and visa requirements that is catching many of us out.
In between ticking boxes, I've done a bit of exploring. The best thing I've found is a half descent Mexican Restaurant. A little expensive, and small portions, but very tasty. I've also found, that once you get off the main streets, this city is pretty dismal. Some areas are little better than slums, with open drains, piles of rubbish, no running water or sanitation, and heavily populated. The most run down places in NZ don't get near to matching these places. And on the other hand, you have all the tinted windowed Mercedes bulling there way around the streets. Things are NOT equal.